Adventurous Parenting: Bon Vivant banner
Photo by Joe Treleven
Minneapolis Central Library
Attack Some Stacks
Libraries have become multi-purpose marvels. The Central Library in downtown Minneapolis boasts a tech center where teens learn everything from digital photography to programming. The vast, light-washed building also has an art exhibition space and a soundproof room with a grand piano that can be reserved by the hour. And don’t miss the special collections on the fourth floor—especially those curated by the Minneapolis Athenaeum, a nonprofit that’s been acquiring and preserving books for more than 150 years. The Aesop’s Fables collection, with editions dating back to the 16th century, is amazing. Across the river, the George Latimer Central Library in downtown St. Paul blends Italian Renaissance revival design with modern touches like recording studios and a maker lab with a 3D printer and a laser engraver. But fear not, traditionalists: The library still has plenty of printed words, including a robust children’s section.
Take in a flick at a 1920s movie house and grab eats on the dining drag that time forgot.
Kids might be surprised to find out that watching movies used to be a glitzier affair than binge-watching cat vids in your PJs. School them on the joys of old Hollywood at the Heights Theater, a 1926 Beaux Arts movie house that’s been restored to its gilded splendor. There’s a Wizard of Oz showing every summer, but other kid-friendly “talkies” also roll through. Get on the mailing list for the lowdown. Central Avenue Northeast is an epicenter of kid-friendly eats. Try the Mediterranean buffet at Big Marina or the weekend Korean buffet at King’s, ride the Ferris Wheel at Betty Danger’s, try healthy Thai at Sen Yai Sen Lek, or crush some of the best tacos in the cities at Maya Cuisine or El Taco Riendo.
Courtesy of Visit St. Paul
Minnesota Transportation Museum
Go beyond the obvious to these cultural outings that are hiding just below the surface.
Transit History and Bubble Tea | Located at the James J. Hill–built Jackson Street Roundhouse (one of the last functioning railroad roundhouses in the country) in East St. Paul, the Minnesota Transportation Museum is an ode to the bygone age of iron horse empire building. Vintage train cars park between operating model railroads, and on Saturdays there are free caboose rides. The Transportation Museum is equidistant between the two crown jewels of St. Paul Asian food, the Hmongtown Marketplace on Como and Hmong Village on Johnson Parkway. Go to either to teach your kids the joys of sticky purple rice—it’s rice you eat with your hands! Or head to Hmong Village for the cities’ best bubble tea at Blueberry Boba Tea (the seasonal special is chockablock with goodies).
Budding Artists and Lamb Burgers | Taking kids to established museums is important and wonderful, but for budding artists it can be downright intimidating—will they ever paint and be part of the canon like Delacroix? The Soap Factory, on the other hand, offers of-the-moment art, often from emerging artists still struggling to make it. It’s no less aspirational than work at the Walker or Mia, but because it can often feel very raw, it has a different sort of intimately possible vitality. After stopping for selfies at the Stone Arch Bridge, head to the new Cafe Alma for hot chocolate and mac ‘n’ cheese for your budding artists, plus lamb burgers and old-fashioneds for you.
A Wonka-Esque East Town Excursion | Hidden in the shadow of U.S. Bank Stadium is a small one-story building that once housed a gas station and, later, an illegal punk rock venue. Today it’s a Wonka-like art space with a Wonka-like name: House of Balls. The name is a nod to owner Allen Christian’s affinity for carving sculptural faces out of old bowling balls. The studio/gallery displays all manner of found-object whimsy created by Christian: interactive animatronics, frying pans that have been converted to masks, figurines made from cutlery, a stencil of a nude man cut from an old furnace duct. But unlike Wonka’s chocolate factory, this funhouse has an open-door policy. As long as the artist is there, anyone can stop by and explore its endlessly surprising nooks. Just show up and knock. Post-exploration, walk a few blocks north to Izzy’s Ice Cream, where the cereal milk flavor tastes like cereal milk! And the rum raisin tastes like rum raisin! And the snozzberries, well, they haven’t created that flavor . . . yet.
Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki
Just because growing grinds to a halt in winter doesn’t mean farmers’ markets do. Here are a few of our faves.
Mill City Winter Market | Residing inside the Mill City Museum, there’s live music, 40 vendors, and lots more. Grab lunch from one of the winter market food vendors like Chef Shack—mmm, mini donuts. Feb. 11; March 4, 11, 25; April 8, 22; millcityfarmersmarket.com
St. Paul Winter Market | Running outside along 5th Street and inside Golden’s Deli, the St. Paul Farmers Market’s winter effort has everything from cheeses to meats to cookbooks. Pair your visit with one of those cult smashburgers from Saint Dinette. Saturdays through April 1, stpaulfarmersmarket.com
Neighbor-hood Roots Winter Market | In winter, the Kingfield, Nokomis, and Fulton farmers’ markets team up for monthly jamborees inside the mammoth greenhouses at Bachman’s Garden Center on Lyndale. Grab a croissant and a latte from Patrick’s Bakery inside Bachman’s to fortify you. Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 25, neighborhoodrootsmn.org
Wild Rumpus Bookstore
Begin a New Chapter
The best bookshops have something for every age.
