I spent the last 10 days on a road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Here are three insights from the trip:
1) "Fireflies" by Owl City is kind of like an old joke. The first few times you listen to it, it puts a smile on your face. The next 10-20 times you hear it, you groan when the first line is delivered and plead, "Not this one again!" And then, after some time and distance pass, you perk up when you hear the familiar cadence and join right in vocalizing with the performer whether you want to or not.
2) The first 10-hour car ride is a fun-filled extravaganza of 20 Questions, Yellow Car, and The License Plate Game. The second consecutive 10-hour driving day teaches you how to effectively problem-solve with a group.
3) Never promise your kids they will swim when you get to the hotel. All it takes is one kid with a sweet tooth and a weak stomach to make you a liar.
Next week my kids and I go back to school, so this will likely be my last post for a while. Thanks for reading and sending your ideas my way!
Monday, August 20
I mentioned the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge a couple of weeks ago, but today's program is so unique I wanted to highlight it again. In an effort to demonstrate the ease with which you can access natural areas via public transportation, the MVNWR developed "Going Wild: Rail to Refuge." This program provides the chance to hang with Park Ranger Judy Geck as she escorts you on the train from the Nicollet Mall Light Rail Station to the wildlife refuge. Once you arrive, a scenic tour, ranger program, and guided hike are all yours for the taking. There is no charge for Going Wild (you can't say that every day), but the train will cost about $2. Meet Judy at the station at 1 o'clock, and you'll return about 4.
Tuesday, August 21
When was the last time you went rollerskating? Was there anything better than combing your hair back into a perfect feather before hitting the rink with your flashing wheels and almost holding the hand of that special skater you'd had your eye on for the last few weeks? Now you can introduce your kids to the thrill that is rollerskating, and do it on a budget. The Roller Garden in St. Louis Park hosts "Two Dollar Tuesdays" from 6-8 pm. Admission is $2 and skate rental is another $2, but "Four Dollar Tuesdays" doesn't sound as good or as cheap. If you can't make it today, there is also "Summer Skating Fun" scheduled Wednesday through Friday this week from noon to 3 pm, but that'll cost you $8 each.
Wednesday, August 22
My grandpa used to complain that rock & roll was ruining the future of this country. Today history is ruining rock & roll. Well, ruining bluegrass anyway. In a classic case of a win-win . . . win scenario, the Mill City Museum opens up its Ruins Courtyard to the Roe Family Singers for Mill City Live 2012. Not only will you catch some bluegrass in a sweet setting, the price of admission also opens the doors of the museum to you from 4-9 pm. And, as if that wasn't enough already, admission is discounted to only $5 per person. Win, win, win. Folk rockers Rogue Valley perform next Wednesday.
Have a great school year! See you next summer.
Monday, August 13
We're running out of time to take advantage of the Museum Adventure Pass, which ends Labor Day after a six-year run. Only Celine Dion's time at Caesar's Palace rivals this kind of staying power. The program offers free admission for two to 17 attractions around the Twin Cities. Allow me to suggest picking up a pass at your local library and visiting The Works today. The Works is a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) museum. Admission is $6 if you need more than your two freebies, and you can pay an additional $2 each to participate in a design lab where your kids build something to bring home.
Tuesday, August 14
I'm a week early for this one, but I wanted to give you the option to catch the Choo Choo Bob Show on TV before you visit the store next week. The show airs at 9 am Saturday on channel 45, if your kids could use a primer to pique their interest in trains. Then next Tuesday, August 21, stop in for Story Time with Engineer Paul at 10 o'clock. If story time isn't your thing, you can always just stop by to check out the models or play with the trains Bob has on hand. When you're done, be sure to step down the street for an ice cream cone at Izzy's. It's the best ice cream in town, according to me. Try the salted caramel - you may never order anything else again.
Wednesday, August 15
Did you know the recently fashionable food-trucks have their roots in the chuckwagons of the Wild West? At least that's what Wikipedia claims, and they're never wrong. You can taste this craze at a food-truck court in St. Paul every Wednesday, starting at 11 am, at the corner of Kellogg and Wabasha. What could be better than eating food that was made in the back of a converted delivery van? Take your purchase to nearby Rice Park and enjoy your vittles around the fountain. You can check for the latest food-truck info on Twitter using #foodtruckcourt.
