Sunday, August 19, 2012

Daily Adventures August 20-24, 2012

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.

Please check back later! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Daily Adventures August 13-18, 2012

Thanks for reading "What Do I Do Now?"  You can also find it at!

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.  Bob also has trains you can play with while you're there.  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 lessson, all for free.  To set up this experience, contact a flight coordinator or visit the Forest Lake Fly-In and Open House this Saturday from 10-4.

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.

Enjoy your time together!     

Monday, August 6, 2012

Daily Adventures August 6-11, 2012

Hello, Regal Guardians!  You can also find my blog on!

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.   

Saturday, August 11
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!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Daily Adventures July 30-August 4, 2012

My shoulder is injured.  I think it's my deltoid muscle.  Not to worry, I'll recover quickly.  You see, my younger son loves Beyblades, which are basically tops for this generation.  Each one comes with four components that are interchangeable so you can create your own original designs.  Then you load your top into a launcher held in one hand, and "rip" a cord with the other.  This sends the blades into a Bey Stadium where they crash into each other and the last one standing wins.  I kinda get caught up in it once I start "battling" with the family.  The problem is the ripping.  You want to win so you pull really hard to make your top spin faster.  And you do it over and over until your deltoid hurts.  I might need to work out more.

Monday, July 30
The 3M championship runs today through Sunday at the TPC in Blaine.  Admission is free and affords the opportunity to rub elbows with the likes of Jay Haas, Tom Lehman and Fuzzy Zoeller, to name a few.  Well, maybe you won't actually rub elbows, but you can golf-clap for them as they pass by on the fairway.  Pro-Ams are featured until Friday when championship play begins.  There will also be an expo tent and Family Fun Zone available over the weekend.  Check the schedule to see what's happening each day and then hit the course.

Tuesday, July 31
Five years ago tomorrow the 35W bridge collapsed during the evening rush hour.  I'm sure most of us have a story about that day.  I was scheduled to cross the bridge with my boys about an hour after it went down.  For a while, I became acutely aware of the bridges that I crossed.  The memorial for the 13 people who died that day opened last year across from Gold Medal Park.  I've never been, but I think we'll go pay our respects this week.  We'll also take a stroll along the board walk by Mill Ruins Park and cross the nearby Stone Arch Bridge.

Wednesday, August 1
Today brings the final concert of the Northrop Summer Music Festival to the plaza of Northrop Auditorium.  The Sans Souci Quartet is on the bill today playing bluegrass under, hopefully, blue skies.  Although I don't see it on the website this time, I bet you can still score some free Vitamin Water if you go.  The Premiums got rained out on the 18th so somebody somewhere has got a trunk full of the stuff to give away.  Speaking of the Premiums, the rain couldn't stop them for good.  They play on Tuesday (July 31) if you're feeling more groovy than blue.

Thursday, August 2
They played their worst season ever last year, but I still love the Vikings.  They opened training camp last week and we might make the trek to Mankato State to see the pageantry of it all.  I don't know exactly what to expect, but it looks like there is a walk-through in the morning and a practice in pads each afternoon.  Time is set aside daily for autographs from different positions.  Today the wide receivers will be wielding the Sharpies.  Family Football Day is Saturday, August 4th and features an evening practice with fireworks and free football and/or cheerleading clinics for the kids.  So go ahead, put on some face paint and show your horns in Mankato.

Friday, August 3
We haven't spent any money on our adventures yet this week, right?  Maybe it'd be OK to drop $70 on a household membership (two adults and children under 18) with the Minnesota Historical Society.  That's a chunk of change up front, but it gains you admission to 26 sites and museums around Minnesota.  The ones I'm most excited about are Mill City Museum, Fort Snelling, and Split Rock Lighthouse.  If you visit three places over the next year, you'll have saved money.  If you visit all 26, it'll be like they're paying you to amuse yourself.

Saturday, August 4
You can go on a Garden Quest today at the Walker during First Free Saturday.  If you go you will be LARPing (live action role-playing) in the sculpture garden, searching for trolls and hermits.  This is, of course, after Skalk the Bitter teaches you how to handle a sword at Battle School.  Skalk ranks at the 9th level, so you'll have that going for you when you meet a troll.

