Jocks! Adventurers! Geeks! Artists! Four flavors of Twin Cities families on making a busy family life work. Bottom line? There’s enough family fun in this town for everyone.
Your dad runs home—in eight-minute miles—to coach your basketball game. Your mom shows up to your parent-teacher conference in yoga gear. Yup. You’re on Team Nelson, where even the lone musician, Bella, age 11, gets physical—she plays the drums.
It’s definitely mostly athletics for this fit St. Anthony Village family: tennis and swimming (Bella), soccer (Drew, 15), basketball and track (Tait, 13, and Drew), and—sigh—a love of football. “Their mother loves football less, so we will see what this next season brings,” says mom, Melissa. What she loves is prenatal and postnatal yoga (she owns Yoga Mama), being a birth doula, and teaching group fitness at Fitness Crossroad. And dad, Trent? “I’ve taken on some running goals this year,” says the web developer and coach. He’s signed up for a 50K race. That’s not a typo.
Sure they’re sweaty, but they’re also exhilarated. “I’m fortunate to be super passionate about the work I do,” says Melissa, whose health, fitness, and mothering interests have become her life. Says Trent, “When the kids were younger, I had the sense the madness would never end. Now I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s helped me to enjoy it.” The buzz from all that cardio doesn’t hurt either.
- Organize. “We live and die by our Google calendar,” say Melissa.
- Define priorities. “We’ve had honest conversations with the kids about what activities are the most important to them,” says Trent. “They know we’ll be more committed to the sports that matter most.”
- Stay out of the car. “We live in a great, small community that’s about two miles big,” says Melissa. “Except for traveling tournaments, everything we do is close by.”
- Make grownup time. “Even if it means getting up early for a yoga class or a run, don’t let the week go by without pursuing your own interests,” says Trent. Or without pursuing your partner: “We’re not just two people who drive kids around and live in the same house,” says Melissa.
- Where you’ll find them: The court/field/track/mat/studio.
FOR THE JOCKS
FootHolde Soccer Camps
Fun and engaging soccer camps in the south and west metros.
Big Thrill Factory
Minnetonka, 952-698-7700, bigthrillfactory.com
There’s bowling, laser tag, and 18 holes of outdoor miniature golf.
Gleason’s Gymnastic School
Eagan, 651-454-6203; Maple Grove, 763-493-2526, gleasons.com
Founded by a U of M gymnast, this is great mind-body strengthening, especially for your wiggliest ones.
Multiple locations, 952-545-7825, impacthockey.com
Kids can excel at the state’s (un)official sport, with camps for all ages and skills.
Life Time Fitness
Multiple locations, 612-752-7000, lifetimefitness.com
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, skyzone.com
What kid (or adult) doesn’t enjoy bouncing around in trampoline bliss?
St. George’s Dressage Academy
Stillwater, 651-795-8427, stgeorgesdressage.com
The history and tradition of classical horsemanship through the art of dressage. For ages 5 and older.
Mpls., 612-436-1470; St. Paul, 651-776-1430, verticalendeavors.com
Some of the best climbing in the Midwest, indoors and out. A great family fun day.
Multiple locations, ywcampls.org
Perfect for active kids and families. We love the after-school programs, the early childhood education, and Girls Inc.
Kid Yoga Minnesota
Mpls., 612-202-5164, kidyogamn.com
Yoga for kids, kid yoga training for teachers, and drop-in daycare, too.
Zero Gravity Trampoline Park
Mounds View, 763-219-4010, zerogravitymn.com
Like Sky Zone, but in the north suburb of Mounds View. We love the tween nights!
Stephen Regenold’s earliest memory is watching the Minnesota River churn from his dad’s canoe. “I was always into something,” he says. “I broke seven bones growing up. I lived outdoors.”
Today he lives in a real house in Minneapolis as the dude behind the national outdoor gear online magazine Gear Junkie. With his dentist wife, Tara, he has four kids: Gwendolyn, Charlie, William, and Levi—all under age 10. That’s adventure enough for most, but not Mr. and Mrs. Gear Junkie. “When my daughter was 6 months old we backpacked the Swedish backcountry. I ski all the time with a kid on my back. Until our dog died, we hooked a sled to him and he pulled kids to the school bus stop.” Though things have slowed since Levi was born, the crew still loves epic multi-family camps where, he says, “the kids go wild and get real dirty.” And they’re all into orienteering meets with the Minnesota Orienteering Club; with only a map and a compass they race through state parks discovering hidden flags. “It’s a great family sport—the kids climbing through thorns and swamps, you can get really lost out there wandering around.”
- Give them freedom to discover: Karate, soccer, skiing, biking, camping, running, ice skating, gymnastics. “We let them dabble, but we don’t overload our weeknights with mandatory activities or team sports.”
