A teen’s guide to summer fun: The Twin Cities boasts plenty of free and cheap summer options for teens

Ellie Colbert, Washburn High School
Hannah Gordon, Washburn High School

The cliché vision of a relax­ing teenage summer, sleeping in until noon and spending long days at a pool, isn’t the reality for many teens. Most of us fill our summers with jobs, internships, schoolwork, camps, sports and other obligations, leaving little to no free time. In addi­tion, lack of money and access limits what some of us can do, which leads us to spend sunny days indoors, often watching Netflix. Below, we—Minneapolis Washburn seniors Ellie Colbert and Hannah Gordon—com­piled a list of inexpensive, exciting and accessible summer activities to make sure none of your free time goes wasted.

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes

Location: Southwest Minneapolis
Hours: N/A
Cost: Free

There’s nothing better than free, outdoor summer activities. The Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis is often bustling with people and offers tons of opportunities for recreation and relaxation. From Cedar Lake to Lake of the Isles to Calhoun to Harriet, there are opportunities for a wide variety of activities—from biking, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, dining, rollerblading, beach volleyball and much more.

For free opportunities, Calhoun offers public beaches, picnic areas, beach volleyball courts and grass fields. A variety of watersports equipment is available to rent at both Calhoun and Harriet (for a price, however). Harriet is the perfect place for quieter beach­side tanning and swimming, as well as nearby eats at the Harriet Bandshell. Lake of the Isles, although not great for swimming, is a great place for walks, runs, bike rides, water activities and picnics. For a more hipster beach experi­ence, try Hidden Beach, located on the northeast side of Cedar Lake. Extensive bike paths and walking paths connect the chain of lakes.

Located in southwest Minneapolis, these lakes are a short distance from Uptown, Calhoun Commons, Linden Hills and more exciting neighborhoods. Get the free Minneapolis Lakes App, which provides maps to all the lakes and activities.

More information: http://www.minneapolis.org/visitor/sports-parks-trails/lakes

Walker Art Center  

Location: 1750 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Closed Mondays, open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays
Cost: Free for teens

The Walker Art Center is a modern art museum in Minneapolis. It pro­vides an eclectic art experience for teens, who get in free. “You can go for classes and be working on art there, or you can also just go in as viewer,” said Thea Sutherland, an intern at the Walker Art Center. “There’s also a lot of cool events and movies and stuff like that, that teens have access to for free.” It’s also perfect for rainy days.

More information: http://www.walkerart.org/

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden 

Location: Across the street from the Walker Art Center
Hours: 6 a.m. to midnight. Free guided tours of the Garden offered Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. Meet by the steps at the Vineland Place entrance to the Garden.
Cost: Free

The giant swing at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (Ellie Colbert/ThreeSixty Journalism)

Across the street from the Walker Art Center is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which boasts interactive sculptures that include the famous “Spoonbridge and Cherry” (a giant cherry on a giant spoon) as well as a swing, a mir­rored/optical illusion sculpture and a brass bunny. “There are a lot of different things you can do there because it’s a really open space,” Sutherland said. “You can bring in whatever you want.”

Activities in this space could include a picnic or simply spend­ing an afternoon surrounded by art. Also, Free First Saturdays throughout the summer offer outdoor opportu­nities to view and create art.

More information: http://www.walkerart.org/

Western Sculpture Park

Location: Marion Avenue between Interstate 94 & University Avenue
Hours: Daylight
Cost: Free

St. Paul has its own sculpture garden attraction, the Western Sculpture Park. This garden displays a large picture frame sculpture for people to pose in, a sculpture of a giant human being and many other interactive art pieces.

More information: http://www.publicartstpaul.org/western.html

Music and Movies in the Parks

Location: Various parks in Minneapolis
Hours: Dusk; dates TBD
Cost: Free

Throughout the summer, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board puts on weekly outdoor films and music concerts throughout city parks. Starting at dusk (movies start 15 minutes after sunset; this summer’s schedule had yet to be released as of press time), these popular shows are projected onto large screens in a variety of parks and areas. The movies range from classics to animated family flicks. The concerts —more than 200 at six venues throughout the summer—are a variety of local and upcoming art­ists of all genres. Movies and Music in the Park offers a perfect opportu­nity to gather a group of friends and a picnic blanket and enjoy the warm Minnesota summer nights.

More information: https://www.minneapolisparks.org/activities__events/music__movies/

Outdoor Yoga

Locations and hours:

• Yoga at Lake Calhoun, 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays
• Yoga at Lake of the Isles, 7 p.m. Wednesdays in June and July, 6:30 p.m. in August
• Yoga at Lake Harriet Bandshell, 6:30 a.m. every morning

Cost: Free

There’s no better way to do yoga than for free and out in the sun. Yoga combines exercise, relaxation and connection through its variety of postures and variations. These out­door yoga opportunities are free to the public, led by a variety of experienced and qualified yoga instructors. Any level of experience is welcome.

