Outdoor Recreation Education in the Twin Cities

canoeing

Outdoor recreation education resources are abundant in the Twin Cities area. That shouldn’t be a surprise in a state where outdoor recreation is a $16.7 billion industry!

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, 70% of Minnesotans participate in outdoor recreation activities each year. Are you one of those? Does your family value outdoor recreation for fun, for health, for togetherness, for memories?

Maybe you want to but don’t know how. Or you’ve been wanting to try a new activity but don’t know where to get started. There’s lots of help out there!

In this section of Twin Cities Outdoors is a growing library of outdoor recreation education resources you can take advantage of. Some are free, some cost a little, some cost a lot.

Here’s where you can start:

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Education Programs

The Minnesota DNR hosts a variety of I Can! programs. These teach the basics of outdoor activities to beginners of all ages. Program options include camping, paddling, mountain biking and more.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) has a big focus on hunting and fishing. But they also offer some programs for activities like nordic walking, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

If you learn by listening, there are many short podcasts on the MN DNR site about Minnesota’s state parks and water trails.

Go to the MN DNR Education page…

County and City Education Programs

Outdoor Recreation School • Three Rivers Park District—A variety of outdoor adventure programs for children and adults, families, groups and individuals. Learn basic skills for camping, paddling, skiing, snowshoeing and more. Locations at several of the Three Rivers parks.

Carver County Parks & Rec—Carver County Parks host programs and lessons in outdoor activities like archery, paddling, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

Tamarack Nature Center • Ramsey County—Mostly naturalist programs, but they also offer cross country ski and snowshoe lessons in the winter.

Dakota County Parks & Rec—A variety of programs for learning and participating in outdoor recreation activities like kayaking, canoeing, hiking and cross country skiing. This includes the Adventure Learning Challenge and Ropes Course in partnership with the YMCA.

Washington County Parks & Rec—A couple of programs for outdoor adventuring including fitness hikes and stand-up paddleboarding.

Go to the County & City Education page…

K-12 Education Programs

Outdoor Recreation School • Three Rivers Park District—A variety of outdoor adventure programs for children and adults, families, groups and individuals. Learn basic skills for camping, paddling, skiing, snowshoeing and more. Locations at several of the Three Rivers parks.

Wargo Nature Center • Anoka County Parks & Rec—A variety of naturalist programs as well as outdoor recreation skills programs. They specialize in working with K-12 schools, including homeschools.

Tamarack Nature Center • Ramsey County—Mostly naturalist programs, but they also offer cross country ski and snowshoe lessons in the winter. They specialize in working with K-12 schools, including homeschools.

Wood Lake Nature Center • Hennepin County—Mostly naturalist programs, but they also offer a few outdoor activity programs like snowshoeing, outdoor survival skills and bird hikes.

Dakota County Parks & Rec—Dakota County operates summer day camps for kids and year-round field trips and outdoor rec options for school groups for grades 2-12.

Wilderness Inquiry—A non-profit adventure travel organization that also offers educational programming for students K-12. They also have an exciting and unique program called Outdoor Career Academy that exposes young people to careers in the outdoor industry.

Go to the K-12 Education page…

Local Outdoors Retailers & Non-Profits that Educate

REI Co-op—REI is a national outdoor retailer with three stores in the Twin Cities. They offer classes throughout the year in various outdoor activities.

Hoigaards—While these are really events more than classes, Hoigaards offers opportunities to get out and ski, snowshoe and other activities with others at a designated time and place. Sometimes that’s all you need to try an activity to see if you like it!

Midwest Mountaineering—A high-profile local outdoor retailer that sponsors the bi-annual Outdoor Adventure Expo. They offer lecture-style classes on topics like canoeing the BWCA, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking.

Minneapolis Running is a private website dedicated to beginning through elite runners in the Twin Cities area. You’ll find all kinds of running and training tips here, plus maps and route suggestions.

Minnesota Youth Ski League—A non school-based cross country ski club for kids. The club meets eight times a winter at various locations. A super way to get your kids involved in this amazing lifelong snow sport.

Wilderness Inquiry—A local non-profit wilderness adventure travel organization. Their trips around the US and the world are for all ability levels. They provide a full-immersion experience in paddling, camping, hiking or all three.

Go to the Local Retailer & Non-Profit Education page…

National Educational Resources

The American Canoe Association (ACA) has a page on their website with dozens of short videos with canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) instruction. These are great to watch even before you get out on the water!

The American Hiking Society (AHS) is a national organization that advocates for the protection and promotion of hiking trails. AHS has some online educational resources.

Alderleaf Wilderness College—AWC has a campus in Washington, but also an active blog and newsletter with lots of educational material about wilderness living and survival.

Go to the National Education page…

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