Taking the brood out on a nice fall day doesn’t have to break the bank. Stick those bills back in your wallet and head out for one of these fun (and free) local activities. Whether it’s trying your hand at a new seasonal activity, making another Halloween memory with the kids or just breathing in the fresh fall air, you’ll find plenty of options for a budget-friendly outing here.
Tamarack Nature Center
5287 Otter Lake Road
White Bear Township, MN 55110
This 320-acre preserve is open year-round and offers tons of free ways for families to connect with nature. Venture out together on the five miles of hiking trails that run through the beautiful woodlands, wetlands and prairies of Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park and catch a glimpse of local birds in the newly bare trees. Let the kids burn energy in the Discovery Hollow and Garden, where they can build log forts, climb amongst replica limestone caves, terraces and walls or learn how to grow pumpkins. Or take advantage of the many interesting events and programs at Tamarack Nature Center, many of which are free (or inexpensive) and teach the public about nature, animals and healthy living.
Haunted Woods Trail
Rosemount Central Park
2893 145th St. W.
Rosemount, MN 55068
Geared toward families with kids pre-school to middle school age, the Haunted Woods Trail in Rosemount’s Central Park is a great way to celebrate Halloween on the cheap This free event on October 26th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. is low fright, so kids will willingly want to venture down the surprise-filled trail. No scary masked men jumping out here, just fun blow-up decorations, lighting and sound, plus tons of free candy.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center
15865 Carver Highlands Drive
Carver, MN 55315
Both the Rapids Lake and Bloomington visitor centers of the National Wildlife Refuge serve as gateways to over 14,000 acres of wildlife in the Minnesota River Valley south of the Twin Cities. Families will find plenty of educational and recreational opportunities offered for free throughout the year at many different locations. For fall, try a bird-watching trek with a naturalist, a nighttime hike with a park ranger or a photography outing in the daytime. Make sure to check the website ahead of time to see if reservations are required and if there are age limitations for the kids.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Minneapolis Institute of Arts is the perfect way to spend those fall days that seem dangerously close to being winter-like days. Not only is this art museum free every day, but there are also additional activities for families one Sunday each month that are also at no cost. On Sunday, November 10th, stop by to celebrate the newly redesigned African art galleries. Your clan will be able to make African masks, hear folktales and participate in African drum and dance workshops.
Jay C. Hormel Nature Center
1304 21st St. N.E.
Austin, MN 55912
The Jay C. Hormel Nature Center is a free 507-acre nature center that provides the perfect location for an autumn hike, bird watching or spotting other wildlife. The frequent interactive educational programs give all ages an opportunity for hands-on learning about nature and animals. Families can touch furs, live snakes and view animal skeletons or ask questions of the many specialists who come to speak at the center. The center also provides fun seasonal activities like apple cidering and maple syruping – perfect for a crisp fall day.
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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.