Fun places for kids to be kids

Published 12:24 pm Monday, April 14, 2014

Have a child who wants to get out of the house but don’t know where to go? There are organizations and businesses in Albert Lea that offer something for every type of child — from the energetic and sporty to the laid back and eager learner.

Check out these


Email newsletter signup


Rock Wall

Brookside Education Center,
211 W. Richway Drive

Offering more than 900 feet of climbing space and six ropes, the Rock Wall at Brookside Education Center is open year-round.

Hours for the public are from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and for a climbing club from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays.

Two staff are on hand on Fridays and Saturdays, with one on Tuesdays.

Rock wall coordinator Scott Hanna said the Tuesday night session is designed for experienced climbers or people who want to become belay-certified. A free basic certification class is at 6:30 p.m. with paid admission.

Cost per day is $10 per person, or people can purchase a five-admission punch pass for $25.


Brookside Boathouse 

Brookside Park, 623 W. Richway Drive

The Brookside Boathouse, which opened in 2010, offers experiential education in both summer and winter.

In the summer, there’s outdoor archery, geocaching, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding for all ages; in the winter, there’s open snowshoeing.

Hanna, who also heads up the boathouse, said he hopes the experiences offered there help people realize there are fun things to do in Albert Lea.

“I’m trying to get everyone exposed to the environment and the things we have in our community,” Hanna said.

Kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding are offered from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 1 to 3 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Archery and geocaching are offered from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays.

Life jackets are provided for children ages kindergarten and older.


Albert Lea Children’s Library

211 E. Clark St.

In addition to having more than 110,000 children’s books in its circulation, the Albert Lea Public Library hosts multiple activities throughout the year for children.

Children’s Librarian Patty Greibrok said storytime is at 10:30 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

At 3:45 p.m. every first Monday of the month there is Lego time, where the library supplies hundreds of Legos, including some kits, for children to use to make whatever they choose.

There is a book club for children ages third through fifth grade, and in the summer there is a summer reading program.

Greibrok said the library offers a place for children to hang out, meet their friends, check out books and DVDs and play games on computers. There are more than 9,000 downloadable books.


Albert Lea Aquatic Center

321 James Ave.

The city pool, which reopens for the season on June 7, features two pools: a splash pool and a main pool that ranges in depth from 3 1/2 feet to 13 feet.

The splash pool has interactive tumbling buckets, deck sprays, a mushroom waterfall, bubblers and a five-arm water fountain for younger swimmers. A 226-foot water slide leads into this pool.

The main pool has two one-meter diving boards.

Jenny Davis, with Albert Lea Parks and Recreation, said the pool will be open this summer from 1 to 5 p.m. for daytime swim and from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for nighttime swim Mondays through Fridays. It will be open from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission prices are changing from previous years.

Lifeguards will teach swimming lessons for six weeks out of the summer in the mornings.


Burger King

2011 E. Main St.

Parents can hit two birds with one stone with a stop at Burger King.

After grabbing a bite to eat, parents can sit back and relax while their children climb in the restaurant’s colorful playland, which features three levels and two slides. On the outside is a tic-tac-toe board.

“We have a lot of people come in the afternoons,” said General Manager Christine Behrends. “The kids definitely really like it. It keeps them busy.”

Behrends recommended the playland for children ages 4 to 10. Guidelines ask that children wear socks while playing for sanitary purposes.


Holiday Lanes

522 Prospect Ave.

Albert Lea’s Holiday Lanes has days set aside for kids and families.

The bowling alley hosts Kids’ Day from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Family Day from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, said Manager Loren Kaiser.

Bumpers are available for young bowlers.

Cost is $8 for one hour or $12 for two hours; the price of shoes is included.

Youth leagues are after school on Wednesdays, at 6 p.m. on Fridays and from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays.

The bowling alley has light shows, video music and fog machines from 8 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and from 9 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays.

“There’s socializing, family fun and a little bit of exercise involved with it too,” Kaiser said.


Youth for Christ’s The Rock

116 W. Clark St. 

Offering children a safe place to hang out, Youth for Christ’s The Rock has everything from pool tables to video games, skateboarding, board games and arts and crafts, said Mandy Schuster, administrative assistant.

It is open from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

On Monday nights there is a club for high schoolers, on Thursday nights there’s one for middle-schoolers and on Friday one for grade-schoolers. Schuster said the clubs always have some sort of religious message, and staff share a Bible verse weekly with the children.

Children get a snack after school, and during the summer, a lunch is provided through the Albert Lea Salvation Army, she said.

“We want a safe place for the kids to hang out,” Schuster said. “That’s our goal here — and we want to show them Jesus.”




Cinema 7

2550 Bridge Ave. 

Children can step into another world by watching a movie at Cinema 7 at the Northbridge Mall.

The theater plays one or two children’s movies a month, said theater manager Danny Halvorsen.

“It’s all-around, really good entertainment,” Halvorsen said. “They can get out of the house, and at this time of the year everybody has cabin fever.”

In addition to the movies, the theater offers 25 types of candy, plus popcorn, nachos and pop.

Movie tickets are $6 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for children under 3. Movies in 3-D are an additional $2.50.


Albert Lea Family Y

2021 W. Main St. 

Children and adults alike can get exercise at the Albert Lea Family Y.

The organization offers parent and toddler playtime, a fit club for sixth- and seventh-graders and teen night on Fridays, among other activities.

New this year, father and son duo Nick and Gavin Hanke have started laser tag in the gym of the Family Y.

