When I have a free day with the kids, I usually want to go somewhere. But where to go? Sure, some of the places are well-known and popular, but when I want to go somewhere different, I have an arsenal of sources to give me ideas.
I have seven or eight local interest/travel books that live in the car (until my husband cleans a little too well, at least). Books like “Oddball Minnesota,” “Minnesota Museums,” and “Off the Beaten Path” are great to keep in the car so I can plan a great adventure while we’re on the way. Going to the Kelley Farm in Elk River? I check the books to see if there’s anything else interesting nearby.
Our local paper has a weekend calendar that it publishes each Friday. Plays, concerts, community festivals, and more are included in the calendar. It’s a nice way to find things to do that are close to home. Likewise, there are segments on news stations like “Finding Minnesota” and “Trip on a Tankful” that point out interesting destinations.
I have memberships to the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Minnesota Historical Society, and their membership mailings include special events. I mark any that look interesting on my calendar, just in case we’re free to take advantage of them.
Online, I check out a few websites regularly. The Museum Adventure Pass website has led me to some new places, with the advantage of free admissions from the library. Playtime Plan-It has ideas for outings and more in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area. My favorite is GoCityKids, where I can enter a date on their events calendar and have a list of family-friendly happenings, complete with age recommendations, that range from storytimes to museum exhibits to theater productions. I use the Minneapolis/St. Paul GoCityKids site, but it’s also available for several other metropolitan areas.
Generic searches, such as “free museums Minnesota” have turned up some gems.
If we’re traveling farther from home, I try to plan ahead enough to request a visitor’s information packet from the local convention and visitor’s bureau, which can take 3-6 weeks to arrive. I visit as many websites as I can before we go, and take printouts from locations on our “might-do” list. I browse brochure racks at museums and hotels. If possible, I take a laptop computer so I can get additional information at our destination.
My latest tool is a portable GPS unit for the car. It’s been helpful in navigating to new places, especially when I’m without a human navigator in the vehicle, and it also includes phone numbers for many points of interest so I can call to check on hours, admission rates, etc.
Do you have any ideas for finding places to visit with your kids? Please leave a comment!