Are your ears ringing from hearing a chorus of “Are we there yet?” If so, you’ll be happy to know that the Twin Cities are a top family destination and just the place to entertain the cooped-up kids. Here is a selection of activities for your tots or teens to enjoy, many with grown-up appeal.
Art at Heart
Young art lovers have their pick of art museums for inspiration. The remodeled Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2400 Third Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-870-3131, www.artsmia.org) houses everything from Roman statues to Egyptian artifacts. After exploring the galleries of this free museum, take a break in the Family Center on the first floor or grab a bite at the ArtsCafé restaurant or ArtsBreak coffee shop (Family Day, April 15; Art in Bloom, April 26-29).
On the other end of the spectrum is the Walker Art Center (1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-375-7600, www.walkerart.org), which nearly doubled in size after 2005 renovations and has a contemporary art focus. The museum is geared toward more mature viewers (with the exception of special child-friendly days like Free First Saturday, April 7), so make sure to ask which galleries have adult themes. For a food fix at the museum, head to the Wolfgang Puck restaurant 20.21 or the more casual Gallery 8 Café. Outside, kids will enjoy exploring the 15-acre Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with its iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry statue and fountain.
If those choices don’t suffice, try the Minnesota Museum of American Art (50 W. Kellogg Boulevard at Market Street, St. Paul, 651-266-1030, www.mmaa.org) or the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum (333 E. River Road, Minneapolis, 612-625-9494, www.weisman.umn.edu).
Feeling curious? Then head to the Science Museum of Minnesota (120 W. Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, 651-221-9444, www.smm.org) to celebrate its 100th year of educating and entertaining visitors. The museum’s Experiment Gallery is a place where kids can explore the science of wind, water and weather through controlled experiments. And don’t forget to check out a show on the Omnitheater’s 360-degree screen. For lunch, you can pick from a variety of options at the Elements Café on the eighth floor, snack at Chomp by the dinosaurs on the first floor or grab a quick coffee or frozen yogurt at the OmniStop by the entrance.
The neighboring Minnesota Children’s Museum (10 W. Seventh Street, St. Paul, 651-225-6000, www.mcm.org), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is the place for sippy cup-wielding parents and their tykes. Infants and toddlers will love to cruise through the soft environment of Habitot while the “big” kids will have a blast in Earth World and Our World. Watch your little one as she transforms into an ant and scurries through the maze or as he returns as a brave firefighter ready to spring into action (Bob the Builder, Through April 22; Raceways, Continuing; 25 Days of Fun anniversary celebration, Through April 30; Free Third Sunday, April 21). Need a break? Stay for Story Time, held twice daily.
The museum choices don’t stop there: you can learn about electricity at the Bakken Library and Museum (3537 Zenith Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-926-3878, www.thebakken.org), find out about the Pillsbury Dough Boy at the Mill City Museum (704 S. Second Street, Minneapolis, 612-341-7555, www.millcitymuseum.org), or immerse yourself in local history at the Minnesota History Center (345 Kellogg Boulevard W., St. Paul, 651-296-6126, www.mnhs.org/historycenter).
Wet and Wild
There are tons of places to take a ride, feel a splash or watch a game in the area. Start at Mall of America (60 E. Broadway, Bloomington, 952-883-8600, www.mallofamerica.com). In the center of the Mall’s 520 shops is The Park at MOA, a seven-acre indoor amusement park with 30 rides. Take a spin on the Timberland Twister or unwind on the Skyscraper Ferris Wheel. The Mall also houses Underwater Adventures Aquarium, which showcases 4,500 sea creatures. Another great place to play in the Mall is Legoland, with more than 90 full-size Lego models and tables where your little ones can create their own masterpieces.
Want to ride the waves? Nearby Mall of America is the Water Park of America (1700 E. American Boulevard, Bloomington, 877-75-SLIDE, www.waterparkofamerica.com). The Minnesota-themed park boasts a 10-story thrill ride that takes riders inside and out through a maze of translucent tubes. For hydro thrills in the heart of downtown, there’s Marriott Depot Waterpark (225 Third Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-758-7873, www.thedepotminneapolis.com), which includes a three-story indoor and outdoor water slide, a video arcade and a whirlpool area.
If those suggestions elicit an eye roll from the teens, try Pro Kart Indoor Racing (Maple Grove, 763-428-1333 and Burnsville, 952-808-7223, www.prokartindoor.com), where they can test their racing skills and work off extra energy. Adolescents can also have a blast at GameWorks (600 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-656-7300, www.gameworks.com), an arcade in the Block E entertainment hub in downtown Minneapolis (under 18 must be accompanied by adult during school hours; 21+ after 9 p.m.). Also at Block E: the Hard Rock Café.