May the road rise to meet you! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Daily Adventures July 23-29, 2012

At the University of Minnesota they name new buildings after important people.  Nils Hasselmo signed my degree as president of the U.  Now there is a Nils Hasselmo Hall where you can apply for the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, in case you were wondering.

My name can still be found on the U of M campus too, but not on the outside of a new building.  It's actually in the windowless basement of an old one.  In a student directory.  Apparently they took out a pay phone in 1992 but never removed the phone books hanging nearby.  How my kids and I found that treasure is another story, but they both said it was their favorite part of our day.   

I think it may have been my favorite part too.  Why?  I'm not sure.  I like that my kids got a kick out of old phone books.  (When was the last time you used a pay phone or a phone book?)  And I also like that my name can still be found on campus 18 years after I graduated.  It's kind of like having a building named after you, right?  Well, almost the same.

Monday, July 23
Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but I discovered a new waterfall in Saint Paul yesterday.  I've been within 500 feet of these falls myriad times in my life and didn't know it.  That fact is probably really rich with metaphor, but I won't go into that right now.  They're called Shadow Falls and I swear "they" are trying to keep them a secret.  There is probably more than one route to the falls, but we started at the World War I Memorial at Summit Avenue and Mississippi River Boulevard, then followed a path northward along the ravine that hides the falls.  The hills are steep, but the trail is pretty easy (we did it in sandals).  Hidden Falls are a little further up river, if you want to complete the St. Paul waterfall circuit.

Tuesday, July 24
It might be a little contrived, but Centennial Lakes Park in Edina charms me anyway.  Here you will find a human-made pond surrounded by a walking trail, mini-golf, croquet courts, and an amphitheater.  You will find free events every Tuesday and Thursday at noon at the Hughes Pavilion.  Today is the Woodland Puppet Show.  There's also a concert Sunday-Wednesday at 7 pm and a movie at sunset on Thursdays.  If you go, pack a picnic and bring some extra bread to feed the fish that patrol the nearby waters.  They aren't Asian Carp, but they're pretty aggressive once they notice your bakery goods.

Wednesday, July 25
The Open Eye Figure Theater is hitting the road again this year.  They will bring their puppets to your place on the "Driveway Tour 2012!" and all you have to do is ask.  Well, there's probably a little more to it, but they've visited over 500 neighborhoods in the last 9 years so it can't be too tough.  If you'd rather just go somewhere to see them, you can head to the Northeast Library today at 10:30 am for their presentation of The Amazing Cow Boat.

Thursday, July 26
Mears Park in downtown St. Paul boasts "a covered bandshell and a beautiful stream running diagonally through the park."  That sounds good.  And under that covered bandshell on Thursday evenings you will find some of the hottest local music acts around.  Now that sounds better!  Some of the acts you can catch at Music in Mears this year are the Honeydogs, Communist Daughter, and Flamin Oh's.  Tonight the bill is headlined by New Standards.  The music plays from 6 to 9 pm, and then the big screen lights up when the sun goes down.  This evening you'll see What About Bob?  It's all free, and that's the best part.

Friday, July 27
As Adam Scott demonstrated last weekend, golf is a mind game as much as anything else.  Kids seem more immune to the mental pressure than us adults, however, so maybe it's a good time to introduce them to a game they can play their whole lives.  The US Kids Golf Foundation has set up nine family courses in Minnesota, three of which are right here in the Twin Cities.  A family course has tees placed for beginners that shorten the course, making it more fun for everybody.  Come to think of it, that might be a good option for me too.  If you're not ready to hit the course yet, your local country club probably has a set of kid's clubs to use at their driving range.

Saturday, July 28
You have another chance to see the Open Eye Figure Theater at the Flow Northside Arts Crawl today.  The Crawl happens from 2 to 8 pm and will feature the World's Longest Soul Train Line, a mobile stage powered by pedals, bakery tours, and the Smack Shack food truck.  The Minnesota Lynx will also be on hand giving lessons on how to win . . . or maybe just to sign stuff.  Bring your smart phone for a then-and-now trip on the West Broadway Walking Tour.  Then kick back and go with the Flow.

