Looking for places to visit in Minnesota with kids this summer? Well, look no further. Cause we’ve got you!
You know, at the beginning of every summer season I really feel like we have so much time to visit every place I have been waiting to see for the last nine months! And then somehow I wake up and it’s already August. Kinda like right about now. Which totally means that autumn/fall isn’t that far off and we only have six weeks to get do all the things we always want to do during the summer months in MN. I swear it’s NEVER enough time.
So this year I was completely determined to make sure we get to do everything we planned for on our Minnesota summer bucket list. And since we are both nine-to-fivers, we have to take advantage of every weekend and every holiday. It also means I had to limit my summer bucket list to only ten items.
That actually really seemed like a lot at first. And then I started throwing things on this proverbial list. Very quickly I realized that ten is actually a very small number because there really isn’t a shortage of things to do in Minnesota with kids in summer. Thankfully, we also have a (mostly) wonderful Fall season. Looks like I’ll have to make one of these for fall activities, too! Hang tight for it 🙂
So for this list, I really tried to limit my focus just to those things and places we need the warm weather for. Leave the apple orchards for the cooler days, right? Without holding out any longer, these are the top places I LOVE to visit. Kids or no kids.
1. Centennial Lakes Park in Edina
Oh, this place is amazing. The lakes, the boardwalk, trails, bridges, and nature! Honestly, this place has it all. And it’s right in the heart of Edina. We often come here and let our kids bike all around. Honestly, there are so many things happening here all the time. You can often spot weddings, or small remote-controlled sailboat enthusiasts (always a highlight with my boys). There is a place to rent a paddleboat as well and a gorgeous mini-golf course.
If you get tired, there are many swings all around to just sit and take in the views. We personally love finishing up our walk with some lunch and ice cream at Whole Foods that shares the parking lot to the park. Honestly, this little spot is so full of stuff that it would take a dedicated post to describe! Did I mention you can ice skate on the lakes in the winter?! But, it’s summer now so I won’t rush it.
2. Valley Fair
To be honest, this is one place I still haven’t had a chance to take our kids to. In fact, I feel like I’ve not been there since before our first was born. So it’s probably time. And what summer bucket list is complete without a trip to an amusement park anyways?!
First of all, it’s quite large and offers lots of exploring opportunities. Secondly, it’s got rides. And what kid doesn’t like rides?! And let’s not forget the huge waterpark, too. Basically, this amusement park is an ultimate family-friendly spot to take your littles this summer if you want to tire them out for their naps!
TIP: If you come after 4 pm, you can save some money on tickets and food!
3. Minnesota Zoo
We absolutely love going to the Minnesota Zoo. I think this place has so much to offer. You enter and immediately you see this huge splash pad. The kids absolutely love it. Bringing a change of clothes is probably a good idea. Although I’ve just let mine run around and dry out in the sun. Don’t judge me! Right beside the splash pad, there is a huge playground. And this thing is kinda cool!
I also love that there is a very large indoor area at the zoo. I think last time we were there, they had a butterfly exhibit, there are a tropics trail pavilion, the Minnesota trail, and an aquarium. So great to hide during the heat of the day or when it’s raining.
For some people, the grand size of the zoo is a drawback, but we love exploring all the different areas. I would recommend not trying to see the whole thing in one day!
4. The Como Zoo and Conservatory
This place is also really quite fun. It’s considerably smaller if you’re not into lots of walking. The Como Zoo is home to a few exotic animals which you won’t normally find at the Minnesota Zoo like the zebras and giraffes. But my favorite place at Como is the conservatory complete with the splendid gardens. Of course, my kids probably disagree as Como Town is most definitely their top spot to hang. Last but not least is the gorgeous Cafesjian’s Carousel. This carousel is stunning. It was carved and built-in 1914 by hand. Probably one of the most beautiful carousels I’ve seen.
