Black Friday Alternatives – Plenty to Do in the Twin Cities

Boy walking outside in the late fall. "Instead of BLACK FRIDAY #optoutside Buy Nothing Day Green Friday."

Buy Nothing Day was created as a way to protest the consumerism of Black Friday. This movement has been joined by the #optoutside movement, which was created by REI, who chooses to close on Black Friday so its customers can go outside instead of shopping. Others have renamed the day Green Friday to encourage socially uplifting activities over consumerism. For this year, at least, #optoutside appears to be the winner. Whatever you want to call the day after Thanksgiving (November 24th in 2023), we can help you make it a family fun day with Black Friday alternatives. We’ve come up with some ideas for spending the day together that do not require shopping. If you want to skip the Black Friday sales and hold off for the Cyber Monday discounts this holiday season, peruse this list:

There might be last-minute events announced this year, and we plan to keep adding right up to the end.  So, check back often.

Give Back on Black Friday

VolunteerFeed My Starving Children


  • 401 93rd Ave NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55433
  • 990 Lone Oak Road, Suite 136, Eagan, MN 55121
  • 18732 Lake Drive East, Chanhassen, MN 55317

Time: Various Time Slots
Description: I have had so much fun packing meals with my coworkers, that I want to get back with my family sometimes soon. I’ve been told that November and December are FMSC’s busiest months. If you want to volunteer on Black Friday, register early.
Best Buy of the Season: If you want to shop, FMSC sells sustainable products that spotlight makers around the planet. Purchases help the mission of feeding God’s children.

Cost/Registration: Donations Accepted. Register Here.

Family Volunteering at Feed My Starving Children
Our Feed My Starving Children Crew

DIY Activity Recommendations:

The best deals may be the less tangible rewards you find from spending an afternoon exploring a park or nature center on your own. Visit these parks free and create some do-it-yourself fun.

Dodge Nature Center

Address: 365 Marie Avenue West St. Paul, MN 55118
Time: Daylight Hours
Description: The trails are open to the public during daylight hours. Find maps for all four properties and visitor information here.
Cost/Registration: FREE/Drop-In.

Family Activities at Dodge Barn, Dodge Nature Center, South St. Paul, Minnesota
Dodge Barn

Free Entrance Day @ Washington County Parks

Washington County Parks Include:
Big Marine Park Reserve
St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park
Square Lake Park
Pine Point Park
Lake Elmo Park
Cottage Grove Park
Point Douglas Park
Time: 9am to 7pm
One of two special free entrance days in 2023, visitors do not need to pay the vehicle fee when visiting any of Washington County’s parks on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Cost/Registration: FREE/Drop-In.

Free Park Friday @ Minnesota State Parks

Address9 Twin Cities Metro-Area Minnesota State Parks
Time: 8am to 10pm
Entrance to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas are free on the Friday after Thanksgiving! Watch for special events announced towards mid-November. Activities usually include free naturalist programs. You can also take a hike, relax in the woods with some good reads, or (possibly) take in a free wild turkey sighting.
Cost/Registration: FREE/Drop-In.

Collage of kids exploring Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, on a cool fall afternoon.
Cool fall days are a great time to explore the beach without crowds

#Opt Outside – Black Friday Alternatives

Dress for the weather, leave the mall madness behind, and get outdoors with these outdoor park programs that require no purchases and focus on getting in touch with the planet we live on:

OPT OUTSIDE @ Anoka County Parks

AddressWargo Nature Center, 7701 Main Street, Lino Lakes, MN 55038
Bunker Hills Park, 550 Bunker Lake Blvd NW, Andover, MN 55034
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, 9750 Egret Boulevard Northwest, Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Islands of Peace County Park, 200 Charles St. NE Fridley, MN 55432
Kordiak County Park, 1845 49th Ave NE, Columbia Heights, MN 55421
Locke County Park, 840 71st Avenue NE Fridley, MN 55432
Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve, 7373 Main St, Lino Lakes, MN 55038
Rum River Central Regional Park, 17955 Roanoke St NW, Ramsey, MN 55303
And More
Time: 6:00 am – 1/2 hour after sunset
Description: Enjoy a day out and experience nature with free vehicle entry into Anoka County Parks
Cost/Registration: FREE/Drop-In.