Sunday, July 29
There's one more "I Can" experience that Minnesota's State Parks are offering up this summer: I Can Paddle!  Today you can take a canoe out on the lake at William O'Brien State Park.  You will have to drive an hour to get to William O'Brien, but that's about all you'll have to do.  The Park provides everything you need to give canoeing a try.  They do want you to let them know you're coming, so give them a call at 866-857-2757 before you stop on by.

Have a great time!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Daily Adventures July 16-21, 2012

Monday, July 16
Hello, Regal Guardians!  Looks like it might hit 100 degrees again today.  Since our bodies are supposed to run 98.6, does that mean we start cooking when it's over that temperature?  Whatever the answer, a body of water would feel real nice.  The Como Regional Park Pool opened this year to loads of pomp and circumstance.  Well, to lots of jumping and splashing, anyway.  If you can wait until this Friday, you can get in for $2 each.  If not, a family of up to five people costs $16.  But, in exchange for your hard-earned Jackson, you'll have access to a lap pool, basketball hoops, a slide, diving boards, and an aquatic climbing wall.  There's also a zip line and a lazy river.  Now that sounds like my kind of river.

Tuesday, July 17
The Caponi Art Park in Eagan continues its Family Fun Tuesdays program this summer with an eclectic mix of performers every Tuesday at 10 am.  It is technically free, but they do suggest a donation of $4 per person.  Today the O'Shea Irish Dance troupe demonstrates and teaches some fancy steppin' to the assembled masses.  They will also perform as part of the Summer Performance Series at Caponi's Theater in the Woods on Sunday evening at 6:30 pm.  If you can't make it today, the next two Tuesdays feature percussion groups.  Who doesn't like to bang on stuff?  After the program, take a stroll around the grounds and check out the sculptures.  There's also a great tree swing to ride on your way out.

Wednesday, July 18
Here is a second opportunity to go back to school for the Summer Music Festival at Northrop!  The Premiums will be performing for free from noon to 1 pm.  If you only catch one Northrop concert this summer, this might be the don't-miss.  After all, the Premiums tour in an RV called the "Groove Thang."  They'll be handing out free Vitamin Water again, and Cialis will have their infamous bathtubs on hand and full of ice if you want to take a dip to cool off.  I made up the bathtub part.
Don't forget the Minneapolis Aquatennial is going on all week as well.  Tonight there is a pre-parade party at Loring Park from 5-7:30 pm with the Torchlight Parade following at 8:30 pm.

Thursday, July 19
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is always free for kids 12 and under, but it's only free for adults after 4:30 pm on the third Thursday of summer months . . . and that's today!  Once you get there, consider taking the Bug O' Orienteering Challenge to sample the highlights of the arboretum while testing your map-reading skills.  I trust the chances of Bug O' turning into the Blair Witch Project are pretty slim.  After mastering that challenge settle in Under the Oak for a little free creative play or check out the clay house that is taking shape as part of DIRT-O-RAMA.  Dirt and Rama in the same place?  I'm there. 

Friday, July 20
We all have those items in our garages or basements, right?  The equipment we bought because we were going to start snowboarding on a regular basis so, "Why not buy one?  It'll pay for itself after four times," then using the chiropractor way more than the snowboard?  It is for us that Minnesota State Parks created the free "I Can" program to give people a chance to try new things without investing in a lot of equipment.  Fridays from 3-5 pm at Fort Snelling State Park You Can Fish and all you have to do is show up!  The park provides the poles, the bait, and the tips so you can concentrate on fishing.  They'll even bait the hook for you!  You'll have to release what you catch, but that's OK.  Too much city fish might effect your mind and body and lead to bad decisions.  Like buying a snowboard when you're over 30.

Saturday, July 21
If you're willing to travel 45 minutes northeast to Interstate State Park you can try your hands and feet at climbing the cliffs along the St. Croix River.  This free experience is designed for first-time climbers over the age of four and, like I Can Fish, I Can Climb provides everything you need to get started.  You'll want to register for a climb time by calling 866-857-2757.  I jumped off those cliffs back when I was young and foolish.  Now that I'm old(er) and foolish, maybe I'll climb up them.

