10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities

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We’re kicking off 2018 by offering up 10 FREE things to do in January. Happy New Year from FFTC!

10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities

1) Art Shanty Projects | Lake Harriet, Minneapolis

10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities
The Art Shanty Projects is an annual pop-up exhibit mixing art with the hardiness of Minnesotans and our unique love of ice fishing. 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 Jan 20-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.

2) Vulcan Fun Day in the Snow | Minnesota State Fairgrounds

10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities
The Winter Carnival Snow Park at the Fair hosts a giant snow sculpting competition that concludes on Vulcan Fun Day complete with prizes, firetruck rides, a mini-medallion hunt for kids and the thrilling snow slide! All activities are free with the exception of the slide – $2 per ride or $5 for 3, sleds provided. Jan 28, 9am. Read more about a trip to the Snow Park here.

And speaking of that coolest of winter festivals, St Paul’s annual celebration is packed with fun and FREE family events: ice sculptures in Rice Park, parades in downtown, and days dedicated to families and kids at Landmark Center. More more details, hop over here:

10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities

3) Lil Explorer Thursdays | Como Park Zoo & Conservatory | St Paul

10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities

The hall between the Visitor Center and the Conservatory is filled with hands-on activities, manipulatives, art projects and games perfect for the 4 & under set. Explore a different theme each week through April 2018. Donations appreciated. And don’t forget about all of the other free – and toasty warm – exhibits Como offers to bash winter blues: we love to wander the indoor tropical gardens and escape Minnesota, if only for a couple of hours.

4) Winter festivals with free admission

10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities

Us Minnesotans don’t find the cold any reason to close up shop on our community festivals; on the contrary, we embrace the weather and theme our winter bashes around it. You’ll find the following filled with skating, sledding and sleighrides:

5) Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration | Powderhorn Park, Minneapolis

10 Free Things To Do In January in the Twin Cities

The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration builds community by honoring the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s leadership. A community meal will be served along with a performance by Mixed Blood Theatre and crafts with Articulture. Jan 15, 11am-2pm.

6) Winter Play Day | Silverwood Park, St Anthony

Calling all hardy Minnesota kids! Spend your school break day at Silverwood Park building snow creatures (bring your own materials, props and creativity), then warm up with a marshmallow roast and a concert inside the park visitor center. Jan 15, 11-4:30pm

7) Urban Expedition | Landmark Center | St Paul

The 14th year of Urban Expeditions at Landmark kicks off with a tour of Bulgaria. Explore authentic music, crafts, dance, food and more all without having to leave the Twin Cities. The series continues select Sundays through April 15 – bring along your “travel passport” to have it stamped each time you visit a new country. The cost for admission to the Urban Expedition? Free. That’s bargain travel. Jan 21, 1-3pm

8) Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival | Lake Harriet Park, Minneapolis

The colorful annual festival will feature a multitude of kites flying over Lake Harriet as well as experts demonstrating their flying skills, ice fishing, wagon rides snowshoeing, a medallion hunt for kids and a marshmallow roast. Bring your own kite or purchase one there. Jan 27, 12-4pm

Image Courtesy Minneapolis Parks

9) Go sledding, snow tubing or ice skating

With a few exceptions, sledding and outdoor ice skating are always going to be easy on the pocketbook. As this is the state of Minnesota we’re talking about here, most communities maintain free skating rinks throughout the winter (some simple frozen puddles, others far fancier), and free hills to throw a sled down are staples in most larger parks. Just getting started taking your littles out for winter sports? Or do you have tweens begging to go somewhere a little more thrilling? Read on for suggested list of Twin Cities sledding spots, tubing hills and outdoor ice skating rinks. Barring a freak change in weather, these should all be open through the month of January.

Twin Cities Sledding Hills GuideFind Twin Cities Ice Rinks Here.Twin Cities Outdoor Ice Rinks


10) Physics Force

Learning about science can be a total blast – proven by these high-energy and super cool public shows put on by the University of Minnesota. The outreach program aims to amaze with its stunts while reminding kids (and, often, their adults) not to shy away from subjects that can seem challenging to understand. 2 shows Jan 13 at Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis campus, 11am & 4pm. There is no admission fee, but tickets MUST be reserved in advance. Get the details at the link.

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.

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About the author

Anne Kingston

If we left it up to Anne to write her own bio, it would never get posted. She doesn't enjoy talking about herself, but Anne does love exploring the Twin Cities with her family and sharing her finds here. She, her husband and their four kids are lifelong residents of St. Paul.

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