Tag - Free Stuff

Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green
The Bakken Museum
5 Ways to Give Back to Community
Como Zoo in the Winter

Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green

Nature Playgrounds are a growing trend for good reason; scientists keep finding connections between nature to child development and well-being.

nature playgrounds
It used to be, according to my children, that in order for a park to be authentic, it needed at least a slide and a set of swings. I was less enthusiastic about taking them to places like state parks simply because I felt I’d have to go the extra mile to “prove” that playing and exploring in a natural environment could be just as fun as clambering around a commercially manufactured jungle gym. Don’t get me wrong – the local playgrounds can be a lot of fun, too. And some are really inventive! But I have to say that I get a deeper satisfaction from watching them play in a more natural setting: digging, figuring out how to climb that tree, following paths, building forts. They become immersed in tossing rocks into the water, scouting frogs, collecting wildflowers. They also gradually forget that “playing at the park” requires a plastic treehouse.

So here’s what I find really cool: incorporating natural elements into new playground designs seems to be the trend. More places are popping up where kids get the opportunity to interact with the landscape and, perhaps, develop a greater appreciation for it. Here are seven places I’ve discovered that have those goals in mind:

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The Bakken Museum

Chris was off, Tori had an appointment in South Minneapolis, and The Bakken Museum was free during Aquatennial.  They called it the 10 Best Days of the Bakken. Read More

5 Ways to Give Back to Community

Death and Taxes–that’s what we can be sure of.  But we can’t be sure that the taxes we pay with help our community, so that’s up to us.  If we want to live in a community that is thriving, it’s up to us to care about each other and give back to the community. Read More

Como Zoo in the Winter

Como Zoo in the Winter? Absolutely! Como Zoo, as well as the Conservatory, has been around for a long time.  As in over 100 years.  Located in northern St. Paul along Lexington Parkway, just south of Larpenter in Como Park, Como Zoo is fun for the young and young at heart.  

Como Zoo is free with a suggested donation of $3/adult, and $2/child.  And the thing I like most about the zoo is that it is small.  Since it is free, you can do just a few things and come back a different day to do more.  

Como Zoo offers many different programming options as well as a simple stroll through the zoo.  Classes for 2’s, 3’s, 4/5’s, homeschooling, and families are just some of the different options.  During the non-summer months, they have special activities on Thursdays from 10:00-12:00–stories, zoo-keeper talks, hands-on activities.  

The boys and I explored the zoo one day when daddy was ice fishing (maybe?) and the girls were at a birthday party.  It happened to be Arctic Blast weekend.  There were tables and displays set up in the visitor’s center focusing on animals from the arctic.

They also focused on the cocoa bean since one of the best ways for a human to warm up from the cold is to drink hot cocoa!  
Oh, yeah!  This is my kind of activity!

After looking around the Arctic Blast exhibits, we made our way to the zoo.  My goal was to focus mainly on the arctic animals.  So we checked out the Polar Bear Odyssey (the newest exhibit for the bears–currently, they are working on the gorilla exhibit).

The boys got to crawl in and out of a snow mound to see what it was like to live like a polar bear.

We also checked out the reindeer, the mountain goat, the penguins and the arctic foxes.    I was pretty dead set to see the foxes since they are white during the winter.  We even were able to see the timberwolves.  I don’t know when I’ve ever seen the timberwolves!

But no zoo visit is complete without seeing the lion (the farthest unit away from the entrance, of course).

Or sitting on the giraffe statues that say, do not climb!  Isn’t he proud of himself.

It’s a perfect place to explore with your children whether it is winter or spring!

Como Zoo in the Winter Highlights
  • It’s open all year! 
  • It’s small with most of the expected zoo animals: Lions, tigers, giraffes, seals, zebras, gorillas. 
  • There is a cool exhibit in the Visitor’s center and unless your children force you to go outside, you don’t have to to experience the zoo. 
  • Lockers are available for your stuff.
Como Zoo in the Winter Disadvantages
  • It’s winter in MN, so to enjoy it thoroughly, you will NEED your winter gear. 
  • The carousel isn’t running (but it is an outdoor thing so you probably wouldn’t want to ride it anyway).
  • The distance from the parking lot to the door is quite long, so be prepared for a hike to get into the zoo.

Como Zoo and Conservatory
Open every day of the year.
Winter hours (October – March)
10am – 4pm
1225 Estabrook Drive, Saint Paul, MN 55103

**some images courtesy of Como, used with permission**


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