Trying to beat the heat doing something fun with the younger ones? Looking for new places around Minnesota to add to your summer bucket list? Wanting to relive the days of your childhood with fun events and activities? If you answered “yes” to one or more, you’ll want to check out this list of kid-friendly places to add to your summer adventures.
Summer has “childhood” written all over it. From water parks to museums to trips to the zoo, summer is a season made for kids. Whether you have kids of your own or occasionally care for others’ kiddos, here is a list of places that are both fun for the youngsters and entertaining for the adults, too.
An amusement park, a water park, and a food festival all wrapped into one? Yes, please! Valleyfair is notorious for its vast array of roller coasters that are well-loved by adults such as the Corkscrew and the Looping Starship. But even if you’re not *this* tall, you can still enjoy Valleyfair’s rides. Planet Snoopy features several rides suitable for younger kids, or any fans of the Peanuts comic, and Soak City has slides of various sizes as well as Breakers Bay Wave Pool, Ripple Rapids, and Barefoot Beach for a more relaxing atmosphere. Also, Valleyfair hosts several events including Midway Movies through August 30 and a Beach Bash held July 29-30. Valleyfair tickets can be purchased online for as low as $37, and season passes and group ticket prices are also available.
Minnesota State Fair
With cookies and lemonade to die for, the Minnesota State Fair is a summer destination frequented by adults looking for a tasty treat and a fun outdoor concert. But its animal exhibits, Alphabet Forest, and Mighty Midway & Kidway make it a great place to take the kiddos this summer. The Mighty Midway & Kidway features rides that are suitable for visitors of all ages. Midway is the central location of adult rides, including the ferris wheel and numerous roller coasters, and Kidway has a long list of rides great for younger guests including a Tilt-A-Whirl, a Merry-Go-Round, and the giant slide. Other than rides, some great options for guests with kids are the Giant Sing Along, fair trivia, and strolling the seemingly never-ending rows of food and merchandise vendor booths.
Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store
Located in Jordan, Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store has been offering every sweet treat you could ever dream of getting your hands on. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends, “The Big Yellow Barn,” as locals like to call it, is famous for its thousands of candies. Open since 1978, Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store boasts its old-fashioned way of doing things, including only accepting cash. The candy is as diverse as the store is large with flavors from as far away as Germany and Japan. A fan favorite is the 30-pound Gummy Snake, which costs $79.99 and never fails to blow the kiddos’ minds.
International Wolf Center
For a trip that is just as entertaining as it is educational, bring the kids to the International Wolf Center in Ely. Its Arctic Wolves, Ambassador Wolves, Wolves and Humans, Little Wolf, and Wolves and Wild Lands in the 21st Century exhibits are great for people of all ages, and they include several interactive elements that are great for the youngsters. The International Wolf Center also does several adventure programs including the Jr. Biologist Summer Camp and Wolves After Dark camp. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. between June 12 and August 13, tickets to the International Wolf Center are $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $7 for children between 4 and 12 and free for members and anyone under the age of 4.
Nickelodeon Universe and SEA LIFE Aquarium
The Mall of America (MOA) attracts thousands of people every day from all around the world. With several floors of stores and restaurants, MOA can be both exciting and overwhelming. If you have a kid (or six) in tow, it can be a tricky place to navigate. Luckily, Nickelodeon Universe and SEA LIFE Aquarium provide the perfect place to entertain kids while keeping everyone in one area. Nickelodeon Universe has a special every Tuesday called Toddler Tuesdays, which features $12.95 five-hour wristbands for toddlers. The park features fun rides and some of kids’ favorite animated characters. SEA LIFE Aquarium is a more laid-back atmosphere where kids can view sea animals and even pet sharks and stingrays in the touch tanks.
Boat and Bicycle Rentals
Thanks to an increased popularity in boat and bicycle rentals, the lake isn’t just enjoyable for boat owners anymore. Como Lake and Lake Calhoun offer great opportunities to enjoy the lake without breaking the bank. Wheel Fun Rentals has single and double Surrey bikes for $18 and $28 which can be ridden around Como Lake, Lake Calhoun, and several others. Also, they offer pedal and double pedal boats for $20 and $27, single and double kayaks for $13 and $20, canoes for $20, and stand-up paddle boards for $17. All offers are charged at an hourly rate and are sold at locations conveniently located right on the lakes’ beaches.
Como Zoo and Como Town
Who doesn’t love free entertainment? The Como Zoo, located in St. Paul, offers an abundance of educational opportunities for the kiddos in your life. With Music Mondays, a Summer Flower Show, and a Polar Bear Program where kids can get up close to observe special enrichment, training, and zoo keeper talks, the Como Zoo will keep the youngsters entertained for hours. A special feature of the Como Zoo is Como Town, which reopens every summer and is ready for your little visitors. Como Town is a mini amusement park located right in Como Zoo. With rides, gift shops, and lots of snacks to choose from, Como Town is a great way for the kiddos to let off some steam. Tickets can be purchased for games and rides, but, just like the rest of the zoo, it’s free to walk around and explore.
With a butterfly garden, Tropical Reef Dive Show, and a newly open Kangaroo Crossing, it’s no wonder that the Minnesota Zoo is one of Minnesota’s most popular attractions. Learn about different species from different parts of the world, pet some stingrays and fish, or watch one of the zoo’s many shows including a bird show, shark feeding, and monk seal demo. Tickets are free for children under 2 years old, $12 for seniors and children 3-12, and $18 for adults. The zoo carousel and camel rides are an additional fee, but are charged at a discounted rate for members. Memberships range from $59 to $159 depending on the amount of people registered and allow for free admission all year, making the Minnesota Zoo a great place to take the kids a few times each month.
Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center
As if you need another reason to visit Duluth, the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center will give you one. Free for all visitors, it displays historic Canal Park in a way that is both breathtaking and educational. Exhibits include the Fresnel Lens, which was installed by the Coast Guard, several boats, and other interesting marine-related items. Be sure to visit the gift shop that is run by Lake Superior Magazine. With gifts, books, and other souvenirs, the gift shop is an excellent place to take the kiddos to pick out a memento from your trip. Be sure to wander around outside and watch ships as they pass under the Aerial Lift Bridge.
Voted World’s Greatest Toy Store by Travel & Leisure Magazine, LARK Toys is more than just your average toy shop. Other than a plethora of toys, LARK Toys has a carousel, a workshop, mini golf, a bookstore, and a cafe filled with treats. LARK Toys will definitely wow the kids, but it also has something to offer the adults. Memory Lane is an area of LARK Toys that features antique collections housed in cases and “storefronts” down a long hallway and scattered throughout the store. Also, the Curiosity Shoppe offers items for men and women as well as kitchen novelties, cards, home decor, and other small trinkets. Come curious and don’t forget to visit the llamas!