Summertime fun: 10 outdoor activities for families with young children
The Minnesota summer is here. But any true Minnesotan knows the season is short, and we are always just “months” away from the first snowfall. It’s time to take advantage of getting your kids outside without having to layer on clothes in order to survive the harsh reality of winter in the tundra.
The following are 10 outdoor activities that families with young children should take advantage of in the area this summer:
1. Connect with nature
Often referred to as the “jewel” of the Rochester Park system, Quarry Hill Nature Center is part of the 320-acre Quarry Hill Park, and offers hiking, a fishing pond and an impressive man-made sandstone cave. The nature center also offers various hands-on classes for children ages two and older.
2. Run your energy off
On Tuesdays evenings at 6 p.m. through July 14, the Rochester Track Club hosts free track meets for kids of all ages. Meets, which are held at Century High School, are non-competitive and all kids walk away with a purple participation ribbon.
- Saturday, June 27: Muppets Most Wanted (Peace Plaza)
- Saturday, July 11: Miracle (Peace Plaza)
- Saturday, July 25: Finding Nemo (Peace Plaza)
- Friday, July 31: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (History Center)
- Saturday, Aug. 1: Homeward Bound (Peace Plaza)
- Friday, Aug. 7: Charade (History Center)
- Saturday, Aug. 8: Into the Woods (Peace Plaza)
- Friday, Aug. 21: Guardians of the Galaxy (History Center)
4. Get up and close with wild animals
A short drive west of town in Byron’s Oxbow Park, Zollman Zoo features more than 30 species of wild animals, including wolves, bears, cougars, porcupines, bison. In addition to the animals, Oxbow Park also offers hiking, camping, various children’s programs, and new this year, the Path of Imagination, a natural playground designed to connect kids with nature.
5. Cool off with a swim
For those of you who are not members of a private fitness club, and are looking for more enticing swimming options than what Rochester’s city pools have to offer, consider a short drive to Stewartville or Kasson. Both pools offer zero-depth entry pools, interactive water features and water slides for both toddlers and adults.
6. Pick your own produce
Take the family to Firefly Berries or Chester Berry Farm and hand pick a variety of produce including strawberries, raspberries and grapes. It’s recommended you call or check their website to see availability prior to planning a visit.
7. Spend a day on the farm
Just 20 miles southwest of Rochester you can find the Red Barn Learning Farm, where kids can enjoy jumping on straw bales, driving the pedal tractors, picking their own vegetables and meeting a variety of barnyard animals. Several special events are also planned at the barn this summer, including Pizza Nights on the Farm (July 24 and Aug. 21 from 5 to 8 p.m.)
8. Take in America’s pastime
Check out the Rochester Honkers Baseball Club, a summer collegiate baseball team that plays its home games at Mayo Field in downtown Rochester. Entertaining on-field promotions and Slider, the team’s baseball-headed mascot, will entertain the kids between innings. The season runs through mid-August.
9. Twirl, whirl and spin at the fair
Love it or hate it, the Olmsted County Free Fair is a great place to entertain your kids. If the kid-friendly rides and carnival games aren’t your thing, check out the Miracle of Birth Center or one of the grandstand events like the tractor pull (July 29) or bull riding (July 30). This year’s fair runs July 27th through Aug. 2nd.
10. Visit the Ranch
There’s plenty to do for kids at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch in Stewartville, just minutes south of Rochester. Activities include a small animal farm, zip lines, archery, horseback riding, disc golf, tennis and basketball courts, mini golf and hiking. Ages, prices, and availability vary, so be sure to visit their website or call ahead prior to making the trip.
About Brian Olson: Born and raised in Rochester, Brian enjoys spending time with his wife, Emily, and their two children, Henry (1) and Finleigh (4), and their golden doodle rescue dog Duke (age unknown). When not playing Dad, Brian works as a marketer, enjoys traveling, and can’t seem to get off the roller coaster that comes with being an avid Minnesota sports fan.