As a busy teen, it’s important to take time to relax, appreciate the outdoors and get exercise. Most yoga studios don’t offer outdoor yoga—let alone for free. The combination of outdoor yoga with the close proximity to beautiful lakes and scenery makes these classes phenom­enal. Skylar Tupper, a junior at Minneapolis Washburn Senior High School, attended sunrise yoga at Lake Harriet last summer and is planning on participating again this summer. She likes it because she enjoys “watching the sunrise and starting my day with my mind and body feeling refreshed,” she said.

More information: http://minneapolis.hap­peningmag.com/outdoor-yoga-minneapolis/

Open Streets Minneapolis

Location and dates:

• Lyndale Ave South, June 7
• Downtown, Aug. 23
• Northeast, July 12
• University, Sept. 12
• East Lake Street, Aug.
• Nicollet, Sept. 22
• Franklin Avenue, Aug. 16
• Lowry Avenue N, Sept. 26

Hours: all day
Cost: Free

Open Streets Minneapolis festivals occur throughout the city, shutting down streets to vehicle traffic and opening them to bikers, walkers, skateboarders and anything in between. The streets are lined with food trucks, store pop-ups and activity booths. The bright, lively energy of these days lets patrons explore the city in a whole new way while celebrating the community on wheels in Minneapolis.

More information: http://www.open­streetsmpls.org/

Farmers Markets

Location: Various locations across Twin Cities
Hours: Mornings
Cost: Free to look around, $5-$10 dollars for food

tables of fruit at farmers market

A trip to the farmers market is the per­fect way to spend a summer morning filled with fresh food and fun. The metro area has dozens of farmers markets, ranging from huge meccas of farmers with more than 80 booths to small neighborhood markets with local products. One of the largest is the Minneapolis Farmers Market, located at 312 E. Lyndale Ave., and open every day in the summer. One farmer and seller from Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm, located in Waverly, Minn., at the farmers market in April said he enjoys the market because of the “very different community of people. You get to know so (many) more local people, local businesses.” If you are into smaller, quainter markets, the Kingfield Farmers Market, located in south Minneapolis, is open every Sunday starting May 17. It’s complete with produce as well as food trucks, music and good conversations.

Twin Cities farmers markets aren’t just a place to get cheap, delicious food and produce for the week. They also sell a plethora of art, jewelry, clothing and gifts from a variety of cultures and areas from across the world.

More information: http://twincitiesfarmersmarkets.com/


Ordway’s Summer Dance Series

Thursday nights, Rice Park, St. Paul

Every Thursday, the Ordway offers free dance lessons from professionals and live music for when you’re ready to try out your new moves. More information: http://www.ordway.org/tickets-events/summer-dance-series/

Northern Spark

9 p.m. to 5:26 a.m., June 13, Minneapolis

Northern Spark is an all-night art festival celebrating community, art and the night. More information: http://northernspark.org

Greenway Glow

8 p.m. to midnight, June 20, starts at 2837 Emerson Ave. So., Minneapolis

The Greenway Glow is a festival com­bining art, biking and glow sticks. More information: http://midtowngreenway.org/projects-and-programs/greenway-glow/

Twin Cities Pride

June 27-28, Loring Park, Minneapolis

Twin Cities Pride is a weekend of events including a parade, food trucks and a plethora of booths celebrating the GLBTQA commu­nity in Minneapolis. More information: http://www.tcpride.org/pride/pride2015/

Uptown Art Fair

August 7-9, Uptown, Minneapolis; Loring Park Art Fair, August 8-9, Loring Park, Minneapolis; Powderhorn Art Fair, August 8-9, Powderhorn Park, Minneapolis

Between the Uptown, Loring Park and Powderhorn art fairs, you could see as much art over the weekend of August 7-9 to last you the entire school year. Each fair offers a large collection of artist’s booths, both local and from across the U.S., as well as food and oppor­tunities to make your own art.

More information: http://uptownartfair.com; http://loringparkartfestival.com; http://www.powderhornartfair.com

Music in Mears Park

Thursdays, Mears Park, St. Paul

Mears Park is beautiful on its own, but every Thursday it is enhanced by live music. More information: http://mearspark.com/

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Free every third Thursday of the month after 4:30 p.m. from April through October, Chaska

The Arboretum is a collection of wonderful looking and smelling flowers and plants, put together by the University of Minnesota. More information: http://www.arboretum.umn.edu

MN Food Truck Fair

June 20, Blaine; June 28, Original Uptown; July 25, St. Paul.

The Minnesota Food Truck Fair is a gath­ering of some of the best and most unique vendors that the local food truck scene has to offer. More information: http://www.mnfood­truckfair.com/

Art Car Parade

July 25, Lake Harriet, Minneapolis

The Art Car Parade is exactly what it sounds like: a parade consisting of cars that have been turned into art pieces. More information: http://www.artcarparade.com/