Minnesota News

Smoky air keeping you indoors? Try these 20 fun, low-budget Minnesota ideas

We asked, MPR News readers answered

People twist pipe cleaners into artistic shapes
Art-making activities at The Current's Rock The Cradle event at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis on March 12.
Darin Kamnetz for The Current

Updated June 29, 3:44 p.m. | Posted June 28, 5:25 p.m.

Minnesotans love being outdoors, but the smoky air from Canadian wildfires can be brutal. Don’t let the unhealthy air ruin your summer spirit!

MPR News asked its readers about their favorite indoor activities and they responded with some good ones. Don’t worry, all of these are either free or budget-friendly.

Places to enjoy

1) Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis

  • Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

  • Free audio tours are available on the CloudGuide app.

  • Parking available for $3 an hour. 

  • Free admission

2) Minneapolis Institute of Art

  • Tuesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (closes at 9 p.m. on Thursdays); Closed on July Fourth

  • You can reserve tickets online

  • Free admission, although some special exhibitions have a fee

3) Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul

  • Mondays - Fridays, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

  • Recently restored building and a beautiful way to learn about the state. 

  • Free admission

  • 45-minute free guided tours (suggested donation of $5.)

4) Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, St. Paul

  • General admission: October – March, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; April – September, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

  • Sensory friendly early entry: 9 - 10 a.m., with activities designed for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

  • While not completely indoors, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is indoor and free (donations are appreciated). 

  • Wheelchairs and electric scooters are available for rental. Per day prices.

  • Free admission

    The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul on April 7.
    Ron Trenda | MPR News

5) Your local public library

You can click on this map to find a library near you. Or you can visit your favorite independent bookstore in the state.

“Take your children to the nearest public library. You may be amazed when they are told to pick out 3 books just for themself. If you don’t have a library card you can get one while you are there,” commented Judith Anderson on our Facebook post.

6) Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

  • Wednesday, Friday - Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

  • Free to members, military or youth

  • Free for all on the first Saturday of each month. 

  • Underground parking available at a daily rate of $6.

7) Rochester Art Center

  • Wednesday - Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

  • Free admission for people 21 and under

  • Free parking available at the Civic Center Ramp after 4 p.m. and on weekends

8) U of M Raptor Center, St. Paul

  • Learn about eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, osprey and vultures

  • Tuesday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Saturday - Sunday, 10:15 a.m. - 3:15 p.m.

  • Tickets: $5 for adults, $3 for kids (3-17) and seniors (65+)

  • If you find a raptor in need of help, call: 612-624-4745

9) Indoor playground, Bloomington

  • Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

  • Costs $8 per child

  • Pay to Play sessions are two hours long 

  • Free for kids younger than 12 months

10) Can Can Wonderland, St. Paul

  • It is the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota.

  • Wednesday - Thursday: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Friday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 1 a.m. (after 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday only 21+); Sunday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

  • With $12 you can get in and free-play on over 100 arcade games.

  • Family-friendly activities like open mic and karaoke and adult-only drinking games.

11) Stroll the Minneapolis skyways

12) Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, Mankato

  • Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Thursday: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. (closed July 3 and 4)

  • It features multiple experiences and events for kids all ages.

  • While the regular ticket costs $12 for anyone more than a year old, the initiative “Gateway to Play for Children and Families” offers free admission opportunities. To apply, download and complete the membership form and survey (more information on the museum’s website).

13) The St. John's Pottery, Collegeville

  • Located on the St. John's University campus.

  • Tours are available Monday - Friday 1:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. but previous registration is highly recommended.

  • Guests are encouraged to visit the gallery, purchase ceramics and take guided tours.

  • You can participate from the 3 p.m. afternoon tea at the irori table.

14) Schubert Club Music Museum, St. Paul

  • Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturdays will feature free snacks and activities in the galleries.

  • Located on the second floor of Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul. 

  • Tours available upon request. 

Fun activities at home

15) Yoga for kids

Yoga can also be kid-friendly and super fun! Learn more with these free resources.

16) Needlework

Needlepoint, knitting, crocheting, you name it! Sewing can be great but if it’s done with kids, adult supervision is strongly encouraged.

Fabrics and sewing threads are displayed
Fabrics and sewing threads are displayed at Ramadhan Designs on November 18 in St Paul.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News 2022

17) Build stuff

While building structures with Legos, Magna-Tiles or Lincoln Logs can be fun, watch your step! Stepping on those pieces can be really painful and we don’t want anybody to get hurt.

18) DIY hallway laser mazes

a kid crossing an indoor maze
4-year-old Roman crosses an indoor laser maze made out of paper streamers in Black River, N.Y. in 2018.
Courtesy of Kari Burgess Moore

Here’s a fun and creative way to become a spy and go on a secret mission! Grab some paper streamers and stick them on a hallway to create your DIY laser maze.

Kari Burgess Moore shared this idea with MPR News: “We held minute-to-win-it games during Thanksgiving one year. We moved back home to Minnesota last summer, but even with all the snow this year, we haven’t built a laser maze since moving here! (Sounds like a good idea now, though!)”

19) Costume party

This can be a fun way to let your imagination fly. “Trace your body on freezer paper or similar and make yourself into a superhero,” commented Cindy Alexejun on our Facebook post.

20) Board games, cards or puzzles

You can get them shipped or very cheap at the closest Goodwill.

What did I miss? Email me your ideas for free and low-budget options to njohnson@mpr.org and I will add it to the list!

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