Visiting Minneapolis/ St. Paul

Archived Q&A and Reviews


What to do in Minneapolis with 7 and 9 year olds

April 2012

We are planning a trip to Minneapolis with our 9 and 7 year old kids. Do you have any favorite must do activities while there visiting? Would you recommend the Zoo, Scupture Garden, River Cruise or Aquarium? We are not big on malls, but are we missing out if we don't go to the Mall of America? How is the theme park there? Any must do activities in the nearby area, happy to drive an hour outside the city. Thank you for your help! Love to explore

I grew up in Minneapolis so my recommendations may be a bit out of date but the thing I have fond memories of are:

*The Science Museum of Minnesota (now located near the Mississippi River)

*Looking for fossils in the Brickyard in Saint Paul (this was a school field trip; call and find out if you can do it)

*Children's Theater Company *Sculpture Garden (the sculpture garden will probably only take 1-2 hours; stop by Sebastian Joe's afterward for ice cream - 1007 West Franklin Ave)

*Valley Fair (amusement park - I loved the end of year school field trip there when I was a kid. You may want to skip it if you don't want to hear that it was your kids' favorite part of the trip when you get home)

There are two zoos: Como Zoo in Saint Paul (smaller, free, can be seen in ~3 hours, as an adult I feel bad for the animals because they don't have enough space but as a child I liked that you could see them up close) Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley (huge, takes all day to see, lots of walking, some of the animals are hard to see because they have large habitats so binoculars might be good)

I would skip the Mall of America if you can since it makes me sad that it is the biggest tourist destination in the Twin Cities. It is okay when the weather is bad but it is a mall with an amusement park. It also has specialty shops that wouldn't survive elsewhere.

I love eating at the Malt Shop (809 West 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN) but it can be quite busy. Another place near where I grew up that is very popular is Broder's Pasta Bar (5000 Penn Ave S Minneapolis). Khyber Pass Cafe in Saint Paul has delicious Afghan food (1571 Grand Ave).

Find something to do that involves the Mississippi River since it is the biggest river in the country. Either the cruise or a walk along one of the paths.

If you happen to be there in mid-July when the Aquatenniel is going on, check out the milk carton boat races.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. jessica3

I take my kids to Minnesota almost every summer. They have really liked both the Children's Museum and Science Museum (both in St. Paul). You might check out what exhibits will be there to see if anything catches your eye.

What we really love about Minnesota though is the outdoors. So two recommendations. First, Minneapolis has some of the best bike paths in the country! So we usually rent bikes for everyone. (You can find decent weekly rental rates.) And then we take advantage of all the amazing bike paths. One route we like is to go around the 'chain of lakes'. Another is to go down along the Cedar Lake trail. You also can bike along the Mississippi. Its possible to move between all three of these on bike. These paths allow you to be by lakes, river, lots of trees and nature, but also see lots of people and things, AND you don't have to cross streets or worry about traffic, just let the kids go crazy biking. Lake Harriet is part of the 'chain of lakes' and has an outdoor bandshell. See if any concerts are going on and you can bike over to them. I am sure you can find a bike path map online and there are a number of places that rent bikes. We also really like to go to Minnehaha Falls and rent surrey bikes. (those are the car bikes that allow four or five people to sit and pedal together.) There are several paths you can follow with the surreys and you can can check out Minnehaha Falls to boot.

The mall IS worth a trip if you all haven't seen it. The amusement park inside has some decent thrill rides, there is an aquarium and a small but decent lego area, but just the sheer size is worth seeing. Another option is the Como zoo in St. Paul. Its free... Another option is renting canoes on Lake Calhoun...Have fun! Rebecca

We just moved from Mpls -- you'll have a great time! I would focus on outdoor activities when possible, but have indoor activities ready to go depending on weather.


-Chain of Lakes: Isles, Calhoun, Harriet. Walk or rent a bike. Calhoun has a little snack shack and Harriet has a bandshell that might have a free concert. All are great for a picnic.

-Minnehaha Falls: check out the falls and have a snack at Sea Salt.

-The Mississippi Queen: take a ride through the locks and learn about the river. Surprisingly fun.

-Mpls Sculpture Garden and Walker Open Field: lots of activities to do, art to look at, get your photo in front of the Spoon and Cherry

-Festivals: from April through October, there are more art fairs, block parties, free concerts than you can possibly do. Check out the City Pages calendar to see what's going on while you're there.

-Twins game at Target Field: the stadium is brand new and offers regional food and beer. Get cheap tix from a scalper once the game has started.

-Skip the zoo, your kids have probably seen better.


-Art Museums: Walker Art Center (across from the Sculpture Garden) is post-1950s art, Mpls Institute of Art is more encyclopedic. Both are family friendly.

-Mill City Museum: super fun educational museum. While you're there, see if you can check out the interior of the new Guthrie Theater next door.

-Baaken Museum is all about electricity. I have not been, but heard it's good and your kids may be just the right age for it.

-Mall of America: yes, it's huge and it has an aquarium and an amusement park inside it, but again, your kids have probably seen better. But there is a LegoLand if that's of interest.

