It doesn’t have to break the bank to entertain the family away from home in the Twin Cities! You’ll find July’s seasonal and ongoing events and activities listed here that all cost $5-$6 or less per person to attend. For more ideas on budget and FREE family outings, check our Family Fun Calendar or hop over to our Free Twin Cities July Family Events & Activities page. Read More
Nature Playgrounds are a growing trend for good reason; scientists keep finding connections between nature to child development and well-being.
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:
Earth Day Network’s first Earth Day was in 1970. It’s continuing mission — “to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle to build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change, and protect the Earth for future generations.”
For us, it’s a chance to teach our children about good stewardship of our planet, while getting out and enjoying the long-awaited spring. I think the spring thing may be why the Twin Cities Metro does not skimp on Earth Day activities and events. We have a sampling of Earth Day family events to get out with your kids and celebrate our environment this month.
Thanks to this month’s sponsor Rockin’ Jump! Check them out at FFTC’s Rockin’ Party on April 15.
Click here for more Rockin' Party InformationClick here for more information.
March is maple syrup month in Minnesota, and with an abundance of nature centers around the Twin Cities, we have ample opportunities to learn about and participate in the maple syruping process. Maple syrup events usually contain one or more of the following activities: tapping the maple trees, collecting the sap, boiling it into syrup, and the best part — according to my kids, anyway — a sample of the finished product.
Click through for a list of upcoming maple syrup events across the Twin Cities Metro. Read More
Get ready for a bumper crop of fall festivals in the Twin Cities! Read More
My preschooler’s request for a simple picnic in April turned into a full afternoon of nature play, wildlife spotting and cargo-net clambering. And, thanks to the 80-degree temps, we were able to be outdoors for hours. Bonus: if you can make it out this month, you’ll beat both the crowds and the mosquitoes! Here are 10 things we’re confident kids of all ages can enjoy at the Richardson Nature Center and Hyland Lake Park Reserve: Read More
If you’ve got Presidents Day to while away with the kids, you might be looking for a way to get out and make the most of it. We’ve rounded up 7 free or inexpensive ways:
Be Inspired! ALL ACCESS CELEBRATION @ Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Avenue S, Minneapolis • 11am-4pm • FREE
Details: Celebrate a world of wonder and imagination at CTC’s FREE open house event. Take backstage tours and a Theatre Arts Training Class, play with puppets used in the current main stage show The Snowy Day, hear stories, learn dance moves, and more!
Rice & Arlington Batting Cages @ 1500 Rice St, St. Paul • noon-8pm
Details: Batter up and train for baseball season with special prices for Presidents Day – $1/token for 22 pitches.
If you’re not yet in the mood for fall, this list should do the trick! It’s chock full of everything we like best about the season. And don’t forget, we’re drawing for 2 family 4-packs of tickets to Sever’s Corn Maze & Fall Festival tomorrow! You can find out how to enter by following this link.
Twin Cities Harvest Festival & Maze, 8001 109th Ave. N, Brooklyn Park
When: Open weekends Sept. 19-Oct. 25 plus MEA weekend • 10am-6pm
Cost: $10/pp online, $12 at gate, kids under 36″ free
Details: Touted as MN’s largest corn maze, this year’s theme celebrates the Minnesota Wild! Solve the maze, play in the corn pit, meet the animals, and take a hayride. Additional activities charge a small fee.
Scarecrow Festival @ Emma Krumbees, 351 Enterprise Drive E, Belle Plaine
When: Now through Oct. 30 • 10am-6pm
Cost: $5.50/pp plus tax
Details: Admission includes entrance to the festival plus run of the playground, farm animals, wagon rides, a slide and more. Pick-your-own apples in Emma’s orchard are an additional charge.
Lone Oak Days Fall Festival @ Holz Farm, 4665 Manor Dr, Eagan
When: Sat. & Sun., Sept. 19-20 • 11am-4pm
Cost: Free admission and many free activities, small fees for food & attractions
Details: Hosted by the historic Holz Farm, the festival is packed with pioneer farm demonstrations and activities plus kids coin hunts, live music, pony rides, and a pumpkin pie-eating contest.
Party in the Prairie @ Richardson Nature Center, 8737 East Bush Lake Rd, Bloomington
When: Saturday, Sept. 19 • 3:30-8pm
Cost: $6/pp pre-registered or $8/pp at the door
Details: Meet birds from the U of M’s Raptor Center, try out a 25-foot climbing wall, take a guided hike or digital scavenger hunt, and enjoy live music as the sun sets. Food will be available for purchase.
Fall Raptor Release @ Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center, 12805 St Croix Trail S, Hastings
When: Saturday, Sept. 26 • 10am-3pm
Details: Raptors nursed back to health by the U of M’s Raptor Center will be released back into the wild at 11am & 2pm. Also enjoy hayrides through the apple orchard, kids activities and more.
Apple Festival @ Gibbs Farm Museum, 2097 Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights
When: Saturday, Oct. 3 • 10am-4pm
Cost: $8/adults, $7/seniors, $5/children 4-16, members & under 4 free
Details: Oodles of apples! Apple games, apple crafts, sample apples from the orchard and enjoy lunch plus tours of the farmhouse, hayrides and more. All activities and food are included in the admission fee.
