Fourth of July weekend: Take a train ride, tour the night sky, and more at Minnesota state parks

Campsite reservations still available in many parts of the state

Families looking for something to do over the Fourth of July weekend will find many options for all ages at Minnesota state parks – from naturalist-led programs to traditional tent camping opportunities.

Although most of the electric campsites are booked for the holiday weekend, approximately a third of the reservable campsites without electricity are still available. To reserve one, call 1-866-85PARKS or 1-866-857-2757 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily, or visit

In addition to those sites, up to 30 percent of the campsites at every Minnesota state park are nonreservable and available to campers on a first-come, first-served basis. The nonreservable sites include some with electricity.

Many family-oriented programs will be taking place at Minnesota state parks throughout the weekend. The following examples are within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities and do not require advance registration. With the exception of the antique train ride, all are free, but a vehicle permit ($25 annual, $5 daily) is required to enter the park.

Universe in the Park, 10 p.m., Lake Maria State Park (Monticello): Join the University of Minnesota Astronomy Department for a spectacular tour of the night skies and an opportunity to view the celestial sights through provided telescopes. Meet at the Visitor Center.

Stargazing!, 8 p.m., Rice Lake State Park (Owatonna): Members of the Steele County Astronomical Society will set up telescopes and interpret the night sky. Meet at the shelter in the picnic area.

Historic Buildings Tour, 10 a.m., Fort Snelling State Park (St. Paul): Learn how the buildings along Hwy. 5 were used throughout the history of our state and nation. Meet at the ball field parking lot on the corner of Colville and Taylor avenues.

Big, Bad, and Beautiful Bugs, 2 p.m., Wild River State Park (Center City): View an assortment of insects, including a giant millipede, a “friendly” tarantula and more. Meet at the Visitor Center.

Antique Train Ride, 10:45 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., William O’Brien State Park (Marine on St. Croix): Take a one-mile walk, then board an antique train for a tour of the St. Croix Valley. Bring lunch or purchase food during a stop in Osceola, Wis. Cost is $15 for adults, $10 for kids ages 4-15, free for kids under 4. Meet at the Visitor Center.

There is a state park or trail within 30 miles of almost every Minnesotan. For information about programs and special events, check the online calendar.


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