I want to drop a few pounds. My swimsuit is starting to look like a Speedo even though it’s not. But I’m not off to a good start. You see, I just returned from my annual Father’s Day fishing trip. For the last 27 years my dad, brothers, and I have zoomed off to a nearby lake for the weekend to catch some fish and play a few holes of golf. We’re not very good at either, but that’s OK. The trip is really about catching up with each other and eating like we’re still 20 years old. That’s the trouble. It was a fruit-and-vegetable-free weekend for me. The closest I came to eating a vegetable was the sauerkraut on my bratwursts. Does that count? I think I’m actually craving a radish right now.
Monday, June 17
The Three Rivers Park District is a little mysterious to me. Not only am I unsure which parks and trails are included in this district, I don’t even know which rivers they’re talking about. What I do know is that their facilities are first-rate, so I will assume their programming is as well. Today a Three Rivers naturalist brings snakes and turtles to the Hilde Small Stage in Plymouth at 6:45 pm. The pairing seems a bit odd to me considering that most of us swerve to avoid hitting turtles on the road while many speed up for a snake. But, who knows? After bonding with one tonight, you just might decide to make a snake your next pet.
Tuesday, June 18
The Minnesota History Center has some interesting programming for adults this summer including a food crawl in the Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods. For kids, you’ll find “Then Now Wow,” the largest exhibit ever created by the Minnesota Historical Society. You can drill iron ore in an underground mine, ride an old streetcar, and see the emergency exit door from the school bus involved in the 35W bridge collapse. And, as if that weren’t big enough, kids can participate in “History HiJinx” by creating Paul and Babe on-a-stick puppets. Ask to make them life-sized and see what they say. Admission to the Minnesota History Center is free on Tuesdays from 5-8 pm.
Wednesday, June 19
Imagine it’s 1858. Minnesota has just been admitted to the Union, Abraham Lincoln lost his bid for the US Senate, and Minnetonka Mills is the biggest business center in Hennepin County. Thanks to a robust sawmill on Minnehaha Creek, over 2,000 pieces of furniture roll out of the mill every week. By 1883 the Minnetonka Mill Company had switched from lumber to flour and was pumping out 350 barrels of what I like to call “Magic Cookie Dust” per day. Charles Burwell moved in from Connecticut to manage this operation and built a nice little home on the edge of the millpond. The Burwell House still stands, restored to its 1894 grandeur, and you can tour it today for free from 6-8 pm. Why the history lesson? That way you can help give the tour. Guides love it when people do that.
Thursday, June 20
Another history lesson: A guy named Ralph Samuelson invented waterskiing in 1922 in Lake City, Minnesota. Ralph was 18 when he strapped two boards to his feet and held on to a clothesline while his brother, Ben, fired up the family boat for a ride. Now let’s see, a powerboat, a couple of 2 by 4’s, and some clothesline? I must admit, that does not sound like an activity I’d green light for my boys. But lucky for us, it worked out in a big way. People eventually decided two skis were too many, and only one skier was too few. Even one layer of skiers became passé, so now we have (say this in a big, low voice) “The Waterskiing Pyramid, mid, mid . . .” You can see all of this tonight for free when the Twin City River Rats perform on a river near you at 7 pm.
More to come!
It’s my fault. Over the years my boys have run a dirt path into our back yard. I planted grass seed yet again this spring and then hoped for rain. I must be doing something right this year because we got it. Oh, have we gotten it. So I apologize.
Summer doesn’t technically begin for another couple of weeks, so I think we still have a shot at some sunshine. But, for all intents and purposes, my summer starts today. My boys and I just finished another school year and now we are looking at several months of togetherness.
With all this time staring us in the face, we need activities that get us out of the house every day. Maybe you do too. That’s where Daily Adventures come in. I’ll share the free or inexpensive things that I find to do with kids over the summer. I plan every weekday for you! Sometimes I’ll even throw in bonus ideas for the weekend.
If you’d like to share a fun idea, send me a tweet @AColdOmaha. Enjoy!
Tuesday, June 11
I’d like to start by providing a fallback that you can use all summer long. My favorite resource is Hennepin County Library’s Kid Links. Here you’ll find all sorts of free activities for kids including book clubs, performances, and hands-on science classes. Today you can make your own Diary of a Wimpy Kid, make your hair “fly” using static electricity, or get charged up about how batteries were invented. Yes, that was a corny pun, but when you imagine your iphone without a battery, you might get charged up too.
Wednesday, June 12
While we're looking for things to do this summer, let's do something good. Big Hearted Families, associated with Doing Good Together, can help make this happen by walking you through a five-step process for volunteering in your community. It can be as simple as picking up litter on your street one time, or as involved as staffing a non-profit on a regular basis. You can find a list of creative volunteer opportunities in June here. The warm fuzzies you get will feel good, even when it gets hot outside.
Thursday, June 13
I don’t often dance. My rhythm is decent enough, but I have no moves. None. I just recently started putting my hands up around my shoulders while “Love Shack” plays at weddings. If I’m feeling really spunky, I might walk in place and snap to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” But there’s hope for me. The Ordway is hosting a Summer Dance Series on Thursdays beginning today. They’ll have pros teaching basic steps from Surf Rock to Swing. Meet for the free lesson at Rice Park at 5:30 pm, then practice your newly acquired steps to the sweet sounds of a local band beginning at 7:15. Even if dance isn’t your thing, a summer’s eve in Rice Park isn’t too bad.
Friday, June 14
I’m a schoolteacher, and I don’t have anything named after me. Harriet Bishop was a schoolteacher during the pioneer days of St. Paul, and she has a whole island named after her! The Minnesota Opera is performing La Boheme on Harriet Island tonight for free at 7 pm. Tomorrow evening the Lake Harriet bandshell will witness the soaring vocals. Lake Harriet, in case you’re wondering, is named after Harriet Lovejoy, the wife of Fort Snelling’s founder. I guess you gotta be in the right place at the right time to get something named after you. Anyway, I don’t know if opera is my thing, but the fact that it’s outdoors and free make it worth checking it out. Add a picnic and I might just go both nights.
Bonus: There are all sorts of family activities to be had at the Stone Arch Bridge Festival this weekend. You’ll find lots of music, art, car shows, and even free bicycle repair. The festival runs from 6 pm tonight to 5 pm Sunday.
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!