If cliff climbing is more excitement than you're looking for, there is another Kidical Mass bike ride planned for today as well.  Meet at Brackett Park at 9 am for the ride to Minnehaha Park, stopping to tour the Dowling Gardens on the way.

There's one more option that a buddy just sent my way.  If you're a Hip-Hop dance fan (I kind of am, thanks to TV's So You Think You Can Dance) you might want to check out the 4th Annual Groundbreaker Battle Festival put on by the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.  The Cities' best B-Boys & Girls will be competing outdoors in downtown Minneapolis for the title of "Minneapolis' Best Dance Crew."  My friend assures me the music will be appropriate for little B-Boys & Girls and it's free to attend.  The festival begins at 11:30 am with workshops on Hip-Hop and spoken word.  It looks like the dancing starts at 2 o'clock and runs until 8 pm when the best crew is crowned.

Have fun and, hey!  Be careful out there.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Daily Adventures July 9-15, 2012

Monday, July 9
Even though I've seen it LIVE at the state fair several times I have never even considered log rolling myself.  Until now.  Key Log Rolling has lessons for 5-16 year-olds on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, running July 24th through August 16 at Lake Calhoun's 32nd Street Beach.  You can choose either 9:30 or 10:15 classes.  If you live in Minneapolis it will cost $40 for eight lessons.  If you live somewhere else it's $60.  That's not really cheap but, at under $8 per lesson, I'm thinking about it.  If you think about it too, and like what you think, you can register here through Minneapolis Parks.  Then get your log on! . . . (?)

Tuesday, July 10
What American art museum boasts one of the largest collection of Monets in the United States?  That would be the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  But if you want to see the largest collection of Rembrandts EVER in the United States, you'd have to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  Now, if you want to see the Rembrandts, it'll cost ya.  But if you click here you can get a BOGO (buy one get one free) deal on the adult tickets until midnight Thursday.  If you decide to skip the Rembrandts, the rest of the MIA is free.  It's a GREAT museum and, if your child's school participates in the Art Adventure program (most do), Little Susie will probably be able to give you your own private tour of the place.  You know, if your child is named Susie.

Wednesday, July 11
Revisit a time when the country was roaring, alcohol was prohibited, and everyone was dancing the Charleston.  The Foshay Tower opened just before the stock market went bust in 1929.  Modeled after the Washington Monument, the Foshay was the first skyscraper built west of the Mississippi River and was Minneapolis' tallest building until 1971.  Even though several buildings tower over it today, it still boasts the only open-air observation deck in the Twin Cities.  You can check out the views and the museum for free by picking up an Adventure Pass from your local library.  Then put on your flapper dress or sharkskin suit and insist that your children call you "Bootsie" while you're there.  It'll be fun!

Thursday, July 12
The Walker hosts the Open Field every day except Mondays until September 1st, but if you go on a Thursday you can also take advantage of Target Free Thursday Nights.  Here's your itinerary for today: From 1 to 2 pm it's Tai Chi in the shade of the Spoonbridge and Cherry.  Afterwards, pull out your own brush and the Walker will provide everything else you need to paint your own landscape, cityscape, or whatever kind of scape you'd like.  At 4 o'clock take part in the collaborative art-making experience that is Drawing Club ("What's made at Drawing Club stays at Drawing Club") then use some old-timey tools from Lunalux, a local letterpress studio, to write and decorate a Post Office Love Letter.  But wait!  There's more!  There is also a poet on hand to help you find your muse at 5 pm, and a chance to make the biggest Cat's Cradle ever at 6 o'clock during The Big String Thing.  The cinema will screen home movies at 7:30 and 8:30 pm (you can submit your own home movie for consideration, too) before wrapping it all up around the Acoustic Campfire listening to Dear Data.  Now that's a lot of art.
If you're more inclined towards hockey than art, the Minnesota Wild also have a Developmental Camp Scrimmage that's free and open to the public at 7 pm tonight.  Gates open at 6:30 and the first thousand fans will receive a free Ryan Suter t-shirt.

