The Flint Hills International Children’s Festival had a name change in 2018. It is now the Flint Hills Family Festival. It is still a celebration for kids (and their families) about different cultures/countries. On one hand, you have the traditional face painting and balloon artists. Then, you turn around and your eyes see a Tibetan dancer or a Ugandan flute. Flint Hills tells us we can expect “outdoor dance parties; giant, inflatable light-up sculptures; and interactive art-making for the whole family!”
Flint Hills Family Festival Family Weekend is full of FREE Outdoor Fun And Low Cost Indoor Performances.
It’s the perfect outing for a large family. This year, Family Weekend is June 1-2, 2018, and the Free Outdoor Art Spectacle runs through the whole festival (May 29 through June 2).
Each year at the Flint Hills Family Festival, families are offered the free outdoor festival and indoor performances for a small fee. In 2018, The Ordway indoor shows will again be $8 each, but some afternoon performances will offer rush tickets on the day of the program at a “pay what you can” rate. These tickets are first come, first served and expected to sell out. Advance tickets can be purchased online through the Ordway website, by phone at 651-224-4222, or at the Ordway ticket office. This year’s indoor artists will be:
- Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey: Featuring music, movement and larger-than-life characters that light up the stage, Marvin the mouse takes a cosmic adventure that celebrates differences.
- Tetris: A physical and interactive dance quartet becomes a real-life Tetris game on stage.
- Moona Luna: A four-member band creates magical moments with danceable tunes in Spanish and English.
- Panda’s Home: An adorable panda bear embarks on an imaginary journey through dance and sound.
We’ve been fans of Flint Hills since our kids were small and have gathered tips over the years. If this is your first visit, read on. Note: We have a few Amazon links where we thought an example may be helpful. Should you purchase from one of our links, we receive a small commission:
Make Flint Hills Family Festival a Smashing Success for your Family
- Bring a backpack with water and healthy, hearty snacks. More than likely there will be food to purchase via food trucks, but you will have to wait in line. There is so much to do, you won’t want to take the time to stand in line. We packed a lunch of fruits and veggies. It was a great way to make sure we all had some vitamins and nutrients for the amount of walking we would do.
- Bring some cash. While most everything is free, you won’t find free parking anywhere convenient.
- Wear comfortable shoes. We wandered around a lot, even thought the festival is relatively compact. Rice Park is not a large park, and after they set the stage in the middle, only half the park remains for booths and activities. The festival is in a small space, but the ground plan utilizes the space well.
- Considering bringing help. Some years, I’ve taken the children by myself and enjoyed myself. One year, I invited my mom and aunt to come with us. It was nice to have help so that the kids could choose to do something next door and not wait for the rest of us. But it was very doable to do without help, too.
- Go early. Not because you will beat the crowd. Nope, that’s not it at all. Go early to beat the rain that is sure to come in the afternoon and shut down the cool outdoor performances. (Let’s just say this has happened more than once to me)
- Bring an umbrella. See Tip #1
- Have a rain plan. In the afternoon, hit the indoor shows or hang out in the activity tents!
- Say “Yes”. When your child wants to do something, say yes right away especially if it’s a balloon animal/creation. Later there will be a line.
- Don’t Wait. Eat when the kids want to eat. When you are out of food and they are hungry, leave.
- Take your time. There is a lot to see and it’s super fun, but don’t feel like you need to do it all.
- Get a Map and Goodie Bag. Our first stop is the Flint Hills Tent to pick up a bag to collect all our goodies and to get a map. I highly recommend doing this–it is so helpful!
Every year we go to the Flint Hills Family Festival we are never disappointed. Well, I take that back. We are always disappointed but not by the festival. The festival is amazing with tents and activities galore, and you don’t have to spend a cent! What we’ve been disappointed in is missing some of the acts due to rain or arriving later than expected. The rain has never lasted very long so we can enjoy the rest of the activities, but it has prevented us from seeing some of the most anticipated outdoor free shows.
