Monday, July 21
Those of us who are not true tennis fans probably associate the same thing with tennis matches: The trademark grunts of competitors as they put every ounce of their might into each shot. I don't know about you, but the only time I expend that level of effort is when I'm getting out of bed in the morning. I could probably count the number of times I've watched tennis on one hand, and I've never seen it live, so I think we'll take advantage of the free Aquatennial Tennis Classic taking place downtown this week. Matches are held daily from 9 am to 5 pm, and it sounds like you can just drop in whenever you'd like. A few other Aquatennial highlights include free admission to the Bakken Museum all week, a River Rats water ski show and Torchlight Parade on Wednesday, and the Global Smoothie Smackdown on Saturday. There probably won't be any grunting at the Smoothie Smackdown. Probably.
Tuesday, July 22
I wonder if ice cream trucks feel jealous. I mean, they were food trucks before food trucks were cool. Now it seems like there's a new, hot wagon opening up every other week. And it's not just food. There are vehicles offering camping gear, vinyl records, shoes and vintage wares popping up around the country. All while ice cream trucks continue to toil in anonymity. We're lucky to have another type of truck in the Twin Cities. Five days a week from 1-3 pm the Artmobile sets up shop at a St. Paul community center so local artists can share their ideas, skills and techniques with the community for free. And it's not just visual art. The themes for this week include dance and music composition along with mural making. So, while you can't get a Bomb Pop from the Artmobile, your experience will likely be da bomb. And it won't melt on your fingers.
Wednesday, July 23
At the turn of the 20th century the Twin Cities were home to one of the most extensive streetcar systems in the country. Not only did lines criss-cross the downtown areas, they also ran from Stillwater in the east to Excelsior in the west. The Twin City Rapid Transit Company was looking for ways to increase ridership on the weekends when they settled on the idea of building two amusement parks, one at either end of the line. The Big Island Amusement Park on Lake Minnetonka was the western installation, and Wildwood Amusement Park was constructed in the east on White Bear Lake. Like the streetcars themselves, both parks have long since disappeared. But you can "visit" Wildwood today for free during "Where Exactly Was Wildwood Amusement Park?" Beginning at 2 pm, you can view images and hear stories from the park's glory days. And if this experience captures your imagination, consider the Legends of Big Island cruise offered on weekends by Steamboat Minnehaha.
Thursday, July 24
"Old McDonald Had a Farm, EIEIO! And on that farm he had some bees, EIEIO!" The more I read about it, the more it sounds like bees belong in this song. After all, they do pollinate a considerable percentage of Earth's crops. I suppose that's why the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is throwing a Pollinator Party in their honor. Tonight from 5-8 pm at Lyndale Park Gardens you can find ice cream made with honey, make a backyard bee hospital and meet the 2014 American Honey Princess. There will also be music, art and honey to sample at your leisure and, at dusk, Wings of Life will be screened in the gardens on the shores of Lake Harriet. Sounds as sweet as Tupelo honey to me.
Friday, July 25
When I hear "bird banding" I think of the Eagles, Counting Crows or Flock of Seagulls. But I'm pretty sure that's not what the Carpenter Nature Center has planned today for their Public Bird Banding event. Banding helps naturalists track how long birds live as well as their migration patterns and nesting areas. Today we get to observe as experts capture, band and release songbirds. The event takes place from 8:30 am to noon; please pre-register with Mayme Johnson at 651-437-4359, ext. 103. It's free, but they suggest a donation of sunflower bird seed or suet. Hopefully a "bird band" performs live as part of the schedule, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
Monday, July 14
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game takes place tomorrow at Target Field. It's been 30 years since the Twin Cities played host to this mid-summer extravaganza, so it's kind of a big deal. The game itself is sold out, and the home run derby would run you about $200 each, but there are opportunities for families to get a taste of the big game. Today and tomorrow you can get FanFest tickets for $10 each. You can't purchase these online, but I was told they are available in person at the Convention Center. For a literal taste of baseball, visit the Block Party in Butler Square. Today from 3-7 pm four celebrity chefs will compete in a quest to create the best ballpark hot dog. I'm most excited to try Graham Elliot's entry, mostly because I'm a fan of Master Chef. Maybe I can get him to sign it? The block party is free to enter, but food tickets are five for $20. At those prices he'd better sign it. Tomorrow at 1 pm the All-Star Parade makes its way from Nicollet and 13th to Target Field.