Friday, July 13
It's Friday the 13th.  Do you dare visit a museum dedicated to the force that breathed life into Frankenstein's monster?  Muhahaha!  That's the best I can do for an evil laugh in print.  Today breathes life into the 10 Best Days of the Bakken, part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial which celebrates the anniversary of water, I guess.  But the Bakken is all about electricity and, for the next 10 days, they are offering free programs to the public including "It's Alive!" Frankenstein Day, Body Electric, and Ben Franklin's Electricity Party.  Isn't it time we all partied like Franklin?

Saturday, July 14
Not that kids need a whole lot of motivation to get excited about shooting a bow and arrow, but after watching the latest Borrowers movie, The Secret World of Arrietty, mine started making their own out of sticks and pencils.  So stream it on Netflix and then make the trip today at 1 pm to Afton State Park for Archery in the Parks.  You and your kids (if they're over eight years old) will be provided everything you need to give archery a shot.  Ha!  That's punny.  The program is free, though you will need a vehicle permit to get into the park.  The permit is $5 for a day or $25 for a year.  Afton sounds like it's far away, but it's only 16 miles southeast of St. Paul.  Think of it as a short trek to Sherwood Forest.

Sunday, July 15
Wherefore art thou, Romeo?  At Powderhorn Park, of course!  Well Romeo is not at Powderhorn, but The Strange Capers acting company is, and they're doing The Comedy of Errors the way Shakespeare did it: in open-air theater.  Now, free outdoor theater sounds pretty iffy to me too, especially if it's in old English, but apparently The Strange Capers is "stacked with Guthrie talent."  Guthrie talent for free?  Outside?  I just might have to check this out.  Performances are at 2 pm yesterday and today.
Additionally, the Minnesota Wild have another free Developmental Camp Scrimmage today at 11 am.  Gates open at 10:30 and this time around the first thousand fans receive a free Zach Parise t-shirt.   

Have fun out there!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Daily Adventures July 2-7, 2012

I am probably opening myself up to ridicule here, but I had to laugh at something I said to my father-in-law last week.

We went to their house for dinner and he commented that I was unshaven.  Now, this is not an uncommon state for me in the summer, but my beard was getting pretty long and I had actually planned on shaving that day.

So I responded with, "Yeah, I was gonna shave this morning, but I ran out of time."  The funny part of this sentence is that I ran out of time because I needed to get one of my sons to a doctor's appointment.  At 10 am.

A challenge to complete basic hygiene by 10 am?  It must be summertime.

Similar to a wine pairing provided on the menu of fine dining establishments, this week's adventures all come with a suggested hat pairing.  Enjoy!  

Monday, July 2 - Safari Hat
It might help if you read the next few sentences in Grampa Simpson's (or some other grandpa's) voice.  "I remember when I was a kid.  My toys didn't blink or beep.  I was happy if I had a STICK to play with."  Now this is not totally true.  I had a ColecoVision video game system that blinked and beeped.  But it's also true that I used to wander around the stream by my house and poke sticks in the mud.  For hours.  The Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Township hopes this type of play makes a comeback.  To this end, they have opened the "Nature Play Area and Discovery Garden."  You won't find typical play structures here.  What you will find is a stream in which kids can float sticks, build dams, and dip their toes to cool off.  There are also kid-friendly climbing cliffs and five miles of trails open for hiking.  It's free in 2012 so bring your lunch and some dry clothes and show your kids that, unlike the State Fair, an Xbox ain't got nothin' on a stick.

Tuesday, July 3 - Kentucky Derby Hat
I'm not much of a gambler so I never really thought too much about going to Canterbury Park, but today is a special day at the races.  For starters, the gates pop at 4 rather than 7 pm.  Then, on the back stretch, live music is provided by Brat Pack Radio (they've got to be kid friendly with a name like that, right?). For the home stretch there will be fireworks when the sun goes down.  Your family will cheer as you cross the finish line and head home.  I tried to use my extensive knowledge of race terms in some metaphors.  Did it work?  Admission to anyone under 18 is free.  The rest of us get in for $5 each so as long as you don't bet the farm on a can't-miss, it could be a pretty cheap date.

