This kid-centric tour of Minneapolis is brought to you by Beth Blair, who blogs about traveling with her two children at The Vacation Gals. The helpful tips were first published on Expedia in 2012 as part of the “Kids in the City” summer travel campaign highlighting family-friendly urban destinations throughout the United States.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are considered sisters because of their close proximity to each other. While they often get lumped together as one, their vibes couldn’t be any more different, and that’s what makes the pair irresistible. Minneapolis is a trendy metropolis with extensive shopping and restaurants. It’s also home to the Weisman Art Museum and Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins play. St. Paul, the state capital, is smaller and has a slower pace. The city is home to the Minnesota Wild hockey team and its history is revealed on Summit Avenue, which hosts a string of notable mansions and the stunning St. Paul Cathedral. While the two cities are rather diverse, they complement each other nicely and share a variety of family-friendly activities, hotels, and restaurants.

What to do with kids in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Mall of America. If there’s one thing you should do when visiting the Twin Cities, it is visit the Mall of America. Not many malls can compete with 520 stores, four department stores, 50 restaurants, and a vast selection of attractions including a mirror maze, miniature golf course, underground aquarium, movie theatre, and the no-doubt highlight Nickelodeon Universe theme park. This indoor amusement park is open year-round and features full-size roller coasters and rides for tots to adults. Look for the Blue and Green Spots signs to find out when you can meet famous Nickelodeon characters such as Dora, Diego and Boots, Wonder Pets, and SpongeBob.

Mill City Museum. After a former life as the world’s largest flour mill, Mill City Museum welcomes kids to learn about its history through a hands-on Baking Lab exhibit, Water Lab, an eight-story Flour Tower elevator, and samples of freshly made bread.

Science Museum of Minnesota. Kids of all ages get a thrill out of this interactive, hands-on science museum in St. Paul. Families spend the day in wonder as they explore galleries and exhibits covering all things science. Kids can learn about the insides of their bodies in the Human Body Gallery, watch a tornado form out of mist in the Experiment Gallery, and dig for signs of the past in the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Wander onto the grounds of this classic Minneapolis attraction and you will notice families pushing strollers, having picnics, and playing ball. You also can’t miss the focal point of the park and one of the city’s most famous landmarks, Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Viewfinder Tip: One of the best deals in the Twin Cities is the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory; admission is free. 

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. A lot of love has gone into maintaining this 100-year-old St. Paul icon. Open year-round, this family-friendly zoo is rightly proud of its indoor and outdoor animal exhibits. During the warmer months families can enjoy riding the historic carousel, roaming the colorful gardens, and playing miniature golf. Admission is free, but a small donation is recommended.

Minnesota Zoo. This zoo spans more than 500 acres;it easily can take all day to cover the six themed areas. During the winter months the indoor exhibits are popular, and during the hot months kids can burn off energy on three long walking paths, multiple playgrounds, and a water play area. The seasonal Wells Fargo Family Farm introduces visitors to farm animals and includes a petting zoo. If you’re around in April, be sure to stop in for the annual “Farm Babies” event, which features the newest zoo additions.

Where to stay with kids in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Radisson Hotel Bloomington. Who would have thought that families could surf in Minnesota? Well, it’s true. Home to the Water Park of America (and not far from Mall of America), this Radisson hotel in Bloomington boasts a water park with Minnesota’s only Flow Rider Surf Simulator. The attraction also has a mile-long family raft ride, the Lake Superior wave pool, and a lazy river. The property itself boasts has two restaurants and a 5,800-square-foot arcade. Guest rooms even have bunk bed options for larger families.

The Depot. For families wishing to stay in downtown Minneapolis, this is the perfect place for families to unwind. The refurbished and modernized 1800s train depot has two hotels, as well as an ice skating rink, water park, and a view of the gorgeous downtown skyline.

Weisman Art Museum


Where to eat with kids in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Axel’s Bonfire. Lucky for us, Axel’s Bonfire has seven locations across the Twin Cities, including Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. This family-friendly restaurant has a fantastic children’s menu featuring make-your-own pizzas and decorate-your-own sundaes. Every day between 3-6 p.m., is Happy Hour restaurant-wide, which means half-price appetizers and pizzas. Talk about a happy mom and dad!

Mickey’s Dining Car. Calling all The Mighty Ducks fans! Mickey’s Dining Car is located in downtown St. Paul and is one of the city’s most cherished landmarks. Not only has it appeared in many movie scenes, it’s also one of the first diners to be built in the Art Deco style. The classic diner fare pleases the entire family with breakfast classics such as French toast and pancakes, as well as burgers and fries for lunch.

D’Amico and Sons. This is another location found throughout the Twin Cities. The walk-up counter has a list of gourmet specialty sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and pastas, as well as a nice variety of kid-friendly items. Kids get to end their meals with a homemade cookie. What’s more: On Sunday afternoons, children eat for free. 

What do you like to do with children in the Twin Cities?