When planning a fun family outing, sometimes the price tag of the chosen activity can take the ‘fun’ right out of it. Save some cash by checking out the many city-sponsored family programs at local parks and public areas like libraries or recreation centers. To help you whittle down the other options, here is a list of inexpensive choices throughout the Twin Cities metro area. All five of these fun finds have a current cost of less than $5 per person.
2187 Highway 101 E.
Shakopee, MN 55379
Take a glimpse into what life was like in the Minnesota River Valley 150 years ago at The Landing in Shakopee. Formerly known as Murphy’s Landing, this living history park lets you walk through 88 acres of pioneer homes, farmsteads, frontier businesses and more. Kids will see how Minnesota children of the 1800s attended school, what their chores were like and which toys they played with. Admission to the park trail and grounds is free but there is a cost of less than $5 per person to attend special costumed programs and events, or to take a guided informational tour. Be sure to call or check the website before of your visit for seasonal hours.
Tamarack Nature Center
5287 Otter Lake Road
White Bear Township, MN 55110
Tamarack Nature Center is a fabulous place for families to enjoy the outdoors and expend some energy without breaking the bank. Walking the nature center’s trails and exploring the center’s Discovery Hollow and Garden is free. In this nature play area, kids can dig in the dirt, dip their toes in a stream, climb rocks and create forts with branches, among many other things. There are also plenty of events for adults and kids to take part in for small fees, including programs about insects and planting gardens.
Elm Creek Park Reserve
12400 James Deane Parkway
Maple Grove, MN 55369
The children’s playground at Elm Creek Park Reserve is phenomenal and a must-do for metro-area families. Right next to the playground is a swimming pond with filtered, chlorinated water. The pond is just $4 per person and includes a sandy beach, concessions and restrooms. There are also many trails for hiking, biking, dog walking, cross-country skiing and horseback riding.
Free Family Flicks at the Mall of America
401 South Ave.
Bloomington, MN 55425
The Theatres at Mall of America present three options each week for families to attend movies together for free. On Saturdays at 10 a.m., take part in ‘Free Family Flicks’ or ‘Free Sensory Flicks.’ Both play the same movie, but families affected by autism or those who want an environment with more light, less movie noise and more freedom to move and talk during the show have the option of the ‘Free Sensory Flicks.’ On Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m., ‘Free Toddler Flicks’ shows age-appropriate movies for toddlers and offers a $4 concession pack that includes popcorn or a hot dog, apple slices or fruit snacks, plus juice or milk.
Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. is ‘Wee Wednesday’ at this international marketplace in the Midtown section of Minneapolis. During the free event, kids under the age of five can dance, enjoy a puppet show, pet live animals and learn how to cook. Visiting the market at other times or days is a great learning experience for children of all ages too. They’ll be able to explore the different foods and merchandise from vendors around the world, including Cambodia, East Africa and Mexico.
Cortney Mohnk is a freelance writer covering all things Minnesota. She is also a public relations and event planning professional. Her most important job is mother to her young daughter, who is her partner-in-crime when checking out the family entertainment scene in the Twin Cities. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.