Summer is here (finally!) and if you and are your kids are already tired of staring at each other and wondering what to do, here’s a list of Free Summer Fun 2014 to give you some inspiration.
This is not a list of crafts and games, but rather a roundup of fun places to go and events to check out in the Twin Cities area this summer with your family.
In addition to what we’ve listed here, many cities have local outdoor movies, concerts, farmers markets, etc. – I encourage you to check your local website to see what’s going on in your area.
On to the list!
- Free sailboat rides at Lake Calhoun courtesy of Sailing Lake Calhoun. Rides happen seven days per week, weather permitting, from afternoon to sunset.
- Free fishing. Fishing is free, no license required, in most Minnesota state parks. Plus, more than two dozen state parks also have loaner fishing equipment available; all you need to do is bring the bait. This DNR map outlines the details of the Fish for Free program.
- Free rock climbing. Sure, you could climb in some area parks, but indoors you can climb for free in Midwest Mountaineering’s bouldering cave. If you need to rent climbing shoes, those are $3.
- Free water ski shows. All the area ski teams do free shows. The Twin Cities River Rats perform every Thursday night on the Mississippi just off West Broadway and 94. The Ski Otters perform every Sunday night on Little Goose Lake in White Bear Lake, and Shockwaves performs on various dates and locations throughout the metro area.
- Free fitness classes. St. Paul Parks & Recreation is offering Fitness in the Parks, a new free exercise program that brings a variety of fitness activities to many parks in St. Paul. No registration is required and classes are open to all fitness levels. Check out the full calendar of classes as well as updates on cancellations here.
- Microsoft Camp. Registration is open for free YouthSpark in-store camps at the MOA Microsoft retail store. Camps are each two hours long and cover topics like photography, making movies, video game design and computer coding for video games. Kids ages 8-13 are eligible to participate. Pre-register on Microsoft’s website.
- Apple Camp. Kids ages 8-12 can learn to make movies or create an interactive book by storyboarding ideas, shooting video, and creating an original soundtrack in Apple’s camps. These are held inside Apple stores. Space is limited and pre-registration is required on Apple’s website.
- Virtual Doll Diaries Camp for girls who love American Girl dolls. This is a daily camp you can do from home with girls who love American Girl dolls. Each weekday DollDiaries.com shares a new camp activity and craft for your girls to make. The crafts help their dolls enjoy a summer camp experience while fostering your girls’ creativity. Catch up with previous camp activities and find new ones at DollDiaries.com.
- St. Paul sports camps. Family Fun Twin Cities found two free sports camps in St. Paul, both in July – one is for lacrosse (grades 5-8), and the other is for football (grades 5-8 and 9-12).
- Free golf camp (via scholarship). Children ages 8 to 17 can get free golf and golf lessons through The First Tee scholarship program. Scholarships are available for children from groups identified as underrepresented in golf with girls topping the list. Those with financial need, minority youth and children with disabilities are also eligible. Scholarships can be used at Eagle Lake, Cleary Lake, Glen Lake and Baker National golf courses.
- Camp Sunrise youth camp. Camp Sunrise provides youth from Minneapolis and St. Paul with the opportunity to experience a free residential wilderness camp. It’s located on the St. Croix River near Rush City. Each year, 250-300 youth ages 13 to 18 are involved in the Camp Sunrise summer and school year programs. Check out the Camp Sunrise website for more information.
- Free soccer camps. The Sanneh Foundation offers free soccer clinics at selected recreation centers and parks in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Players receive a t-shirt, instruction from professional coaches, and three hours of soccer each day. Snacks are included at most sites and essential soccer equipment is provided for those in need.
- Earn free books for reading. When kids read at least eight books and complete this printable reading journal, then Barnes & Noble will reward them with a free book from a select list of titles. Also, Half Price Books will give your child $5 in Bookworm Bucks if they read 300+ minutes in June and July, tracking their work on this printable form. Pottery Barn Kids offers a free book when you complete their Summer Reading Challenge, as well.
- Free night sky observation with U of M astronomers. These free night sky observations happen at various park locations across the state. The evening beginnings with a short presentation, then sky observation until 10 or 11 pm. Events will happen at both Eastman and Dodge Nature Centers in June and July. Check out the complete schedule.
- Free drawing club. Rain or shine, you can join other artists and doodlers for a free drawing club outside the Walker Art Center every Thursday now through August 7. Supplies are provided and artists of all ages and abilities are welcome. Come and go as you please from 4-8pm each evening.
- Free museum admission. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free every day (free gallery tours, too!), and there are plenty of other free museums in the area to check out in case the weather is less than ideal. The Bakken Museum offers free admission on the second Saturday of each month, and the Minnesota Children’s Museum lets you in for free the third Sunday of each month.
