22 answers

Attractions in Minneapolis St Paul

Hey! I am taking my 10 yr old and 6 yr old daughter and 11 mo old son to Minneapolis St Paul. Wondering what is out there other then MOA, Zoos and the two museums... .which ones are better and what hotel would be the best for this age range of kids. All within a simple budget. Not looking at spending too much money, just good quality time with kids. They chose MN instead of the Omaha Zoo this time. Thanks in advance!

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There are several free wading pools you can lookup online. There is one in mineapolis that is not very deep but has lots of fountains spraying in the middle. Its perfect for todlers and older kids as is has the slanted bottom and only gets to be about 3 or 4 feet deep. They also have playgrounds there...
Good luck!

I've seen that the hotel that the Water Park of America is in has deals if you stay there you get a free pass to waterpark of America and discounts to nick universe and underwater world. Chutes and Ladders is a great HUGE playground at Hyland Park in Bloomington and that's free. There's also hiking and biking trails there. There's a museum called "the works" about Electricity in Edina that the kids go to on field trips and seemed to like. Local pools all over the twin cities, We're partial to Cascade Bay in Eagan - super fun! The Arboretum in Chanhassen is fun. Como zoo is free and has the restored carousel and conservatory there as well. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is holding the Titanic exhibit right now, too. Science musem and children's museum are fun. Have a great time!

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- We have a ton of great nature centers (free) that you may also enjoy. My personal favorite is Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Lake, but that's more for sentimental reasons than anything.
- Also, check out "Universe in the Park," which is a free program put on by the U of MN Astronomy Department. Every Friday/Saturday night they go to a different area park/nature center and give a brief talk about astronomy, and then have 2-3 big telescopes set up where they let you look through them, help you see cool stuff, etc.
- Theodore Wirth Park has some cool features, including a Quaking Bog and a Wildflower Garden
- The Science Museum is phenomenal and definitely worth a visit
- The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a free museum that is WONDERFUL and definitely worth a visit
- Of course the Walker Art Museum is interesting, although I never go inside because it costs money - my daughter, however, loves going to the Sculpture Garden (free) and then walking across the pedestrian bridge to Loring Park and playing on the playground
- Your younger two would really enjoy the Children's Museum, although that can be expensive and your older child might be bored. However, my nearly 8 year old still loves going there
- The MN Orchestra has free Family Concerts over the summer- you can look into them
- We have among the most wonderfully accessible historical sites, many for really inexpensive. Some of my favorites are:
- Oliver H. Kelley Farm (working 1860's farm, people in costume)
- Fort Snelling (right near the airport)
- MN History Center (Museum in downtown St. Paul - my daughter LOVES it there)
- Jackson St. Roundhouse (open Wed. and Sat, 10-4)
- Mill City Museum (in downtown Mpls - expensive, but well, well worth going)
- Wabasha Sreet Cave Tours
- Dakota City Heritage Village
- Gibbs Farm Museum (working 1890's farm, school house, teepee, and bark lodge, right near the University of MN St. Paul Campus)
- Down in History – coach tours of historical places by people in character
- If you're willing to drive about 45minutes-hour north, the Northwest Company Fur Trading Post is one of my favorite destinations - near Hinckley

If you're just looking for fun (not so much learning) activities, we have
- Valleyfair Amusement Park (insanely expensive, but really fun)
- Como Town rides (next to Como Zoo, which is the free zoo in St. Paul)
- Nickelodean Universe at MOA
Bunker Hills Stable in Coon Rapids has a great trail ride/hay ride thing, and then right across the street from them (almost) is Bunker Beach, which has water slides, a wave pool, a kiddy pool, and a sand play area
- On rainy days, we have lots of indoor play structures. My favorite, though generally the busiest is Edinborough Park in Edina.

One of my favorite summer activities to do with my daughter is to take a paddle boat ride down the river. You catch the boat at Harriet Island in St. Paul.
We also have an inordinate amount of both indoor and outdoor water parks to choose from. My favorite outdoor park is Cascade Water Park in Eagan. We generally make sure we go after 4:00 so we get in for $5/each rather than $10.

A great MN tradition is to go to Lake Harriet and find the elf - leave a message for him.