Family Harvest Hayride @ Dodge Nature Center, 1701 Charlton St., West St. Paul
When: Saturday, Oct. 3 • 1-3pm
Cost: $7/pp or $20/family
Details: In addition to the titular hayrides is apple cider pressing and sampling, a look into the bee hives, a bonfire and popcorn.
Fall on the Farm @ Eidem Homestead, 4345 101st Ave N, Brooklyn Park
When: Saturday, Oct. 3 • Noon-3pm
Cost: $6/adults, $4/kids ages 4-12, under 4 free
Details: Farm chores abound! Harvest garden veggies, press cider, carve pumpkins and bake fall treats in the kitchen. Experience life on the farm as you prepare for the winter ahead.
Apple Festival @ Afton Apple Orchard, 14421 S. 90th St., Hastings
When: Oct. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18 • 10am-6pm
Cost: $4/pp ages 5+, $3/pp under 5
Details: In addition to the seasonal weekend activities (playground, petting farm, kiddie train, hayrides, pick-your-own apples) there are chainsaw carving demos, cider press demos, live bluegrass music and more.
Stillwater Harvest Fest @ City of Stillwater, MN
When: Sat. & Sun., Oct. 10-11 • 10am-6pm (11am Sunday)
Cost: Free admission, fee for some activities
Details: Don’t miss the giant pumpkin weigh-in, pumpkin regatta or the kids pumpkin pull! Plus, lovely downtown Stillwater will be dressed in her fall best.
It’s another March (or April) day in Minnesota where we just can’t quite get spring weather to commit — and I’m back with my second round in a series of the indoor and outdoor entertainment to be had at Twin Cities nature centers. In my previous post, I highlighted the activities at three NE Metro locations.
Today, I moved in a south-westerly direction (for no reason other than the fact I could find three in a roughly 10-mile radius that worked with my schedule) and hit up another trio of nature centers I believe you and your young ones would enjoy. I found Westwood Hills Nature Center, Richardson Nature Center and Wood Lake Nature Center to be exceptionally family-friendly and great for a day destined to be spent either indoors or out. Read on for more details.
Westwood Hills Nature Center | St Louis Park
Visitor Center hours: Monday-Friday • 8:30am-4:30pm
Indoor fun: The indoor portion of the nature center is on the small side, very appealing to kids. One colorful corner is stocked with books, puzzles, games and stuffed animals; other areas have drawers to pull out containing natural objects to touch (beware the compost drawer if you’re squeamish about vermiculture!). An on-hand naturalist engaged my kids in a game of I-Spy with wildlife around the room and gave me the scoop on preschool and family programs available throughout the year at Westwood Hills. Get a sampling of those, including the Nature For the Very Young drop-in preschool programs open to the public here.
Outdoor fun: Weather permitting, bring a picnic and spend some time in the outdoor play area. There are both a traditional playground climbing structure and a small nature play yard containing stumps, logs, shelters and one really cool work of art (see collage above). Within a stone’s throw of a suburban neighborhood is a lake, winding trails, a beautiful observation deck, and a landscaped habitat for Westwood Hill’s resident Barred owl.
Richardson Nature Center | Bloomington
Visitor Center hours: Monday-Saturday • 9am-5pm
Indoor fun: Colorful, eye-popping relief murals decorate many of the walls of Richardson Nature Center. Grab a scavenger hunt card and see if you can pick out the wildlife in the detailed scenes. My oldest child did this while his preschool-aged sister explored the book nook, stacks of puzzles, a crawl-through coyote den, and other hands-on exhibits. Then, the two collaborated on a predator-prey puppet show for my viewing pleasure.
Outdoor fun: Sheltered within the Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Richardson Nature Center is the starting point for many trails and a Nature Exploration Area where kids can putter around with natural building materials. Check out a bird, bug or frog kit from the front desk to explore the prairie and wetlands. Close to the indoor exhibits is an outdoor raptor viewing area.
Wood Lake Nature Center | Richfield
Visitor Center hours: Monday-Saturday • 8:30am-5pm
Indoor fun: Again, I was pleasantly surprised and appreciative of how many interactive exhibits there were for kids at my third stop of the day – Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, a little preserve of land sandwiched between city and first-ring suburbia. The preschooler is always content with a set of miniature animals no matter where she goes; my 9-year-old prefers activities that involve a touch screen. Wood Lake has both — simple toys and books for younger visitors and some creative exhibits that older kids will enjoy operating. We especially enjoyed matching sounds in nature with the creatures who make them.
Outdoor fun: When the weather warms up, it will be great fun to spend time in the Wood Lake Nature Play Area, watching the kids interact not with screens, but with logs, boulders, sticks and other natural materials. The play yard is fenced in and completely conducive to creative play.
Yes, we visited all three of these Twin Cities Nature Centers in one day. Though we had a great time, I don’t advise trying to fit so many in. Pick one, slow down, explore and enjoy. Stay tuned this spring for the next installment of FFTC’s Guide to Twin Cities-area Nature Centers!
Our picks below for the upcoming weekend are just the beginning – check our Family Fun Calendar for a complete listing of Twin Cities-area events for this weekend and beyond!
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Childish Films: Feathers and Fins
@ Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Hours: Doors open at 10am for snacks and activities, pre-show performances begin about 10:30 and films begin closer to 11am.
Ages: All ages are welcome; films are best enjoyed by kids ages 3+.
Details: Join the Walker Art Center for an art project, then enjoy four short, kid-friendly films about fish and birds.