Summer will be here soon, and if you and your kids don’t want to just sit around staring at each other and wondering what to do, here’s a list ofÃ‚ Free Summer Fun 2016Ã‚ to give you some inspiration.
This isÃ‚ notÃ‚ 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 ridesÃ‚ at Lake Calhoun courtesy ofÃ‚ Sailing Lake Calhoun. Rides happen seven days per week, weather permitting, from afternoon to sunset.
- Free fishing. Fishing is free, no license required, in mostÃ‚ 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.Ã‚ This DNR mapÃ‚ outlines the details of the Fish for Free program.
- Free rock climbing.Ã‚ Sure, you could climb in some area parks, but indoors you can climb for free inÃ‚ Midwest Mountaineering’s bouldering cave. If you need to rent climbing shoes, those are $3.
- Free water ski shows.Ã‚ All the area ski teams do free shows. TheÃ‚ Twin Cities River RatsÃ‚ perform every Thursday night on the Mississippi just off West Broadway and 94. TheÃ‚ Ski OttersÃ‚ perform every Sunday night on Little Goose Lake in White Bear Lake, andÃ‚ ShockwavesÃ‚ performs on various dates and locations throughout the metro area.
- Free first small plane flight for kids. The Young Eagles program gives youth ages 8-17 their first ride free in an airplane. Their goal is to inspire kids in the world of aviation.
- Free fitness classes.Ã‚ St. Paul Parks & Recreation is offeringÃ‚ Fitness in the Parks, a 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 cancellationsÃ‚ here.
- Microsoft Camp.Ã‚ Registration is open forÃ‚ free YouthSpark in-store campsÃ‚ 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 and up are eligible to participate. Pre-register onÃ‚ Microsoft’s website.
- Apple Camp.Ã‚ 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 onÃ‚ Apple’s websiteÃ‚ (registration is not currently open, but you can sign up to be notified when it is).
- St. Paul sports camps.Ã‚ Kids entering grades 5-8Ã‚ can sign up for a free lacrosse sports campÃ‚ in St. Paul in either June or July. There’s also a free football camp for kids ages 8-13Ã‚ in eitherÃ‚ June or July.
- Free golf camp (via scholarship).Ã‚ 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.Ã‚ 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.Ã‚ 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.Ã‚ When kids completeÃ‚ this printable reading journal, 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 onÃ‚ this printable form.
- Free night sky observation with U of M astronomers.Ã‚ TheseÃ‚ free night sky observationsÃ‚ happen at various park locations across the state. The evening begins with a short presentation, then sky observation until 10 or 11 p.m.
- Free museum admission. There are tons of free museums in the area, plus many others, like theÃ‚ Minnesota Children’s Museum, that offer occasionally free admission (every third Sunday in their case). The U of M’sÃ‚ Bell Museum of Natural History is free every Sunday. Check out the exhibits at the Minnesota History Center on Tuesday nights, for free.Ã‚ Mill City Museum, Fort Snelling, James J. Hill House and MN History Center are all free to Bank of America cardholders on the first weekend 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 includeÃ‚ Eastman Nature Center,Ã‚ Tamarack Nature Center, andÃ‚ Wargo Nature Center.
- Free hands-on workshops. Kids ages 5-12 (accompanied by a parent) can come toÃ‚ Home DepotÃ‚ on the first Saturday of each month for aÃ‚ free workshop. Lowe’s has a similar program for kids calledÃ‚ Build and GrowÃ‚ about twice a month. Advance registration is strongly recommended for both stores as spots do fill up.
- MELSA Library activities. There are many,Ã‚ manyÃ‚ 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 byÃ‚ searching the MELSA dateBOOK.
- Free access to shows and museums.Ã‚ Don’t forget about the MELSA smARTpass which allows you to get free access to shows and museumsÃ‚ with your library card. The pilot program runs through August 31.
- Family Fridays at Midtown Global Market. Every Friday from 5-8 p.m. you can bring the family toÃ‚ Midtown Global MarketÃ‚ for music andÃ‚ free family-friendly activities for all ages.
- Free Minnesota History Center Admission.Ã‚ Stop by the Minnesota History Center on Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m. to getÃ‚ free admission to the museum exhibits. After checking out the museum, step outside forÃ‚ free outdoor concertsÃ‚ every Tuesday in July and August. Or, if you’re a Bank of America cardholder you’ll get in free the first weekend of each month.