Other ideas:
-Saint Paul Saints game (baseball)
- Mini-golf
- Foshay Tower
- Midtown Global Market (really fun place to eat lunch with kids because there's food and items from all over the place)
- St. Anthony Lock and Dam

In terms of hotels, unfortunately, I don't have a suggestion for you outside of that I would stay in one of the suburbs rather than the city, because the hotels tend to be cheaper, I think.

I hope you have a great time in St. Paul/Minneapolis!

2 moms found this helpful

Como Zoo and Conservatory is a must, and you can check out the park and lake and the Como pool all in the same place http://www.comozooconservatory.org/como_park/index.shtml

The Science Museum is always cool. http://www.smm.org/

Wild Rumpus is a book store in Minneapolis that has animals running around and they have activities sometimes too http://www.wildrumpusbooks.com

Heart of the Beast Theater is another place that has shows for kids but I think it is only done for part of the year so it would depend on when you are coming http://www.hobt.org/

The Minnesota State Fair is kind of a big deal but can get pretty expensive. http://www.mnstatefair.org/

There are sooo many great parks here. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/index.html
Afton Park is my personal favorite. It is a beautiful place to go for a hike, have a picnic, wade in the river and collect cool rocks ...although not a place you can really bring a stroller because it is a long hike down a lot of steps http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/afton/index.html
Also, at some parks you can rent canoes or go tubing. There are places where you can canoe down river and take a bus back up to where your car is.

There are plenty of water parks around, but one place that is a short drive from St. Paul that is great for little kids is Lake Elmo Park Reserve. They have a big "fake lake" for swimming, playground, fishing pier, etc. Very family friendly. http://www.co.washington.mn.us/info_for_residents/parks_d...
I also used to love the Bunker Wave Pool when I was a kid http://www.bunkerbeach.com/

You might enjoy a visit to the arboretum www.arboretum.umn.edu/

I've heard great things about Emma Krumbees orchard and farm. They have strawberries you can pick in the summer, barn animals, etc. I haven't been there yet but my sister brings her kids there every year http://www.emmakrumbees.com/EmmaKrumbees_activities.htm

Valley Fair is awesome but pretty spendy http://www.valleyfair.com/

If it ends up raining when you come, there are a few indoor playgrounds where kids can get in for $5 and parents and kids under 2 are free [those places with tunnels, slides, ball pits etc] -Eagle's Nest, Edinborough, Maple Maze, Adventure Park ..Edinborough is probably the best for a one-time visit. This is from the site:
With more than 6,000 plants, trees and flowers, Edinborough Park is Minnesota's unique indoor public park. The completely enclosed, one-acre park features a junior-Olympic size swimming pool, a running track and fitness area, a huge indoor playground and a multi-purpose play area, all connected by meandering pathways through the densely landscaped interior. http://www.edinboroughpark.com/

1 mom found this helpful

My 8yr.old likes the children's museum over the science museum more hands on.

Lots of waterparks indoors and outdoors

Tons of beaches and lakes

Como Zoo is free and you can see the animals better, MN Zoo is exspensive and you can't get as close to the animals

Valley Fair is our amusement park kinda like a Six Flags I guess

C.,
I haven't seen anyone mention Cascade Bay in Eagan. Eagan is very close to the MOA and Cascade Bay is city run, so admission is affordable. It's only $7 or $9 admission. Its big and lots of fun. http://www.ci.eagan.mn.us/live/page.asp?menu=8891

The weblink above has a virtual tour.

http://www.americinn.com/Splash-Bay-Adventure
Shakopee, Minnesota - this place is near Valley Fair, not to far from the Zoo and MOA. The times we have stayed it has been pretty quite and clean. Small kid pool with slide, larger pool with slide.

There are several free wading pools you can lookup online. There is one in mineapolis that is not very deep but has lots of fountains spraying in the middle. Its perfect for todlers and older kids as is has the slanted bottom and only gets to be about 3 or 4 feet deep. They also have playgrounds there...
Good luck!

We have one of the best free zoos in the nation, Como Zoo in St. Paul. I would also check out a water park (or Lake Elmo Park Reserve) for some water type activities. Other ideas are Valley Fair, the Children's Museum, Science Museum, MN Zoo, Mill City Museum, the MN History Museum (my 8 yo daughter just went there and loved it with Grandpa). Depending on when you are coming up, there is the State Fair at the end of August (get your hotel reservations NOW). And, there are several Charles Schultz Peanuts statues around St. Paul, and I think there are now some dinosaur ones in the Minneapolis lakes area. As far as hotels, if you are looking for ones with swimming pools, there are several that also have water parks in them. Some are very extensive water parks, although I know of at least 2 Country Inn and Suites that have 0 depth pools and water slides in some of the near northern suburbs. Hope this helps!

