July already, how the summer starts to fly. This is the best month in Minnesota to be outdoors splashing and swimming, scouting out new parks and playgrounds, spinning your wheels on a bike trail and spreading out in the grass for a picnic. No matter the ages of your kids, we’ve been there, done that and have ideas for sketching a memorable family outing in July.
Table of Contents
THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR BABY IN THE TWIN CITIES – JULY
Indoor play cafes for baby
July ’tis the month for needing an air conditioned outing with your baby. No need to worry about extra sunscreen or having a sweaty infant appendage strapped to you. We like the concept of a “play cafe” because of the climate control, and also because it hints at the possibility of relaxing for a few while baby plays safely nearby. A couple places to do this in the Twin Cities:
Shoppes at Arbor Lake, 12055 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove, MN 55369
Readers tell us this is a particularly good indoor playground to bring crawling babies and toddlers because the café puts an emphasis on cleanliness and safety. You might like the cute Minnesota themed play sets, too. Beverages are an affordable $3-$5/adult drinks and $1-$3 for kids 10 and under. They also sell a selection of pre-packaged snacks. General admission is very reasonable for babies, just $6 for ages 6-12 months and under 6 months play FREE for up to 2 hours. Adults pay $4.
The Shoppes at Gateway North, 7750 Harkness Ave. S., Suite 101, Cottage Grove, MN 55016
A bit more expensive (kids over 9 months pay $15, 0-9 months pay $5) but adults are not charged to play alongside their little ones. This cafe also includes organized activities such as story, art and movement time. Some interesting food options, too. Summer hours are Wednesday-Saturday.
THINGS TO DO WITH TODDLERS & PRESCHOOLERS IN THE TWIN CITIES – JULY
Splishin’ and splashin’ through July
Perhaps they’re not quite ready to swim but you just can’t keep them out of the water? We’ve been there with our own splash-happy toddlers and preschoolers and can offer three solid solutions for a refreshing summer:
They hit the mark when you want to beat the heat. We have organized more than 40 spray parks by region of the Minneapolis-St Paul for easy locating.
We tend to tout the free Minneapolis wading pools on our website because they are so prolific – nearly 60 spread across the city’s neighborhoods. They are an idea place for toddlers and preschoolers who have not yet learned to swim but love to make a good splash. Many of them are no-frills with a standard depth of about 18″ but gradually, the older pools are being updated with fun spray features and zero-depth entry. All are located adjacent to a playground, rest rooms and space to spread out with a picnic. PICTURED: one of our favorite splash pad-wading pool hybrids at WABUN PICNIC AREA within MINNEHAHA REGIONAL PARK.
Got a little one who’d prefer to become accustomed to the pool without those periodic (and unintentional) slaps of water in the face from sharing space with the big kids? Many local pools offer dedicated tot time open swim hours and several of them offer discounted rates for these short sessions. Families can get an hour of swim time for half the price of a full day’s admission.
Where can I find the puppet shows in July?
What tot or preschooler isn’t enthralled by a live puppet show? These are free, fairly quick, informal little performances in the park where you can round out the morning with a playground and a picnic.
APPLE VALLEY: Puppet Wagon – travels to 16 Apple Valley parks each week, Mon-Fri followed by a craft. July 3-31, 2023 (no show July 4).
BROOKLYN CENTER: Palmer Puppets Playhouse – Activities for kids followed by a puppet storytime in the park. July 15, 2023, 10am. FREE. West Palmer Park, 7110 Palmer Lake Drive, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota 55430.
EAGAN: Spark! Mobile Puppet Wagon – A 20-minute show in 10 of the city’s parks every weekday. Plus, puppets & special musical entertainment Thursday nights. July 3-31, 2023 (no show July 4).
GOLDEN VALLEY: Puppet Wagon – Swings by a number of local parks on Tuesdays & Thursdays. July 6-27, 2023.
ROSEMOUNT: Puppets in the Park – Shows are held Fridays. July 7-28, 2023.
ROSEVILLE: Puppet Wagon – Make way for the puppets, bringing their comedy to 9 Roseville parks in July. Tues-Thurs, July 5-27, 2023. 9:30-11:30am.
ST ANTHONY: Puppet Adventures – “Ned” attempts to thwart Trasher the Trash Can from trashing nature. Try art making with a take-home activity. July 9, 2023, 1-3pm. FREE. Silverwood Park, 2500 County Rd E, St Anthony, MN 55421.
WOODBURY: Puppet Wagon – Wheeling its way around more than 20 Woodbury parks fun shows. Mon-Thurs. July 3-27, 2023. (No show July 4).
THINGS TO DO WITH SCHOOL-AGED KIDS IN THE TWIN CITIES – JULY
Fourth of July fireworks & festivals
My kids were well into their school-aged years before they could handle the crackles and booms of large-scale fireworks displays (as well as able to stay up late enough to enjoy them). BETTER OPTIONS FOR LITTLE ONES:
- Eden Prairie Sparklefest – Mini kids fireworks display, no loud booms. Plus lawn games, inflatables, art and dancing. July 3, 2023, 6pm-9:45pm. Round Lake Park, 16691 Valley View Road, Eden Prairie, MN55347.
Richfield Lil Sparkler Celebration – Family Night includes a touch-a-truck event, kids’ dance, ice skating, an outdoor movie and a laser light show. June 30, 2023, 5pm-11pm.