- Outside, outside, outside. “Each evening, on foot or bike. Open the windows at home. Drive with the windows down. Get in the lakes or the creek.”
- Be ready. “Swimsuits and towels are always in the car, ready to go.”
- Where you’ll find them: Minnesota’s state parks, Minneapolis city parks (especially Highland and Theo Wirth), and Lake Harriet.
FOR THE ADVENTURERS
Afton State Park
Afton, 651-436-5391, dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/afton
One of seven state parks in the Twin Cities metro. Overlooking the St. Croix River, it’s a bluffy, beautiful canoe trip, and there’s backpack-only camping.
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.
Mpls., 763-432-9177, campbuckskin.com
An overnight program in Ely specifically for kids ages 6–18 with learning needs.
Carver County Parks
Great, quiet camping at Baylor Regional Park, less than an hour’s drive outside the metro.
Camp Chippewa for Boys
Cass Lake, 218-335-8807, campchippewa.com
For boys ages 7–17, focused on growth, confidence, and friendship in the woods.
Excelsior, 612-235-7284, camptanadoona.org
Day, overnight, and Northwoods adventure camps focused on leadership and getting outside at the camp’s 103 acres. Ages 5–17.
Dakota County Parks
Have you checked out Lebanon Hills Regional Park? Wow!
Some of the best golf courses for introducing kids to the sport. Also learn about Lake Harriet Band Shell concerts.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Chaska, 952-443-1400, arboretum.umn.edu
Explore the diversity of nature. Plus: spring and summer camps for all ages.
Ramsey County Parks
Waterworks in Maplewood is great, and five of the parks’ beaches have lifeguards. Plus: Tamarack Nature Center.
St. Paul Parks
Covers Harriet Island, the Great River Passage, and more—St. Paul is nationally known for its parks.
Three Rivers Park District
A partnership between Hennepin and Scott counties, each of the 23 parks is a gem.
Washington County Parks
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 late January.
For her birthday, Jocelyn, age 7, received a stapler for book-making. Her 10-year-old sister, Miranda, reads several books at once—when she’s not playing the computer game Minecraft. This is a geek-chic sisterhood.
Their parents are role models of fabulous nerdery. Mom Lisa is a software developer for ProVation Medical and PTA president for the girls’ school. Dad Haris is a bonafide scientist at St. Jude Medical. Having smarts are hip in this house. TV is traded for word and math games, and geography games like the app Stack the States. Empty containers are kept for “specimen collection.” The garden is blooming with food science: composting, water conservation, crop management. Even the music is geeked out. “Haris recently set up a Windows server and loaded 400 music CDs onto it,” Lisa says. “We have our entire music library on a Sonos system, controllable via our phones, tablets, and laptops.” It’s been said that the geeks will inherit the earth. It sounds amazing.
- Get out of your head: Be active. The parents both golf. Miranda loves tennis, taekwondo, and golf. Both girls enjoy swimming and outdoor camps.
- Make best use of screen time: “We have Kindles because we can set up very specific parental controls for each user.” It’s unlimited book reading for the kids, but only a half-hour a day of games.
- Take it easy: “We recognize the importance of free playtime on both social and intellectual development.” Even eager learners need unfettered time to dream.
- Use resources wisely: “Many summer camp programs—especially all-day camps—qualify as daycare and can be paid for out of pre-tax flexible spending accounts or deducted as childcare on your taxes.”
- Where you’ll find them: Minnesota Opera, Stages Theatre Company, YMCA camp, horse camp, Urban Arts Academy, The Bakken Museum, Bell Museum of Natural History, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Southwest High School’s Super Summer program, and outside in the garden or in the pool.
FOR THE GEEKS
The Bakken Museum
Mpls., 612-926-3878, thebakken.org
The fun side of science, electricity, and magnetism, plus great camps for enthusiastic science nerds.
Multiple locations, 651-730-9910, computerexplorersmn.com
This national chain helps kids get a grasp on technology throughout the metro.
Concordia Language Villages
Moorhead, 800-222-4750, concordialanguagevillages.org
Summer camp sessions for kids and families to shape us into global citizens.
Mpls., St. Paul, 612-824-4394, leonardosbasement.org
A mecca for builders, including LEGO robotics and all-day open workshop.
Science Museum of Minnesota
St. Paul, 651-221-9444, smm.org
For a little more than a century, it’s been inspiring kids and adults. The camps (like Family Fun Camp-In) are a favorite.
The Works Museum
Bloomington, 952-888-4262, theworks.org
A kid focus on engineering and science. Everyone will love the Design Lab.
