Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Survive a Minneapolis Winter

You can't deny that Minneapolis is a winter wonderland. There are at least two wonderful weeks of brisk weather and fluffy white snow. Unfortunately, a Minnesota winter lasts about 27 weeks longer than those magical, nonconsecutive 14 days have to offer.
So, if you don't want to find yourself going crazy trying to obliterate the snow with a bic lighter and ice pick you need to find ways to leave your house.

However, for a large family with a small budget, it isn't easy to find ways out. I tried looking for some good ideas on the internet but couldn't find much that would keep us in food and still allow us some fun. So I have created my own list out of the things that we have done in the past. I put it up here on my blog for anyone who might be searching and just in case someone has something to add as I'm always looking for ideas.

And so without further ado, I give you...

Martin Approved Winter Activities
(You're very welcome)

This is for those people who long for green and flowers. There are some animals that you can still see in the winter, but it's the flowers that cheer our souls. Cost: It's FREE, but donations are appreciated. We usually pool all our change and have fun stuffing it in the boxes by the security guard.
This is a store, but a big one! Lots of greenery and flowers and hope for spring in this store. Not as nice as Como Park, but closer and easier to find off the freeway. It also fits into other errands well. Cost: FREE. Unless you end up buying something because it was so pretty and you couldn't resist.
Not technically, "Martin Approved" because it is a horrible place to take children between the ages of happy-to-be-strapped-in-a-stroller and can-keep-their-hands-to-themselves. But we have made a trip before and some of us loved it. The art is awesome, just so touchable. Cost: This is why it's included on this list... FREE! Parking is free too!
Another place to just get out of the house and walk. It's technically free. But I've never made it out without buying anything. I usually avoid this place unless one of my children has gotten a free ticket for the indoor amusement park through some school program. It is a good destination if you want to ride the light rail. But a better place is...
These are climate-controlled, elevated walkways. They take you through down town and link city blocks together. You don't even need a coat inside them!
We take the light rail downtown (the opposite way of MOA for us) and find a building that will let us enter. Most public shops allow you in and the owners are happy to direct you. However, technically, the only public access to the skyways (that I know of) is in the Downtown Market building at 150 2nd Ave S. But it is NOT close to light rail and that 1/2 mile walk matters when it's -2, believe me, it matters!
Once in, the skyways have shops and art and lots of business people who are shocked to run into a family on a school release day afternoon. Just be forewarned, many skyway entrances are closed evenings and weekends.
Cost: FREE, expect for parking or light rail or the hot chocolate you have to buy to say sorry because it wasn't "Just a short walk 'til we're there. I know it's cold, stop complaining!"

The only reason this isn't very first on the list is because it isn't an anytime-you're-feeling-the-crazies activity. Of course, you can go to the library anytime it's open and it's always time well spent, but their children's events and classes are wonderful! Look up what they have to offer for you and yours! Cost: FREE!
Another reason to go to your library... These are great! if you can get them. Sometimes if you can't find the museum that you're looking for, you can convince a librarian to look up if it's available at another library. Because a pass only admits a limited number of people, and because we always have more than that number, we check out more than one pass with our multiple cards. It takes a lot of planning, and just a little fudging of the rules. But because of the cost, it's worth the work. Cost: FREE!
A Saturday only program, but what a program! Taking children ages 3-18, the good people of the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center will teach your children sports skills and specifically tennis skills for an hour and a half. It's an excellent program with professional people who get your children moving on a snowy Saturday. Sign up on the spot. Cost: FREE!
This fun costs, but not much. This is a beautiful, tiny, old, art-deco theater. It shows late run movies that will soon be coming to DVD on one huge screen. Beware the popcorn is to die for! and will add 3.50 to your expense. The staff is very used to young children and don't mind you walking the old timey lobby when the fight scenes get intense (How to Train your Dragon is what we consider intense.) Cost: $2 for a matinee ticket.
We're getting into the expensive fun now. Edinborough Park costs for all children. The park is amazing though and there are trees inside! This is an option I use for my younger children when the others are in school. Cost: $6 per child, parents free (socks required).

(For a cheaper, dirtier Edinborough Park knock-off don't forget your local McDonald's. Not as classy, but you can get some fries to go with it.)
This museum is absolute fun! It's great for children ages 0-7, but still has fun things to offer older kids. Right now they are doing a Lego theme in one of their changing exhibits. It's awesome. The one drawback, it's pricey and you have to pay for parking too. There are discounts available for low income families (Hooray for grad school!), but if you're a Twin Cities native I'd still suggest a family pass. It's a great way to get out of the house. COST: 9! dollars for everyone over 1 year. $4 for parking.
This museum is really cool too. It's hard to justify for the Martin family, however, because of the price. But the things they have are just right for the older children and entertaining for the younger ones as well. They also have discounts, just not as nice as the Children's Museum. They are doing a King Tut exhibit now and they charge extra for special exhibits. I'm considering biting the bullet and taking the family because it's cheaper (and safer) than going to Egypt! COST: $8.50 for children, $11.00 for adults. Parking costs as well, depending on the hours you are there.

Well there you have it, what the Martins do when we're going crazy over the endless snow and ice.
But now that I reflect on it, I'm not sure if this list will be helpful to anyone here in Minneapolis, as I'm the only family I know with more than 3 kids as young as mine. Perhaps this might draw some of you far flung family and friends out here! We have a lot to offer, so move your little, big families out north and let us show you a good time!

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