Thursday, August 16
When I took my career aptitude test with the counselor in high school, he said I was supposed to be a pilot. I think I would've enjoyed that job - I love flying. If you think your kids might love flying, they have the opportunity to check it out on a free flight with the EAA Young Eagles. After flying they can become a student member of the EAA, complete an online flight training course, and even receive their first flight lesson, all for free. To set up this experience, contact your local flight coordinator or visit the Forest Lake Fly-In and Open House this Saturday from 10-4. It's probably OK if you drive there.
Friday, August 17
Geocaching is the best of both worlds. It combines old-fashioned tromping around in the Great Outdoors with cutting-edge global positioning satellite technology leading you to a hidden cache. And tomorrow is International Geocaching Day, so maybe the time is right to give it a try if you haven't already. There are 25 state parks, including Fort Snelling, that offer free loaner GPS units and geocache scavenger hunts on-site. If you own your own GPS unit, there is an International Geocaching Day event at Cleary Lake Regional Park tomorrow that kicks off at noon with a potluck lunch.
Saturday, August 18
If you're not already up in an airplane at the aforementioned Forest Lake Fly-In, or out geocaching at Cleary Lake, you can take part in the final Kidical Mass ride of the summer. Today they meet at Farview Park at 9 am, ride along Emerson Avenue to Webber Parkway, and end up at the North Mississippi River Park playground. I don't think they offer shuttles back to where you started but, fortunately, you'll have your bike with you.
And thanks to DMurr76 who offered this tip on an adventure in Bloomington on Saturday:
Saturday, August 18th is the Minnesota Kite Society's Flying Colors Kite Festival. It's 11am - 4pm at Valley View Middle School at 90th and Portland Ave. S. in Bloomington. This is a excellent family friendly event that is free and open to the public. Bring your own kites, make one at the festival or there will be a vendor selling kites. Come and fly with us! More information is available at www.mnkites.org.
Enjoy your time together!
Monday, August 6
There are all sorts of reasons to visit Minnehaha Falls. There are bike trails, the Sea Salt Eatery and, of course, the falls themselves. After you spend some time soaking up the cascading water, take a hike along the creek. You can follow the path downstream until it meets up with the mighty Mississippi. On your way back, stop off at the wading area and play “Grizzly Bear.” The kids can pretend they’re trout swimming upstream while you lumber around with claw hands saying, “I’m a bear! I’m a bear!” Your kids will think it’s funny. Everyone else? Be on the lookout for nonverbal cues.
Tuesday, August 7
Another of the best-kept secrets in town is the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This is a beautiful site near the MOA that you can visit on your own, or take advantage of their free programming. Today they’re “Making Tracks: Below the Bluff” from 5:30-7:30 pm. Meet Park Ranger Judy Geck at the Old Cedar Avenue Trail Head for a guided expedition in the river valley and neighboring wetlands. The site says to expect brisk walking with frequent stops. Sounds like my attempts at jogging.
Wednesday, August 8
How many zeroes are in a bazillion? I don't know, but it looks like there are five people in The Bazillions, and they will be playing at The Shops at West End today for free. The concert will be outdoors from 11 am to noon in the covered arcade. We are invited to bring a blanket or some lawn chairs, and to visit the St. Louis Park Farmer's Market afterward. If you can't make it today, or even if you do, the Okee Dokee Brothers will be there next Wednesday. My neighbor insists they are way better than OK.
Thursday, August 9
You might remember Hennepin County Library KidLinks from an earlier post but, if you’re anything like me, you’ve forgotten by now. Don’t let this resource languish in the cobwebs of your mind! It’s been one of my favorite sources of free activities all summer long. If you click on the link above you’ll find seven options just for today, not to mention four guys-only or girls-only book clubs for which you could’ve registered. You could probably still send your kids to those, but they might get some funny looks when they start making stuff up.
Friday, August 10
Maybe it's time the squirrels and slugs aren't the only ones eating out of my garden. The Como Conservatory has a new exhibit called "Roots, Shoots, and Fruits - The Incredible Edible Garden" open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. Their hope is that you leave inspired to plant and eat your own garden. A guest expert will be on hand at 11 am daily giving pointers on what to plant, keeping pests away, and how to use the fruits of your labor in meals. You can find the garden in the old butterfly exhibit site. They razed butterflies to put up a garden plot.