You didn't mention when you will be going? I'm not from the area, but every year I try to make it to the Renaissance Faire in Shakopee, MN. It's a 'suburb' (I think) of Minneappolis. The Faire runs the last two weekends of August and every weekend in Sept. and is a very family friendly place to go. The live joust is quite fun and the turkey legs are amazing!

The Mall of America is fun to walk around in, even if you don't plan on buying....there are all sorts of fun little shops to explore and there is (last time I was there anyway) a mini amusement park, complete with roller coaster.

I would recommend the Children's Museum in St. Paul. They have fun things for many ages to play.

C.,

I love the MInneapolis Institute of Arts. It's free! We go every few months, and because it's free, I figure if we only walk around part of it it's not a waste. I like to take my kids first thing when they open.

J.

The MN History Center in St Paul is wonderful -- and it appeals to 'kids' of all ages (my children ages 6, 7 and 8 love it as do my parents and grandparents). It is very hands on: touch, climb, interact, etc. Additionally, the building is gorgeous, the cafe has GREAT food at very reasonable prices and admission is quite inexpensive.

Travel safely.

There is a water park at the MOA attached to a Radisson Hotel -- we pass by it all the time, and near the airport. It may be good for you to have things close together. There is also another outdoor pool option in Edina -- 2 great pools (especially for the baby) and playgrounds there too. Really nice for a summer afternoon, if you'll be visiting this summer. You don't have to be a resident to go, but have to pay a bit extra.
There are many parks here too! Hyland Lakes has a HUGE play area that would be fun, and have paddle boats and canoes for rent. Lake Calhoun is a wonderful place to visit and walk around the 3 miles of lakefront. There is a beach, playground and rentals for canoes and kayaks as well, and at least one restaurant on the water to eat (there are tons of stuff around there on Excelsior Blvd).
We just moved here (literally like 3 weeks ago) and I have a 20 month old, so we've found lots of stuff to do with her! Hope that helps! Have a wonderful time!

Now is a great time to visit the History Center in St. Paul because in addition to the great exhibits, kids can make a World War II era paper airplane - complete with wheels - like the C-47 on dispaly in the "Minnesota's Greatest Generation" exhibit. www.mnhs.org/mgg

In addition to the History Center in Saint Paul, the Minnesota Historical Society has several other metro sites including Mill City Museum and Historic Fort Snelling. Both of these museums/hisotric sites are very kid friendly with lots of hands-on activities. Go to www.millcitymuseum.org and www.mnhs.org/fortsnelling.

Have a great time!

I know you mentioned a budget; but even though a bit $$. We have the Waterpark of America as well. Pretty awesome.... Also for little kids there is Fawn Da Rosa; which is a petting zoo that you can go right up and pet the deer. Little kids LOOOOOVE it.

There's actually an aquarium inside the mall of america that my kids absolutely loved. It's very interactive and there's a part at the end that they can touch stingrays. My family had a blast. If you have time before you go, check for coupons sold on ebay, we got a great deal. Have fun!

I've seen that the hotel that the Water Park of America is in has deals if you stay there you get a free pass to waterpark of America and discounts to nick universe and underwater world. Chutes and Ladders is a great HUGE playground at Hyland Park in Bloomington and that's free. There's also hiking and biking trails there. There's a museum called "the works" about Electricity in Edina that the kids go to on field trips and seemed to like. Local pools all over the twin cities, We're partial to Cascade Bay in Eagan - super fun! The Arboretum in Chanhassen is fun. Como zoo is free and has the restored carousel and conservatory there as well. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is holding the Titanic exhibit right now, too. Science musem and children's museum are fun. Have a great time!

