Once the holidays and hockey season are over, I tend to change my tune about winter. If you’re like-minded, we’ve got plenty of free ways to hunker down inside and wait out the rest of the cold snap. Or, if you desire to be out of doors, we’ve included some frosty winter festivals and a really cool art event on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis:
1) Winter Carnival Family Day | Rice Park & Landmark Center, St Paul
That coolest of winter festivals, the St Paul Winter Carnival, will host its annual Family Day in Rice Park Feb 3. If you haven’t yet made your way down to the park this season, here are a few family-pleasers you might want to seek out:
- Ice Sculpture Garden – Take a walk through Rice Park and pick out your favorite ice creation. As of Feb 1, all the sculptures have been completed and will be on display through the run of Winter Carnival (or as weather permits!) At night, the ice is illuminated and especially magical.
- Winter Carnival Ice Palace – The long-awaited palace towers 70 feet over Rice Park and comes to life daily with light shows at 5:30 & 7:30pm. Tip: Word is the Palace is difficult to access with strollers due to crowds. Also be aware that the public is not permitted to walk inside the structure.
- Wells Fargo WinterSkate – Take a spin on the refrigerated rink through Feb 11. Skating is free for all, $4 skate rental for non-WF customers.
- Winter Carnival Family Day – Rice Park buzzes with a MN Made Market, live music, food trucks and Olympic Team USA’s Winterfest. Warm up inside Landmark Center with entertainment and events for all ages. Feb 3, noon-5pm.
2) Art Shanty Projects | Lake Harriet, Minneapolis
The Art Shanty Projects is an annual pop-up exhibit mixing art with the hardiness of Minnesotans and our love of the lakes. These unique icehouses, designed by local artists, are strongly encouraged to be interactive — herein lies the fun of bringing the whole family out to see them. The creative little spaces on the frozen lake combined with an attitude of embracing winter make for an event worth checking out. Runs weekends through Feb 11, 10am-4pm.
Three tips to keep in mind you should consider bringing kids out:
- Bring a sled to pull the little ones on! The collection of themed ice shanties are about 500 ft from shore and can be located a significant distance from parking.
- Visit the Art Shanty Projects website ahead of time to get an idea of which shanties would best suit the kids.
- As always in our great state, dress for the weather. You may be out for hours.
3) Mia Ice Maze | Minneapolis Institute of Art
If you can make it down to the Minneapolis Institute of Art this weekend, you’re in for a special treat. Mia’s contribution to the “Bold North” Super Bowl theme is an illuminated Ice Maze that will hold court on the museum’s front lawn. Sip on some cocoa opening night from 5-9pm. The maze is open Feb 1-4 during museum hours.
Plus, Rock the Cradle, The Current’s annual music festival for the 8-and-under set, arrives on the scene Feb 11, 11am. Rock the Cradle can be a touch crazy, in our opinion, so keep that crowd level in mind before heading out.
4) Fire & Ice Festival | Parkers Lake Park, Plymouth
This free, fun family event includes hayrides, live entertainment, snow bowling, a bonfire and fireworks at 6:30pm. New this year is a cardboard sled contest; come show off your creation. Feb 3, 3-7pm. For more freezy February festivities, check our Winter Family Festival Calendar:
5) Cozy up & play at coffee shops with free play areas
Shut the door against the often dreary weather in February and cozy up at one of the many Twin Cities-area coffee shops that dedicate corners (and, occasionally, entire rooms) to kids. We have personally visited each shop we recommend to ensure that it is quite possible to enjoy a cup of joe and some conversation while your little one is entertained. Here’s our quick list; visit the link above for more details:
- A Cupcake Social | Minneapolis
- Amy’s Cupcake Shop | Hopkins
- Community Grounds | Columbia Heights
- Dunn Brothers Coffee | Linden Hills, Minneapolis
Fireroast Cafe | Minneapolis– We’ve been informed by a reader that they no longer have a kids’ corner.
- Gingko Coffeehouse | St Paul
- Riverview Cafe | Minneapolis
- Sovereign Grounds Indoor Playground & Coffeehouse | Minneapolis
- The Goat Coffeehouse | St Paul
6) First Free Saturday: Cabin Fever | Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
A trip to the Walker Art Center can always be an interesting family outing. And educational as well, in often unexpected ways as you tour the galleries together and talk about the art. Walker does its best to make the museum at its kid-friendliest during First Free Saturdays, where there are typically art-making activities, kid cinema and the like. Special in February: borrow a pair of snowshoes and hike through the revamped Minneapolis Sculpture Garden! Note that this month, the event will be held Feb 10 to avoid traffic on Super Bowl weekend. 10am-3pm.
7) Family Fun Day: Under the Snow | Carl Kroening Interpretive, Minneapolis | 1-3pm | Drop in for naturalist-led activities and self-guided exploration of the visitor center’s interactive exhibits. Feb 18.
8) 90-second Newbery Film Festival | Minneapolis Central Library
Kiddos get the filmmaking credits here! Their job is to condense Newbery award-winning literature into 90-second original films. The cross-country best of this year’s bunch will be screened at the annual film festival in Minneapolis on Feb 10 from 3-4pm. Tickets are free, but grab yours in advance right quick. This event is a sellout.
9) Second Saturdays at TPT | Twin Cities PBS, St Paul
It’s Mardi Gras at the studio this weekend! Play carnival games, make a mask, jump in the bounce house and do the cake walk. It’s all free but reserving a 1-hour time slot is required – you’ll want to hurry as reservations fill up very quickly. If you can’t grab tickets this month, watch the calendar for next. Feb 10, 8-11am.
Designed for kids ages 6-12, the program is a wonderful way to introduce children to classical music. Expect the concert to last about 50 minutes and include musical storytelling and a wee bit of education (perhaps don’t bill it as such). Tickets are free, but required in advance. Register for your spot at the link. Feb 24, concerts at 10 & 11:30am. To read more about St Paul Chamber Orchestra’s family programs, jump over here.
For more tips on how to stretch the family entertainment budget: Free & Cheap – 10 Strategies for Family Fun on a Limited Income is worth a read. It’s a good reminder of simple ways we can cut down on cost when out and about together as well as offering hints on where to seek out discounts at popular museums and events.