Tired of heading out to the same old swimming spot? We’ve combed the Metro in search of new places to try with our own families and came up with ten we think are worth checking out for their beaches, playground, and other recreational opps nearby:
It is our hope that you can use our August Family Events & Activities Guide page as a convenient way to find our traditional Free & Budget lists along with all the special themed activities each month brings. In August we are highlighting one of our absolute favorite events, the Minnesota State Fair, as well as reminding you of all the festivals and outdoor entertainment left to enjoy before summer’s last gasp. As always, we hope to be inspiration in planning your family time together!
– Anne, Gianna & Joy
Family Fun Twin Cities Read More
It’s summer! The birds are chirping, the beaches are beckoning, the kids are home and it’s time to get outside together. Want to fill up your summer fun bucket list but don’t know where to start?
Not a problem – we’ve got you covered. 101 Ideas for Kids this Summer:
As the line between late spring and early summer starts to melt away in the rising temps, it’s time to update our master list of Twin Cities beaches, outdoor swimming pools, water parks and splash pads. Several are anticipating an opening Memorial Day Weekend with dozens more following suit in early June. Find your new splash happy spot from our following suggestions:
Don’t look at these 10 ideas as an end-of-summer bucket list — because personally, I’m not ready to look fall in the face — but take these suggestions as a reminder that there is plenty of the season left to enjoy! Here’s what August has in store for the Twin Cities:
When: Saturday, Aug. 1 • 10am-1pm
Details: The whole family is welcome to come play in the Textile Center’s natural plant dye garden, create a macrame plant hanger and bring a miniature garden home. Refreshments will be provided.
When: Tuesday, Aug. 4 • times vary
Details: Community gatherings across the Twin Cities encourage you to get out, spend the evening with your neighbors and promote safe neighborhoods. Minneapolis has an extensive list of registered block parties (complete with proposed activities) here, organized by neighborhoods. St. Paul’s list can be found here. Even if you don’t plan to leave your own ‘hood for the evening, ideas for your own bash abound on these lists.
When: Wednesday, Aug. 5 • 12-3pm
Details: Ride a waterslide, try an obstacle course, make a craft, and play games. Meet pond critters, birds of prey, and reptiles. Build a sand castle and win a cool treat.
When: Wednesday, Aug. 5 • 6-8pm
Details: Catch the final Groovin’ in the Garden performance (local band “i like you.”) and, depending on the ages of your kids, they might let you sit and enjoy while being entertained by the free Park & Rec equipment: a jump castle, giant climbing wall, and lawn games. If not, at least you can hear the music while the kids exhaust themselves. Bring a blanket and picnic or purchase food onsite.
When: Saturday, Aug. 8 • 1-4pm
Details: Bring along your pet and spend the afternoon on an animal scavenger hunt in the galleries, mugging in the photo booth, browsing vendors, and creating a pet rock to take home. Currently on exhibition in the historic Banfill-Locke house is Pets On View.
Dakota County Fair & Heritage Village @ Dakota County Fairgrounds, 4008 220th St W, Farmington, 55024
When: Aug. 10-16, 2015
Cost: $5/adults, $2/kids 6-12, $2/seniors, 5 & under free; $5/daily parking
Details: Heritage Village comes to life as it was a century ago during the run of the Dakota County Fair. Costumed characters interpret rural life as you visit the village buildings and take in demonstrations. Admission to Heritage Village is included in your ticket to the Fair, which also hosts many free activities, exhibits, and live entertainment.
When: Wednesday, Aug. 12 • 10-11:30am
Details: Connect to the natural world with your preschooler (designed for ages 2-5) through hikes, stories, and hands-on activities. Older children are welcome to attend; no pre-registration required. Enter the park at the Gannon Road entrance and meet at the picnic pavilion. The ExploraTots program meets on the second Wednesday of each month. For more free and low-cost environmental education programs in St. Paul, click here.
The Minnesota State Fair does not exactly scream “free” or “cheap”, you say? It’s true that costs can quickly add up between admission, treats and carnival rides, but for many families (mine included) a trip or few to the Fair is a summer must-do. We’ve included this list of 10 free attractions included in Fair admission to give you an idea of all the budget-friendly fun that is to be had. (Note: this is 2014’s list, but all attractions are scheduled to return for 2015.)
The Fair has so much free fun to offer we felt it warranted a second mention on our August list!
Don’t mourn the end of summer just yet, there’s still time and sun enough to hit the local beaches. Following up on our original list of 10 Twin Cities Beaches & Playgrounds to Try This Summer we present 10 MORE Twin Cities Beaches, Playgrounds & Attractions to Try This Summer.