Mississippi Gateway #OptOutside Open House

Address: Mississippi Gateway Regional Park, 10360 W River Rd, Brooklyn Park, MN 55444
Time: 10am-2pm
Description: Make it your mission to spend Black Friday outside with friends and loved ones instead of in-stores shopping. Hike along the river, roast marshmallows at the bonfire, geocache and play outdoor games. This is an open house, drop-in event.
: FREE. Reservations recommended.

Girl and boy playing in tree structure at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park Nature Play Area in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
Mississippi Gateway Regional Park


Address: Lowry Nature Center, Carver Park Reserve, 7025 Nature Center Dr, Victoria, MN 55386
Time: 10am-3pm (also on Saturday)
Description: Borrow a GPS unit to hunt for hidden clues about turkeys and other birds around the park. Families who find the final clue can win a prize. If you need to warm up, take a little time to explore the nature center.
: FREE. Drop In.

Father and two girls visiting the live animals at Lowry Nature Center in Victoria, Minnesota
Indoors find tanks of live animals kids can view up close.

Opt Outside With Dakota Parks

Address: Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Cliff Road, Eagan, MN 55123
Dakota Parks annual open house-style, free family event is at Lebanon Hills this year. Activities include the Water is Life Activity Trail, Protecting Our Waters Geocaching and Medallion Hunt. This year, there is a food truck on site for on-the-go meals. Drop in 10am-4pm. FREE.

Entrance to Lebanon Hills Visitor Center in Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan, Minnesota
Lebanon Hills Visitor Center

Opt Outside with North Mississippi Regional Park

Address: Carl Kroening Nature Center, 4900 Mississippi Court, Minneapolis, MN, US 55430
Families can explore the park in a self-guided nature scavenger hunt, build forts, play on the nature adventure course, make art, meet animals and/or check out an adventure pack.  There will be a campfire when you need to warm up. FREE, but registration required.

Mississippi River

Indoor “Black Friday Deals”

You don’t have to go outside to get a boost of family fun. We usually see promotions from community centers and organizations pop up closer to Thanksgiving day, so we will keep adding to this list as new offers pop into our inbox:

Night Trains

Address: Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum, 668 Transfer Rd Ste. 8, St Paul, MN 55114
Time: 3pm-7pm (Saturday Also).
Pre-purchased tickets for Night Trains are highly recommended.
Cost/Registration: $15/pp.

Photo Credit: Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum

Visit a Museum for Some Inspiration


Address: Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404
DescriptionBlack Friday Doorbuster 8-10am: FREE tickets to “Botticelli and Renaissance Florence: Masterworks from the Uffizi”  – first come, first served. FREE coffee and treats in the museum’s lobby.

Regular Mia Hours 10am-5pm: Public tours are offered from 1pm-2pm. In November of 2022, tours will focus on Mia’s Native/American galleries expanding narratives and inclusive histories.
Cost/Registration: FREE.   

We call it the "Block Room" - A great reason to visit the MIA.

Minnesota History Center

Address: 345 W Kellogg Blvd, St Paul, MN 55102
Description: Participate in Thanksgiving Break Sherlock Holmes activities all weekend. Free movie screenings of The Great Mouse Detective at 11am and 1:30pm in the auditorium, create your own Mad-Libs style mystery book cover and explore the Sherlock universe. (Also Saturday and Sunday)
Cost/Registration: Pre-purchased, timed tickets are required.  Admission $8-$12/pp.

Black Friday Alternatives @ MN History Center
Kids can be kids on Black Friday at the Minnesota History Center

A final note. Some of the metro libraries, museums and recreation centers are closed for the holiday. We always recommend calling ahead if you are planning an outing on this or any other holiday weekend. But, remember all metro libraries are open 24/7 and 365 days a year for “online shopping”. Find digital books and movies you can read or watch on your home electronics for instant gratification.


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