Sports fans of all ages should check out the local teams while in town. The Minnesota Twins (Metrodome, 34 Kirby Puckett Place, Minneapolis, 800-33-TWINS, www.twinsbaseball.com), last year’s American League Central Division Champs, return this month with three big winners in the lineup: Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana, MVP Justin Morneau, and league batting champ (and native Minnesotan) Joe Mauer (Season opener, April 2 vs. Baltimore). You can watch the Minnesota Timberwolves finish out the basketball season (Target Center, 600 First Avenue N., Minneapolis, 651-989-5151, www.nba.com/timberwolves) or catch the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers in action (www.gophersports.com).
Dying to get outside and breathe the spring air? Come meet the animals at our two local zoos. The Minnesota Zoo (13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley, 952-431-9200, www.mnzoo.com), south of the Twin Cities, is set on 485 acres and home to 447 animal species. Take a walk inside along the Tropics Trail and meet playful lemurs and agile tree kangaroos before trekking outdoors to the Northern Trail, which is home to Mexican wolves and woodland caribou. Or, view the entire zoo on the Monorail before grabbing a treat at the Call of the Wild Food Court or Zoo Café. The zoo also is home to the Great Clips IMAX Theatre.
To meet a Dromedary camel, black-footed penguin, polar bear and orangutan, you’ll have to head to the Como Park Zoo (1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul, 651-487-8200, www.comozooconservatory.org). The zoo recently worked with the adjacent Marjorie McNeely Conservatory to add Tropical Encounters, an authentic neo-tropical rainforest that explores the relationships between plants and animals. Both the zoo and conservatory are free, though voluntary donations are welcomed—a suggested $1 for children and $2 for adults.
While you are here, take some time to stop by these local stores and restaurants that are perfect for kids. Wild Rumpus Books (2720 W. 43rd Street, Minneapolis, 612-920-5005, www.wildrumpusbooks.com) is an independent children’s bookseller known for its great selection and quirky animal mascots. Creative Kidstuff (Five metro locations, 800-353-0710, www.creativekidstuff.com), a great local chain, has an assortment of fun learning toys and games for sale. Another place for learning toys is Wonderment (4306 Upton Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-929-2707, www.wondermentshop.com), designed with kids and learning in mind by three mothers in 2005. For more than toys, there’s Kiddywampus (4402 1/2 France Avenue S., Edina, 952-926-7871, www.kiddywampus.com), open since 2006, where kids can become Jackson Pollock at the paint wall before trying out the toys for sale.
The local children’s menu includes Andy’s Garage (1825 University Avenue W., St. Paul, 651-917-2332, www.andysgaragecafe.com), where families take a trip back to the ‘50s and enjoy classic diner fare and activities for all ages. Watch as the kids look for Mr. Potato Head in order to win a prize then enjoy the live music (Saturday nights). For burgers and shakes in a historic location, head to Mickey’s Diner (36 Seventh Street, St. Paul, 651-222-5633), a restaurant housed in a classic Art Deco dining car. Mickey’s is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been featured in Mighty Ducks and the film A Prairie Home Companion.
At the end of a long day, you’ll be glad to know that Minneapolis and St. Paul have plenty of places where you can relax and enjoy a show. Look for the theaters in Minneapolis’ Hennepin Theatre District (www.hennepintheatredistrict.org), which often show family-friendly performances; check out the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (345 Washington Street, St. Paul, 651-224-4222, www.ordway.org), home to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; listen in on the talents of the Minnesota Orchestra (Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-371-5656, www.minnesotaorchestra.org) at one of their kid-centric shows; or make a trip to the newly renovated and relocated Guthrie Theater (818 S. Second Street, Minneapolis, 877-44-STAGE, www.guthrietheater.org), which has a history of showcasing great talent. Best of all, two local theaters stage performances made just for kids. At the recently renovated Children’s Theatre Company (2400 Third Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-874-0400, www.childrenstheatre.org), attached to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the two stages split between shows for teens and shows for all (Huck Finn, Through April 7, and The Lost Boys of Sudan, Through April 22). And check out more local talent at Stages Theatre Company (1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins, 952-979-1111, www.stagestheatre.org) in one of their family-focused performances (The Prince and the Pauper, Opens April 20).