- Free nature centers. Why not check out a nature center in your area? Most (if not all) are open to the public for free, and many offer free programs throughout the summer. Some of the more popular nature centers include Eastman Nature Center, Tamarack Nature Center, and Wargo Nature Center.
- Free State Capitol tours. Educate the kids with a free guided tour of the State Capitol building – tours are available on the hour daily during regular hours. And if the kids need some extra convincing, tell them that they can see the State Capitol LEGO Model Display while you’re there – this model is made of more than 75,000 bricks and took more than 150 hours to build.
- Free hands-on workshops. Kids ages 5-12 (accompanied by a parent) can come to Home Depot on the first Saturday of each month for a free workshop. Lowe’s has a similar program for kids called Build & Grow about twice a month. Advance registration is strongly recommended for both stores as spots do fill up.
- MELSA Library activities. There are many, many free activities for kids from babies to teens in the MELSA Library system – crafts, LEGO building, movie and video game nights, and much more. Find events happening at your local library by searching the MELSA dateBOOK.
- Open House at Brickmania Toyworks. Every Saturday and Sunday you can bring your LEGO-loving kiddos to Brickmania Toyworks in Minneapolis to a free open house. Besides checking out their collection of models, dioramas, sculptures and mosaics, they also have a creative play area with LEGOs and DUPLOs for the younger kids.
- Family Fridays at Midtown Global Market. Every Friday from 5-8pm you can bring the family to Midtown Global Market for music and free family-friendly activities for all ages.
- Free Minnesota History Center Admission. Stop by the Minnesota History Center on Tuesdays from 5-8pm to get free admission to the museum exhibits. After checking out the museum, step outside for free outdoor concerts every Tuesday in July and August.
- Ordway Summer Dance Series. Here’s a fun one for the family: Ordway’s Summer Dance Series offers free dancing and live music in Rice Park on Thursday nights starting at 6pm. Start out with a basic lesson by professional dance instructors, then dance the night away with a live, local band starting at 7:15pm. The kids can join in, too, or just get a kick out of seeing Mom & Dad tearing up the dance floor.
- Como Zoo. I can’t let a free summer fun roundup go by without mentioning Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul. Besides checking out the animals, you can also see the Sparky the Sea Lion show, ride Cafesjian’s Carousel ($2/person) and bring your elementary school-aged kids to Project Passport on Thursdays from 10-11:30am. They have a free shuttle service to help you avoid parking hassles. Note: They do appreciate a voluntary donation of $3/adult and $2/child, if you so choose.
- Free wading pools. Last year local blog Growing Up Minnesota put together a totally fabulous map of Twin Cities Splash Pads and Pools, many of which are free. I couldn’t find an updated list for this year, but this is a great place to start if you want to cool off without having to pay for it.
Rainy Day Activities
- Free bowling for kids. Through two different programs your kids can bowl free this summer. The first program is called Kids Bowl Free – kids get two free games every day this summer at participating locations. The other program is for AMF Lanes; kids get up to three free games each weekday. Pre-registration is required for both programs.
- Free movies. Every Saturday morning the Theatres at Mall of America offers a free family movie starting at 10am. Muller Family Theatres, with eight locations across the metro, is offering free movies every Wednesday at 10am now through August 13. Paragon Theaters in Burnsville and Rochester has free movies on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through August 14.
- Free Chuck E. Cheese’s tokens. Your child can earn ten free tokens to Chuck E. Cheese’s when they complete a rewards calendar. There are 21 themed rewards calendars to choose from including a graduation certificate, reading rewards, daily chores – even one for no nose-picking! Print a rewards calendar here.
- Free Toddler Tuesdays at Mall of America. Each Tuesday from 10am-12pm, bring your toddlers to the MOA for free entertainment and activities as well as kids eat free deals at participating restaurants.
- Free crafts. Swing by the American Girl store at the MOA for a variety of free themed crafts all summer long. These crafts are intended for girls ages 8 and up. If you have a younger crowd, Lakeshore Learning offers free crafts for kids ages 3 and up from 11am-3pm every Saturday.
- Free story times. Wild Rumpus bookstore has “Tail Time” every Monday at 10:30am, and Red Balloon Bookshop has story time every Monday through Thursday at 10:30am, as well.
- Free roller skating. Kids Skate Free is a nationwide program that offers free skating for youth. Wooddale Fun Zone participated in this program with free skating on Wednesdays from 12-3pm and on Sundays from 12-4pm for children ages 10 and younger; you do need to register online at Kids Skate Free, then you’ll be emailed free passes on Sunday night to use the following week during the free open skate times. (Skate rental is $3 extra.)
Your turn: What other free summer fun activities are you looking forward to enjoying with your kids this summer?