During a three-year span, we parked in the RiverCentre Ramp. The first year it cost $5, the second year $10, and the third year $5. I am keeping track of this for you. I am unsure why the discrepancy of the event pricing, but I would always have $20 in my pocket for the unknown parking fee — $20 and some water bottles. If you have a Science Museum membership, this would be a good time to take advantage of your member parking rates. Each year, they seem to have additional food trucks parked around Rice Park, too. However, if you don’t mind the hike, you can park further away and walk.
I need to highlight some of our favorite activities because I could go on and on. The following are activities from previous years. Many of the activities will be similar, but every year you can expect something new:
We have enjoyed Rosenschnoz Puppets Monkey Mind Pirate, and Loveworks Academy Drum and Drill Team. We have watched Storytellers in the Xcel Energy Storytime Garden, and participated in as many different activities as we could whether it be arts and crafts, face painting, exploring the natural world, or active play.
The Story Tree to the left was carved from an old tree that was dredged up from the Mississippi. The roots create the branches and flowers are the leaves. It is a wonderful work of art. It screams make believe but without screaming!
One year, we enjoyed our lunch as this Brazillian band was playing while dancers performed.
There are so many activities to choose from. MN Center for Book Arts gave you the chance to make and decorate a book, Regions Hospital let you be a Junior Doctor, Minnesota Children’s Museum had a building play area. And that is just the beginning. Here is a picture of Tori with her MN History Center project.
Here is our kitty and our puppy. They also had nail painting so you could have the Indian flag on your fingernails and henna art. And we did it all. Kyla and Dash are pictured in the Henna tent where we hid out from the rain.
Steppingstone Theatre presented Heartbeat of a Drum, and I was excited to watch this performance because I have always wanted to see it. However, whenever I was at the Landmark Stage, I was always in the back. I never stood in the front So all my pictures of this stage are from “backstage.”
On our first visit, the first thing we heard–rather than saw–was the Block Party. The Dance Theatre of Ireland hosted this event. And it was a blast.
They built things out of the blocks: a house or furniture or pathways. It was pretty cool. But even better was the way they danced around or inside their creations to the beat of their rhythm band that beat out exciting rhythms. It was fantastic! After the performance, they invited all the kids to come and climb all over the blocks and play. And THEN, they utilized the children and had them each participate in cleaning up!
The Dance Theatre of Ireland is based in Ireland and comprised of dancers and musicians from Ireland, the UK, and a random Italian. And their accents? Totally cool! They come to the US specifically for this event.
Tents were full of different crafts and activities are sponsored by many different organizations and companies.
Irish dancing that was deemed live Tinkerbell music.
This is the eccentric St. Paul Ice Cream Man. He is known as the Leprechaun Dreamcycle because he has an ice cream tricycle!
The balloon man. There was a line to see him 1/2 block long. He was AMAZING!
Watching the block party! It was so exciting!
Her paper bag windsock! She worked hard on this.
The Children’s Museum had this creative play area. My boys completely enjoyed being in the shade and playing with the balls and large foam tinker toys.
The balloon man gave this to JackJack to keep him occupied while we watched the balloon creations!
Gianna’s Final Thoughts about the Flint Hills Family Festival
Every staff member and every volunteer and every tent knew kids and made this a perfect kid experience. While the shows and exhibits were awesome for the adults, the kids were the target audience. This is the perfect kid experience.
- Everything was at kid level.
- There was stroller parking that was guarded so you could leave your stuff and feel like it was safe (safer than in your car). I would suggest utilizing the stroller parking and just walking with your kids. There are a lot of people and the stroller was hard to manuever.
- Free!!!! (minus the food tents and the performance inside the Ordway and Landmark Center).
- There was a lot of shade to get out of the sun.
- Constant activity with quieter spots to regroup.
- Staff everywhere was helpful. They were all eager to make sure you were involved and having fun.
- I would suggest this to anyone. Go early in the morning to avoid the massive crowds, but expect to be there for a while!
The weekend is a blast. I highly recommend going. Just put on your busy hat, know it’s going to be a little crazy, pack a lunch, and plan for an entire day of fun!