15+ Best Things to do in the Twin Cities with Kids
The Twin Cities are a second home for our family. My husband and I both went to college in the cities. It’s where we were living when we got married, had babies, and where we brought them home for the first time.
This summer we brought our not-so-little babies back to the Twin Cities to visit dear friends and show them around the place they were born.
Our visit reminded me of all of the amazing things there are to do with kids in the Twin Cities. It is overflowing with family fun. Below are the things we love the most and did with our twins when we visited this year. Even more ideas are at the bottom!
Visiting the Twin Cities
The Twin Cities, in case you’re wondering, are called the “twin” cities because there are two cities (St. Paul and Minneapolis) sitting right next to each other. They are somewhat realistic twins in that they are really not a whole lot alike, but there are some underlying similarities.
The Twin Cities is a sprawling urban area. From one end of the suburbs to the other is at least a two hour drive. To decide where you’re going to stay I think you need to start with your to do list. Figure out where you plan to spend most of your time and then book a room accordingly.
We stayed in Bloomington on our last trip which is near the airport, Mall of America, and not a bad drive to either St Paul or Minneapolis. It worked well as a centralized home base for us – but figure out what you’re going to do and where that will take you and go from there.
There are all of the things when it comes to food in the Twin Cities. There’s great pizza, good vegan, yummy ice cream, amazing farm to table restaurants, awesome ethnic food, I could go on and on.
We are somewhat limited as a family because of my son’s allergy, but here are the places we ate out while we were in the Twin Cities this summer. I highly recommend them all.
Mall of America
There are a million – well maybe just a hundred – places to eat at the Mall of America. If you want a fun experience I recommend either the American Girl Bistro or the Rainforest Cafe. My kids loved the Rainforest Cafe on our recent trip. It comes complete with moving animals, a rainforest surrounding you, and periodic rainstorms. Truly an experience.
This is one of our favorite local chains – especially for dairy allergy food. They have a number of vegan and gluten free options on the menu – including some yummy dessert options so our little guy had choices which always feels amazing. The pizza is also delicious. The Baked Potato is my personal favorite.
We were on a bit of a vegan ice cream hunt this summer so we tried several. These three were our favorites. Note: They do all have excellent vegan / dairy free ice cream but they also have regular ice cream as well.
The Pumphouse Creamery
Located near Lake Nokomis, this little shop has a good variety of interesting flavors, including several dairy free options for my kiddo with allergies.
This was our local ice cream shop when we lived in MN and is my personal favorite. As a bonus it also has several options every day that are Dairy Free and I love their adorable little Izzy cones for kids.
This spot wins the award for most creative flavors. They also have a host of vegan options for my dairy free kiddo.
Things to do with Kids
Oh my goodness. There are so many things to do with kids in the Twin Cities. This list only cracks the surface, but they are some of our absolute favorites.
1. Lake Harriett
In the land of lakes you have to see at least one while you’re in the Twin Cities. My favorite is Lake Harriett. It is beautiful. It is just far enough around to feel like you had a good walk but not take up your whole day. The band shell has a decent spot for breakfast or lunch. And if you’re with kiddos, there is a playground just up the hill from the band shell that is great for a range of children.
2. Wild Rumpus Children’s Bookshop
This place is magical if you’re a kid. From the moment you arrive and see that kids get to walk through their own specially sized door. Inside you’ll find a chicken and cats roaming and an awesome selection of children’s books from board books to chapter books and everything in between. It is located blocks from Lake Harriett so I like to pair the two.
3. Hyland Park
The Play Area at Hyland Park is truly impressive. It has several different structures of different sizes all in one space. My kids loved the huge climbers which felt like a maze to them and got their imaginations going. I loved the huge umbrellas offering shade from the surprisingly hot summer heat.
4. Mall of America
You could literally spend your entire long weekend at the Mall of America. It has everything – restaurants, an amusement park, an aquarium, attached hotels, and so much more. It certainly is a unique place. I personally think that one day is enough, but that will mean that you have to pick and choose how you spend your time and money. On this trip we went to the Crayola Experience and the SeaLife Aquarium. Next time my kids want to go to the Nickelodean Universe amusement park to go on the rides.
5. Como Zoo
The Minnesota Zoo in Bloomington is definitely the bigger, better zoo – but it also comes with a matching price tag and a lot of walking. If you want to spend a whole day at a great zoo then absolutely make the trip. If you want to spend 2-3 hours at a decent zoo that is FREE, then this is a fun place to go with kids. Don’t miss the polar bear exhibit and walking over the lions. There is also a new seal area opening soon.
6. Minnehaha Falls
I think the Falls are gorgeous. They are an easy walk and if you go during the week it isn’t usually hard to find parking in one of the nearby lots of on the street. It is paid parking, although inexpensive. The walk isn’t hard, but if you want to see the Falls from all angles then it does require some stairs. You can also just walk along the top with a stroller if you prefer to avoid the stairs.
More Family Friendly Places to Explore in Minnesota:
Having lived in the Twin Cities for 11 some years there are a lot more things we have done with kids that didn’t make it onto our list for this visit. This mostly had to do with proximity, friends’ preferences, and weather.
Here are more awesome things we love to do with kids in Minnesota.
7. MN Landscape Arboretum
8. Walker Art Museum
10. Bakken Museum
11. Minnesota Zoo
12. St Paul Children’s Museum
13. MN Science Museum
14. Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store (down the block from Izzy’s Ice Cream)
15. Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater
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Note: This post was included in Wanderlust Kids monthly link up. CLICK to find more family travel ideas!