Outdoor movies in the parks
Skip the streaming at home, throw a few camp chairs or a blanket in the trunk and try an outdoor movie-going experience with kids who are old enough to stay up until dusk. That’s the hour when free flicks are screened across Twin Cities-area parks in July. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget to pack the popcorn and snacks. Or you’ll hear about it from opening to end credits.
COMMUNITIES OFFERING FREE MOVIES IN THE PARK IN JULY: Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Burnsville, Edina, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, New Hope, Osseo, Richfield, Robbinsdale, Stillwater, St Paul & Woodbury. Please hit the link for movie titles and times – far too many to list here!
Pick-your-own fresh berries
In June, we were genuinely astonished how many readers descended upon our round-up of the BEST PICK-YOUR-OWN STRAWBERRY PATCHES NEAR THE TWIN CITIES. By July, it’s all about the raspberries and blueberries. Same sweet concept: summer fruit your kids can pick straight from the bush and take home for healthy snacking. Where to find these farms? SEE OUR PICK-YOUR-OWN PRODUCE CALENDAR.
Some favorites: Last July, I loved watching my kids meandering down the rows of raspberry and blueberry bushes at THE BERRY PATCH of Forest Lake. The bushels of wild blueberries from BLUEBERRY FIELDS OF STILLWATER barely survived the trip back home. Keep in mind that many orchards offer pick-your-own fall raspberries if July escapes you: we’ve enjoyed picking at AFTON APPLE ORCHARD and APPLE JACK ORCHARDS of Delano.
Live performing arts in the park
Writing this, I practically just walked out of a wonderful performance of The Music Man at the historic pavilion in Como Park with my kids. So refreshing to remind them that there is such delight in live, musical theater. And if you’ve got tweens & teens – it’s absolutely worth pausing their TikTok and YouTube for an afternoon. A sample of some of the shows you can catch in July, perfect for your school-aged kids:
11350 Dallas Ln N, Osseo, MN 55369
A free outdoor musical performance based on the classic story. Arrive early and BYO seating; these are popular shows. July 21-22, 24-25, 27, 28, & 29, 2023. FREE!
A free live musical – just show up with your blanket or chairs and some snacks. You’ll want to check the website for locations as this musical literally travels around the Twin Cities to present shows in the park. July 10-August 30, 2023. FREE.
THEATER FOR YOUNGER KIDS? Try a free, professional puppet show performed by Open Eye Theater on their summer Driveway Tour: this summer’s traveling puppet show are Tucker’s Robot & Molly & the Magic Boot. Please check the schedule online as the performances literally travel around the Twin Cities to various hosts all summer. Shows June 10-August 27, 2023. FREE.
THEATER FOR TWEENS & TEENS: Our pick for the older kids is The Music Man by Rosetown Playhouse. The show runs over 2 hours, including a short intermission and the ticket price is $12-$16/pp. You’ll want to reserve this for your older kids. July 13-16 & 21-23, 2023. See schedule for showtimes. Como Lakeside Pavilion, 1360 Lexington Pkwy N, St Paul, MN 55103.
Make sure to check our guide to TWIN CITIES ACTIVITIES THIS WEEK to find where the Puppet Wagon will perform, perhaps in a community near you.
THINGS TO DO WITH TWEENS & TEENS IN THE TWIN CITIES – JULY
First things first, you or your kid will need to download the MOA app. Then, surprise! Each week features new “takeovers” of cool spots either at the mall or around town where the user will be treated to something FREE: snacks and sweets, mostly, but also the chance to snag free admission to the Minnesota Zoo on August 1. Take a look and alert your teen.
Row, row (or paddle) your boat
I didn’t pick up a paddle myself until the summer I was sixteen – but once I did, what a powerful feeling to be propelling myself on the water! If you haven’t yet, introduce your own tweens and teens to this quintessential Minnesota summer sport. Some vendors we recommend if you’re in need of watercraft:
We roundly recommend Wheel Fun as we have personally had a good experience working with them. In total, four locations operate in the Twin Cities renting craft such as canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and pedal boats to get your older kids out on the water. Popular Minneapolis-St Paul lakes with rentals include BDE MAKA SKA, LAKE HARRIET, LAKE NOKOMIS & COMO LAKE. Those first three also have nice sandy beaches (we know a few teens who love a good beach day), bike rentals and snack shacks. Como Lake even offers illuminated swan boat night rides for an extra thrill. $15-$30 hourly or rent by the half/full day.
This park system has lovely locations that dot mainly the western half of the Twin Cities. Nine of these offer canoe and kayak rentals at the very reasonable rate of $12 per hour, ideal for a younger paddler. We are partial to FRENCH REGIONAL PARK (Plymouth) and HYLAND LAKE PARK RESERVE (Bloomington) because they both also have awesome playgrounds.
For the most adventurous families with older kids, we think a day exploring the river sounds exciting. Via Paddle Share, you rent a kayak online, retrieve the craft from a locker at your route’s starting point and paddle to the end location. Minors must ride in a double kayak with an experienced paddler. And please note, this is not a guided tour. Find itineraries at the link. $35-$45/day.
Spin your wheels
We invested in bikes for the kids in 2020 and started taking to the trails in earnest that summer. The routes we lay out in our family editions of BEST BIKE TRAILS IN MINNEAPOLIS & BEST BIKE TRAILS IN ST PAUL are best done with older kids who’ve put a few miles on their wheels. Pictured is a family bike ride to MINNEHAHA REGIONAL PARK in Minneapolis.