In the past few weeks, our family has had a lot of summer fun all throughout the Twin Cities – and for FREE! So I was just thinking, you really don’t have to spend much money to enjoy local fun with your family. Here are five things our kids enjoy all the time that don’t cost anything except a little time spent looking for them!
1. Bouncy houses, face painting, balloons and more.
One nice thing about living in the Twin Cities area is that there’s always a free event in the area for kids where you can find bouncy houses, face painting, balloons and other free fun. Just this past weekend I was in the Maplewood area with my kids and my daughter’s friend, and I noticed there was a free Kids Fest at the Maplewood Community Center. We went there and the kids had so much fun! There was a bouncy house, face painting, balloons, a fire truck, plus lots of freebies from local businesses.
The previous weekend we went to an open house at the Crystal Airport and the kids enjoyed a magic show, balloons and free face painting (and it was very nicely done, too!).
Interestingly, a few weeks ago we went to a kids event where you had to pay to bounce in the bouncy houses, and it was the most unpleasant experience we had ever been to. There were so many kids and they rushed kids through each bouncy house. Parents were yelling at their kids to hurry through. I thought it was ridiculous!
I know this isn’t always the case, and sometimes nonprofits raise money with paid events (I think these are definitely worth paying for). But for the most part, we have found the free events are just as enjoyable as the paid ones (if not more so)!
Check my Deals & Events Calendar for these kinds of events. Also check the Star Tribune events calendar and search under Diversions/Family Fun. There are always many free local events listed here. Don’t forget to check your church and other local churches as well as they often offer carnivals and other free community events.
2. Movies, both at home and at theatres.
Frugal moms like us already know what a treasure trove the library is. They have movies for all ages and they’re all free to borrow! Usually you can also find new releases (which usually cost only about $.50 or so a day).
But did you also know that local theatres offer free movies for kids? The Theatres at the Mall of America offer a free movie every Saturday at 10:00am. In the summer you can also find free movies at Muller Family Theatres every Wednesday at 10:00am (there are 8 locations in the Twin Cities) and at Paragon Theatres on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:00am (locations in Burnsville and Rochester).
AND – there are outdoor movies all summer long throughout the Twin Cities. Thrillist put together a great list of all the outdoor movies you can find in the Minneapolis/St Paul area this summer.
3. Sweets and treats.
Anytime I take my kids somewhere they have no problem finding a sugary treat, no matter where we go! Of course, their favorite stores to go to are the “cookie store” (Target, where kids can get a free cookie at the bakery) and the “lollipop store” (Trader Joe’s, where kids can get a free lollipop when they find the 2 hidden stuffed animals in the store). Then there’s the car repair shop where the customer waiting area offers cookies, donuts and hot chocolate. And there’s the bank where kids get free dum-dum lollipops every time we go there.
I could go on and on! Suffice it to say – except when I say “no” (which does happen), every daily outing can be like a mini-trip to the candy store. Of course these are businesses and I always give them my business when I go, so the treats aren’t 100% free, but for the kids they are. So if you want to give your kids a treat, you don’t have to go far to get them some for free!
4. Educational experiences.
Many local museums, nature centers, park systems and more offer free admission and educational activities for kids. The Bakken Museum in St. Paul is free every second Saturday. The Minnesota Children’s Museum is free every third Sunday. The Minnesota History Center is free every Tuesday night from 5:00 – 8:00pm.
5. Entertaining shows and performances.
When I look for free local entertainment, I check local calendars and then I check with my local library. Storytimes are free for kids and happen throughout the week – check with your local libraries for storytimes. But did you know storytimes aren’t just for stories? At our local library we’ve enjoyed magicians, singers and so much more year-round.
Summer is a great time for free outdoor performances and entertainment. At the Como Zoo, their Groovin’ in the Garden series is a free outdoor concert series that takes place on Wednesday nights. You can also enjoy a bouncy house, lawn games and more.
The Twin Cities River Rats perform free water ski shows every Thursday night in the summer (weather permitting) at 7:00pm along the Mississippi River (1758 W. River Road).
Be sure to check my local Deals & Events calendar for more free fun!