I love shopping; but I can do without the crowds. Last year, I compiled this list of fun alternatives to shopping on Black Friday. This year, I’m adding some fun ideas for Saturday & Sunday as well. The following is a list of some of our favorite ideas for this long Thanksgiving holiday weekend:
FRIDAY, November 23
1) Visit a state park FREE on Black Friday
Like last year, State Parks are free on Black Friday. Free days are rare and exploring one of the local state parks is not something we do often. We tend toward the more urban adventures. Go HERE for an interactive map of State Parks both near and far or check our list of 6 Twin Cities Metro-Area Minnesota State Parks.
Many other local parks are always free and you can find a growing list of them in our directory by choosing Parks from the Category drop-down menu. We have almost doubled our park listings to well over 400 since last year, and we are doing our best to include the information families will find most useful.
Just a reminder: If your plan includes a visitors center or recreation center, we recommend calling ahead. Parks have limited staff and this is a Holiday weekend for them, too.
2) Holidazzle opens for the season | Loring Park, Minneapolis
Bring your skates down to the WinterSkate at Loring Park (a limited amount of loaners will be available), tackle the obstacles in the Kids Zone, interact with the art installations, and take in fireworks at 6:30 following opening ceremonies. Friday (and Sunday) will also feature outdoor movies and visits with Santa. All activities are FREE.
A second free WinterSkate location is across from Rice Park in St Paul, next to Landmark Center. Again, there is no charge to skate but unless you bring your own pair of skates, non-Wells Fargo customers will pay $4 rental fee.
3) Green Friday Toy Swap | Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Brooklyn Park
This is at the top of my personal weekend list. Drop in at the Brooklyn Park side of Coon Rapids Dam between 10am & noon on Black Friday; bring in gently-used toys; and swap them for others. My kids and I have decided this would be a great way for them to “shop” for their siblings; they can pick a toy of their own to swap for something for each of their siblings for Christmas.
Note: Before heading out, this would be a good time to review my directory post about Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park. Its actually two different parks, and you may or may not feel like walking across the dam if you end up on the wrong side.
4) Family Funday: Nature’s Black Friday Fun | Kroening Interpretive Center, Minneapolis
On Black Friday between 11am-3pm, the interpretive center in North Mississippi Regional Park will have both naturalist-led and self-guided nature exploration activities. Visitors are encouraged to hike, build a fort, go on a scavenger hunt and play games. This activity is free and all ages, but you can pre-register online at www.minneapolisparks.org.
SATURDAY, November 24
5) Home Depot Kids Workshop – Christmas tree ornament
Home Depot usually hosts FREE Kids Workshops on the first Saturday of each month, 9am-noon. This month, get a start on grandparent holiday gifts with a one-of-kind picture frame made by their favorite grandchild(ren).
If we don’t find everything our hearts desire at the Green Friday Toy Swap, our next plan of action is Small Business Saturday. This gives independently owned businesses and small publishers a chance to share what they have to offer during the Holiday season. We plan to visit our favorite independently owned shops on Saturday and have a number of ideas for you here.
Also on Small Business Saturday, our favorite local bookstores often bring in children’s book authors in to help us select book gifts. See Red Balloon’s schedule here. Double your do-good shopping by hitting up one of these locally owned and operated bookstores to buy a book by a local author and/or independent publisher.
WEEKEND – November 24-25
Julgladje is a favorite tradition, hosted by musician Ross Sutter, who plays an energetic and interactive variety of American and Swedish holiday tunes. This is an affordable experience for the whole family to enjoy. Sat, Nov 25 12 & 2 pm; Sun, Nov 26 1pm. Tickets $5-$12/pp (advanced tickets recommended).
8) Santa & Albert’s Annual Holiday Play | Bachman’s on Lyndale, Minneapolis
See Santa & Albert perform in “Who Wants To Be a Toymaker?”, this year’s edition of Bachman’s annual holiday play. Shows run weekends at 11:30am, 1 & 3:30pm with an extra performance Saturday mornings at 10. Come early for good seating and stay after for caroling and pictures with the characters.
9) Visit a new Twin Cities-area Nature Center
Our Metro area has a total of 25 nature centers to choose from – browse our list to find a new one near you. All are beautiful buildings and wildlife sanctuaries that are educational and fun to explore as a family year-round. Most have interactive exhibits, live animals, trails and low-cost programming. All offer FREE admission! The following have activities planned for the weekend after Thanksgiving:
- Carpenter St Croix Valley: 10/23/18 – bird banding, 8:30am-12pm, FREE
- Lowry: 11/24/18 – Nature-inspired Holiday Cards, 12:30-2:30pm, $5
- Eastman: 11/25/18: Bonfire & Family Games, 1-3pm, FREE
- Richardson: 11/25/18 – Free Family Fun Day: Backyard Birds, 3-4pm, FREE
12. Stay home and play games
Sometimes, even we want to just stay home and enjoy our families without the hoopla of going out. Luckily, last January, Tom — our computer guru, biggest cheerleader and all-around awesome husband to Anne — also became a contributing writer when he gave us 45+ Fun Indoor Games for Kids of All Ages. When in doubt, there is something for everyone on this list.
*We do our best to keep up with dates and times on our calendar and in our directory, but we recommend calling ahead when in doubt.