The course is set up in over half of the gym, and eight children can play at a time.

Nick Hanke said there are 12 corrugated cutouts for barriers, and games last for 10 minutes.

Cost is $3 per game or $5 for two games.

The next games are slated for March 14.

For prices of other activities, visit


Cool ways to see farm stuff:

• Third Grade Farm Tours

Each September, third-graders from all over Freeborn County tour at least three farms to learn firsthand where their food comes from.

“We tried to pick things where they know the end product, and we want to show where it starts,” said Randy Kehr, director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

They typically visit dairy, hog and potato farms but have visited beef cattle farms or elk farms. The children get to milk a cow, feed animals and harvest their own potatoes.

“We have had kids who said, ‘I never knew my milk came from that,’ so that’s pretty powerful,” Kehr said.

The tours are organized and funded by the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.


• Farmer John Pumpkin Patch

Open to the public on Sept. 20, Farmer John’s Pumpkin Patch offers thousands of pumpkins for purchase plus other activities for families to enjoy.

John Ulland, who operates the patch with his wife, Jan, said this year there will be 36 varieties of pumpkins.

Once children have picked out their perfect pumpkin, they can pose for photos, take a ride down a slide coming out of a silo or join in on a scarecrow-making contest.

“We’re not in the entertainment business,” Ulland said. “We’re in the experience business.”

Babies born after Oct. 15 of the previous year get a free, small pumpkin.

Ulland said kindergartners from Austin and several other area schools take a field trip to the patch each year. If large groups are coming, Ulland asked that they call ahead at 507-437-9180.

The patch is at 90537 273rd St. in Moscow Township.


• Livestock barns
at the Freeborn County Fair

Children can get a hands-on look at various livestock in the Kiddie Farmyard at the Freeborn County Fair.

Whether it’s checking out chicks that have just hatched, newborn baby pigs or basic kittens, children are sure to get excited here. There are also animals such as goats, rabbits, ponies, donkeys, peacocks and puppies.

“The Kiddie Farmyard is a great place for kids to see all species of livestock in one building, so it works out real well,” said fair manager Norm Fredin.

The fair has had the Kiddie Farmyard for 25 years. In addition, children can view livestock being judged at the fair in separate barns for swine, small animals, sheep, cattle and horses.

This year’s fair is from July 29 through Aug. 2.

4 best places to dance:

Joyce Matthies
Dance Centre

114 S. Broadway

In business for 48 years, Joyce Matthies Dance Centre offers tap, ballet, jazz, lyrical and point classes for children ages 4 and older.

Matthies, who has a degree in dance from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, has been dancing since she was 3. She and another instructor offer skills learned through trainings and studies.

“When we teach, it’s fun, but it’s always technically based, so when my dancers go off to college, they’re usually put in intermediate classes or accepted right into the college dance troupe,” she said.

The dance studio can be found online at

It can be reached by phone at 507-377-1183.


Echo Step Studio of Dance

1416 W. Main St.

Albert Lea’s newest dance studio, Echo Step Studio of Dance opened Feb. 3 and provides classes for both children and adults.

The studio offers hip-hop, ballet, jazz, contemporary and tap dance classes, along with yoga, Zumba, Nia and possibly more in the future, said co-owner Dustin Boyer.

The studio has instructors who specialize in each type of music.

Boyer, who has taught at about six studios across the state, said classes are divided based on age. The youngest available is for 3-year-olds.

“Our main focus is kids having fun,” Boyer said. “If kids aren’t having fun here then we aren’t doing our job.”

Find out more information about the studio at or by calling 507-351-4590.

The studio offers discounts for families with multiple children enrolled.

It is in the former location of the Montessori Children’s House of Albert Lea.


Just for Kix

1360 W. Main St. 

Just for Kix offers dance styles such as kick, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, ballet, tap and pom.

The company’s website describes the studio as having positive teaching strategies and a team-based performing environment.

Instructor Aimee Struck said the dancers have the opportunity to perform at Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Twins games and even go to Florida in December each year.

Find out more about the studio, including prices of classes, by visiting or by calling instructor Aimee Struck at 383-5139.


Unlimited Possibilities Dance Studio

Skyline Plaza, 1645 W. Main St. 

Unlimited Possibilities Dance Studio offers ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, beginning pointe, tumbling and technique classes for children pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Classes are set up by age.

Find out more about Unlimited Possibilities online at or by calling 507-273-0402.

Longtime licensed day care providers

• Debbie Baas, 1208 Swanhill Drive, 373-5466

• Laura Back, 71205 255th St., 826-3585

• Elaine Bohlen, 208 Fredrick Drive, 373-6280

• Linda Christian, 606 Pilot St., 373-5493

• Wende Friehl-Taylor, 1220 Martin Road, 377-3242

• Judy Gulbrandson, 306 E. Hawthorne St., 373-4301

• Robin Helgerson, 1909 Stevens St., 373-8089

• Sherry Hoenisch, 1208 Spartan Ave., 377-1253

• Starr Holt, 317 Summer Ave., 373-7789

• Patricia Nesse, 1107 Skylark Lane, 377-1486

• Debra Pirsig, 709 Hammer Road, 373-0869

• Debra Prihoda, 514 Pilot St., 373-6561

• Gayle Sternberg, 421 Meredith Road, 373-6258

• Mary Stevens, 822 Minnie Maddern St., 373-1320


— For a full listing of licensed day care

providers in Freeborn County visit