Fall Hiking in Elm Creek Park Reserve

Three river park logo

Even though I have a daughter who keeps wishing for snow, I prefer and love this fall weather! It’s looking like it will be around 70 today… in NOVEMBER!!  How amazing is that for a MN fall?  Not complaining here at all and will ignore the daughter who peeks out the window looking for a white ground each morning:)   I suggest we all get out and enjoy a rare fall hike.  I enjoy Fall Hiking in Elm Creek Park Reserve, part of the ThreeRivers Park District and located near Maple Grove.  There are some great trails as well as an amazing playground for the younger crowd.  With 4900 acres there is sure to be something here for everyone:  wildlife, hiking, biking or playing at the park.  Perhaps you just want a quiet place to enjoy a good book, I bet you can find a spot for that, especially today in the warm weather.  If it is too far to drive to get to Elm Creek Park Reserve, find a place near you and enjoy the outdoors… just be careful as November is hunting season for deer and some other animals.

Fall Hiking in Elm Creek Park Reserve

At 4,900 acres, Elm Creek Park Reserve is the largest of Three Rivers’ parks. This park features amenities for almost every outdoor activity, including the Winter Recreation Area, Eastman Nature Center, miles of hiking and biking trails, and much more. Elm Creek is also home to a variety of wildlife such as eagles, sandhill cranes, deer, bluebirds, beavers, loons, Trumpeter Swans and hawks.

Our Fun Day Out with Thomas the Train in Duluth


Our family had so much fun in Duluth this weekend at the North Shore Scenic Railroad’s Day Out with Thomas™: The Thrill of the Ride Tour!

Thomas the Train is visiting Duluth the first two weekends in August – that means you still have time to go! The Thrill of the Ride Tour continues this weekend, August 8 – 10 and if you can go, we highly recommend it!


We had a reservation for the 2:00 train ride (train rides are every hour 9:00 – 4:00), but decided to arrive around 10:00 for the activities taking place all day. Though the website says “the average guest for 2-3 hours depending on how much fun you want to have!” we were there over 5 hours and still didn’t get to see everything!

There was SO much to do. Outside there was live music, concessions (hot dogs, hamburgers, kids’ meals, smoothies, etc), bouncy houses and slides, face painting, imagination stations with interactive activity tables, bubble machines, and even a bubble foam play area where kids took their shoes off and played with foamy bubbles! And of course, between train rides, Thomas the Train was there for pictures! Staff photographers took posed pictures of kids on alternating sides of Thomas (while parents like me took their own!). The photos that the staff took could be purchased inside.

We really liked that for the first time this year, Thomas the Train talks! His mouth and eyes moved and he kindly thanked everyone for being there. Our kids were so excited about that.


Indoors there was soooo much more. A juggler, a magician, story telling and Thomas cartoons in the theater, train tables kids could play with, a model train set, mini golf, tables with coloring sheets, and more. My 3-year-old son, who LOVES Thomas the Train, couldn’t get enough of it all. He could have played here for days!


The time to line up for our 2:00 train ride came quickly and it was great. The train had Thomas decorations inside and the two conductors walked through and greeted everyone. It was a brief ride – at about 25 minutes – but just enough to see some sights including the beautiful Duluth harbor and lakewalk.


At the end, every kid on the train got a special junior engineer certificate which my kids loved.


Day Out with Thomas Duluth Details:

This is a unique opportunity for us Minnesotans as the Thomas tour, now in its 19th year, only stops in 42 cities across the U.S. Be sure to go and your family can enjoy:

· A 25-minute (approximate) ride with Thomas the Tank Engine and hear Thomas greet his fans!
· Meet Sir Topham Hatt, Controller of the Railway
· A Thomas & Friends Imagination Station; featuring stamps, temporary tattoos, hands-on arts & crafts, train tables, and coloring sheets.
· Storytelling, video viewing and live music

WHEN: August 1st-3rd, August 8th-10th

TIME: Gates open at 8:30 am and close at 5:00 pm. Thomas departs on the hour from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm

WHERE: 506 W Michigan St, Duluth, MN 55802

Tickets for Day Out with Thomas: The Thrill of the Ride Tour 2014 are on sale now and available by calling Ticketweb toll-free 866-468-7630, or by visiting www.northshorescenicrailroad.org.  Ticket prices are $19 plus tax for ages 2 and up (service charges and fee may apply).

For more information and directions, contact the North Shore Scenic Railroad at218-722-1273

or www.northshorescenicrailroad.org.
For information on Thomas & Friends, visit www.thomasandfriends.com

Follow Thomas & Friends on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thomasandfriendsand Twitter @ThomasParent.

(Lisa also blogs at www.twincitiesfrugalmom.comDisclosure: We received complimentary tickets to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% ours!)

Review of Charlotte’s Web at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis

temp“It seems we have no ordinary pig.” -Mr. Zuckerman, after seeing the words “Some Pig” weaved into the spider web in the barn.

“It seems we have no ordinary spider!” -Mrs. Zuckerman

I took my 5-year-old daughter Heidi to the Children’s Theatre Company’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” in Minneapolis this past weekend. She and I both knew and loved the story from the book and we were excited to see what a live production would be like.


Surprisingly, Children’s Theatre Company has never produced “Charlotte’s Web” before so this is a first for them. Yet you wouldn’t know it – the whole play flowed so smoothly and the performers fell into their roles so naturally that you’d think they’d done it dozens of times before.


The story opens with the memorable line from the young girl named Fern: “Where’s papa going with that axe?” As Peter C. Brosius, the Artistic Director notes in the program, “‘Charlotte’s Web’ is a story that introduces readers to an honest world and isn’t afraid of exploring the complexities of life and death.” Yet, Brosius continues, the author E.B. White “set a new standard for how intelligent, nuanced and witty a story for children can be.”

Charlotte’s Web is the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. Wilbur realizes he’s in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, so Charlotte weaves messages in her web praising Wilbur to convince the farmer to let him live.


Heidi sat quietly and engrossed throughout the whole play, which lasted a little under 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission. Wilbur is played by Ethan Davenport, a talented high school freshman, and Charlotte is played by Joanna Harmon, a likable newcomer to the CTC. Both had great chemistry as they interacted and bonded throughout the story. Joanna did an amazing job of acrobatics as she climbed up and down above the barn and weaved the famous messages about Wilbur the pig in her web, making everyone laugh with her line “If I can fool a bug, certainly I can fool a man. People aren’t as smart as bugs.” And she touched everyone as she showed her deteriorating health all the way up until her final moments.

Like everyone else, we laughed throughout the play at the many hilarious scenes. Like when the wisecracking animals in the farm were introduced – the sheep and the lamb, the goose and the gander, and of course, Templeton the funny, gluttonous and self-serving rat. I’m still impressed with how realistic the lamb’s “baaa” sounded (played by an 8th grader)!

And of course, everyone laughed when “Uncle the Pig” came out during the second act. Uncle the Pig, played by Dean Holt, was Wilbur the Pig’s competition at the County Fair. Heidi said he was her favorite character and I keep chuckling as I remember him flaunting his muscles and posing heroically while yelling out his signature phrase “Boom!”


Each performer fit their role perfectly and the sets and lighting were done expertly. When you think about it, it’s a difficult story to produce as a live-action play, but Children’s Theatre Company couldn’t have done it any better. With the many young kids in the audience, the performers did a great job of captivating their attention throughout, and left everyone with a positive feeling.

“Charlotte’s Web” is playing at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis through October 27th and is recommended for kids Grade K and up. Tickets are $22.00 and up.

Disclosure: We received 2 free tickets for this event. Our opinions are 100% ours.