Tuesday, July 15
Tuesday is the day to visit the Minnesota History Center if you're ever going to. Admission is free from 5-8 pm. The current featured exhibit, "Toys of the 50's, 60's and 70's," affords you the opportunity to reunite with Stretch Armstrong, Mr. Potato Head and the Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. Speaking of robots, Robot Mania is the theme of History HiJinx, a make-it and take-it craft program offered from 11 am to 3 pm on weekdays. If you stay into the evening you can learn and practice a new dance to live music during "Nine Nights of Music," which now might be more appropriately called "Seven More Nights of Music." If you do go when admission is charged, consider purchasing a family membership. For $75 you gain access to Mill City Museum, Fort Snelling and 23 other museums around the state as well as numerous activites sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society. After two visits, history will repaid itself. Sorry, that was a stretch.
Wednesday, July 16
I like construction cranes. Those tall, skinny structures hovering over a new building make me feel alive. Well, they make me feel like I live in a vibrant place anyway. So I'm excited that the third-largest crane on the planet is in Minneapolis right now. The crane itself takes three weeks to assemble and will be used in building the new Vikings stadium. You don't need to be a fan of the Vikings, or the stadium, to enjoy a visit to this site. It's got lots of stuff kids love - dirt, giant trucks and hundreds of workers scurrying about their business. We stood and stared for a good 30 minutes. It's tough to get a good glimpse from street level, but if you make your way to the top of the parking ramp at 1010 S. 7th Street (also known as the Metrodome Square Building) you get a nice birds-eye view of the action. Don't forget your camera (like I did), your Viking horn or your Hilda hat. You know, if you've got one.
Thursday, July 17
Have you ever had a nightmare where you're trapped in a maze and can't find your way out? You might after you visit the hedge maze at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. It's that good. I've been through it twice and still feel like I should bring a flare gun with me next time, just in case. The sculpture garden gives the Walker a run for its money, too, and I haven't even mentioned the gardens. Well, I guess I just did. They also currently offer a butterfly exhibit (for an extra $3), 32 temporary glass sculptures spread throughout the gardens, and up-close bug and butterfly photos in the Restaurant Gallery through this weekend. Live music can be had on select nights, and hands-on activities (focused on nectar sippers in July) are set up on weekends throughout the summer. The Arboretum is a nice way to spend a day and it's free today after 4:30. That'll save you $12; kids 12 and under are always free. Sweet dreams!
Friday, July 18
Normally hiking in a Louisville swamp wouldn't appeal to me. Makes me imagine bugs bigger'n my pooch and twice as mean. But this Louisville Swamp is actually a floodplain in Shakopee along the Minnesota River, and today's hike is led by a ranger from the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, so I figure they'll probably steer us away from the worst of the bites and rashes. The five-mile hike passes old farm and homestead sites as well as a climbable glacial boulder. The adventure is scheduled from 9 am to 1 pm, and you're supposed to bring water and a snack along with your bug spray and hiking boots. Sounds serious . . . seriously fun! The hike is free, but register here so they know you're comin' to the swamp.
Saturday, July 19
Check out an authentic moon rock brought back by Apollo 15 astronauts at the Minnesota Astronomical Society's Star Party tonight. This party will be hoppin' from 7-10 pm at the Eagle Lake Observatory in Baylor Regional Park near Norwood Young America. Quick Trivia Time: Two towns merged in 1997 to create this city. One of their main businesses is processing mail-in rebates, so they have lots of zip codes. One of NYA's zip codes is 55555. Now back to the party - there will be photos, illustrations and maps of all the Apollo missions and, I would assume, you can look at stars if you want. It is an observatory after all. Party on!
You can follow me on Twitter @AColdOmaha or search for #DailyAdventure for daily updates.
Monday, July 7
Brave and courageous are synonymous, but the only thing that Braveheart and courageous heARTS have in common is the likelihood of getting paint on your face. Courageous heARTS was founded in South Minneapolis by Lindsay Walz, a survivor of the 35W bridge collapse. Art played an essential role in her recovery, and she is committed to art education as a tool for healing and growth in the larger community. Courageous heARTS offers free classes Mondays-Thursdays from 2-4 pm, each with a different focus, as well as open studio times all summer long (currently from noon until 2 pm). Two week-long workshops focusing on intuitive writing and creating treasure from trash are offered in August. And if you want to paint your face while you're there, I bet they won't stop you.