Like most Midwestern cities, it would be helpful to have a car while you're there. And listen to 89.3 The Current on the radio -- one of the best in the country! Have fun and feel free to contact me if you have more questions or need food recommendations! Blythe

St. Paul visit in April with 4 and 7 year olds

March 2005

Our family, including our 4- and 7-year old daughters, will be visiting St. Paul/Minneapolis for four days in late April. Does anyone have suggestions about where we should stay in St. Paul or specific things that we should do in either city? We have found that suite hotels usually work best for us. Gail

Hopefully someone with children older than my 14 week old son will respond with ideas about what to do with kids in St. Paul, but since no one has made suggestions yet, I thought I could share what I know. I've been a resident of the Twin Cities for 12 years. Obviously I'm a new parent and haven't yet discovered all the places to take kids...but here are a few suggestions for indoor/outdoor activities in April, when the weather can be either warm and sunny or snowy (but more likely warm).


  • Minnesota Children's Museum - downtown St. Paul
  • Science Museum - downtown St. Paul
  • Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America
  • Bell Museum of Natural History - Univ. of MN campus (Minneapolis)
  • Children's Theater Company - Minneapolis
  • Walker Art Center - Minneapolis
  • In the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater - Minneapolis


  • Minnehaha Falls - Minneapolis
  • Dodge Nature Preserve - Mendota Heights
  • Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (town?)
  • Lake Calhoun canoe rental (unsure when they open for the season)
  • Farmers Market - St. Paul or Minneapolis
  • Minnesota Zoo - close to the Mall of America (Apple Valley- southern suburb)
  • Afton Park hiking - Afton
  • Como Lake and Park - St. Paul (zoo, canoe and bike rental, etc.)

Really, the best thing about the Twin Cities metro area is the lakes, so if you can take an afternoon trip to have a picnic and walk around Lake Harriet, Nokomis, Calhoun, or Lake of the Isles...that's quite nice.

Enjoy your trip! Minnesota Resident

Going to a wedding in Sunfish Lake


We are going to a wedding in Minneapolis (actually Sunfish Lake) in August. We have two kids who will be 4 years old and 8 months old and are looking for advice on kid friendly lodging and recreation options.

Sunfish Lake, where you are going, is actually a very exclusive suburb of St. Paul, where I would recommend you stay. St. Paul has an excellent children's museum and an excellent children's museum within walking distance of each other (for adults--you might want a stroller for your 4 year old. ) I would recommend staying either at the St. Paul Hotel (if you want to go first class--closest to the Science museum) or the Holiday Inn Town Square (which has been renovated in the past 4 or 5 years & should be OK, presumably less costly). Both have fast access to small but nice parks--the St. Paul Hotel fronts on Rice Park, and is flanked by the main library which has a great children's reading room and typically has puppet shows, magicians 7 the like on Saturdays or Sundays, I forget which. (It was being renovated back to Victorian glory when we left but I imagine they are done now.) Across Rice Park is the Ordway Theater, home to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (world-class), various other solo performers & touring Broadway shows in the adjacent McKnight theater. If the Hotel could find you a sitter (my bet is they are equipped for that) you might be able to escape for an evening. There is also a nice, fairly kid-friendly restaurant in the Old Post Office building on the other side of Rice Park--the restaurants in the St. Paul Hotel are very good but pretty ritzy & therefore not the best place for kids. The Science Museum is supposed to have a pretty good restuarant but I never got there. Your 4 year old will love it, though. The Holiday Inn is next to Town Square & Town Square Park, a very nice indoor green space; great for kids. There are a couple of food courts on the adjacent Skyway, which will take you to the Children's Museum--they mostly serve the workday crowd but my bet is that some of the places are open on the weekend. This is a good place to feed kids. My kids were past infancy when this museum was built but I seem to recall a room designed for infants' sensory experiences, as well as many other rooms appropriate for older children. There is(or was) a loud restaurant next to the Children's Museum called the Hearthrob Cafe--burgers & rock & roll--that would be good for kids. There are ethnic restaurants along that street, too, that might be kid-friendly.

Both these hotels are close to the Arena/Convention center where the Minnesota Wild hockey team & other miscellaneous sporting events (& shows like home & flower shows etc.) occur. There is also a nice downtown park--Harriet Island, I think it is called-- that might be accessible on foot from these hotels--I forget which bridge you have to cross--at most it would be a 5 minute drive. It is an island in the Mississippi & a great place for kids to watch the barges, etc. There is a nice, kid-friendly restaurant on a houseboat there, the name of which escapes me, that would be fun.

If you have a car, I would suggest Como Park, about a 10 minute drive. There is a wonderful small zoo you could do in half a day. Sparky the Seal does 2 shows a day on weekends & there is the usual burgers, etc. to feed your 4 year old. Next to the zoo is a wonderful glass arboretum(kind of like the one in Golden Gate Park) with a beautiful Japanese Garden adjacent. Lake Como is also a nice place to stroll & feed the ducks. You can rent paddle boats and there is a not-fancy restaurant in the boat house.

If you are there the last week in August, I strongly recommend staying long enough to take in the Minnesota State Fair--I would take the #5 bus from downtown or find out about satellite parking from the concierge because they get 100,000 people a day or so & parking there, particularly on weekends, is difficult. Your 4 year old will love it--I can tell you more about it if the dates work for you.

I am sure there are websites for all these places. The downtown Radisson is also a good hotel, if the others are booked. (If you are going during State Fair week, you will want to book soon.) We moved here from St. Paul about 9 months ago, and as you can probably tell, we miss it very much. In August it could get extremely hot, but bring sweaters for evening. And rain gear. It does rain in MN during the summer, unlike here.

This is an addendum to the message I sent earlier: I forgot to mention that, adjacent to the zoo in Como Park there is an area with very inexpensive rides for small children--mini-roller coasters, a small merry-go-round, airplanes and little cars to ride around in, and so forth. The 4 year old would love it. Mary Ann