Wednesday, July 4 - Uncle Sam Hat
John Adams, speaking on the independence of America, proclaimed that "it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.  . . .  solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."  He was right.  Sort of.  Mr. Adams thought we'd shoot bottle rockets at each other on July 2nd, when the motion to separate from England passed in congress.  But, as you know, we celebrate on the 4th when the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress.  Apparently John Hancock didn't put his, uh, signature on it until August 2.  Anyway, Minneapolis hosts the Red, White and Boom Festival yesterday and today if you'd like to venture downtown.  For those who would rather stay closer to home you can search for fireworks with this firework finder.

Thursday, July 5 - Polo Helmet
I don't know about you, but the only Polo I've ever seen is on the rack at Marshall's.  But that's about to change!  The Twin Cities have a polo club called, of course, the Twin City Polo Club.  It's in Maple Plain, well outside of the 694/494 loop, but your only expense will be gas.  Before you go, brush up on your polo vocabulary.  Then grab a lawn chair, some lemonade, and an air horn (horses love these!) and hit the road.  Practices are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 pm, and there are games Friday through Sunday - all free to attend.  Check their Facebook page for schedule updates or call the hotline at 763-392-5373 to make sure it's game-on.

Friday, July 6 - Sailor's Hat
Minneapolis is home to a National Scenic Byway System called Grand Rounds, composed of seven districts offering different flavors of Minnesota's largest city.  Thirteen miles of this 50-mile system meander through the Chain of Lakes in south Minneapolis.  This postcard-ready area can be explored for free on foot, bicycles, or Rollerblades.  Today, however, five passengers are setting sail from an urban port aboard some tiny ships.  OK, the tiny ships are canoes that we're renting for $17 from Wheel Fun Rentals at Lake Calhoun, and the college buddies with whom we're going will total more than five, but you catch my drift.  Pun intended.  Sorry.  I'm not yet sure if $17 buys us a three-hour tour, but I hope to get stranded on the deserted isles for which Lake of the Isles is named.  OK, I'll stop with the Gilligan's Island references now.

Saturday, July 7 - Thinking Cap
Take advantage of the free admission and family activities the Walker Art Museum during their Free First Saturdays program.  This month the theme is Kids' Democracy.  You can tackle a literal maze of red tape at capitol HILL on your way to the Department of Mustachery, or dance to some Bomba - the traditional folk music of Puerto Rico.  While you're there, check out their newest exhibition, "This Will Have Been Art: Art, Love and Politics in the 1980's."  Maybe it will inspire you to roll your pant legs and tease your bangs again.  Maybe not. 

See you next week!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Daily Adventures June 25-30, 2012

Monday, June 25
It's Monday, so let's Do Something.  Use the Action Finder on this website to peruse volunteer opportunities in and outside of your community.  You can search by the cause you'd like to help out (animals, troops, etc.), whether you'd like to volunteer with a group or by yourselves, if you'd like to serve in your community or online, and you can even choose your time commitment, ranging from one minute to one year.  This is a great opportunity to have a conversation with your kids about philanthropy that will undoubtedly digress into stories from your Phi Kappa Lambda days.  If you slip up and talk about "shots," maybe they'll think you used to be a Clone Trooper.

Tuesday, June 26
I mentioned last week that there's treasure to be found on our county library site, Kid Links.  We will be attending one of the "Art Out of the Box" sessions found there this afternoon.  The description says that kids will "investigate form and fiction found in sculpture from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts."  I get the form part, but I'm a little foggier on the fiction.  Anyway, then they get to "sculpt characters to tell their own stories," so we'll be well on our way to making our own "Wallace and Gromit" movie.

Wednesday, June 27
Speaking of your days at Phi Kappa Lambda, here's your chance to head down to the University of Minnesota.  Alison Scott will be performing for free as part of the Summer Music Festival on Northrop Plaza from noon to 1 pm today.  Find a bike route to get there at Ride the City MSP.  Alison is described as having an organic, soulful sound and has opened for the likes of Bon Jovi and Marc Cohn.  And, if that isn't enough reason for you to go, maybe the free Vitamin Water will change your mind.  Yeah, I thought so.

Thursday, June 28
The Twin Cities River Rats put on the best water skiing show I've ever seen, and they do it for free every Thursday at 7 pm.  Bring a lawn chair or blanket and prepare to be entertained.  These folks can ski on two skis, one ski, bare feet, other peoples bare feet (?), on their backs, on shoulders and off jumps.  I bet if you gave them a couple of ipads, they could ski on those, too.  The applications for ipads just never end, do they?