Tuesday, July 8
I mention Kid Links at the Hennepin County Library every year because there are myriad offerings, a veritable plethora of diversions. In fact, it's possible I learned those big words at one of their workshops! Just today at your libraries there are science labs, dragon training, catapult building, book clubs, two magic shows, dramatic play, classes on birds and art, and the opportunity to read with a therapy animal. And it's all free! Online you can search by date or by library, or swing by your local branch and pick up a catalog so you can plan ahead. It seems too good to be true, but I still haven't been able to ascertain the hidden disadvantage.
Wednesday, July 9
Is it just me, or does a bouncy house add legitimacy to an event? This is the season of neighborhood picnics and ice cream socials that promise lawn games, food and beverages, and maybe even a small petting zoo. But it's the bouncy house that shouts, "This is an EVENT!" right? Every Wednesday from 6-8 pm through August 6 Groovin' in the Garden at Como Park promises not only a bouncy house, but also a climbing wall, lawn games, and edible treats of many kinds to be enjoyed while taking in some live local acts. This week the band is called Black Diet; they say their shows "look like Baptist church services held at punk houses." Now maybe that sounds like an event.
Thursday, July 10
I've got another "crossing" riddle for you: What do you get when you cross a cow with a boat? Open Eye Figure Theater did just that and produced The Amazing Cow Boat which is "part cow, part boat, part amazing!" You can enjoy this production at the Minneapolis Central Library at 10 am for free. After the show hit the farmer's market on Nicollet Mall in search of ground cherries, kohlrabi, bitter melon or some other exotic produce for your dinner tonight. If you can't make it today, catch the ice cream social on July 26 at the Open Eye theater. Then you can cross a cow, a boat and ice cream, although crossing a cow with ice cream feels like challenging the bounds of good taste.
Friday, July 11
Pack a picnic lunch and your bikes and head to the Hyland Play Area, better known as "Chutes and Ladders" by the locals. This is a gigantic play structure situated in the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington. The kids can climb and slide for hours while you sip cold lemonade under one of the numerous umbrellas nearby. After lunch saddle up and pedal some, or all, of the 8.6 miles of bike trails that Hyland boasts. There's also a disc golf course and the Richardson Nature Center nearby. I'm beginning to think one day may not be enough time out here, but the one thing they don't have is a campground. Maybe they wouldn't mind if you pitched a tent on the prairie. Then again, maybe they would.
You can follow me on Twitter @AColdOmaha for daily updates, or search for #DailyAdventure. Have fun out there!
Monday, June 30
We recently attempted to figure out the ethnic make up of our children as part of a school assignment. I don't have any Swedish ancestors, but I do love Swedish pancakes. And Swedish Fish. And the Swedish Chef on the Muppets is high on my list as well. My wife, on the other hand, is something like 50% Swedish. I think that makes our boys significantly Swedish, statistically speaking anyway. So today we're going to visit the Gammelgarden Museum in Scandia and celebrate their Swedicity! It is about 30 minutes north of the metro, but it's a beautiful day for a drive and I bet we'll pass an ice cream shop somewhere along the way. Admission to the Gammelgarden is free if you're under 12 and $7 for everyone else. While we're in the neighborhood, we might head 15 minutes up the road to check out the free Franconia Sculpture Park as well. We're not at all French, so I guess we'll just celebrate art while we're there.
Tuesday, July 1
I had the sweetest bike when I was a kid. It was a Schwinn Stingray 5-speed with ape-hanger handle bars and a gear shifter attached to the crossbar. The only time I remember decorating it in any way was when I ordered a license plate kit from the back of an Alpha-Bits cereal box. When the kit finally arrived I peeled T, I, and M off the sticker sheet and placed the letters, off-center and sloping, onto the red metal plate. I used twist ties to mount it to the back of my Stingray. Now, I can't guarantee that your bike will look as cool as mine did at that very moment, but the potential is there at Creative Kidstuff's free Fourth of July Bike Decorating event today from 10 am-noon. Even if you don't have a gear shifter on your crossbar, your bike can still ooze Stingray style.
Wednesday, July 2
The older I get, the more hair I grow on my ears. I understand why I have eyebrows and lashes. I can even see at least a theoretical purpose for having hair on one's back . . . not that I have any. But why on ears? I'm guessing this is the same kind of scientific inquiry that led University of Minnesota researchers to test two theories about why lions have manes. Do manes provide protection or are they symbols of power designed to attract mates? You, too, can solve this mystery at the Bell Museum of Natural History every day of the week, and twice on Sunday. Actually, you can go as many times as you want on Sunday because it's free then. The rest of the week it's $4 for 4-17 year-olds and $6 for adults. My bet is that manes are symbols of power. Much like ear hair.
