Best activities to keep kids busy, no matter what the weather
Minneapolis boasts a big city vibe with a “you betcha” attitude and an eclectic blend of contemporary meets Midwest. St. Paul has a smart, small city feel with an active arts scene and revitalized spaces next to the Mississippi River. In either city, you can look forward to lovely beaches and outdoor dining options during the summer. In cooler (read freezing!) weather, you can go skating, skiing, ice fishing, and more. Of course, indoor play is always an option, too. Whatever the weather, your family can’t go wrong with a visit to the Twin Cities.
Photo courtesy: Minnesota State Fair
1/Children’s Theatre Company
2400 3rd Ave. South, Minneapolis
When my girls attend a Children’s Theatre Company production with their grandparents, I get jealous! I’ve begged my way into accompanying them to more than one phenomenal performance, where I was laughing hysterically or crying along with the cast. In addition to amazing actors and actresses, CTC has set designs and costumes that will surprise you. We recently saw CTC’s rendition of Cinderella, and the gigantic, glistening carriage had us gasping for air! Whether your kids are theatre newbies or veterans, CTC will have them begging for more. Cost: Varies by show and seat.
2/Minnesota Children’s Museum
10 7th St. West, St. Paul
Your kids may get wet with all of the awesome water play activities, and Mom may come home with a pin- pong ball in her purse after a visit to Minnesota Children’s Museum. Combined with an Our World exhibit that mimics daily life on a grand scale for hands-on fun, the museum has put together a place where kids can unleash indoors. Cost: Youth $10; Adult $10.
3/Parks, playgrounds & lakes
My growing kids tend to waft toward food when adventuring outdoors in Minneapolis. That often leads us to Lake Harriet for a walleye sandwich at Bread & Pickle while watching the ducks and listening to live music at the Band Shell. It also means a trip to the nearby playground with water features that leave us inevitably soaked.
Our favorite lakeside haunt is Lake Calhoun, where we order fish tacos and watch people paddleboard. We like the playground and beaches here so much that we often stay for the sunsets over the water. Be aware, beaches and restaurants are only open seasonally.
KidTripster Tip: Board the historical Como-Harriet Streetcar for $2/person to enjoy a 15-minute round trip between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. (Hop on at the Lake Calhoun Platform or at the Linden Hills Station near Lake Harriet.)
Our noses also take us to Lake Nokomis for pulled pork sandwiches at Sandcastle followed by swimming and a grab-and-go ice cream on the way out.
At Minnehaha Park, you can see the waterfalls, rental bikes or a surrey, and splash in the wading pool. Don’t miss the patio at Sea Salt Eatery, a prime spot for parents to enjoy fresh seafood with a cocktail.
4/Mall of America
60 E. Broadway, Bloomington
Plan to make a day, week or month of it at the Mall of America. Heck, move in! Home to more than 400 stores, this retail mecca is a shopper’s paradise. The MOA features an amusement park called Nickelodeon Universe, where we met the Bubble Guppies and rode indoor roller coasters. It also features SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, The LEGO Store, a Minnesota Children’s Museum site, Crayola Experience, an impressive movie theatre with the latest technology, and most importantly to my girls, an American Girl store and bistro, where our dolls ate way too many tiny desserts. Cost: Varies.
5/Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul
Get so close to a tiger that you can tell it a secret! That’s the theme at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, where plants and animals are within arm’s reach. The close proximity and daily events help engage little visitors. A children’s gallery at the Conservatory brought us to a Ribbit Zibit exhibit, where we learned nearly everything about frogs. Costs: Free; suggested donation of $2 for youth & $3for adult.
KidTripster Tip: Bring extra money and a swimsuit for some of the amusement rides and splash activities in Como Town. Cost for wristband for unlimited rides: $22.
Photo courtesy: Jackie Scherer
13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley
Get on your walking shoes (or snag a double stroller for $8/day) and plan to be wide-eyed during a 485-acre excursion through ecosystems built to house and breed some seriously awesome wildlife at the Minnesota Zoo. We got up close with a Grizzly bear cooling his paws at Russia’s Grizzly Coast and laughed at lemur antics on the Tropics Trail. If the hike makes you sweat, stop at the splash pad for a cool down in the Central Plaza or play in the shade at Hanifl Family Wild Woods, a natural play gym in Crossroads Park (both open seasonally). Cost: Youth (3-12) $12; Adult $18.