Friday, June 29
We have decided to implement the Share, Save, Spend, or Three Jars, program with our kids.  Using this philosophy, kids put a percentage of their allowance towards savings and charitable causes while the rest is available to spend as they choose.  This eliminates much of the frustration that bubbles up, for all involved parties, when the adults make all the purchasing decisions.  Instead, children learn to manage their own money.  While they will make spending decisions we don't always approve of, they're still saving money and putting some to good use for others.  So today, we're going to the bank to set up savings accounts for our boys, complete with electronic transfers from our bank account.  Now, if you find a program that helps adults put money into their savings accounts, let me know.  Please.

Saturday, June 30 
We are going to get a Museum Adventure Pass for a train ride from Osceola to Dresser, WI run by the Minnesota Transportation Museum.  There are three departure times available, but we're opting for the 1:15 pm train because it's a 50 minute round trip.  You can also travel from Osceola to St. Croix Falls, but that takes 90 minutes and I'm afraid the charm might wear off.  For me.  Osceola is a nice little town founded in 1844, so save some time to stroll around after your trip.  I think we'll wear our cowboy hats and pretend we're pioneers.

Enjoy your adventures!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Daily Adventures June 18-23, 2012

Hello, Regal Guardians!

I have to admit there are times when I can get cynical.  I trust at least some of you can commiserate?  Even so, I have to share this experience from my sons' baseball game last week.  As you can imagine, baseball for third-graders is filled with lots of strike-outs and dropped balls.  The nice part is that very few of the players seem to let it bother them.  The parents can be a different story.  We tend to feel every missed swing and overthrown ball quite sharply.

I think it was the bottom of the second inning when "The Catch" occurred.  Our team was in the field and several uneventful pitches had already been thrown.  The pitcher wound up and delivered another fastball to the plate.  This time the batter swung and the ball traveled in a high, smooth arc towards right field.  The crowd held its collective breath.

As soon as the ball left the bat our right fielder had his glove in the air.  He took a couple steps to the right, then left.  He backed up a little, I think he spun around, took one more step to his left, started to fall down and then . . . he caught it.

His dad was sitting in a lawn chair a short distance to my right.  He leaped to his feet with both hands clenched and thrust straight into the air.  I'm sure he was shouting but I couldn't hear him because every parent there was cheering like crazy, even those from the other team.  The smile on the boy's face lit up the field as he threw the ball back to the pitcher. 

I'm an elementary school teacher so I know tears when I see them.  I know I saw tears in his dad's eyes.  For a long while.  A scene like that makes it kinda hard to be cynical, at least for a few timeless moments.

Monday, June 18
When you're talking free family activities in the Twin Cities, it's had not to mention the Como Zoo in St. Paul.  But today is extra special.  Free on free, if you will.  Because while Como Zoo is always gratis, today you can get a complimentary ride on Cafesjian's Carousel and save yourself $1.50 per person!  For a family of four that's like . . . $5!  (School's out for summer, remember.)  The 98-year-old carousel was saved from auction in 1988, thanks largely to Gerard L. Cafesjian and his $600,000 donation.  Combine that with "a six-year-old's gift of a quarter, two dimes and a nickel to 'save my favorite horse,'" among others, and the result is a free pony ride for you.  Almost makes you want to donate yourself, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 19
I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that libraries in the eight-county metro area offer free Museum Adventure Passes to 17 locations around town.  The bad news?  The program ends this year, so my goal is to visit all of the places I have missed over the past five years.  Today I think we'll start with the Landing in Shakopee.  This park recreates life along the Minnesota River Valley during the mid 1800's.  Since we're getting in for free (two of us anyway) I might spring for the guided tour.  If not, I'll just go around asking the "costumed interpreters" why they do everything the hard way.

Wednesday, June 20
Muller Family Theaters are offering free movies on Wednesdays at 10 am (July 4th excepted) through August 15.  This week you can see Mr. Popper's Penguins in Lakeville, Kung Fu Panda in Monticello, Aliens in the Attic in White Bear Township, or Night at the Museum 2 in Rogers.  The Waconia, Delano, East Bethel, and Willow Creek theaters haven't listed their option yet.  It's first come, first sit so you might want to go early.  Doors open at 9:30 am.  And bring a little pocket change because I'm sure the Dots aren't free.

