Minneapolis and St. Paul MN might not be on your list of hot spots to visit – but they should be! There’s a reason why the area was ranked #9 on Lonely Planet’s 2018 “Best in the US” list. From outdoor activities to science and children’s museums, see why Minneapolis and St Paul are worth bringing the family for a long weekend.
- Science Museum of Minnesota
- Minnesota Children’s Museum
- Explore Mississippi River Closeup
- Mill City Museum
- Minnesota Twins
- First Avenue Sneak By
- Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
- Chain of Lakes
- Mall of America
- Nickelodeon Universe
When I tell people that I grew up in Minnesota, I always get a response along the lines of , “Wow, how do you handle the winters?” While winters are a huge part of life the Twin Cities, there is really so much more to do in both the winter and the summer. Here are 10 of my favorite family friendly things to Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
Number 1 Thing to Do – Science Museum of Minnesota
One of my absolute favorite things to do with the kids in Minnesota is a trip to the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM). Located in St. Paul overlooking the Mississippi River, SMM is 370,000 square feet of hands-on science exploration. They have permanent exhibits that include dinosaurs and fossils, the human body and even exhibits the first settlements in Minnesota. SMM also hosts rotating movies in the Omnitheather, a 90-foot dome screen.
View this post on Instagram
Sunday Funday with the full crew at the @mnchildmuseum. Maker spaces are the perfect place for kids to fully tap into their imagination and The Studio delivers. Unprompted my future Spelmanite made a jellyfish from this string and a lock and @cooltechkid made a kite from fabric, staples and a hanger. Make sure to visit when you’re in @visitsaintpaul; it’s a great place for ages 1 to 100. . #LoveLearnTravel #TMOM #PlayMoreMN #Freeplay #Battleship #MakerKids #MakerSpace #ChildrensMuseum #onlyinMN #exploreminnesota #familytravelblogger #familytravel #familytribe #jellyfishart #jellyfishkids #imaginationarts #blackfamilylove #blackfamilytravel #supercalifragilisticexpialidocious #superCali #cooltechkid
Also in St. Paul is the Minnesota Children’s Museum (MCM). The museum has 10 permanent exhibits with something for all ages of children. On our last visit, my tween loved playing in the Maker Space and Laser Maze while my preschooler nice adored Pretend Town. They rotate a series of traveling exhibits every few months. MCM is also one of the leaders in developing traveling exhibits for children’s museums and discovery centers.
Exploring the Mississippi River Close-Up
Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes but it’s also the home of the Mississippi River. Driving along the scenic byways of the river, you’ll spot lots of activity. One of the best ways to showcase this American treasure is taking a river ride on a paddle boat. Paddle boats leave right from downtown St. Paul on Harriet Island. For families who live in or have visited the Midwest and have seen the Mississippi before, it’s an impressive way to demonstrate just how long and wide the river is.
Minneapolis Things to Do – Mill City Museum
Downtown Minneapolis is full of fun things to do. An unusual but family-friendly museum is the Mill City Museum (MCM). The museum is a National Historic Landmark and pays tribute to the history of the area as the United State capital of flour milling. Visitors can take a trip through a mill by climbing into a giant elevator that visits eight floors to tell the story of a flour mill. The tastiest place to explore might be the Baking Lab, where you can taste the different in grains and how they impact baked goods.
Part of why I love MCM so much is that I feel like it’s a 4 in 1. The outdoor observation deck on MCM gives a panoramic view of some of my favorite places in Minneapolis. It’s right on the Mississippi River and you can see the locks of the river, an actual island in the middle of the river (with my high school on the island – go Islanders!) and northeast Minneapolis. Across the river is the historic St. Anthony Falls area and Stone Arch bridge. The Stone Arch bridge has the honor of being the only bridge made of granite and limestone that crosses the Mississippi.
See Minnesota Twins Play at Target Field
While you’re downtown catch a game at Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins play professional baseball. Target Field is an open air stadium and everything that you’d imagine pro baseball to be. Every Sunday is Kids Day. Kids can get player autographs and run the bases after the game.
Nicollet Mall is an outdoor street that runs directly through downtown Minneapolis (and home of the Mary Tyler Moore statue)! Consider having dinner before a game at one of the many restaurants located near Target Field. Locals take the light rail downtown during the summer to visit the intown farmers market and listen to live music on the plaza.
Sneak by First Avenue for a Picture in Tribute to Prince
Prince fans have to sneak past First Avenue and see his star. First Avenue performances aren’t usually family friendly but the outside during the day is perfectly fine. Each star on the outside marks a performer who has graced its stage. Prince’s star was painted gold as a tribute after his death.
Culture and Play at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden & Walker Art Center
If you’re looking for culture and play space, then you should make a visit to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It’s the home of the infamous spoonbridge and cherry sculpture that often comes up when talking about Minneapolis, MN. There are other sculptures in the garden and plenty of place for kids to run and play. It makes a ideal background for family pictures.
The garden is actually part of the Walker Art Center complex. Walker Art Center is an art museum, performance art center and home for several galleries of contemporary art. A fun thing for families is First Free Saturdays. Each month has a theme and special programming for kids from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Playing on the Lakes and River are Minneapolis Things to do
You can’t make a visit to Minnesota and not see the lakes. Just 5 miles from downtown Minneapolis in the Uptown neighborhood is a chain of lakes. It starts with Lake of the Isles, which connects to Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. The lakes are all connected underground and is where families fish, go to the beach, sail and just enjoy the water. Lake Harriet has a bandstand and offers concerts in the summer.
They even connect via underground streams Minnehaha Falls. Minnehaha Falls are a beautiful 53′ waterfall that flows into the Mississippi River. It’s a favorite place to hike and families can always be seen in Minnehaha Park.
Explore Mall of America
The most famous Minnesota landmark might also be the biggest. The Mall of America is located in Bloomington and holds the honor as the United States biggest mall. It’s a normal mall with more than 500 stores. Stores range from the common chains to unique ones for puzzle lovers or the largest bead seller in the world. When you come to Minnesota to visit the mall, you honestly never have to leave it. There are two hotels connected to it and eighteen full service restaurants. And my kids love to visit the amusement park in the center, Nickelodeon Universe.
Visit Nickelodeon Universe
My boys are most certainly theme park lovers so we always visit Nickelodeon Universe. Located on seven acres in the middle of the Mall of America, Nickelodeon Universe includes 27 attractions ranging from thrill seeking rides and roller-coasters to family-friends rides like the carousel. And because it’s indoors, there is perfect weather anytime you choose to visit. In addition to the attractions, our favorite Nickelodeon characters were walking around the park and posing for pictures with guests.