- Ordway Summer Dance Series. Here’s a fun one for the family:Ã‚ Ordway’s Summer Dance SeriesÃ‚ offers free dancing and live music in Rice Park on select evenings in the summer. Start out with a basic lesson by professional dance instructors, then dance the night away with a live, local band. The kids can join in, too, or just get a kick out of seeing Mom & Dad tearing up the dance floor.
- Free festivals. Many Twin Cities towns host festivals during the summer. While some events and activities will require admission, many of them are free (parades, live music, etc.). Family Fun Twin Cities has put together a roundup of June Family FestivalsÃ‚ with free admission, and I’m guessing you’ll be able to check back this summer for more in July and August.
- Free art exhibits. TheÃ‚ Minneapolis Institute of ArtsÃ‚ is free every day (free gallery tours, too!). The Walker Art Museum’s modern art displays are free every Thursday night and on the first Saturday each month, plus they often plan fun family activities to coincide with those free Saturdays. Off the beaten path, you can check out all kinds of artwork as the local artists in the Northrup King Building open their studios and galleries to the public on the first Thursday night of each month. Just south of the Twin Cities is the Northfield Arts Guild gallery which is always free.
- Como Zoo.Ã‚ I can’t let a free summer fun roundup go by without mentioningÃ‚ Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul. Besides checking out the animals, you can also see theÃ‚ Sparky the Sea LionÃ‚ show, rideÃ‚ Cafesjian’s CarouselÃ‚ ($2/person) and bring your elementary school-aged kids toÃ‚ Project PassportÃ‚ on Thursdays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. They have aÃ‚ free shuttle serviceÃ‚ 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.Ã‚ A couple years ago a local blogger put together aÃ‚ totally fabulous map ofÃ‚ 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.
- Free outdoor movies.Ã‚ Twin Cities Moms has put together a huge list of free outdoor moviesÃ‚ going on in the Twin Cities this summer.
- Explore a park.Ã‚ You’re saying “duh,” now, right? But hear me out. There are lotsÃ‚ of parks in the Twin Cities, many of which you have probably never explored. Here are two you can add to your list this summer: Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird SanctuaryÃ‚ in Minneapolis andÃ‚ Minnesota Landscape ArboretumÃ‚ in Chaska (free the third Monday of each month from 12-6 p.m.).
- Visit a sculpture garden. Yes, the Twin Cities is famous for its Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture near downtown Minneapolis, but venture out to the Franconia Sculpture Park on a Sunday for a free guided tour or take a free self-guided tour on any day of the week.
Rainy Day Activities
- Free bowling for kids.Ã‚ Through two different programs your kids can bowl free this summer. The first program is calledÃ‚ Kids Bowl FreeÃ‚ – kids get two free games every day this summer at participating locations. The other program is forÃ‚ AMF Lanes; kids get up to three free games each weekday. Pre-registration is required for both programs.
- Free movies.Ã‚ Every Saturday morning theÃ‚ Theatres at Mall of AmericaÃ‚ offers a free family movie starting at 10 a.m.Ã‚ Muller Family Theatres,Ã‚ with eight locations across the metro, is offering free movies every Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. from June 8 through August 25.Ã‚ Paragon TheatersÃ‚ in Burnsville and Rochester has free movies on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through August 18.
- Free Toddler Tuesdays at Mall of America.Ã‚ Each Tuesday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., bring your toddlers to the MOA forÃ‚ free entertainment and activitiesÃ‚ as well as kids eat free deals at participating restaurants.
- Free crafts.Ã‚ Swing by the American Girl store at the MOA for aÃ‚ variety ofÃ‚ free themed craftsÃ‚ all summer long. These crafts are intended for girls ages 8 and up. If you have a younger crowd,Ã‚ Lakeshore LearningÃ‚ offers free crafts for kids ages 3 and up from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. every Saturday.
- Free story times.Ã‚ Wild RumpusÃ‚ bookstore has “Tail Time” every Monday at 10:30 a.m., andÃ‚ Red Balloon BookshopÃ‚ has story time on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m., as well.
- Free roller skating. Kids Skate Free is a nationwide program that offers free skating for youth ages 10 and under. In Minnesota the only participating location is Roller Garden in St. Louis Park.Ã‚ 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.)
- Free tours.Ã‚ Take a guided tour of the Governor’s Mansion. Show yourself around on a self-guided audio tour of the Minnesota State Capitol. Guthrie TheaterÃ‚ also offers self-guided tours, although the audio component costs extra.
What other free summer fun activities are you looking forward to enjoying with your kids this summer?