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Best Free Activities For Families In The Twin Cities

Everyone loves a good deal, and you can't beat a free activity. There are a number of fantastically fun activities that are always free or free on certain days of the month in the Twin Cities. While it pays to be in the know about when and where to go without shelling out the dough, many of these venues are often busier than other days during these special free days. Even still, your kids will get a kick out of each of these destinations -- and they might even learn something, too.

Walker Art Center
(credit: CBS)

Free First Saturdays

Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

The first Saturday of each month admission is free for everyone at the Walker Art Center. Families can enjoy live performances, films, gallery adventures and hands-on art-making from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. While the activities are recommended for ages 6 to 12, there's something for everyone.

Plus, don't forget the Sculpture Garden is always free. So, once you finish viewing the fantastic, interesting and/or perplexing art pieces and participating in the various activities, head across the street to explore the beautifully manicured Sculpture Garden.

The theme and activities change each month, check the site for details for each Free First Saturday event.

Minnesota Children's Museum
(credit: Tom Kingrey/Minnesota Children's Museum)

Target Free 3rd Sundays

Minnesota Children's Museum
10 West Seventh St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

On the third Sunday of each month from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there is no charge for admission to the museum. The Minnesota Children's Museum has two visiting exhibits and five permanent exhibits: World Works, Rooftop ArtPark, Habitot, Our World and Earth World. Each of the exhibits creates a new environment to explore with each of the senses through hands-on activities. Additionally, there are story times, an art studio, a quiet book nook and other special features. An adjacent parking ramp offers three-hour parking for $4.

Lake Harriet

Lake Harriet Band Shell Concerts

West 42nd Street and West Lake Harriet Boulevard
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Lake Harriet is the perfect setting for a family picnic and great live music as the sun sets behind the band shell while the kids dance and sing along and you share an ice cream with your sweetie. You can enjoy these free concerts every evening from June through August, Monday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Every night features a different musical genre from Latin to big band to full orchestras to bluegrass to jazz and on and on. It's always fun, and it's always free. What better way to spend a Minnesota summer night -- just don't forget the bug repellent.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts
(credit: CBS)

Target Family Day

Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

The MIA is always free with exception to special events or exhibits, but one Sunday a month is Target Family Day with free programming and activities with a specific theme for families, kids and those young at heart. Each event gives attendees a chance to make art, go on an art scavenger hunt, meet artists, experience live music, dancers or storytellers and more.

This programming takes place from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the designated Sundays. Check the site for the dates and themes.

Como Zoo

Como Zoo & Conservatory

1225 Estabrook Dr.
St. Paul, MN 55103

Como Zoo and Conservatory are free, with a voluntary donation of $2 for an adult and $1 for a child to help in caring for the animals and plants. However, you should not let this stop you from going, if the cost is at all an issue. Their site makes a point of saying visitors are always welcome regardless of the donation.

Open every day of the year, the zoo is fairly small, but its exhibits are nicely done with good views of all the animals. The Polar Bear exhibit was recently completely overhauled creating a lovely space for both the bears and the visitors viewing these amazing animals.

Located next to the zoo and connected to the zoo's Visitor Center is the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. The Conservatory is a treat for the senses, as you walk through and see, smell and touch the large variety of trees, flowers and other plants.

This beautiful space houses rooms with bonsais, ferns, orchids, palms, as well as other amazing gardens. The Japanese Garden located outside the Conservatory is a wonderfully tranquil space to explore and learn.

Oak Hill Splash Pad

3201 Rhode Island Ave. S.
St. Louis Park, MN

Oak Hill Park may be tucked back in a quiet residential area of St. Louis Park, but once you find it, you won't have trouble getting back there. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from May 27 to Sept. 11 (weather permitting) this Splash Pad is a blast for all ages.

There are hoses to spray, buckets that dump, sprinkler arches, shooting geysers and more. There are several areas that are good for the tiny tots, too. It makes for a lovely summer day activity.

The Splash Pad is located between baseball fields and a large playground and has indoor changing rooms and bathrooms nearby. Proper swim attire and swim diapers are required. The Splash Pad is fenced in, but is unattended and children should be accompanied by an adult.

Museum Pass

Museum Adventure Pass

Metropolitan Library Science Agency (MELSA)
Suite 314 – 1619 Dayton Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104

The Museum Adventure Pass will get you in the door free at 18 cultural organizations around the Twin Cities. All you need is your library card. Simply use your library card to check out a pass for two free admissions. The passes are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, but each library gets new passes each week. I have noticed that larger libraries tend to get more passes, so if your nearest library is out of the pass you were wanting, just try another library.

The Museum Adventure Passes are available at more than 100 metro libraries. The passes available range from The Museum of Russian Art to the Minnesota Zoo to the Bakken Museum to the Minnesota History Center.

-- Anna Berend is an attorney and the author of Motherly Law Blog. On Motherly Law, Anna writes about legal issues that affect families and offers tips and resources that pertain to those legal topics. On occasion, inspiration strikes and Anna writes about something totally unrelated to the law. Originally a Texan, Anna now resides in the Twin Cities with her husband, two young sons and a menagerie of pets. You can find Anna at, on Facebook at Motherly Law and on Twitter @MotherlyLaw.

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