Be the Light Winter Solstice Walk

Not everyone is happy this time of year.  Many of us have lost someone this past year and we are struggling to enjoy the upcoming holidays.  The Be the Light Winter Solstice Walk is a chance to take some time and think of those that are struggling and trying to get through each day.  it takes place Friday, December 21st from 6:30-8 at the Westwood Hills Nature Center. The event is free but registration is required.

We will use this shortest day of the year to help us remember that many in our community aren’t able to “see the light” because of struggles with mental illness or difficult situations. Together we can be the light for those in our community and help them take their first “steps” out of the darkness. Activities will include a self-guided luminary trail, a fire 🔥, s’mores 🍫 and making your own luminary 🕯️. The event is free, but registration is required at

Cross Country Skiing at Night

Many of us look forward to Winter for one reason, the snow.  We live in Minnesota so we might as well embrace it and enjoy the winter activities right?  While cross country skiing is fun, many of us work during the day and have a hard time fitting it into our schedule.

The Three Rivers Park District has the perfect solution; skiing at night and saving money at the same time.  If you ski during evening after 6pm you can save 50% off of ski rentals.  With four different locations to choose from, it provides a nice variety of scenery. You can choose from: Cleary, Elm Creek, French or Hyland and take advantage of 50 percent off cross-country ski rental sets. View regular rental rates.

Trail conditions are available here.

Candy Cane Hunt at Silverwood Park

What could be more fun in the winter than a Candy Cane Hunt?  Silverwood Park in St. Anthony is hosting a Candy Cane Hunt this coming Saturday, December 15th.

  • Warm Treats
  • Games
  • Arts
  • Pictures with Santa
  • Search for Candy Canes

This is a great event for the kids.  You can register in advance here on the park website.

Search for candy canes hidden by Santa’s elves, find 3 and get a prize. Look for canes with golden ribbons for larger prizes. Enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride, warm treats, arts, winter games, and photos with Santa. Hunts for children ages 0-4 begin at 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM; hunts for children ages 5+ begin at 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM. $6/person.

Children 17 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Glow in the Dark Sledding Party

Are you looking at the calendar and wondering what your kids will do over their winter break?  All those hours to fill?  Put the Glow in the Dark Sledding Party on your calendar for December 28th.  An evening of free fun in St. Louis Park from 5-7pm.  The kids would be outside and burning off some energy helps them sleep better!  Make sure to check the FB event page here in case temps are too cold or not enough snow.

Join the Park and Rec Commission for our Annual Glow in the Dark Sledding Party on the hill behind City Hall. Free refreshments will be provided, pizza will be sold by the slice, and there will be a bonfire. We can’t wait to see you all at this free event on December 28th from 5 to 7!

Free Admission to All Minnesota State Parks on Black Friday

Hopefully your day today includes some time surrounded by friends or family. Or if you’re like a good friend of mine, then perhaps just a day at home to relax and enjoy a good frozen pizza. However you spend the day, it’s a day to be thankful.

Whatever you choose today, tomorrow will be a new day. For many there’s the tradition of shopping, but for the rest of us, there’s Free Admission to All Minnesota State Parks on Black Friday. A day to explore, hike and wander for free – sounds like a perfect Thrifty Minnesota Day!

Free Admission to All Minnesota State Parks on Black Friday!

The tradition continues! Admission to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas (regularly $7 for one-day vehicle permit) will be free on the day after Thanksgiving again this year.

The goal is to encourage families to extend their holiday by spending time together with a walk outdoors. Research shows that walking offers multiple benefits, from increased creativity and better brain function to more flexibility and stamina. So you won’t just burn calories, you’ll also improve your well-being.

While you’re out there, snap a photo of your Black Friday free park adventure, and share it with us on social media using #FreeParkFriday and #OnlyinMN.

Need a suggestion for a free park adventure?

A few parks will offer special programs on Free Park Friday, and you can visit our events calendar for more information.

If the programs don’t fit your schedule, you can explore on your own. There’s a Minnesota state park or recreation area within about 30 miles of anyone in Minnesota. Use the ParkFinder and HikeFinder tools to help you with your trip-planning.

Important reminders

Be sure to check which parks will have special hunts taking place, so you can plan accordingly.

