Beyond Pokémon Go – Twin Cities Quests for Families

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Pokémon Go at the library

Pokémon Go Activities are popping up everywhere – Like This 2016 Library Crawl

I’m a bit on the fence with the Pokémon Go app. On the one side, it sounded instantly appealing to me to take my family out to search for Pokémon. I picture a day of happy bonding while we explore the Twin Cities. On the other side, I am anti-app (an app-atheist? app-athetic?). I would probably need the expert tech help of my 11-year-old. At any rate, I’m still on the fence. I might make this exception or get my husband, who is an app-addict, to download it to his phone.

In the meantime, when asked to explain Pokémon Go, I told a friend, “It’s like geocaching for imaginary creatures.” I know its a bit more. You can train them, and battle them, and act out your cartoon fantasies; but the part that I like is the searching part. This is why, while I’m sitting on the fence, I can start to encourage some other treasure hunts I’ve been wanting to try.

Instead of Pokémon Go, Perhaps a Reading Road TripPerhaps, we could collect bookmarks for the books we read from our summer sponsor – Bookology’s Summer Reading Road Trip. (This is last year’s program, but you can still read the books and print the bookmarks.)

In fact, one of the books on this list is by one of our favorite local authors, David LaRochelle – Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet. It is a book about finding the alphabet in nature. You could go on an alphabet hunt after reading the book. 

Kids love collecting things. They love searching for these things they collect. There are endless ways to indulge this passion. While we are at it maybe we can create a happy family memory and learn something new.

Before Pokémon Go there was Waldo

Before Pokémon Go there was WaldoAgain in 2017, the stores on Grand Avenue in St. Paul are hosting a Where’s Waldo hunt, this year focusing on shopping local. It will begin on July 1, 2017. Keep an eye open for 2018 Waldo hunts!

Pokémon Go is A Bit Like Geocaching

Like Pokémon, Geocaching is an addictive hobby and people — adults as well as children — take if very seriously. Both require the use of GPS technology. Families can go all out, choose to dabble in the hobby, or try it once and move on. Here are some places to start:

Geocache in State Parks • This is a good place to start, because several state parks offer free loaner geocaching kits. My daughter and her classmates tried this out during a visit to Fort Snelling State Park. They said it was easier to just go for a walk and stumble on the cache’s. We’ll call these “beginner level”.

Passport to Maplewood Parks • Another good starter program would be Maplewood’s program, since all the 29 sites are in one city. Families can start by picking up a passport packet at City Hall or Maplewood Nature Center or by downloading it HERE. With each cache, you’ll find a secret word to write in your passbook. Once it is full, return it to claim a prize.

Geocaching for S’mores • Three Rivers Park District may win the award for the best idea to get beginners interested in geocaching. They regularly offer one-time programs that end with s’mores. This may be the perfect way to pique the interest of children. These programs cost $8.00 per person (with a 20% discount for groups of 4 or more) and require pre-registration. Find them by searching keyword “S’mores”.

Scavengar Hunts – Like Pokémon Go, but Low Tech

Scavenger Hunts are everywhere plus they are really easy to make on your own. The following is a list of places where you can find scavenger hunts or adventure packs that generally contain a scavenger hunt.

schubert club museum

  • Museums  • Many museums have pre-made scavenger hunts. Just ask at the front desk.
  • Libraries • Check the children’s section at libraries. Our favorite libraries change out scavenger hunts frequently. Sun Ray Library in St. Paul also has nature backpacks available to check out. Stop by Sun Ray Library to pick one up.
  • ParksEloise Butler has adventure packs to check out, so do several Three Rivers Nature Centers. Just ask at the visitors desk. Most of these packs include scavenger hunts.
  • Nature Centers • Ask at Nature Centers.  For Instance, Wood Lake Nature Center has created a environmentally-friendly scavenger hunt for kids.
  • Grocery Store/Errands • You may have to make this yourself based on what you need, but its a good way to keep them busy while you shop.
  • Zoos  • Minnesota Zoo offers this PDF Scavenger Hunt for K-3rd graders. • For Como Zoo, their Visitor’s Guide makes a good scavenger hunt – just find all the featured animals on the map.
Fossil Hunting is like Pokémon Go for the adventurous

I have fond memories of fossil hunting at my Grandma’s farm in Indiana as a kid. I never actually found anything until her funeral this spring, when I found my first piece of petrified wood. It didn’t matter, I had a good time following my dad through the freshly plowed fields in the spring or down by the dried out creek in the late summer.

I was hoping to offer you some really great fossil hunting locations here in the Twin Cities based on this Minnesota at a Glance PDF, which I picked up at the Science Museum. The problem is that it is largely outdated. The most popular site, Lilydale, is closed indefinitely. In fact, St. Paul is not issuing fossil collecting permits for any site. Other sites on the list are further away and rumored to be cleaned out or are just difficult to find. I did find a lot of dead links and old information, but no solid references. I would still print out the PDF. It has pictures and useful information regarding the types of fossils to be found in Minnesota.

Never fear, I have ideas — two road trips, a perhaps, and a compromise.

Road Trip #1: Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester encourages fossil hunting in its two quarries. Park guests can carry out any fossil that can fit in the palm of their hands.

Road Trip #2: Hill Annex Mine State Park in Itasca County offers Fossil Hunt tours on Friday and Saturdays during the summer. The cost is $10/adult;$6/child 5-12; free/child under 5 and participants can keep what they find. We did this on the last day of the season in 2017. The drive was long, but the bounty was plentiful. We even found a more rare fossil.

Perhaps you know someone who would give permission to search on their land? While reminding us that fossil collecting is not allowed in State Parks, the DNR does offer tips for collecting elsewhere (with permission).

A compromise, especially if you have little ones, is the Lyndale Park Peace Garden. The large boulders placed throughout the garden are actually older than the dinosaurs and contain prehistoric fossils. Of course you can’t take these home, but you could bring paper and crayons and collect them with crayon rubbings.


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About the author

Joy Peters

Joy Peters - co-creator and writer for

Besides Family Fun Twin Cities, I spend my 9 to 5 at a day job pursuing my weird passion for calendars and organizing things as a legal secretary. When I get home I spend my time with my four kids, 10, 6, 4 and 1. My amazing husband is both a full-time musician and full-time stay-at-home dad. Together we run a small radio empire — SiaNet Radio — playing, promoting and enjoying the wide variety of local music and art in the Twin Cities. I juggle all this while writing about exploring the Twin Cities with kids. I couldn’t be happier.

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