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Twin Cities Horsemanship Opportunities
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Summertime Together: French Regional Park Playground
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Summertime Together: North Mississippi Regional Park Playground

Twin Cities Horsemanship Opportunities

It’s back to school in the Twin Cities.  Some of you have been in school for a week or two by now, but for the majority of the area, we start today.  This summer I have started thinking about what I want my kids to learn in life.  Academics are extremely important.  I am not downplaying that, but since my kids love to read, I am not worried about the knowledge they will attain.  So what do I want to instill in them? Self-discipline, compassion, and healthy view of life and their bodies.  Those are very important to me.  I can’t think of a better way to do that then by learning about something bigger than ourselves.  In this case, a horse and Twin Cities horsemanship opportunities.

The Twin Cities offers many opportunities to get acquainted and comfortable with horses. There are a number of stables around the Twin Cities. While you won’t find them in Minneapolis or St. Paul themselves, they aren’t far from there and they are in the East, West, North, and South. This excites my daughter as she is horse crazy right now and this excites me because I am always looking for a good opportunity to introduce my children to the sights, sounds, and smells of the country.

There is something nostalgic about Small Town America, and I have always dreamed that dream for my kids. I have since come to terms that they are not going to grow up like I did, but I can still make agriculture a part of their lives. They can know what corn looks like and what soybeans are. They may not grow up surrounded by it, but they can appreciate it. They can experience animals–especially farm animals–at more than just the State Fair, too. Even in the middle of the Twin Cities, there are opportunities to familiarize yourself with the country.

There are many benefits to Equestrianism for your family.

  • Lifetime of Year Round Health and Fitness.  Riding a horse works your core, your quads, and your cardiovascular system.   You develop balance, strength, and muscle control.
  • Respect and Responsibility.  Children (and adults) learn to care for  a large animal and to respect them without being afraid of them.
  • Perspective.  Teenagers tend to get distracted by their friends and romantic endeavors.  A commitment to a horse is going to teach more about loyalty, integrity, honesty, follow through, empathy, compassion, and trust than any girlfriend or boyfriend would.  And it could potentially keep them above the social drama that can be so detrimental to them.
  • Discipline and Focus. Horsemanship develops self discipline and systematic thinking, progressive training and helps with academics
  • Courage.  When you are confident on the back of a horse and can be under control, nothing can stop you.  Your child will know that he can do anything he puts his mind to.

I intend to give this gift to my kids  and have started researching what is in the area.  We plan on starting this next year when Kyla is nine.  There are a lot of possibilities. You can find them all in my Twin Cities Stables Overview or individually:

Summertime Together: French Regional Park Playground

Note: French Regional Park Playground was updated in the summer of 2018. Much of what we loved about the park in 2013 was kept and improved.

This is our last installment of Summertime Together. Honestly, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone. But that’s what happens when you are having fun, I guess! For our last Three River Parks Play Area Review, Anne and I met with our eight children at French Regional Park. We had both heard of their play area and were curious to see what it had to offer.

Located in Plymouth, French Regional Park is worth checking out. I am a bit fond of this park since my maiden name was French. So quite honestly (and dorkily) I like to say I own it in my special way–I don’t.

It was the perfect summer day for a trip to the park. Slight breeze, sunshine, and smiles were all we needed. Oh, and we can’t forget the self-proclaimed lame lunches. Anne and I both made lame lunches, but our children were fed and free to play, so no one could complain.

The first thing that we noticed as we parked the van was that the structure was a wooden structure. It was refreshing to see a well-kept wooden playground that was obviously loved and maintained. It brought me back to my childhood. Half of the playground was hidden in the back, so it was hard to see everything it had to offer.  What we saw, though, was enticing.  The kids hopped out of the van and made a beeline for the nets.

That’s right!  The main attraction was the maze of cargo nets.

French Regional Park Cargo Nets

Is it difficult to maneuver? Yes! Did we worry about the almost 2 year old? A little bit. Was it fun? Oh, my goodness! Yes! I have never seen someone from my family so willingly drop themselves headfirst, roll into a somersault, and come up smiling. I had some near heart attacks, but as soon as they were standing and smiling, I was able to let it go.  A little.

At the top of the cargo net structure that must stand about 30 feet tall, is a large fort.  For some reason, unknown to me, we called it the barn. From the barn, there are steps and bridges and tunnels to play as well.

After a bit, I started to explore the rest of French Regional Park Playground. They have a smaller structure with slides and steps and a smaller cargo net crawl space for littler ones. Not only that, but they have a sand box and a couple of tire swings and “baby” swings.

French Regional Park Sand

There were plenty of picnic tables and shaded spots. The bathrooms were clean and in the Park Center right beside the playground. There is a lot of grassy area, too!

Anne and I were very impressed, and our kids really had a fun time.  We will be going back again.