Many state park offices will be closed or minimally staffed over the holiday weekend, because staff will be taking time off to celebrate with their own families, but visitors can stop at the orientation stations near the park entrance for trail maps and tips on what to see and do at the park.

Opt Outside on Black Friday: Gnomes Who Roam Event

Too much Turkey and  pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving?  On Friday, instead of shopping you can choose the outside version of fun!  How about the Opt Outside on Black Friday: Gnomes Who Roam Event?

Taking place in Eagan at Lebanon Hills, this is a free family event with fun mostly outdoor activities, but there will be some indoor fun as well.  Lebanon Hills is the latest vacation spot for Jerome and his merry band of gnomes.  It takes place from 10-4.

Gnomes Who Roam Details:

  • Stop in anytime between 10-4 PM for ongoing outside (and a few inside) activities throughout the day.
  • Food Truck! Food Trip Foods will be onsite (from 10-2 PM) serving up delicious family-friendly eats, come hungry!
  • Go on a gnome safari (find gnomes homes hidden along a trail in the park). Complete the safari and receive a prize. Trail distance is a half-mile and is stroller friendly. All ages, (especially fun for ages 0-6).
  • Geocache for specially hidden NOMEnclature treasures for a prize. All ages, and especially fun for ages 5+.
  • Bring Jerome Home (solve clever riddles to find Jerome the gnome himself, hidden somewhere in Lebanon Hills Regional Park. All ages, and especially for ages 10+. Riddles posted on Dakota County Parks – forever wild‘s Facebook page at noon on Nov. 21, 22 and Nov. 23.
  • The wearing of gnome hats is especially encouraged.
  • The Lebanon Hills Visitor Center will be open with a cracking fire and cozy chairs, and offer gnome-themed puzzles and games, a gnome book nook, coloring corner, and photo booth like no other.

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Forever Wild Family Friday: Star Stories

Fall evenings are my favorite.  Wearing a few layers and the smell of fallen leaves all around.  Dakota County Parks will be hosting a free family friendly event called Forever Wild Family Friday: Star Stories.

This November 2nd event takes place at the Camp Sacajawea Retreat Center

An evening of family fun on the first Friday of every month from takes place from 7-8:30, with park activities and s’mores. Sit around the campfire and listen to songs and tales about the night sky. All ages.

If you can’t make it Friday evening, check out other upcoming special family evenings here on the county park website. 



Bats, Bones and Bonfires event at River Bend Nature Center

Looking for some more Halloween-related activities outside of the metro area? Head to the River Bend Nature Center near Faribault on Saturday for the Bats, Bones and Bonfires event. You’ll find fun for the whole family at this special event. 

Bats, Bones and Bonfires takes place from 2-6 and you can purchase admission tickets here on their website. Some of the activities include:

  • Games
  • Prairie Wagon Rides
  • Bouncy House
  • Treats
  • Plus a lot more fun

Cobwebs and Caches at Lebanon Hills


Are you into geocaching?  If yes, we have just the event for you, or maybe you have been wanting to try it, then this is your chance.  Cobwebs and Caches at Lebanon Hills takes place Saturday October 27th.  You might have to bundle up or maybe a heat wave will arrive.  Either way, it should be a fun event.  The event is from 5-8pm and a small admission of $5 per person (5 and under are free).  The required advance registration can be done here.

Join us for a family friendly geocaching treat. Use a GPS unit to find hidden jack-o-lantern caches and collect Halloween trinkets. Bring your own GPS unit or borrow one of ours. Limited quantity available.


Bark in Carver Park Event

It’s always fun when we can find events that include our dog.  He’s just like family but with four legs and lots of fur, he isn’t allowed to go everywhere.  We found an event the whole family can enjoy and that includes the four legged furry members.  The Bark in Carver Park Event takes place this Saturday (October 6th) from 10am-1pm.  The event is free and includes fun activities and prizes for you and your canine friend.  You can find more information about the Carver Park Off-Leash Dog area here on the Three Rivers Park District page.

Visit with your favorite local vendors and receive a discount on your next annual dog off-leash area pass. Drop in anytime.
Children 17 years and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Dog Off-leash Area, Carver Park Reserve (Victoria)