Tag - University of Minnesota

Staying Busy on a Budget: Five of our Summer Outings Done on the Cheap
The Free List: A Romantic Free Weekend (with the hobbits)
Family Fun: Math & Science Family Fun Fair at the University of Minnesota
Free Lists for October 25 through 27, 2013

Staying Busy on a Budget: Five of our Summer Outings Done on the Cheap

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.

The Free List: A Romantic Free Weekend (with the hobbits)

Does anyone else fondly remember the television show Blind Date — where the producers would set up two strangers for a tryst and at the end they would decide whether they like each other or not?  There were two things that made this an appealing show.  The first appeal was the date itself, which usually consisted of a low pressure day-time activity, a dinner and, if it was going well, something more intimate — such as dancing (I’m putting a g-rated spin on this very PG13 show).  The second reason to tune in was the snarky comment bubbles the producers added for comic relief.

It occurred to me that this weekend’s plans are a little like a Blind Date outing.  We’ll have something active and something more date-like, plus we’ll make dinner together and, whereever we go, we’ll have three snarky social commentators tagging along.  Of course it won’t be exactly like a blind date.  Packing that much fun into one day is too much with kids we’ll spread it across this three-day weekend with nap breaks for all of us.  Plus, I’m pretty certain my date is going to end positively.


skatingtrioValentines Day Skating Party
Lyndale Farmstead Recreation Center, 3900 Bryant Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55409
Friday, February 14, 2014; 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Drop in to Lyndale Farmstead for a Skating Party between 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Friday.  Besides skating, there will be Valentine activities in the warming room, including chocolate and valentine making supplies for all skaters! Skating season is ending, this could be your last chance to get out on the ice this year. (Yay!)  This is the perfect date if you didn’t plan ahead for gifts.  You can just say it was all part of your plan to make gifts at this skating party.  Afterwards maybe you can go home, make a romantic family meal and trade Valentines.

The-Starry-Sky-Backgrounds-Powerpoint-636x477Friday Night Public Viewing
Tate Laboratory of Physics., University of Minnesota – Institute for Astrophysics, 116 Church St. S.E., Mpls, MN 55455 (Go Here for Complete Directions)
Friday, February 14, 2014; 8:00 – 9:30 p.m. (and every Friday during the Semester)

If you are done with outdoor activities or you have the stamina to piggy-back two events, star gazing would be a great Valentine date.  The Spring semester viewings just started a couple weeks ago and they haven’t posted a schedule yet, but if other years are an indicator, the talk will probably coincide with Valentine’s day.  These public viewing nights are dependent on weather, sky conditions and on attendance, so it would be good to have a back-up plan if this is your only Friday night activity.  Right now sky conditions look favorable.


MonkeyMindMonkey Mind Pirates (Sold Out – But Rush Tickets May Be Available)
The Children’s Theatre Company, Cargill Theatre, 2400 3rd Ave S  Minneapolis, MN 55404
Saturday, February 15 at 2:30 pm (sensory-friendly performance) and 7:00 pm

I’ve promoted this show a couple of times and suggested reserving tickets early.  Reservations are FULL for both  performances, however they will release rush tickets for any unclaimed seats 15 minutes before showtime and will offer extra seats for the 7 p.m. show 45 minutes before showtime. Doors open for the afternoon performace at 1:30 pm for a free family happy hour on the Island of Calm.

You can read the original press release for this show HERE. Although I have no personal experience with this show yet, it sounds like a fun show and I am excited to see it this weekend.


Peters and the Wolf SquareSPCS Children’s Concert and ArtStart Activities
Mount Zion Temple 1300 Summit Ave. Saint Paul MN 55105
Sunday, February 16, 2014; 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

I wrote up a preview of this concert earlier this week.  You can read it and preview the music HERE.

Ice FishingTake a Kid Ice Fishing
Como Regional Park, Como Park Pavilion, 1360 N. Lexington Pkwy., Saint Paul, MN 55103
Sunday, February 16, 2014; Noon to 3:00 p.m.

What could possibly be more romantic than ice fishing?  Learn how with experts and free loaner equipment at this family event.  You can also watch fish under the ice with an underwater video camera. Of course, since it’s an outdoor event in Minnesota, hot chocolate and a bonfire will be provided for warmth. Registration is preferred but walk-ins are welcome. You can register online here or call 651-292-6508 for more information.


Family Fun: Math & Science Family Fun Fair at the University of Minnesota

umn math and science family fun fairMath & Science Family Fun Fair
University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union
Saturday, November 16, 2013
10am – 4pm; FREE!

So it looks like I’ll be solo-parenting it this weekend. And if there’s one reason alone to be bummed out about it — the U of M’s annual Math & Science Family Fun Fair is scheduled for this Saturday, November 16, at the Minneapolis campus. Our family had so much fun attending last year that I swore we’d be back in 2013. But here’s my hang-up: Coffman Union is so packed with hands-on activities, exhibits and shows for this fair that it’s an event best tackled by a team of at least two caregivers (in my case, anyway. I’ve got a spirited bunch of four young ones.). As of press time, I’m still deciding whether to go at it without my co-pilot.