Thursday, June 21
There seems to be a number of free bowling programs out there, but the option I chose is called "AMF Summer Unplugged" and it promises to be as huge as MTV's Unplugged!  OK, maybe not, but when we put the bumpers up on the alley, the sparks really start to fly!  When you register, your kids 15 and under get two free games of bowling every day until September 3.  For a one-time fee of $30, up to four adults can join in the fun.  You don't even need to have kids to get this deal!  But you will have to pay for shoes unless, like me, you own your own.  Yes, I own my own bowling shoes.

Friday, June 22
The Hennepin County Library has so many cool things going on this summer I'm a twitter.  No, not a tweeter, I gave that up.  At your local library you'll find book making programs called "Paint it Green," acting workshops ("Act Out!") with Guthrie teaching artists, magnet experiments with a Bakken Museum educator, sculpture making and storytelling in the "Art Out of the Box" series conducted by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Brodini Comedy and Magic Show with magician Graylyn Morris.  This is in addition to the Girls Read, Guys Read, Kids Read, and child-parent book clubs available.  Dates and times vary by location, and some activities require registration.  You'll have to dig a little at Kid Links to find the best options for you, but I'm confident you'll uncover some real treasure!

Saturday, June 23
This just in!  There is a Kidical Mass bike ride today from 9-11:30 am.  This ride is sponsored by Bike Walk Move Twin Cities.  Meet at Venture North Bike Walk Center located at 1830 Glenwood Ave. N. in Minneapolis.  From there you'll travel along Wirth and Bassett's Creek Parkways on your way to the Sculpture Garden at the Walker.  It's about a three-mile ride reaching speeds of up to 6 mph, so helmets are required.  Harley chaps, however, are not.  

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Daily Adventures June 14-17, 2012

Woohoo!  School's out for summer!  Life finally slows down for this teacher.  I won't have 29 students rolling into my classroom (sometimes literally) at 9:20 am anymore.  I only have to worry about my own kids for the next 10 weeks.

Ah, yes, nothing but time on our hands.  Endless hours of sunshine with no schedule.  Endless requests for something to eat.  Endless shouts of, "Dad! Look!" as they demonstrate, respectively, that water splashed on one's face does kinda look like sweat and that you can throw a ball in the air and almost catch it four out of five times!

I need something to do.  Now.  And so do you.

That's where "What Do I Do Now?" comes in.  The Twin Cities have a lot of free, or at least cheap, things to do on most days.  My mission is to find one "Adventure" for my family to tackle every weekday this summer.  I'll list them here on "What Do I Do Now?" so that you can tackle them too, when it works out.

And if you know of cool things that I miss, please share them in the comment section!

Alright, so What Do I Do Now?!

Thursday, June 14, 2012
The Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul is hosting a free dance instruction series on Thursdays this summer.  You can test your toes at eight different styles including Tango, Salsa, and Ballroom dancing, just to name a few.  Today the plaza will pulse with West African Dance while the New Primitives lay down the groove.  Food is available at 5:30 pm, instruction begins at 6, and music starts at 7:15.  Click here for the schedule, or call 651-292-3225 for the event hotline.  If you go to all the dates, you might be able to audition for So You Think You Can Dance!

Friday, June 15-17, 2012
The Stone Arch Bridge Festival runs Friday to Sunday.  This is kind of a big deal with over 200 artists, from Abbott to Zhang, displaying their stuff.  There's also over 50 bands playing on three stages.  I haven't heard of any of them, but I hadn't heard of CAKE the first time I wandered into the Cabooze to see them, and that turned out OK.  There's a kids activity area with a rock-climbing wall and Radio Disney jams.  Visit the Nice Ride booth under the Central Ave. Bridge, complete the scavenger hunt, and you will receive a free bike helmet!  You can also enter your car into a car show on Saturday or Sunday, if it's older than 1976.  Oh, yeah, you can eat there too.  I bet you could find something that's fried.

Enjoy your weekend!  See you next week!