If you didn't get enough gardening yesterday, you can visit Mixed Precipitation's Picnic Operetta today. This is theater mixed with community garden. Make your reservations, then bring your chair or blanket to the Eat Street Community Garden at 4 pm to enjoy a performance of The Return of King Idomeneo amongst the rhubarb. Rumor has it there may also be a meal prepared by a chef/gardener using local produce. This is a free performance, but you will have the opportunity to make a donation. Oh, and keep your mitts off the blackberries while you're there. Your stained lips will give you away.
Enjoy your time!
My shoulder is injured. I think it's my deltoid muscle. Not to worry, I'll recover quickly. You see, my younger son loves Beyblades, which are basically tops for this generation. Each one comes with four components that are interchangeable so you can create your own original designs. Then you load your top into a launcher held in one hand, and "rip" a cord with the other. This sends the blades into a Bey Stadium where they crash into each other, and the last one standing wins. I kinda get caught up in it once I start "battling" with the family. The problem is the ripping. You want to win so you pull really hard to make your top spin faster. And you do it over and over until your deltoid hurts. I might need to work out more.
Monday, July 30
The 3M championship runs today through Sunday at the TPC in Blaine. Admission is free and affords the opportunity to rub elbows with the likes of Jay Haas, Tom Lehman and Fuzzy Zoeller, to name a few. Well, maybe you won't actually rub elbows, but you can golf-clap for them as they pass by on the fairway. Pro-Ams are featured until Friday when championship play begins. There will also be an expo tent and Family Fun Zone available over the weekend. Check the schedule to see what's happening each day and then hit the course.
Tuesday, July 31
Five years ago, tomorrow, the 35W bridge collapsed during the evening rush hour. I'm sure most of us have a story about that day. I was scheduled to cross the bridge with my boys about an hour after it went down. For a while, I became acutely aware of the bridges that I crossed. The memorial for the 13 people who died that day opened last year across from Gold Medal Park. I've never been, but I think we'll go pay our respects this week. We'll also take a stroll along the board walk by Mill Ruins Park and cross the nearby Stone Arch Bridge.
Wednesday, August 1
Today brings the final concert of the Northrop Summer Music Festival to the plaza of Northrop Auditorium. The Sans Souci Quartet is on the bill today playing bluegrass under, hopefully, blue skies. Although I don't see it on the website this time, I bet you can still score some free Vitamin Water if you go. The Premiums got rained out on the 18th so somebody somewhere has got a trunk full of the stuff to give away. Speaking of the Premiums, the rain couldn't stop them for good. They play on Tuesday (July 31) if you're feeling more groovy than blue.
Thursday, August 2
They played their worst season ever last year, but I still love the Vikings. They opened training camp last week and we might make the trek to Mankato State to see the pageantry of it all. I don't know exactly what to expect, but it looks like there is a walk-through in the morning and a practice in pads each afternoon. Time is set aside daily for autographs from different positions. Today the wide receivers will be wielding the Sharpies. Family Football Day is Saturday, August 4th and features an evening practice with fireworks and free football and/or cheerleading clinics for the kids. So go ahead, put on some face paint and show your horns in Mankato.
Friday, August 3
We haven't spent any money on our adventures yet this week, right? Maybe it'd be OK to drop $70 on a household membership (two adults and children under 18) with the Minnesota Historical Society. That's a chunk of change up front, but it gains you admission to 26 sites and museums around Minnesota. The ones I'm most excited about are Mill City Museum, Fort Snelling, and Split Rock Lighthouse. If you visit three places over the next year, you'll have saved money. If you visit all 26, it'll be like they're paying you to amuse yourself.
Saturday, August 4
You can go on a Garden Quest today at the Walker during First Free Saturday. If you go, you will be LARPing (live action role-playing) in the sculpture garden, searching for trolls and hermits. This is, of course, after Skalk the Bitter teaches you how to handle a sword at Battle School. Skalk ranks at the 9th level, so you'll have that going for you when you meet a troll.
May the road rise to meet you!
At the University of Minnesota they name new buildings after important people. Nils Hasselmo signed my degree as president of the U. Now there is a Nils Hasselmo Hall where you can apply for the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, in case you were wondering.
