75 Best Places for Kids

75 Great Places to Go & Things to Do with the Kids


Mom + Dad Approved Tips

Let Loose

Call it our own Central Park. Edina’s Centennial Lakes Park boasts a big, beautiful outdoor ice-skating rink, and come summer the space is a one-stop wonderland sporting paddleboats, lawn bowling, golf (with both mini and putting courses), outdoor concerts, and movies. centenniallakespark.com

Night Lights

In winter, take the whole family down to Lake of the Isles for the annual Luminary Loppet, where thousands of ice luminaries cast a glow as skiers and snowshoers make their trek around the lake. Stay for bonfires, cocoa, and a post-party. cityoflakesloppet.com

The Works

Spend an afternoon pulling a few levers at The Works, where learning about engineering, science, and technology is fun. “Hands-on, minds-on” is the motto at this center, aimed at kids 5 to 12, which recently moved from Edina to a larger space in Bloomington with room for a design lab and traveling exhibits. 9740 Grand Ave. S., Bloomington, 952-888-4262, theworks.org

Figuring It Out: The X-Box Cure

One-On-One Letterboxing Outside: "Jake, my 9-year-old, and I call ourselves the Flying Swine. We hunt high and low, in the city and in the woods, in snow or sunshine, for stamps. Letterboxing is a national game of hide and seek that involves clues and hidden boxes filled with rubber stamps and notebooks—it’s like geocaching without the high-tech equipment. Armed with snack-filled backpacks, printed-out clues, and a compass app on my phone, we have explored parks, neighborhoods, and trails that we may never have seen if we weren’t the intrepid, curious, diligent Flying Swine. We’ve spent hours figuring out word games and codes, and counting off steps on maps to bring us to hidden treasures in cemeteries, bookstores, and swamps. The usually handmade stamp we find is inked into our journal, and we record our visit by stamping our airborne pig insignia into the notebook together." —Stephanie March; letterboxing.org, atlasquest.com


Start the day happy in Hot Plate Diner’s bright paint-by-number room. Enjoy Pop-Tarts, mini boxes of cereal, silver dollar cakes, strong coffee, and pumpkin buckwheat waffles with lingonberry butter. 5204 Bloomington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-824-4794, hotplatediner.com

History on Stage

SteppingStone Theatre is our “other” children’s theater company. Its current play, Almost to Freedom, depicts slave life through the eyes of a young girl’s doll. 55 N. Victoria St., St. Paul, 651-225-9265, steppingstonetheatre.org

Go Fish

If you’re going to go fried, why not make it wild Alaskan cod with the best plank fries on the planet at The Anchor Fish & Chips? Sit at the counter and banter with the cooks over a Guinness. 302 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-676-1300, theanchorfishandchips.com


Laughs, screams, and thrills are guaranteed when you throw yourself down a hill on an inflated raft of rubber. The groomed snow lanes, moving sidewalk, and warming hut at Elm Creek maximize the fun factor. Go at night–it’s open ’til 9 pm. 12400 James Deane Pkwy., Maple Grove, 763-694-7894, threeriversparks.org

Figuring It Out: Balancing Act

Volunteering: "In college, I worked at a homeless shelter. After graduating, I spent time with an elderly woman who had no family in town. Then I became a mom, with less time and energy to give. Now that my kids are school-age, I look for opportunities to volunteer with them. The food bank was a great entry point. My son was 5 the first time we worked a shift at the St. Louis Park Emergency Program. Unloading boxes and organizing shelves gave us quality time together, and he looked so proud to be able to help. —Allison Kaplan; stepslp.org

3 More Places To Get Started:
• United Way, unitedwaytwincities.volunteermatch.org • Simpson Housing, simpsonhousing.org
•Doing Good Together, doinggoodtogether.org

Speak Up

Some kids are shy and some won’t shut up, but all are welcome at Intermedia Arts’ Mixed Visions spoken-word and open-mic nights. Kids get to prepare material with the help of professional spoken-word artists, then perform onstage in front of an audience. Grades 7–12, $15. 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-4444, intermediaarts.org

Ice Fishing

Introduce your young’uns to this time-honored tradition of the north. In this parent/child ice fishing clinic, equipment and bait are provided; all you have to bring is warm clothes and an open-minded attitude toward what some consider “fun.” Pre-registration required. Starts at Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center, Fort Snelling State Park, 612-725-2724, dnr.state.mn.us

Puppet Shows

Every Saturday morning through March, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre performs a different puppet show for kids, be it about a Mexican dog or adventurous birds. 1500 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-721-2535, hobt.org

Figuring It Out: The Battle of the Bands

Teen’s first concert–Alone: "I’d rather jam an ice pick in my ears than listen to heavy metal, so it is of course my son’s favorite form of music. If you are a Twin Cities teenager, one of the few places you can go to hear metal live is at Station 4, in St. Paul’s Lowertown. It’s basically a door on the side of a building, beyond which lies a dark and mysterious vortex of doom. The first time I dropped my son off there, I was terrified. Kids were dressed in black, with neon hair and nose rings. The scariest part was that my son fit right in. I wasn’t sure he would survive, but he did, and so did I. Still, for revenge, I cranked the Rolling Stones all the way home." —Tad Simons

4 More Music Venue Ideas:
• Young People’s Concerts at the Minnesota Orchestra
• Easter and Mother’s Day Brunch at the Dakota
• Dinner at Loring Pasta Bar
• All-ages shows at First Ave

Fun Food, Fast

Pairings Food and Wine Restaurant knows how to turn a table at lunch. Pizza, paninis, mac and cheese, and pastas are all made with great ingredients, and you can customize for picky eaters. 6001 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka, 952-426-0522, pairingsfoodandwine.com

Cheeky Monkey, a deli by day and bistro by night, is cozy and relaxing with a neighborhood feel, not cheeky at all. Sandwiches are excellent and can be made with gluten-free bread. 525 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-6066, cheekymonkeydeli.com

• Find fun kid-friendly BBQ (mild, not too smoky) at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. You can slide in and get some ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey breast plus waffle fries, and standard mac and cheese. Oh, and free ice cream every day. Several metro locations, dickeys.com

• There’s free validated parking in the ramp next to the Midtown Global Market, plus more than 15 food counters to choose from. Try burgers at Andy’s Garage, tortas at Manny’s, pizza at Jakeeno’s, and cupcakes at Salty Tart. Lake St. & 10th Ave., Mpls., 612-872-4041, midtownglobalmarket.org

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