There are so many options for splash-happy fun in our urban lakes that we couldn’t stop after posting our original 10 Twin Cities Beaches & Playgrounds to try this summer. Culled from reader suggestions, our own summer jaunts to the beach, and other fun attractions we’ve been visiting over the past month, we’ve assembled a second round of 10 swimming spots we think are worth checking out. But hurry; as we know all too well here in Minnesota, beach season won’t stick around much longer.
Elm Creek Park Reserve Beach
12400 James Deane Pkwy, Maple Grove 55369
Open: Daily 9am-8pm, lifeguards on duty noon-8pm
Cost: 4/pp daily or $15/pp season pass, other listed activities are free.
Highlights: The man-made swimming pond features a lovely sand beach and filtered, chlorinated water. Work up the desire for a cool dip while tackling the colorful, kinetic playground (“The biggest park I’ve ever seen!” according to my 3-year-old), and exploring the exhibits at Eastman Nature Center. Also onsite is the historic Bottineau House, which offers Saturday open houses from 1-4pm and occasional family programming. Read More
To a family of six, the word “free” is magical. I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that I diligently search out free and low-cost outings to entertain my kids — during the summer and otherwise. Sure, it’s also cheap to stay at home — and we do our fair share of that as well — but have you never noticed how quickly a day of play at home turns into an uncontrollable urge to clean and purge? Personally, I need inexpensive ways to take a break from that feeling. Let me share some that have gotten us (happily) through the beginning of the summer:
Free local swimming holes
If the goal is simply to cool down and get some splashing in, the Metro is flush with options. In fact, far too many public beaches, wading pools and splash pads to list here – and I’ve hardly been to a fraction of them. Some of our favorite sandy spots include beaches at Lake Calhoun (32nd St., Minneapolis), Lake Johanna (Arden Hills), and Snail Lake (Vadnais Heights). Minneapolis has an easy website to navigate its 63 public wading pools. Most are decidedly no-frills, but there are a few exceptions: we had a great time discovering Lake Hiawatha Park (2701 E 44th St., Minneapolis) and its hybrid wading pool-splash pad last week! Maxing out at 2 feet deep with zero-depth entry and some fun fountains, the pool was perfect for the non-swimmers in my group. For more splash pad locations, check out our master list here.
Indoor/outdoor art at Silverwood Park
One Sunday each month during the summer the exceptionally artist-friendly Silverwood Park hosts a free program for kids called Let’s Get StARTed. I brought my girls last weekend to make cloud ID charts (and they’ve since become my little meteorologists). They loved exploring the lake, trails and surprise sculptures that popped up along the way. Silverwood Park is located at 2500 County Rd. E, St. Anthony. There is no charge to visit the park. Remaining dates for the summer series of Let’s Get StARTed are July 20 & August 17.
Your local nature center
Numerous communities surrounding the Twin Cities are curators of these gems. Again, too many to list here, but I’d like to highlight one we visited this week in search of its nature play space. The Maplewood Nature Center (2659 East 7th St., Maplewood) has fashioned a decent outdoor playground filled with stumps, logs (some gargantuan!), boulders, sand, and other materials to spark kids’ connection to the natural world. My kiddos also loved exploring the nature center itself and wandering the boardwalk over the wetlands.
Fun for kids at the U
At least once a year we find a wide-open Wednesday and spend the afternoon at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus. Why Wednesday? Because that’s the day you can Bowl for a Buck (plus $2 shoe rental) at the U’s St. Paul Student Center. Then, to celebrate a great game, we treat ourselves to a $3.50 pint of ice cream from the U of M’s Dairy Salesroom (1354 Eckles Ave., Falcon Heights – inside the Andrew Boss Lab of Meat Science). We also like to stop in at The Raptor Center (1920 Fitch Ave., Falcon Heights) for one of their free guided tours (suggested donation of $3 per person). In fall of 2014, the Raptor Center, which rehabilitates injured birds of prey, will celebrate 40 years with the grand opening of their renovated bird habitat. Public tours are run Tues – Fri, 10:30am – 3:30pm every 30 minutes and Sat – Sun, 12:30 – 3:30pm every 30 minutes. Parking on neighborhood side streets is available for free, or there’s metered parking on campus.
The library, obviously
But not solely to check out new reads for the summer Bookawocky program! The St. Paul Public Library, Hennepin County Library, and the dozens of county libraries throughout the Metro have jam-packed entertainment lineups. Click on the Events & Classes tab on your local library’s website to access them. I’m seeing great stuff all over the calendar; many favorite acts returning this summer include magician Matt Dunn, Brodini Comedy Magic Show, Bill the Juggler, Snapdragon Seeds, The Bazillions, and Bruce the Bug Guy. Plus, countless crafts, movies and other special events – completely free. We’ve been biking to our local branch at least once a week.
That’s my summer update as we coast into the final week of June. As always, we’d love to hear from you! If you’ve got any tips on where to entertain the kids without breaking the budget, please let us know.