UMN math and science family fun fair

The pros to attending: a staggering number of exhibits designed to let your children’s inner scientist come out to play. That’s my 3-year-old (above) building molecules out of marshmallows and toothpicks. My 7-year-old son was crazy about the robots. Well-known UMN traveling science shows “Physics Force” and “Energy and U” perform. Try out the Bell Museum’s ExploraDome for free! Fun activities for kids introduce them to such fields as (deep breath) astronomy, chemistry, neuroscience, rocketry, electrical engineering, geology, genetics and a host of other STEM vocations I hope might spark some interest in my daughters. (Just because I was allergic even to the words “math” and “science” as a kid doesn’t mean I want to pass it on to my own.)

umn physics force

The only cons to attending the Fair: the exhibits are spread throughout several floors and spaces within Coffman Union. If you’re unfamiliar with the building it’s almost impossible to navigate the exhibits without a map. Be sure to pick one up at the registration table. That’s also the spot to secure free (but required) tickets to the “Physics” and “Energy” shows. Also, be prepared for a crowd. Not an overwhelming one, but certainly a healthy number of families excited about math and science.

University of Minnesota
Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis

“Physics Force” shows at 10:30am & 12:30pm
“Energy & U” shows at 11:30am & 1:30pm

$6 event parking in the East River Parkway Garage. There is also a limited amount of street and metered parking around the Minneapolis campus.


Free Lists for October 25 through 27, 2013

This is a great weekend for free family activities.  As much as I should be at home cleaning, repairing things that have broken and preparing for the fast approaching winter, I plan on playing all weekend.  I have a list of things I’ll be doing, plus a bunch of other things I would do if I had the time.  I might do some housework, too.  We’ll see.  There’s always next weekend.


Learn more about Dessa at www.doomtree.net/dessa/

Learn more about Dessa at www.doomtree.net/dessa/

Talk of the Stacks with Dessa
Minneapolis Central Library – Pohlad Hall
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Friday, October 25, 2013; 7:00 pm

I did not put this on the calendar because it is probably not appropriate for smaller kids.  I think my 8-year-old could go and behave, but she wouldn’t have fun.  My preschoolers would create havoc.  So I’ve hired a babysitter for Friday night.  Still I’m putting this on the list, because if you have an older kid who enjoys the Twin Cities’ local music offerings, this could be enjoyable for both them and you.  It sounds like this will be more along the lines of a poetry reading than a concert, but Dessa sounds great whether she’s singing or reciting her poetry.  If you are unfamiliar with Dessa, you can hear her music below.


picture by ESO/S. Gillessen/MPE/Marc Schartmann via student.societyforscience.org

picture by ESO/S. Gillessen/MPE/Marc Schartmann via student.societyforscience.org

Friday Night Public Viewing: The Milky Way’s Black Hole Has a Feast
Tate Laboratory of Physics, University of Minnesota
116 Church Street Southeast Minneapolis, MN 55455
Friday, October 25, 2013; 8:00 pm

My husband looked at me like I was stupid when I said, “Did you know there is a giant black hole in the middle of the Milky Way?”  Apparently this is common knowledge.  At any rate, it is currently in the process of eating a giant cloud of gas.  I didn’t know any of this until I read up on it at the Society for Science News for Students.  I’d recommend sharing the article with your young astronomer before heading out to see it for yourself at the Friday Night Viewing.





Ballet Minnesota Fall Concert – Rite of Spring & Morning in Beijing
The O’Shaughnessy
St Catherine University, St Paul
Friday, October 25, 2013; 7:30 pm
Saturday, October 26, 2013; 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 26, 2013; 7:30 p.m.

We ordered our free tickets for this several weeks ago and my daugther and I have been waiting impatiently to go to our real live ballet performance.  This is another outing that I can’t imagine taking my preschool boys to, so my babysitter — who constantly tells me that I under-employ her — will get a twofer this weekend.  I just checked the website and it doesn’t look like the concert has sold out yet; it says tickets are available at the door.  I’d probably call to make sure at this point though.  651-690-6700.  If you want to make this outing extra special, you could pair it with When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky by local author Lauren Stringer.  The book gives a short history of the opening night of Rite of Spring.



Spooky Storytime at the Red Balloon Bookshop

Spooky Storytime and Magic Show with Matt Youngbauer at the Red Balloon Bookshop
Red Balloon Bookshop
891 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN. 55105
Saturday, October 26, 2013; 10:30 a.m.

Join local children’s librarian, Matt Youngbauer, for a seasonally spooky storytime.  The fun will include less-than-scary stories, poems and magic tricks.



Free Family Fun Day: Unbeatable Bats
Carl Kroenig Interpretive Center
4900 Mississippi Court, Minneapolis, MN 55430
Sunday, October 23, 2013; 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
This week’s Free Family Fun Day at North Mississippi Regional Park is all about bats.  Perfect for a little science to go with the Halloween season.  As always this program is free and open to the public and is a drop in program any time between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.  This is the perfect day for this because Green Bay and Minnesota play at 7:30 p.m., so you have the whole day to play.

Joy Peters is a co-founder of Family Fun Twin Cities.

© 2016 Family Fun Twin Cities LLC. All Rights Reserved. 1786 Carroll Ave, Saint Paul, MN, 55104, USA