When she was little, Maeve Maloney-Vinz called her mom Lisa “Work Lady” and her mom Meghan “Art Lady.” It stuck, but a broader description might be that they’re both “Work-and-Art Ladies.” Lisa, who works in community relations at Ecolab, is a life-long dancer of all kinds (she was even on the Wisconsin Badgers dance line in college). Meghan manages the literary magazine Water~Stone Review, creates books with her own press, Broadcraft Press, and directs the Hamline Young Writers Workshop for high school creative writers.
You can guess they’re raising super-arty kids. “We were both English teachers in the St. Paul Public Schools for years before having creative children of our own,” says Meghan. Nine-year-old Maeve, who loves dance, violin, performance, and fashion design is certainly proof. But 3-year-old Hughes? “Right now he mostly wants to be a fireman,” Meghan says. His creative reenactments of the daily routines of firefighters are worth exploring in this active St. Paul family, where any artistic pursuit is possible with a little bit of work.
- On staying connected: “We cook, we eat, we dance at home—almost every night,” says Meghan.
- On keeping it close: “Most of Maeve’s activities are at her school—which provides transportation—or nearby.”
- On letting a creative life happen: “For July and August we can be found in a small Wisconsin town, riding bikes, playing in a lake, and reading books from the local library. We make very few plans and let each day play out.”
- Where you’ll find them otherwise: James Sewell Ballet, Ballare Teatro Dance Theater, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Stepping Stone Theatre, The Loft and Minnesota Center for Book Arts, MCAD’s Fashion Rocks! summer camp, the Art Shanty Projects, any of the independent bookstores, and on the soon-to-be-new fireman’s pole in their treehouse.
FOR THE ARTISTS
Adventures in Cardboard
Mpls., 612-532-6764, julianmcfaul.com
Full-day mythic and epic imaginary play in parks and forests in and around the Twin Cities. With cardboard.
Angelica Cantati Youth Choir Camps
Bloomington, 952-563-8572, angelicacantati.org
For boys and girls in second through 12th grade who love to sing.
Chan DT Musical Theatre Camps
Chanhassen, 952-934-1525, chanhassendt.com
For ages 5–18, for beginners to those looking to audition regularly or make theater a career, all taught by professional design teams and actors. We love the Build-a-Musical camp!
Children’s Theatre Company
Mpls., 612-874-0500, childrenstheatre.org
One of the best theaters for children’s shows in the country and some of the most fun summer camps. Camps for ages 4–18, plus extended care options.
St. Paul, 651-699-8229, circusjuventas.org
Trapeze dreams? This circus school is a great counterbalance to classic sports camps.
MacPhail Center for Music
Multiple locations, 612-321-0100, macphail.org
One-on-one lessons, group classes, and summer camps, plus a free music series.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Mpls., 612-870-3000, artsmia.org
Great art, great family events, and free admission every day.
MCAD Art and Design Classes
Mpls., 612-874-3700, mcad.edu/continuing-education
Half- and full-day classes for ages 5–18, everything from sculpture to fashion to mapmaking to painting pet portraits.
Minnetonka Center for the Arts
Minnetonka, 952-473-7361 ext. 16, minnetonkaarts.org
Stoke creative fires with exhibits, events, and visual arts classes.
She Rock She Rock
Rock ’n’ roll retreats (both after school and summer camps) for girls ages 9 to 16. There are also programs for moms!
Zenon Dance Company
Mpls., 612-338-1101, zenondance.org
From jazz and ballet to hip-hop, kids dance.
Como Zoo and Conservatory
St. Paul, 651-487-8201, comozooconservatory.org
There’s a wide variety of both plant and animal life at the Como Zoo and Conservatory, plus highly rated day and family classes.
Fort Snelling State Park
St. Paul, 612-279-3550, dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/fort_snelling
The only state park within the 494/694 bubble. Find out what life was like at a military fort in the 1820s.
Minnesota Children’s Museum
St. Paul, 651-225-6000, mcm.org
Exciting, stimulating hands-on activities for kids, especially those ages 1 to 10.
Minnesota History Center
St. Paul, 651-259-3000, minnesotahistorycenter.org
Get in touch with the history of our state through hands-on activities. Great for grandparents or a family day out!
Apple Valley, 952-431-9200, mnzoo.org
With 539 species and more than 4,000 animals, there’s more than enough to satisfy your children’s curiosity. Plus: zoo camps for all ages.
Shakopee, 952-445-7600, valleyfair.com
Opening day is May 16 (Soak City waterpark opens later). We’re especially looking forward to new attractions Barefoot Beach and Breakers Plunge.
Water Park of America
Bloomington, 952-854-8700, waterparkofamerica.com
Believe it or not, this giant indoor water park is open all year round.