Highlights

  • There were a lot of different choices of self guided activity and plenty of  space for adults to join in. I’m sure the nets would have held me, but I’m slightly (okay, deathly) afraid of heights, and the nets go up really high.  If I had had the courage I could have gone all the way to the top.  At one point, I was “stuck” inside the net helping Anne’s little girl.  That’s the way to get to know someone. Just throw yourself on them trusting wholeheartedly that they will catch you.  
  • Water was easily available and the bathrooms were very accessible.  On a summer day, both of those things are important.
  • With tunnels, cargo nets, slides, swings, and sand, there really wasn’t anything it didn’t have.

Disadvantages

  • In one spot, you can climb the cargo net from the ground up 9 or 10 feet. Then, you needed to swing your leg over and drop yourself into the net.  It was not an easy thing to do.  I was nervous watching Jack, my 3 year old, do this since I couldn’t reach past his foot in case he fell. That one spot, however, was the only spot that I felt could have caused serious damage.  And for the three hours we were there, numerous kids scaled it without a single injury. 
  • If you have an independent little one like Anne and I do, they can get lost very quickly on this apparatus. Jack was self sufficient being able to hold his own (only one time getting his face stepped on), so I didn’t need to worry too much.   But if we took our eyes off Anne’s youngest, she was gone in a flash.  Generally, we just needed to walk around the corner to find her.
  • Some of the nets hang low.  If a child flings themselves down onto the net and you are under it, there is a mighty good chance they will hit your head causing you harm.  My advice?  Don’t walk under the nets.

When I asked my kids what their favorite thing to do at French Park was, 3 out of the 4 said the nets. They called them the ropes, but same difference.  I think the same was true for Anne’s kids. Those nets were exciting and a completely different experience than anything else we’ve done.

French Regional Park Playground

5:00 AM–10:00 PM
763.694.7750
12605 Rockford Road
Plymouth, MN 55441

Summertime Together: North Mississippi Regional Park Playground

Closer to the Center of the Twin Cities (But more North), you will find North Mississippi Regional Park just off Interstate 94, spreading north and south of 49th Ave, you will find this long narrow park on the banks of the Mississippi River. From the North Mississippi Regional Park Playground proper, you can’t see the river, but it’s there–on the other side of the trees. This park is managed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

I am not kidding about the long and narrow park. When Mississippi Drive borders one side and the Mighty Mississipp’ borders the other, it’s not a broad park. What it loses in width, it makes up for in length.  The park is between 1/2 to 1 mile wide (it varies), but approximately 12 miles long between 42nd Ave. and 53rd Ave.

North Mississippi Regional Park

My kids wanted you to see the Rock Table. “Mom!  We should have had our picnic on around the rock table!” 

It is filled with access to the river, reconstructed prairie, the Carl Kroening Interpretive Center, and the reason we came on this day:

North Mississippi Regional Park Playground

What a play area it was!

North Mississippi Regional Park Playground

The four main features of the park included

  • the climbing equipment–the traditional playground. It was huge.
  • the sand toys–again huge.  Probably one of the best “sandboxes” in town.
  • the  big, grassy field.  To just run!  Run!  Run!  (A mom’s dream come true!)
  • the unique wading pool!  With zero depth entry and a rock from which streams of water poured, the kids could hardly contain themselves.

The playground itself was huge.  My kids climbed and played and swung and ran around.  The playground is easily accessible for the disabled.  If you have a wheelchair with you, you will want to avoid the sand box *plenty of paths around it), but the play equipment has ramps on one side and climbing apparatuses on the other.

They ran through the grassy field with their aunt.  It’s the perfect place for a pick up game of ultimate frisbee or soccer.  Or you can simply frolic!

They dug in the sand to their hearts content. A spigot to make wet sand was available and you could create channels and rivers or a fort with a moat.

Like I said, though, my kids couldn’t wait to get in the water.  And I couldn’t blame them. This is one rockin’ wading pool.  It’s absolutely frigid, but for the dog days of August, it’s a perfect retreat for both adults and kids.

North Mississippi Regional Park Pool

By 3:00 pm, we were the only ones left in the entire play area.

Highlights of the North Mississippi Regional Park Play Area

  • The bathrooms were fairly clean and nice.  They had a funky odor, but I didn’t want to explore what that was.
  • There was so much to choose from to do.
  • Picnic tables for everyone. Those in wheelchairs, those who are less than four feet tall, and those in a large group.
  • The cool wading pool.

Disadvantages of North Mississippi Regional Park Play Area

  • The play area is so big that there were times when I couldn’t see my children. I would have physically followed them around except that I didn’t want to lug 3 heavy bags with me.
  • Did I mention the wading pool water was cold?  Refreshing?  Yes!  The temperature of Lake Superior?  Pretty comparable!

North Mississippi Regional Park Play Area is definitely fun. The wading pool is definitely this family’s favorite part!


North Mississippi Regional Park
Hours: 6:00 AM–10:00 PM
Phone: 763.694.7693
Address:
5114 North Mississippi Drive

Minneapolis, MN 55430

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