Thursday, July 3
For most of my life when I've heard someone say, "brickmania," it's meant that I'm playing basketball with my "buddies." But today it means that Brickmania Toyworks has a free open house from 5-9 pm. I guess those in the know call LEGO "bricks," and "mania" can translate to mean "a great enthusiasm." Put the two together and you have a room full of "models, dioramas, sculptures and mosaics made of LEGO bricks." They also have a train room that hosts not one, but two LEGO train clubs and a play area where kids can create their own brick house. So, for one shining evening, brickmania will have nothing to do with my ability to shoot a basketball.
Friday, July 4
Consider taking a few minutes while celebrating Independence Day to sign up for a service project. We've had a lot of fun volunteering for a couple of food distribution organizations in town. At Feed My Starving Children we packed uniform meals-in-a-bag that were then shipped internationally. Ours were sent to Haiti. At Second Harvest Heartland we repackaged large donations into single-family portions for use in this community. Both places were highly organized, very professional and we had a blast while helping out. After signing up, you might feel less guilty about eating that extra hot dog.
Monday, June 23
What do you get when you cross a centipede with a parrot? A walkie-talkie! How about crossing an elephant with a skin doctor? a pachydermatologist! One more - What do you get when you cross a Parisian expatriate with some Minnesota musicians? Pari-sota! Parisota plays "Hot Club" music, which I guess grows out of the Jazz branch of the musical tree. If you really want to find out what Hot Club is, check out Parisota for free in Rice Park at noon today. Maybe bring a hot club sandwich to enjoy while listening to the Hot Club music. Or bring a 9-iron and a lighter and . . . nevermind. Poke your head into the nearby Saint Paul Public Library while you're there. It's worth a peek.
Tuesday, June 24
Do you know why movies are sometimes called flicks? Apparently early motion pictures were viewed at 16 frames per second (fps), with a shutter opening and closing for each frame. At this speed, the human eye can detect a flicker - shortened to "flicks" - from the shutter action. Today each frame is viewed twice - films are shown at 24 fps, but the shutter opens and closes twice for each frame. The 48 clicks per second is too fast for our eyes to detect. Even if you're not fascinated by that bit of trivia, I bet you'll be enthralled by the Penguin World Surfing Championships covered in Surf's Up, this week's Toddler Flicks selection at the Mall of America. Toddler Flicks offers a different movie every Tuesday at 11:30 am for free. And just think, now you can tell everyone in the popcorn line why it's called Toddler Flicks! Yea!
Wednesday, June 25
My favorite part of going to a Twins game when I was a kid was when the guy with a cooler strapped around his neck would start walking up the stairs toward my seat calling out, "Malt cups! Get your malt cups here!" The ice cream was OK, but I loved it because the malt cup came to me. I didn't even have to leave my seat, and suddenly I was eating ice cream from a wooden spoon-like paddle. I still love it when stuff comes to me, like the Smithsonian traveling exhibition titled IndiVisible, for example. It's at Fort Snelling until July 20 and focuses on the intersection of African and Native peoples in the Americas. Not only did this important exhibit come to my town, but it's free to see. IndiVisible's got it all over a malt cup.
Thursday, June 26
I believe the Minneapolis park system to be one of the best in the world. No residence in the city is more than a few blocks from a park, and the land bordering major bodies of water are open to the public. One of the first park superintendents was Theodore Wirth. You probably have heard of him, thanks to his namesakes on the northwest side of the metro. But another name to know is Eloise Butler. She had to foresight to set land aside to preserve the native flora as Minneapolis grew. The Wild Botanical Garden opened in 1907 and was eventually named after Butler. If you visit the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden this evening at 6 o'clock, a naturalist will lead you on a free Garden Highlights Nature Hike. For me, garden highlights mean a patch without weeds, but I'm guessing there'll be a little more to this hike.
Friday, June 27
When people ask what you're up to this weekend you can say with a shrug, "We're going to a class hosted by the University of Minnesota's Institute for Astrophysics. No big deal." But the event is called Universe in the Park (UitP), so I suppose it really doesn't get any bigger than that. At UitP you'll hear a 20-30 minute presentation on an astronomical topic such as taking a journey through the solar system. Then, if the weather is right, you get to use their telescopes to take a guided tour of the Universe. The class tonight is at the Eastman Nature Center in Dayton from 8:30-10:30 pm. You'll get home kind of late, but would you expect anything different after a tour of the universe?