Visiting Minneapolis-St. Paul with kids

The following was written by Karla Lemmon, founder of the mobile app, Little Peanut on the Go. Karla is a working mom just like me, having recently transitioned from the corporate world into entrepreneurship. Always willing to help out a fellow working mom, I agreed to help Karla get the word out about her app, and she agreed to write about visiting her hometown, Minneapolis-St. Paul, with kids. I’ve been trying to get to the Twin Cities for a few years now so I was interested in her recommendations and thought it would be a perfect fit for The Working Mom’s Travels!

When people think of visiting Minneapolis-St. Paul with kids the first thing that usually comes to their mind is the Mall of America, followed closely by the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Children’s Museum.  While these are certainly wonderful places to visit, the Twin Cities has much more to offer kids and their families.  These are some of my little boy’s favorite hometown adventures…and mine, too!

Shish Ka-ball at The Works Museum

Shish Ka-ball | Image property of The Works Museum

Learn about STEM

Whether it’s a rainy day, a steamy day, a frigid day, or any day in between (we have it all in Minnesota!), The Works Museum in Bloomington is certain to be a kid pleaser!  Your kids will find something to love, whether it’s constructing and racing a car, creating a roller coaster or playing Shish Ka-ball in the design lab, exploring the sensor maze, or building circuitry.  It’s so fun to see each and every child, both girls and boys, actively engaged in hands-on science and engineering activities.  I’m always sorry to have to tear my son away from The Works, but he knows we will return.

See some animals (and a few other things, too)

We always make at least one annual visit to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul.  The zoo has a wide variety of animals, from zebras and giraffes, to polar bears and bison, to their well-known gorillas, my son’s favorite.  The zoo has done a fabulous job of giving the animals a nice amount of room to roam while giving visitors close up views.

The zoo is also easy to visit in the winter by walking short distances between buildings.  If you get chilly, just pop in to the conservatory to warm up and see an amazing array of plants and flowers.  Once you enter the Sunken Garden you won’t even realize it’s winter outside!

During the summer my son has to ride Cafesjian’s Carousel and make a visit to Como Town.  There are rides available for a wide age range, including adults, so be prepared to have some fun!  Across the street we also like to play miniature golf at the 18-hole Putt’er There course.

In summer a visit to Como Park can be a very long day, but it’s a must see!  Did I mention admission to the zoo and conservatory is free?  A voluntary donation is suggested, which keeps this wonderful place available to everyone.

Children's Theatre Company | Minneapolis

Children’s Theatre Company | Photo credit

Watch a play

A Minneapolis gem is the Children’s Theatre Company.  Named the #1 children’s theatre in the nation by Time magazine, the CTC has two stages to provide both small and large stage productions.  We’ve been lucky to see several plays over the last couple of years, including The Cat in the Hat, Busytown the Musical, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Peter Pan the Musical.

While parents will enjoy the performances too, their favorite part might be watching their children be mesmerized by the play – I know that’s my favorite part!  No matter what time of year you visit the Twin Cities, be sure to check the CTC’s schedule to see what fantastic production might await you.

See some sculptures

We made it to the Walker Sculpture Garden this summer in time to see the many much-loved sculptures, including the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry.  Why in time?  Because the garden will be undergoing a year-long renovation beginning in the spring of 2016.  But don’t worry, the Spoonbridge and Cherry is still onsite and many of the other favorite sculptures are on display at other local venues.

My son was thrilled to see the Spoonbridge and Cherry in person as he’s seen it in his Goodnight Minnesota book for several years.  And, he absolutely loved playing miniature golf at the annual artist inspired course.  (Holes built on ping-pong tables, gumball machines, and pool tables – what’s not to love?)  Don’t forget to visit the Walker Art Center, right next door, with Free First Saturdays especially for families.

Mill City Museum | Minneapolis

Mill City Museum | Photo credit

Learn our history

I had heard so many good things about the Mill City Museum that I was afraid it was too good to be true.  I’m happy to say it’s not!

