The Twin Cities embrace the outdoors with family-friendly attractions such as Valleyfair amusement park, Twins baseball and the Minnesota Zoo, but there’s plenty inside to keep kids busy when the weather’s too hot or wet.
1) Minnesota Children’s Museum Build sandcastles on the rooftop, run a cafe, crawl through tunnels, make a music video and splash through Water Works at this multistory Saint Paul museum designed for toddlers through elementary-age kids. As a bonus, wander a few blocks to sweetly nostalgic Candyland candy store. (651) 225-6001; mcm.org
2) Beaches You’ll find beaches throughout the Twin Cities and their lake-dotted suburbs. Our picks? Lively Lake Harriet with its cool band shell, canoe rentals and a rose garden (minneapolisparks.org) or the quiet beach in Fort Snelling State Park (dnr.state.mn.us).
3) Science Museum of Minnesota Don’t miss seasonal science lessons in the Big Back Yard overlooking the Mississippi River, as well as indoor adventures walking through a prehistoric swamp, stirring up a tornado or getting blasted by a surprise sneeze. Insider freebie tip: Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge at National Parks Service Mississippi River area in the museum’s lobby. (800) 221-9444; smm.org
4) Minnesota Zoo This zoo’s specialty—animals from the lush jungles of southeast Asia—feels especially welcome on rainy days (as does the colorful aquarium), but it’s also great to get outdoors to see the grizzly bears, Amur tigers and Minnesota wildlife. The farm area is popular when babies are born each spring. (800) 366-7811; mnzoo.org
5) Twins Baseball Watch the sunset paint the Minneapolis skyline while cheering on Twins baseball players at Target Field. Feast on Minnesota eats such as porchetta egg rolls, Valentini’s meatballs, and walleye and chips with a Surly brew.You can opt for alcohol-free family sections and enjoy extras such as local bands on Wednesdays and fireworks on Fridays. (612) 338-9467; twinsbaseball.com
6) Valleyfair Teen thrill-seekers will beeline to the Steel Venom coaster that launches below-track riders into a spiral, the Power Tower with its 275-foot free fall, RipTide that spins riders above water fountains, and Wild Thing, a behemoth coaster with one of the world’s largest weightless zones. Younger kids can find mellower options among the 70-plus rides, along with live shows, a water park and a Dinosaurs Alive exhibit. (952) 445-6500; valleyfair.com
7) Nickelodeon Universe At the heart of Mall of America, this naturally lit indoor amusement park draws kids like a magnet with a Ferris wheel and speedy, spinning and looping coasters—plus one that plunges shrieking riders almost straight down. (952) 883-8800; nickelodeonuniverse.com
8) Sea Life Aquarium Take a trip from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond at one of Mall of America’s top attractions. Highlights include walking through the shark tunnel, experiencing a touch tank and watching the groovy disco-lighted dance of jellyfish. (952) 883-0202; visitsealife.com/minnesota
9) Historic Fort Snelling The “Boom!” of a cannon echoes above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers and adds authenticity to this historical military outpost. Costumed soldiers perform drills, and characters tell tales from the early 1800s. (612) 726-1171; historicfortsnelling.org
10) Mill City Museum Creatively built out of the ruins of an old flour mill along the Mississippi River, this museum looks at Minneapolis’ heyday as milling capital of the world and its legacy as the hometown of Pillsbury, General Mills and Betty Crocker. Take an educational (and explosive) elevator ride, play with a model of river locks and dams, and see what’s up in the baking lab. (612) 341-7555; millcitymuseum.org
Minnesota Children's Museum photo courtesy of Bruce Silcox; Science Museum photo courtesy of Science Museum of Minnesota; Target Field photo courtesy of Wayne Kryduba, MLB photographer.
Read more about Lisa’s favorite experiences and destinations at 10000Likes.com.