The Character Movement


Savor the Summer with These Family-Friendly Activities

By Julia Lawler, Youth Frontiers Retreat Director

When I moved to Minneapolis in 2013, I expected the winter would be cold. That much, I was prepared for. What I didn’t yet understand was how COLD cold could be. Negative temperatures were an entirely new experience and I had never heard truly understood the term “wind chill” before.

After surviving that first winter and wondering a thousand times whoever decided this would be a good place to build a city, there occurred a seeming miracle. Before me unfolded an awe-inspiring event like none I’d seen before – springtime in Minnesota. Flowers and trees sprung to life with aggressive vigor, joggers and cyclists flooded the paths around the lakes in their most colorful spandex shorts and a sense of deep gratitude permeated the air.

I finally understood. This is what they stay for.

Here at the Youth Frontiers office, it’s refreshing to see my coworkers celebrate the warm weather. When they take their lunch breaks outside or have walking meetings around the neighborhood, I’m reminded of what gifts the sunshine and the budding tree blossoms are.

I started to wonder, how will my coworkers make the most of the months ahead? What can I, a Californian by birth, learn from Minnesotans in the summer?

So I asked, and here’s what they suggested:

Take a class, or try something new. Minneapolis Parks and Recreation offers all kinds of classes and activities for adults and kids alike. Check out your local park service to see what’s available this summer.

Find treasure. Take advantage of the garage sales that pop up around town this time of year. Find some in your neighborhood through the paper, Craigslist or by simply going for a walk. Even if you’re not in a buying mood, there is an unbeatable thrill in getting a peek into the lives of others through their knickknacks.

Meet your neighbors. Joke all you want about “Minnesota nice,” but as a relative newcomer, I am delighted by the genuine goodwill and friendliness I find in my community. Enjoy the sun by setting up in your front yard with a book or a game so you can catch people walking by with a wave or a little conversation. Take it to the next level by organizing a block party or seeing what community gatherings your city has planned.

Take in some music. St. Louis Park has a summer concert calendar to help you find as many free, family shows as possible. Some of our Retreat Musicians will be playing outdoors themselves, both at home in the Twin Cities and away on tour.

Hit the beach. I had lived in Minneapolis for two years before I learned that there were beaches here – right here! – in the city. As I’ve come to know, many lakes offer rentals of kayaks, canoes, paddleboats and more, but you can’t go wrong by simply rolling out a blanket and lounging by a lake for hours. Head to your local lake or make a day trip of it by heading to a state park.

Festivals galore. There will be no shortage of family-friendly, outdoor celebrations. has compiled a list of 27 options here.

For our Nebraska friends: Take in a ballgame when the College World Series rolls around or combine the wonder of a garage sale with the sweet tunes of a music festival at Junk Stock.

Let your inner child play. Make your own popsicles, build a fort out of cardboard boxes or grab a box of sidewalk chalk and create a curbside masterpiece. Do something just for the fun of it – whether you have kids at home or not.

Whatever you spend these next few months doing or wherever you might be spending them, unleash your inner sun-hungry Minnesotan and savor your time. Walk through the grass with bare feet, eat your meals outside and linger with your loved ones in the magic of the late summer sun. Take the time to pause and reflect. There will always be emails and calls to return, errands to run and any number of worries to preoccupy our minds – but summer is here just once a year.

From all of us at Youth Frontiers – have a wonderful summer! We’ll see you in the fall.

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