C.,
You can rent bicycles, paddle boats, and canoes at Lake Calhoun and travel around the Chain of Lakes (Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, and Lake Harriet). It's a fun time and absolutely beautiful. I believe they rent bikes right at the lake now, but you can also rent them at Calhoun Bike Rental. We've done this with visiting family more than once and it's a great time. Also, consider going to Valley Fair. It's a great amusement park and your kids are the perfect age. They have a new water park now too, and I saw a billboard that said the admission cost covers both parks. Plan to go for the whole day - rides in the morning, water park in the afternoon, more rides in the evening. It's a little expensive, but well worth it for a vacation activity.
Good luck!
A. K

p.s. Just reread your post and saw that you have an 11 month old. Perhaps that will place some restrictions on the activities I suggested, but you might be able to rent a bike trailer or a child seat as well, and he might still enjoy Valley Fair, especially if he naps in a stroller!!

The local parenting publication - Family Times - has a great online calendar of family events and destinations, plus a freebies section. www.familytimesinc.com.

Enjoy your visit!

The first poster seemed to cover many of the major attractions. One she may not have mentioned is the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboreteum in Chanhassen. The theme for their seasonal outdoor exhibit this year is "Waterosity." Great place to get exercise and explore nature. When you first get here if you stop at a public library they have a free "Museum Pass" program that allows people to check out passes as available and get free admission to a variety of attractions, not just museums. You probably need a library card to check them out and I don't know what their reciprocity policies are, but it could give you ideas on additinal attractions also. If your kids like trains there is a great model train exhibit in Bandana Square in St. Paul. Near downtown Minneapolis we have a chain of lakes, Calhoun, Harriet and Lake of the Isles, that are all connected by walking and biking paths. Lake Harriet was mentioned and there is a band shell, free concerts and concession stand there, but all of the lakes are fun to walk around and you may be able to rent bikes and canoes at Lake Calhoun. We have a lot of fun things to do in the summer here--I'll update this if I think of anything else. Have fun! Oh, I second getting a hotel in the suburbs. There are a lot of hotels on 494 near the MOA, but we have quite a few here in Eagan where I live and Eagan is conveniently close to the MN Zoo and the MOA. I'm guessing Eagan would be cheaper than the area near the MOA.

Added--Don't let some of the comments about the MN Zoo discourage you. I really like it. I am a member, and I just spent the day there with three boys ages 9, 9 and almost 13. There are several new/remodeled exhibits, including a grizzly bear/sea otter exhibit. A new Minnesota-themed playground just opened on Saturday and the 9-year-olds loved it. It is recommended for ages 3-12. There is a seasonal Africa exhibit on the Northern trail and you can feed the giraffes when they are interested in that for an extra fee. They didn't want to be fed when we were there, but I was told 2-3 is a good time for feeding. It used to be that it was hard to see many of the animals because they are so far away, especially on the Northern Trail, but they addressed that problem with many of the new and remodeled exhibits and trails. The three boys I took to the Zoo today spent about 1/2 an hour just watching the prairie dogs, a popular exhibit on the Northern Trail. There is also a working farm within the Zoo which can be a great experience for kids not familiar with rural life or farming. The food in the Zoo can be very expensive so if you want to stay within a budget I recommend eating before you go or packing a picnic, Subway sandwiches, etc. Have fun!

Sorry to keep adding to this, but I just remembered that when we were at the Zoo today I saw a van from the Holiday Inn Express in Eagan (Cliff Road) in the parking lot. It made me wonder if they run a shuttle to the Zoo and if they run their shuttle to any of the other local attractions. Might be worth looking into if you don't want to pay parking at the Zoo.

C., did you try googling attractions in St Paul?? sorry that is the best suggestion I have..and try this website for free stuff- like kids eat free nights.
http://twincitiesmom.com/freestuff.html
Have fun! I look forward to the day I can do this with my son as well- we are both in need of a serious vacation!

Check out www.gocitykids.com. They have listings of what's going on in the area. You can just pop in your date range and find loads of free/cheap attractions.

Enjoy your visit!

There are tons go great ideas listed below. Depending on when you are coming, the county fairs are starting soon. I think if you google MN fairs, you can find a list of them.

Eagan has Market Fest on Wednesday at the ampitheatre in Central Park. I think it starts at 4, and they have a small local market, food available, and a kid friendly form of entertainment (tonight for instance is 1 1/2 hours of Radio Disney before a band).
Burnsville's Heart of the City (Burnsville Parkway and Nicolet) has a beautiful garden with fountain. Thursdays at 11 there is child friendly entertainment, and you can pack a lunch, put the kids in swimsuits and play around in the fountains. Also, very suitable for the little one.

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