For many years Minneapolis was known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World”, and informally as “Mill City.”  The museum is built in the ruins of what once was the world’s largest flour mill.  On the ground floor you can explore the ruins as well as take in all the exhibits, including hands-on activities in the Water Lab.

My son loved making his own cereal box, delivering and picking up wheat and flour by truck and train from the mill, discovering how to float logs down a river to the sawmill (while avoiding log jams!), and learning how St. Anthony Falls powered the mill along the mighty Mississippi River.  Be sure to catch the Flour Tower 8 story elevator ride, which transports you back in time to the working mill, showing how each floor of the mill had its own special function.  You’ll also be treated to fantastic views of the Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Falls from the rooftop of the building.

Enjoy the outdoors

A popular stop in the Twin Cities is Minnehaha Regional Park where you can see Minnehaha Falls, a 53-foot waterfall.  My son was in awe of the waterfall, and enjoyed seeing it from the river bottom as well as from the top.  We had a great time exploring the trails along the river, playing Frisbee in the park, and enjoying the playground.

Next time we’re going to try pedaling around the park in a 4 person specialty cycle that’s available for rental – it looks like it would be a blast!  Be sure to enjoy super fresh seafood at Sea Salt Eatery, located right by the Falls.

Eat something

Don’t forget to eat!  Some of our favorite spots where we can all find something delicious to eat include Patrick’s Bakery and Café (did I mention the pastries?!), the Chatterbox (board games!), The Copper Hen (gluten-free and close to the Children’s Theatre), Hen House Eatery (breakfast all day and the best kids pre-meal entertainment pack ever!), and several family friendly delicious options across the Twin Cities from Blue Plate Restaurant Company.  There’s also Eat Street, a neighborhood of over 50 unique, authentic, and ethnic food experiences. You definitely won’t find a shortage of fantastic food in this foodie haven!

There’s something for everyone (and every child!) in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul!  It’s a wonderful place for families to enjoy year round…although I’ll definitely forgive you if you skip winter for your first visit!

— Karla Lemmon is the founder of Little Peanut on the Go, a mobile assistant for parents to stay organized and connected when they, their children, or their whole family is away from home.  Parents can build packing lists and to-do lists, create care schedules to share with caregivers, and connect with their children while they’re away.  The app is available at the App Store and Google Play.  Get rid of all the notes on your counter and lists on the fridge and download it today! 


Minneapolis with Kids

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4 Responses to Visiting Minneapolis-St. Paul with kids

  1. Colleen Lanin October 25, 2015 at 10:25 am #

    I used to live in the Twin Cities and now we visit about once per year to see family. There are so many entertaining things to do there with kids! I think people who aren’t from the Midwest thing of Minnesota as a bunch of fields, cows and people talking like the movie, Fargo. Great round-up of Minnie fun!
    Colleen Lanin recently posted…Marksburg Castle with Viking River CruisesMy Profile

  2. Mary October 25, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    I had no idea there was so much to do there. Not sure if i’ll ever be in the area but i’ll save this just in case, great highlights. How is the zoo? Space wise I always like to see nice enclosures at least. I like knowing ahead of time whet to expect in that way since my kids and I are sensitive to their plight.
    Mary recently posted…Kona Birthday Fun…how an almost settled down family celebratesMy Profile

    • Karla October 26, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

      Hi Mary – Como Zoo has improved A LOT over the years in terms of space and enclosures. Much more space for the animals than years ago. They’ve really done a nice job with their improvements keeping both visitors and the animals in mind. There is also the Minnesota Zoo, which is much, much larger than Como – so large that you often do not see the animals as a visitor.

  3. katja - globetotting October 25, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    I have to say that I knew nothing about the Twin Cities prior to reading this and I definitely had no idea that there was quite so much to do for kids! I know my eldest would *love* to see a show by the Children’s Theatre Company. Great tips, thank you!
    katja – globetotting recently posted…The Best Family Hotels in British Columbia, CanadaMy Profile

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