5. Berry Picking
There are so many places to go berry picking around Twin Cities! Every year I try to pick a different spot to check out. We also like to search for those rare berries. This year I’m thinking of going to the White Pine Berry Farm in River Falls, WI. They have so much variety of produce for U-pick and it’s only about an hour drive or less from the cities. I’m on a hunt for a good place to pick currant, so this is where we’re going!
I recommend looking through the Minnesota U-Pick Farms List for a list of farms near you.
I know these aren’t top of the mind when picking out places to visit with your children, but let me tell you why you might be wrong 🙂
One of my favorite wineries around the Twin Cities area is actually located in Waconia, MN. I kid you guys not, it looks like you’re in Napa. The Winery at Sovereign Estate is overlooking Lake Waconia with the sloping hills of vineyards below. The owners have just invested in building out a new pavilion for events. If I could do my wedding day over again, this place would be top of the list. For sure! I love it so much.
For the kids, there are lawn games, performances by local bands, tractor rides, a little fountain to throw coins in, a small garden to explore, and some horses to watch near the property. There’s plenty of space to just run around, as well. What could be better than spending a few hours sipping delicious wine and enjoying an amazing view, while listening to music and the laughter of your littles? Honestly.
7. Farmers Markets
I’m personally a huge fan of farmers markets in the Summer. So much delicious produce, freshly baked pastries, and other fun foods. I think it’s a perfect place to let your kids discover new veggies and fruit to try. It’s actually a really cool way to trick our kids into eating new foods. I’ve found that if they bought it, they will try it. And at least half the time they actually enjoy it. We love combining these trips with a stop at a cool new coffee shop or café. Here’s a list of farmers markets around town with the schedules. I highly recommend visiting the Minneapolis and St. Paul ones.
8. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
It’s just West of the cities. We go there many times throughout the year because the flowering plants are constantly changing with the seasons. From the weeks of tulips (they’ve got hundreds of different kinds!) to the Magnolia valley, to the flowering rose shrubs, to crab apple trees. The kids are obsessed with the maze they can run through located right in the center of the Arboretum. There’s just so much there. The newly built bee center, the store. There are typically some other seasonal installations in and around the gardens as well. And my personal favorites are the two koi fish ponds in the Japanese garden area. The Arboretum is so large, that there is a special 3-mile drive that will take you through all the areas of the park. Just drive slow and watch out for bikes and pedestrians.
9. Stillwater on St. Croix River
This is a magical little town just a short road trip away in the eastern suburbs of Twin Cities. It almost feels like it’s not part of Minnesota at all. It’s located on the border of the state with Wisconsin just over the St. Croix River. When here, we make sure to start at the Teddy Bear Park before the heat of the afternoon hits. Then we go down to the river and the main street with all the action. There we love looking at shop windows. You’ll find lots of antique stores, cafes, restaurants, mom and pop shops and the likes. The bridge is currently under construction, but when in operation the kids could stand there for an hour watching it go up and down to let the boats through.
Speaking of the boats, there is a bunch of riverboats and other boats including a gondola (!) at the dock right next to the Dock Cafe. A great spot for lunch on the terrace overlooking the river and all the action.
10. The North Shore
Go on a family vacation to the North Shore on Lake Superior. Oh, I love this place so much. I feel like it’s one of our best-kept secrets, Minnesota. From hiking Gooseberry Fall to taking in the gorgeous North Shore Scenic Drive and stopping for every lighthouse on the way. We particularly enjoy picking wild berries that seem to grow everywhere. And the Boundary Waters area is truly something out of this world. The silence is deafening. You don’t even have to travel much past Duluth which has so much to offer for the kids. The huge draw bridge, the barges, the railroads, the boardwalk, the Rose Garden. It’s truly stunning. And if you dare, travel all the way up to Grand Marais. This little town is spectacular and home to many of its own attractions.
Do you have any other summer bucket list ideas? Or maybe you have a favorite summer activity I forgot to mention? Would love to hear them all!