Three Strategies for Doing Art-A-Whirl With Kids


Bring the kids to Art-A-Whirl with a couple strategies for keeping it fun.

Any kind of art crawl can seem overwhelming with kids — especially if you are on a budget. I’ve been updating this article for five years, and I’m here to tell you, it gets easier! As I re-write this, I am rejoicing over the fact that diaper bags are part of my ancient history. I no longer have to lug and possibly lose it while also carrying a child. With the youngest now 4-years-old, I also no longer have to carry kids. Instead, I am  constantly shouting, “Wait at the corner!”

As exciting as this is for me, I have been doing Art-A-Whirl with kids since my teen was a tot. Here are my personal strategies for enjoying this grown up occasion with kids. Despite its growing popularity, with proper expectations, this is a great experience with kids.

Art-A-Whirl Strategy #1 – Packing Just Enough

A cheap umbrella stroller and maybe a backpack are all you really need for outings like this with small kids. The stroller folds fast, it’s light weight and, in my case, it was $5 at a thrift store and lasted for several children. I was never worried about losing it. With the stroller, I had two choices. I could tuck a couple of diapers and wipes in my purse and have an exit strategy, or I could afford to bring my festival backpack because it hooked onto the back of the stroller and I didn’t have to carry it. I also had the backpack long enough that I didn’t care if it got lost or stolen. Just a note, I learned the hard way to always put receipts and other personal identifiers in my purse, which I wear, not in the bag that I leave unattended.

My Trusty Backpack Has Gotten Us Through All Sorts of Festivals, Fairs and Outings.

Art-A-Whirl is one of those awesome street food events and I do like to sneak off and buy something for myself sometimes. However, street food is not the most budget-friendly way to feed a big family, so we either bring snacks or we plan a quick stop at Eastside Food Co-op or when of the many ethnic grocery stores in Northeast Minneapolis on our way home. We can usually find the ingredients to make anything we found tempting. 


Art-A-Whirl Strategy #2 – Options Without Expectations

I found — at least for my family — the best plan is a loose plan.  I start at NEMAA’s website and note the activities I find most appealing. Plus, I’ll definitely pick up a booklet from the information booth once we arrive. Our minimum goal in year’s past has been a trolley ride around NE Minneapolis and making it to my husband’s performances. As my kids have gotten bigger, we’ve done more.

Three free trolleys will again operate during Art-a-Whirl weekend to shuttle you around between the various galleries. Prices for gallery art activities are listed on the individual pages on NEMAA’s site. I come with options, but I let my family and fate make the final decisions.

Art-A-Whirl Strategy #3 – Poke Around

Not everything that might be worth our while is an official Art-A-Whirl event and some things we stumbled on and enjoyed in previous years have become official in later years. Kids are really great at finding art in unexpected places. One year when our kids were really small, we spent a great deal of time at a brick wall where we were encouraged to create with sidewalk chalk. Local bands are also notorious for unofficial performances and generally aim to be family friendly for this event. Stop and listen, move on to some art, move on again.

The big take-away from this whole article is you don’t have to do it all while their small. Just dip your foot in, make it a fun time for everyone and get out before it becomes a toddler-toting nightmare. Teh main goal with doing anything with small kids is to set up good memories so they’ll want to do more in future years.


This article was originally written in 2014 when my kids were 8, 4, 2 and incubating. They are now 13, 9, 7 and 4. Visiting gets easier every year, and now this is a weekend my kids love. We update links every year and try to keep information up-to-date.


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