The Twin Cities is rich in fun activities and events for kids and families – but did you know that many are FREE?
I’ve shared many of these freebies over the years, and finally put them together in a roundup for this summer!
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Here are ideas for FREE summer fun for kids & families in the Twin Cities 2018!
(NOTE: All of these listings are subject to change. Be sure to check before you make plans or go!)
Indoor and Outdoor Adventures
Free Bowling – Kids Bowl Free is a national program designed by bowling centers to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure and fun way for kids to spend time this summer. There are dozens of bowling centers in Minnesota that participate. Just sign up on their website!
Free Roller Skating – Like Kids Bowl Free, Kids Skate Free offers kids free passes to participating local skating rinks. There are 5 that participate in the Twin Cities. When you sign up you’ll get a pass on Sunday night to use that week during participating rinks’ free open skating times.
Free State Park Admission with Park Rx Kits – Minnesota state parks and Ramsey County Library have teamed up to encourage more people to get outdoors with their new Park Rx Kit program. The library in White Bear Lake has 10 “Park Rx” kits, each containing a pass that provides free entry to any of Minnesota’s 75 state parks and recreation areas for seven days. Along with the free park pass (a $7 value) each Park Rx kit includes three books.
Free Fishing – Minnesota residents can fish without a fishing license in most Minnesota state parks, including ice fishing. You can also check out a free fishing kit at select parks. This map shows where you can fish for free state-wide.
Free Rock Climbing – Climb indoors anytime at Midwest Mountaineering’s free bouldering cave. Climbing shoes can be rented for $3.00. They’re located at 309 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis.
Free Fitness Classes – St. Paul offers Fitness in the Parks, a free outdoor exercise program that brings a variety of fitness activities to many of Saint Paul’s beautiful parks. There are tons of these classes from yoga to zumba going on all summer. View their full schedule and more info here.
Free Airplane Flights for Kids – The EAA Young Eagles program gives kids ages 8-17 their first experience flying in an airplane. The flight lasts approximately 20 minutes. Just look up the closest program coordinator in your area via their website and contact them.
Free Twins Youth Baseball and Softball Clinics – Get out and play ball! The Minnesota Twins, Twins Community Fund and Play Ball! Minnesota offer free youth baseball/softball clinics for kids ages 6-13. The Play Ball! Minnesota Youth Clinics are available to participants and communities free of charge. See the full summer schedule on their website.
Free Splash Pads and Wading Pools – The Twin Cities has many splash pads and wading pools that are free for all. Check with your local city for one near you. Minneapolis has a great list of their wading pools. You can also explore Twin Cities splash pads and wading pools on this interactive map.
Free Parks – The Twin Cities has so many parks available to residents. Get started exploring on the Metropolitan Council website, or on the Three Rivers Park District’s website. Some of my family’s favorites are Central Park in Maple Grove, Madison’s Playground in Woodbury, and Schaper Park in Golden Valley.
Free County Fairs – Not all offer free admission, but several do including the Ramsey County Fair and Rice County Fair. Expect to pay for food, rides and some entertainment, of course. See my full roundup of Twin Cities Area County Fairs 2018.
Free (or Cheap) Summer Movies – Movie theatres and cities invite families for free or cheap movies both indoors and outdoors all summer long. Minneapolis hosts Movies in the Park and St. Paul hosts their own Movies in the Park. Family Fun Twin Cities also has a great roundup of free & cheap summer movies.
A few theatres that offer free or cheap movies include:
- Emagine – Starting in June, they’ll be showing a special kids movie every Wednesday and Thursday at 10AM. Tickets are only $2.00 for any age. You can also get a small combo for only $5.00 when you purchase a Summer Kids’ Movie Series ticket!
- Marcus Theatres – Their Kids Dream Family Film Series June 24 – August 29 and kids can see a movie for only $3 on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays at 10am (plus Saturdays added in August).
- AMC – Get admission to a kid-friendly movie and a KidsPack for just $4+tax, every Wednesday at 10am all summer long! Tickets available soon at box office only. Excludes July 4.
- Starlight Cinema offers a FREE summer movie series at Ojibway Park in Woodbury with pre-show entertainment, games, activities, giveaways and a lot more.
Free Summer Concerts – The Minneapolis Music in the Parks Series features free Swing, Folk, Rock, Bluegrass, Classical and much more at five concert venues in Minneapolis all summer long. The St. Paul Music in the Parks Series features a wide range of bands and performers at St. Paul parks throughout the summer.
Free Water Ski Shows – You can catch free shows by local water ski teams all summer long. The Twin Cities River Rats perform throughout the summer on the Mississippi river at 1758 West River Rd N. in Minneapolis. The Ski Otters perform in White Bear Lake, and the Shockwaves perform in the area, primarily at Quarry Lake.
Free Summer Reading Programs for Kids – Kids can earn rewards for reading this summer! For example, Twin Cities area public libraries offer a summer reading program called Bookawocky, and your kids can earn prizes and even Minnesota State Fair passes for reading this summer. Learn more on the MELSA website or your local library’s website. Also view my full list of Free Summer Reading Programs for Kids including Chuck E. Cheese and Pizza Hut.
