MN State Parks: State Parks are run by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). You need a vehicle pass to enter our state parks, which cost $5 a day, or you can purchase a year-long pass for just $25. And if you'd like to give the gift of state park fun, you can purchase gift cards on the DNR website. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/gift_card.html
I Can Camp! Programs: If you've never camped before, or you want to brush up on your camping skills, attend one of the DNR's I Can Camp! overnight camping classes. They offer one-night classes for just $35 and two-night classes for $50. Your tiny little fee covers the cost for up to 6 people to attend (including children), the tent and all other camping equipment, and of course, your camping education. All you need to bring are sleeping bags, food and personal items. To register for a class, log on to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us
Archery in the Parks: Another I Can! class offered by the DNR is Archery in the Parks. Learn how to be just like Katniss from The Hunger Games for FREE. These classes will teach you archery basics, and the DNR provides all the equipment as well as instruction. The recommend age limit for kids is 8 years old or above.
The DNR also offers I Can Fish fishing instruction for free, I Can Paddle canoeing classes for free, and I Can Climb rock climbing classes, once again, for free. They also offer advanced training classes for canoeing and climbing, and those classes cost between $25 and $35.
Cave Tours: If, unlike me, you are NOT massively claustrophobic, you'll love attending one of the DNR's cave or mining site tours. For example, there's the Forestville State Park's Mystery Cave Tour. Tour the largest MN cave – 13 miles long – on one of their various tours, depending on your experience level, and how long you want to be underground. The basic Scenic Tour is a guided tour that lasts around 1 hour and costs $10 for adults.
For the truly adventurous, experience the 4-hour long Wild Caving tour for $75 per person. The DNR will provide the caving equipment and instruction, and you get to explore the undeveloped portions of the cave system.
Geocaching: Another hot park and rec trend – along with How To Be Like Katniss – is geocaching. Geocaching is essentially an outdoor treasure hunt. You are given cache coordinates (available online!) which you enter into an easy-to-use hand-held GPS system. Then, you hike out to wherever the coordinates lead you and search for the hidden cache. Most caches contain a logbook for you to sign, and cool trinkets for you to take. Remember two important rules of geocaching – do NOT move the cache and if you take a trinket, leave a trinket for the next treasure hunter to find.
Free hand-held GPS systems are available at 25 DNR geocache demo parks, like Afton State Park and Fort Snelling State Park.