My name can still be found on the U of M campus too, but not on the outside of a new building. It's actually in the windowless basement of an old one. In a student directory. Apparently they took out a pay phone in 1992 but never removed the phone books hanging nearby. How my kids and I found that treasure is another story, but they both said it was their favorite part of our day.
I think it may have been my favorite part too. Why? I'm not sure. I like that my kids got a kick out of old phone books. (When was the last time you used a pay phone or a phone book?) And I also like that my name can still be found on campus 18 years after I graduated. It's kind of like having a building named after you, right? Well, almost the same.
Monday, July 23
Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but I discovered a new waterfall in Saint Paul yesterday. I've been within 500 feet of these falls myriad times in my life and didn't know it. That fact is probably really rich with metaphor, but I won't go into that right now. They're called Shadow Falls and I swear "they" are trying to keep them a secret. There is probably more than one route to the falls, but we started at the World War I Memorial at Summit Avenue and Mississippi River Boulevard, then followed a path northward along the ravine that hides the falls. The hills are steep, but the trail is pretty easy (we did it in sandals). Hidden Falls are a little further up river, if you want to complete the St. Paul waterfall circuit.
Tuesday, July 24
It might be a little contrived, but Centennial Lakes Park in Edina charms me anyway. Here you will find a human-made pond surrounded by a walking trail, mini-golf, croquet courts, and an amphitheater. You will find free events every Tuesday and Thursday at noon at the Hughes Pavilion. Today is the Woodland Puppet Show. There's also a concert Sunday-Wednesday at 7 pm and a movie at sunset on Thursdays. If you go, pack a picnic and bring some extra bread to feed the fish that patrol the nearby waters. They aren't Asian Carp, but they're pretty aggressive once they notice your bakery goods.
Wednesday, July 25
The Open Eye Figure Theater is hitting the road again this year. They will bring their puppets to your place on the "Driveway Tour 2012!" and all you have to do is ask. Well, there's probably a little more to it, but they've visited over 500 neighborhoods in the last 9 years so it can't be too tough. If you'd rather just go somewhere to see them, you can head to the Northeast Library today at 10:30 am for their presentation of The Amazing Cow Boat.
Thursday, July 26
Mears Park in downtown St. Paul boasts "a covered bandshell and a beautiful stream running diagonally through the park." That sounds good. And under that covered bandshell on Thursday evenings you will find some of the hottest local music acts around. Now that sounds better! Some of the acts you can catch at Music in Mears this year are the Honeydogs, Communist Daughter, and Flamin Oh's. Tonight the bill is headlined by New Standards. The music plays from 6 to 9 pm, and then the big screen lights up when the sun goes down. Tonight you'll see What About Bob? It's all free, and that's the best part.
Friday, July 27
As Adam Scott demonstrated last weekend, golf is a mind game as much as anything else. Kids seem more immune to the mental pressure than us adults, however, so maybe it's a good time to introduce them to a game they can play their whole lives. The US Kids Golf Foundation has set up nine family courses in Minnesota, three of which are right here in the Twin Cities. A family course has tees placed for beginners that shorten the course, making it more fun for everybody. Come to think of it, that might be a good option for me too. If you're not ready to hit the course yet, your local country club probably has a set of kid's clubs to use at their driving range.
Saturday, July 28
You have another chance to see the Open Eye Figure Theater at the Flow Northside Arts Crawl today. The Crawl happens from 2 to 8 pm and will feature the World's Longest Soul Train Line, a mobile stage powered by pedals, bakery tours, and the Smack Shack food truck. The Minnesota Lynx will also be on hand giving lessons on how to win . . . or maybe just to sign stuff. Bring your smart phone for a then-and-now trip on the West Broadway Walking Tour. Then kick back and go with the Flow.
Sunday, July 29
There's one more "I Can" experience that Minnesota's State Parks are offering up this summer: I Can Paddle! Today you can take a canoe out on the lake at William O'Brien State Park. You will have to drive an hour to get to William O'Brien, but that's about all you'll have to do. The Park provides everything you need to give canoeing a try. They do want you to let them know you're coming, so give them a call at 866-857-2757 before you stop on by.
Have a great time!