- Wild Rumpus is hands-down one of the best children’s bookstores in the country, and with kid-friendly Tilia just a couple doors down, it’s the gold standard of family bookstore outings. But just because you’ve been to the Eiffel Tower doesn’t mean you should forgo visiting the rest of Paris. Here are some other solid bookstore hangs.
In St. Paul
- Red Balloon Bookshop is practically a bibliophile's event center, with book club meetings, author parties, and storytime readings.
- Cafe Latté is right down the block. It serves afternoon tea every day from 12 to 5 pm, with cucumber finger sandwiches! Also in St. Paul, Mischief Toy is known by most kids as a toy store, but look closer and you’ll find a stellar selection of comics and anime.
- Take your stack of reads over to Brasa Premium Rotisserie for three courses and a drink for $7.
- The Comic Book College has a kid-friendly reading nook with a beanbag up front. Sit there and read Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar.
- Be sure to swing by nearby Milkjam Creamery for Jam Buns (ice cream sandwiches made with Glam Doll Donuts as buns).
Make an Orchestra Haul
A few years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra began performing film scores in tandem with screenings of popular movies like Gladiator and Home Alone. The idea, which has been adopted by several national outfits, is to attract younger crowds to the orchestra. In 2016, the orchestra hosted four flicks (its most ever in one season) including E.T. and Ratatouille. Film scores might not be Beethoven’s Fifth, but they’re the great gateway for turning little ones on to the real stuff. Upcoming screenings include J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (July 13–14).
Photo by Dan Norman
Children's Theater Company Sneetches
Go Big at CTC
Make your next trip to the Children’s Theatre epic.
With shows like Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches The Musical (opens February 7 and runs through March 26) that are invariably sophisticated productions with as many jokes, asides, and revelations aimed at parents as at kids, the Children’s Theatre Company is a no-brainer for family outings. The full-time acting company is a treasure, and while Autumn Ness, Gerald Drake, and Traci Allen Shannon are all amazing, seeing a show that features the madcap physical back-and-forth of Dean Holt and Reed Sigmund (Holt and Sigmund are both in The Sneetches) is one of the great theater experiences in town. Do CTC right by seeing a 2 p.m. Saturday show and getting there early enough to explore its building-mate Mia first. After, go to Nicollet Avenue for an early dinner at either the Copper Hen or Black Sheep Pizza, then grab dessert at Glam Doll Donuts and take a few home for Sunday morning.
Do the St. Paul Version! Sunday matinees at St. Paul’s Stepping Stone are pay-as-you-can, and Ruby! The Story of Ruby Bridges (February 3–26) promises to be a can’t-miss. If you’re feeling fancy post-show, catch happy hour at locavore Heirloom Kitchen.
Illustration by Ross MacDonald
First Ave Illustration
Rock Out at First Ave.
Did you know that minors can attend 21-plus shows at First Avenue with an adult and that kids under 2 are free? It’s true! Here’s how to do it responsibly.
► Pick an age-appropriate act. You’re probably going to want to leave the kids at home for black metal outfit Deafhaven (March 17). But they’ll love the blue-eyed soul of Lake Street Dive (March 3–4).
► Scrap the cheap foam earplugs in favor of something more substantial, like 3M’s Peltor Optime Hearing Protection headphones, which have an absurdly high noise-reduction rating of 30 dB.
► Arrive early so you can snag one of the tables on the second level, assuring the kids will actually be able to see the stage. Bonus: Cocktail servers will take your soda and beer orders tableside.
► Snag a gig poster. Just pull one off the wall—the club doesn’t mind and it’ll make a great keepsake.
► On their special day, birthday revelers get free admission plus a guest, even if the show is sold out.
Photo by Caitlin Abrams
. . . For a fancy Minneapolis family date night: When Wilbur Foshay built his tower in 1928, he set aside the 27th floor as his private retreat. Today the 27th is gilded 1920s throwback bar Prohibition. It doesn’t necessarily court kids, but it doesn’t deny them either, so get there before the crowds (opens at 5 p.m.) for Shirley Temples, martinis, and happy-hour snacks. After, hit the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck on the 30th floor (Monday – Saturday 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday until 6 p.m.).
. . . For a fancy St. Paul family date day: Start with brunch at Meritage. Little ones will love the fresh beignets and vanilla brioche French toast and you’ll love a seafood tower and a glass of real Champagne. “At brunch the dining room is full of kids,” says chef-owner Russell Klein. “The nice thing about being here for 10 years is that we have families that have been coming here all that time, and you see the kids grow up.” After, head down West 7th to the Alexander Ramsey House for an interactive tour like President’s Visit, 1878 on February 4.