Free Local Library Events – Libraries offer SO much summer fun for kids (not to mention year-round). There are family storytimes, gaming for teens, LEGO building for kids, and so much more. Check with your local library for upcoming events!
Free Report Card Freebies for Kids – Kids can get free stuff for getting good grades. View my list: Good Report Card Freebies 2018.
Free Telescope Viewing of the Night Sky – The University of Minnesota hosts Universe in the Park, a free summer outreach program where a U of M astronomer will present a short talk and slide show covering astronomical topics. Then attendees may be able to look through telescopes at the night sky, if weather permits. Events take place at area state parks.
Free Storytimes – Libraries and bookstores alike have free storytimes for kids and families year-round, and make a great, quiet summer break from the heat or rain. Wild Rumpus Books in Minneapolis has free storytimes (including a sensory-friendly storytime) and Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul has free storytimes on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Free Microsoft Store YouthSpark Summer Camps – the Microsoft Store offers FREE YouthSpark Summer Camps for kids ages 6 and up. This year they’re offering five new STEM summer camps to inspire those budding young philanthropists, movie directors and robotics engineers. This includes their first ever camp for philanthropy, “Create a Difference in Your World,” giving those who want to start a charity a chance to choose a cause close to their heart and use technology to build an actionable plan to support it. Students can also make a movie in Mixed Reality, or code a robot to life through speech and movement. Registration is now open at the Mall of America retail store and online. Summer Camps take place starting in late May through August.
Free Apple Store Camp – Kids ages 8 to 12 can expand their digital creativity through hands-on projects at Apple stores. Campers choose one of three tracks, then spend 90 minutes a day for three days at a local Apple Store immersed in their chosen subject. It’s totally free! Sign up to be notified when registration is open for 2018.
Free Community Camps – The Sanneh Foundation gives kids ages 5-12 a safe, healthy and FUN camp experience every summer by offering FREE community sports camps throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. There are over 100 camps offered. (This has grown a lot since the last time I posted about them!)
Free Camp Sunrise – Kids ages 13-18 from Minneapolis & St. Paul can enroll in Camp Sunrise, a program of YouthCARE. Camp Sunrise is a FREE year-round outdoor education program and camping facility. Camp Sunrise is located on 279 acres along the St. Croix River near Rush City, Minnesota, about 60 miles north of the Twin Cities. During the summer month’s camp offers one- and two-week long sessions and serves 38-40 youth per week. Activities offered include canoe trips, arts and crafts, fun STEM activities and state park field trips.
Also be sure to check your city’s community and recreation centers. Many offer free summer camps for residents, including cheerleading, football and more.
Museum & Attractions
Free Museum, Attraction & Concert Passes – The MELSA SmARTPass program offers library card holders in the Twin Cities area free passes to a wide variety of museums, theater productions and other art experiences. Just sign up on their website by entering your library card number.
Free Museum Admission Days – Many museums offers FREE admission on select days and times. Here is a roundup, plus see my guide “3 Ways to Get Free or Discounted Admission to Twin Cities Museums & Attractions.”
- Como Zoo – St. Paul
Free every day
- Landmark Center – St. Paul
Free tours every Thursday at 11am and Sundays at Noon, and many other free events
- Minneapolis Institute of Art – Minneapolis
Free Tuesdays – Sundays except some exhibits; closed Mondays
- Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens – Minneapolis
Same as Walker Art Center – Free first Saturday of the month, Thursdays 5:00 – 9:00pm and for children 18 and under
- Minnesota Children’s Museum – St. Paul
Free every 3rd Sunday of the month
- Minnesota History Center – St. Paul
Free on Tuesdays 5:00 – 8:00pm
- Minnesota Landscape Arboretum – Chaska
Free every 3rd Monday of the month, 8:00am – 7:00pm
- Minnesota State Capitol – St. Paul
Free guided tours every hour on Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00am – 2:00pm and Sundays 1:00 – 3:00pm
- Walker Art Center – Minneapolis
Free first Saturday of the month, Thursdays 5:00 – 9:00pm and for children 18 and under
Create Your Own Adventure!
Last year I put together this list of fun places to visit called “Hidden Gems for Families in the Twin Cities.” Some of our favorites are the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport’s Aircraft Viewing Area and Brooklyn Park Library, Take your family out and about to explore places on the list or discover your own!
Also visit my Deals & Events Calendar regularly for happenings in the area!
DISCOUNTS DISCOUNTS DISCOUNTS
For more fun for less, check out my Twin Cities Discount Guide for Families! You can save on many museums and attractions in the area, including the Crayola Experience at the Mall of America (get the lowest price via my special link!) and the Minnesota Children’s Museum (save $2 per admission with my special code!).
Also, limited income families can receive free or discounted admission to these museums and attractions in Minnesota.
Do you have a FREE idea to add to this list? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.