“I love the unexpected warm day in March or April when everyone comes out of their house after hibernating,” says Happi Olson, sales and marketing director at Creative Kidstuff. “The taste of spring re-energizes everyone.”
The Knisely brothers and a buddy at Carver Park Reserve in Victoria.
It’s one of the hallmarks of our cultural DNA. Says Judy Hohmann, marketing and communications manager of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, who does 5K fun runs with her daughter around Lake Harriet, “It’s [our collective] value of an outdoor setting—taking advantage of the beauty and fun of nature as centerpiece as well as backdrop.”
And though it seems impossible given our children’s techno-dependence, visits to our parks are on the rise, jumping nearly 8 percent in 2010, and then another 8 percent in 2011, according to the Metropolitan Council.
Says Stephanie Shimp, owner of Blue Plate Group, whose kids just learned to ride bikes, “We love to hop on one of the many trails and land at Tin Fish or Sea Salt or take the Cedar Lake Trail to Punch Pizza and the pool.” Says Paul Dzubnar, CEO of Green Mill Restaurants, “Things like the parks, the beaches, the bike trails—they give families an opportunity to do things together for a really affordable price, rather than just sitting in front of the video screen at home.”
And when your kids go solo, there’s a wide range of indoor and outdoor camp experiences. (After all, March is planning season for summer camp!)
Three Rivers Park District
+ WHERE TO PLAY
Afton State Park
One of only two state parks in the Twin Cities metro (the other is Fort Snelling), it overlooks the St. Croix River. It’s a bluffy, beautiful canoe trip, and there are camping sites designated backpacking-only.
Anoka County Parks
More than 10,000 acres and home to the great Bunker Beach Water Park. Plus: metro camping!
Bush Lake Beach, batting cages, and mini golf at Dred Scott Playfield.
Carver County Parks
Great, quiet camping at Baylor Regional Park, and it’s just a few miles outside of the metro.
Como Zoo and Conservatory
St. Paul, 651-487-8201
There’s a wide variety of both plant and animal life at the Como Zoo and Conservatory, plus highly rated day and family camps.
Dakota County Parks
Have you checked out Lebanon Hills Regional Park? Wow!
Footholde Soccer Camps
Fun and engaging soccer camps in the south and west metro.
Fort Snelling State Park
St. Paul, 612-725-2389
The only state park within the 494/694 bubble. Find out what life was like at a military fort in the 1820s.
Some of our best golf courses for introducing kids to the sport. It’s also the administrator of the free Lake Harriet Band Shell concerts.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Explore the diversity of nature. Plus: spring and summer camps for all ages.
Apple Valley, 952-431-9200
With 539 species and more than 4,000 animals, there’s more than enough to satisfy your children’s curiosity. Plus: Zoo Camp!
Ramsey County Parks
The outdoor water park Waterworks in Maplewood is great, and five of the parks’ beaches have lifeguards. Plus: Tamarack Nature Center.
St. Paul Parks
It covers Harriet Island, the Great River Passage (along the Mississippi River), and so much more. St. Paul is nationally known for its parks!
Three Rivers Park District
A partnership between Hennepin and Scott Counties, each of the 22 parks is a gem.
Opening Day is May 11. We’re especially looking forward to “Surf Camp” at Soak City Waterpark and the new exhibit Dinosaurs Alive!
Washington County Park
Horseback riding, the historic courthouse, and the terrific Lake Elmo Park Reserve.
Summer camps, swimming, and adventure. Check your local Y for best availability—registration has been open since February.
Big Thrill Factory
New as of March 1, there’s bowling, laser tag, and 18 holes of outdoor miniature golf.
St. Paul, 651-699-8229
Trapeze dreams? This circus school is a great counterbalance to classic sports camps.
Eagles Nest Indoor Playground
New Brighton, 651-638-2130
Ball pit, foam forest, and triple slide—it’s our go-to indoor playground. (And the vending machine has ice cream treats.)
Gleason’s Gymnastic School
Eagan, 651-454-6203; Maple Grove, 763-493-2526
Founded by a U of M gymnast, this is great mind-body strengthening for your wiggliest ones.
Kids can excel at the state’s (un)official sport, with camps for all ages and skill level
Life Time Fitness
Multiple locations, 612-752-7000
Complimentary childcare, active summer and spring break camps, swim lessons, fitness classes, and more.
Sky Zone Trampoline Park
Plymouth, 763-331-3511; Oakdale, 651-200-3383
What kid (or adult) doesn’t enjoy bouncing around in trampoline bliss?
Minneapolis, 612-436-1430; St. Paul, 651-776-1430
Some of the best climbing in the Midwest, indoors and out, and a favorite “family fun day’ activity.
Water Park of America
Believe it or not, this giant indoor water park is open all year round.
Perfect for active kids and families; we love the after-school programs, the early childhood education, and Girls Inc.
Zenon Dance Company
From jazz and ballet to hip-hop, kids come to dance.
Zero Gravity Trampoline Park
Mounds View, 763-231-3033
Like Sky Zone, but in the north suburb of Mounds View. We love the tween nights!