It’s not always easy to find activities that are well suited for BOTH adults and kiddos. We’ve scoured the Greater Twin Cities for ideas for outings that are both baby-friendly and appealing to adults. Fortunately, we live in a place where you can find a wide range of activities, from hiking to art, and from live music to petting zoos! Here is our list of favorites. Put on your shoes and have an adventure with the little one in your life today!
Explore…The Great Outdoors!
If you love breathing fresh air and walking down a quiet trail, it’s hard to beat the Twin Cities in the summer. We’re home to hundreds of parks and nature reserves, both within the city limits and just outside the city. Check out a nature center this year, like the Lowry Nature Center in Victoria, MN. They have a constant rotating calendar of fun, educational events and activities. Or, find a nature center that’s near you.
Just an hour northeast of the Twin Cities is gorgeous Taylors Falls, which is the entry point to Interstate Park. Explore the St. Croix River by hiking along its banks or taking a boat excursion on a riverboat.
If you’re looking for something closer to home, Crosby Farm is just on the outskirts of St. Paul. This park contains 6.7 miles of paved trails, many of which run along the river’s shoreline through wooded bottomlands. Crosby Farm Regional Park is connected to Fort Snelling State Park and other parks in the vicinity by an extensive trail system.
It’s never too early to expose your little one to a little bit of culture! Fortunately, we have plenty of fascinating spaces in the Twin Cities that are also kid-friendly. If you want to stay outdoors with your tot, try exploring the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden. Home to the famous spoon and cherry, this garden sports many different sculptures and exquisite landscaping. You can even play mini golf in the garden at certain times of the year!
If you’re more into science, the Science Museum in St. Paul is super kid-friendly. They have a “Preschool Playdates” program that is meant for kids ages 5 and under every Tuesday. It’s filled with theater performances, crafts, and other hands-on fun. Or, for slightly older kids, visit The Works Museum in Bloomington for lots of interactive fun. As The Works website says, “Dreams need doing, and exploring engineering gives a child the power to make stuff, break stuff, and make it better!”
More into history than science? Take your baby for an outing to historic Fort Snelling. Take a tour of the old military fort, or traverse the beautiful trails along the riverbottom.
If you’re a regular reader of the Perfect Place Blog, you already know that I’m a strong advocate for healthy living! Part of healthy living is healthy eating and, fortunately, the Twin Cities is teeming with opportunities to find and eat fresh, nutritious food. We’re home to over a dozen farmer’s markets, where you can purchase produce straight from the grower. One of my favorite farmer’s markets is The Mill City Market.
If you want to expose your toddler to a wide array of ethnic food, as well as fresh produce, check out the Midtown Global Market. Always bustling with activity, the Midtown Market hosts restaurants stalls and craft booths from countries all across the world–Thai, Indian, Scandinavian, Mexican, Moroccan…you name it!
Of course, if you’d simply like to sit outside and enjoy a meal with your little one, that’s an option too! The Pioneer Press recently put together a list of the Twin Cities’ best restaurant patios. Pick your favorite, settle in, and bon appetit!
Or, take a stroll along any of the urban lakes in Minneapolis’ chain of lakes. Comprised of Calhoun, Cedar, Lake of the Isles, Harriet, Nokomis, and Hiawatha, the Minneapolis chain of lakes sports miles and miles of hiking or biking trails, fishing piers, beaches, picnic areas, playgrounds, and water activities. Lake Calhoun, Harriet, and Nokomis all have restaurants by them as well (with outdoor patios, of course!)
If you’d like to cool off away from the lakes, that’s an option too! The Twin Cities has several “splash pads” where kids (and their adults!) can cool off under jets of water, fountains, and pools. Find a splash pad near you.
If you’re an animal-lover, then you might want to check out one of the many petting zoos in the Twin Cities area. From goats to llamas to bunnies, these petting zoos usually have minimal entry fees and offer opportunities to pet or feed the animals.
Looking for something a little more exotic? Stop by the Como Zoo in St. Paul! Have fun showing your child the gorillas, giraffes, polar bear, monkeys, and many more animals. The entry fee is donation-based, which makes the zoo accessible to everyone.
Another great place to explore animals is at the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center. The Raptor Center staff “rehabilitates around 800 sick and injured raptors each year, while helping to identify emerging environmental issues related to raptor health and populations.” From eagles to owls to peregrine falcons, the raptor center is an interesting and educational spot for both you and your child.
Gardens abound in the Twin Cities! Aside from the wealth of community gardens and personal flower plots, there are some gorgeous public gardens that you can enjoy with your tot. The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary is home to more than 500 plant species and 130 bird species. It features amazing seasonal displays of native wildflowers in woodland, wetland and prairie areas.
On the other side of the river is the Como Conservatory. The Conservatory is truly a gem, with its beautiful sunken garden, hundreds of plant species (tropical plants, trees, ferns, flowers, fruit trees, Japanese bonsai, etc.), and lovely landscaping. There is both an indoor and outdoor portion of the conservatory, where you can get lost for hours! Right now, a special butterfly house is opening as a temporary exhibit, so be sure to check that out!
If you want to get a little further away from the urban center, try exploring the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The Arb “features 1,137 acres of natural areas, public gardens and thousands of plant labels designed to inspire ideas for visitors’ own backyards.” It is home to more than 5,000 species of plants and has become one of the premier horticultural field laboratories and public display areas in the country. Be on the look out for special demonstrations or seasonal displays.
Explore…Movies & Music
Minneapolis features a movie or musical event in one of its parks EVERY day during the summer! Take advantage of the warm weather and catch a movie or a live show with your little one. Another advantage of outdoor movies? If your child decides to get fussy, you can make a discreet exit, without having to squish past people’s legs in a movie theater!
One of my favorite places that hosts outdoor music events is the Lake Harriet Bandshell. This gorgeous venue overlooks Lake Harriet and features a full line-up of live music during the summer. You can also catch a bite to eat at Bread & Pickle.
Another great venue to catch an outdoor show is the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater. See musical performances in a fantastic outdoor space. And if your little one gets restless? The tigers, sloths, and koala bears are just steps away!
There are so many things to do and places to explore with your little one, that you could easily fill your calendar this summer! So, what are you waiting for? Pick something that intrigues you and take your child on an adventure today!
Have a special spot in the Twin Cities that you’d like to add to the list? Let me know!
Samantha Grose, Associate AIA, Allied ASID Designer for Optima Homes and JP&CO
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Samantha Grose is both Associate AIA and Allied ASID. She is the lead designer for Optima Homes and JP&CO. She takes a unique approach to design creating spaces that are casually sophisticated and timeless in design, where you and your family can live comfortably. She has worked extensively throughout the TWIN CITIES area having completed many new homes and large scale whole house remodels.
Samantha received her BS from the University of Minnesota majoring in both ARCHITECTURE and ART. She is deeply committed to a creative approach giving you highly functional spaces with an aesthetic appeal for everyday living.