1 Twins Way, Minneapolis
My husband graduated from high school in Minnesota and will always pledge allegiance to the Minnesota Twins. Taking our girls to Target Field was his dream come true. Surprisingly, the girls loved the stadium tour as much as the game. We began in the press box, where we met announcers and got a bird’s-eye view of the baseball park. From there, we walked through the various levels of seating and found our favorite, the Delta Sky360 Legends Club. It provides indoor and air-conditioned respite for families along with access to yummy food and desserts. Here, you can grab a hot dog in peace. Next, we played in the digital clubhouse to conquer Twins trivia and take family selfies. We eventually made our way to awesome seats behind home plate, but no spot in the field seemed to offer a bad view. The girls called the cotton candy “the best ever,” and my husband went for a Bloody Mary with all the trimmings. Cost: Varies by seat location.
8/Mill City Museum
704 S. 2nd St, Minneapolis
At Mill City Museum, your kids will love the 8-story elevator ride through the various levels as they learn a great deal about grains and the history of milling in Minnesota. Names like Pillsbury and Gold Medal may ring a bell for future chefs! The movie called Minneapolis in 19 minutes Flat is a fun way to introduce them to the city, followed by awesome views of the river and St. Anthony Falls from the top of the museum. Visit the Baking Lab to try your hand at turning some flour and don’t forget to design your own cereal box. Cost: Youth (5-17) $6; Adult $12.
KidTripster Tip: The museum is free for Merrill Lunch and Bank of America card holders on the first full weekend of every month. Bring your card and photo ID.
Photo courtesy: Minnesota Historical Society
9/Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
The mission of the Walker Art Center is to showcase some of the most intriguing modern and contemporary artwork in the United States. The way that the Walker presents its artwork to the public is anything but boring. Here, you don’t look at art, instead you experience it. You can watch the creative process, meet artists, touch the creations, and take classes. And don’t miss out on a run through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden either; an up-close look at the well-known Spoonbridge and Cherry can’t be beat. Cost: Youth Free; Adult $14.
KidTripster Tip: Take advantage of free admission on the first Saturday of each month to enjoy live performances, create art, and watch movies. Recommended for ages 6-12.
Photo courtesy: Meredith Kessler
10/Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Aboretum Dr., Chaska
My kids were sold on the hands-on adventures at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum when they got to feed a Venus Flytrap and learn about carnivorous plants! Exhibits like these are merely one way the arboretum has made green things great for kids. Another way is by adding a Big Bugs exhibit by artist David Rogers. Along with other insects, ant sculptures stand 10-feet high throughout the grounds, and we had a blast using a map to uncover all of the larger-than-life creatures. The Maze Garden was an added challenge; we got lost and had to find our way out! Cost: Youth (13 & under ) Free; Adult $12.
KidTripster Tip: Take advantage of free admission to the Arboretum from noon to 6 p.m. on the third Monday of the month.
BONUS/Minnesota State Fair
1265 Snelling Ave. North, St Paul
The “Great Minnesota Get-Together” is the Minnesota State Fair, and it happens every year for twelve days in late August through September/Labor Day. It’s one of the largest state fairs in the country, and you can find almost anything to suit your fancy, including bacon on a stick, spam curds, deep-fried nachos, and donut sliders. Check out outrageous livestock and agriculture competitions along with live musical performances. The Giant Slide is an icon of the fair, so grab a burlap sack and make it a family contest to the finish. Cost: Youth (5-12) $11; Adult $13.
KidTripster Tip: Check online for special discount days or to buy tickets in advance. Tickets for Mighty Midway and Kidway attractions are additional to the cost of admission.
Photo courtesy: Minnesota State Fair
Carla Corban Kath is a loon that lived in the Land of 10,000+ Lakes with her Minnesota-bred husband until she said “Uff da” to winter in the Midwest. She visits the Twin Cities with her daughters often to see her in-laws but does not eat lutefisk!
This writer received some complimentary activities for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.