The Top 6 Indoor Mall Play Areas Around the Metro


When the weather outside is spiteful and my finances are frightful, I take my kiddos to warm mall play areas where I can sip a hot cup of coffee, possibly meet a friend for a play date, and release the wildly beasts into a specifically-created closed-in space where they can run off their energy without me spending a dime (except on that coffee, of course). A mall play area can do wonders for your sanity when the walls of your house are feeling smaller and smaller with each passing day of frigid Minnesota temps. But, I wondered…which ones are worth going to? And why?

I thought it’d be fun to hit up all the mall play areas around the metro and rate them on a 5-star scale based on no actual logical research or scientific facts. (Honestly, what kind of nerd has time to do that crap!?) In fact, these ratings are 100% opinion-based and may very well have been affected by the mood I was in that day or how many tantrums my kids threw beforehand, so take them with a grain of salt, but I hope it’s helpful (at least a little).

Maplewood Mall  |  Maplewood


5 stars


This mall visit almost didn’t happen, mostly because I was lazy and it’s 40 minutes from my house. But, man, this east-side mall – right off of White Bear Avenue and 694 – easily took first place in my rowdy world of kid-friendly mall reviews, so I’m glad I made the trek. I knew the mall had a carousel (which, let’s be honest, is completely awesome at only $2.50 per ride) but they also have a ton more to offer young ones including: an arcade next to the play area, a robust food court, convenient bathrooms, soft pretzels and Cinnabon, Dairy Queen, karmelkorn, quarter rides, a dollar store, and a few kid-specific stores (Payless Kids, Journeys Kidz, Justice, Crazy 8, Kids Foot Locker). The play area wasn’t huge or terribly distinctive from all the other ones, but given the overall mall experience and the kid-centricity of it all, I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars. Oh, and the play area had a built-in changing table and diaper disposal. Not everyday you see something like that.

From the play area…
Closest entrance: Kohls, upper level
Closest bathroom: In the food court, right next to the play area
Closest coffee: Caribou Coffee in center court on lower level

Eden Prairie Center  |  Eden Prairie


4 stars

eden prairie play area

I love this mall. I love it on so many levels. I love that it has carpet and a Barnes & Noble and an AMC Theater and a food court with a Pasta Zola and a Potbelly (mmmm…) and a TARGET! You heard me, parents – a Target – attached to the mall! It’s so convenient, it’s ridiculous. My kids love this play area. The climbing structures range in difficulty and the one in the middle is large and has plenty of stairs and slides to accommodate multiple children. It’s probably the largest of all of the play areas, so even when it’s busy, it doesn’t feel too terribly stressful. Other kid-friendly stuff includes: Air Traffic, Sub-Zero Yogurt, Kids Hair, Justice, GapKids, Claire’s, Gymboree, Children’s Place, and a Wonka Candy machine that allows you to choose your candy and fill a bucket using a touch-screen and a credit card (danger for your chompers, but SO fun!). Also, if you ever come here sans children, hit up Wildfire for some crab cakes, steak and chocolate peanut butter pie – a great date night!

From the play area…
Closest entrance: Kohls, lower level
Closest bathroom: Down the stairs next to Doc Popcorn, which is right behind the Caribou
Closest coffee: Caribou Coffee on lower level, 30 feet from the play area (brilliant!)

Burnsville Center  |  Burnsville


4 stars

burnsville mall play area mn

I heard about Burnsville Center’s arcade and was excited to check out their indoor mini golf course, but the play area itself? WEAK. Three small play cars and a tiny bridge does not a play place make. My kids got bored in 10 minutes (and, trust me, they’re not that hard to entertain). That being said, the arcade – which is located down the steps behind the play area adjacent to the food court – was pretty cool and the black-lit mini golf looked like it could’ve been a good time as well. Their food court also had some unique dining options including Jamaican, Mexican, Greek and Philly steaks. Other items throughout the mall for your kids include: Mrs Fields Cookies, TCBY, soft pretzels, Cinnabon, Journeys Kidz, Stride Rite, Children’s Place, Air Traffic, Games by James, Crazy 8, and Gymboree. While the play area was basically non-existent, the rest of the mall made up for it in a big way. Plus, there’s a Lucky’s 13 Pub attached to the mall, and seriously, who can resist their juicy lucy burgers?

From the play area…
Closest entrance: JC Penney, lower level
Closest bathroom: Inside Old Navy
Closest coffee: Caribou Coffee on lower level in the Gordman’s wing near the kiosks

Southdale Mall  |  Edina


3 stars

southdale mall play area

Southdale, off Hwy 62 and France Avenue, is my second go-to (after Ridgedale), based on convenience and location, and I’m always very pleased by its niceness. “Clean.” That’s the word I’d best use to describe Southdale. Them Edinians know how to upkeep a shopping center! Their play area is tucked into a back corner so the noise can be kept separate from the shopping, and it’s quite large and enclosed with benches (with cupholders) for parents and under-seat cubbies for shoes. The climbing structure in the middle is a favorite of my children with its small slide and tunnels, plus the caterpillar is fun to dangle from when you’re a toddler (I assume this based on the number of crazy toddlers I see hanging from said caterpillar on a regular basis). My kids even enjoy the carpet designs, jumping from object to object playing pretend. And there is a giant piano on the wall that plays music. Other mall amenities enjoyed by children include: AMC Theater, Dairy Queen, Orange Julius, Smashburger, Gymboree, Claire’s and Gap Kids, and a glass elevator that allows kids to walk out into what feels like thin air. Well, if you’re three.

From the play area…
Closest entrance: JC Penney, lower level
Closest bathroom: Directly around the corner (like, 10 feet from the play area)
Closest coffee: Caribou Coffee in center court on lower level

Ridgedale Mall  |  Minnetonka


3 stars

ridgedale play area

My family most frequently visits this mall, located off Hwy 394 and Ridgedale Drive, which makes for a decent choice for play dates, offering coffee right down the hall and plenty of benches for catching up with friends. The mall also offers a lot of kiddie-clothing options such as Gymboree, Justice, GapKids and The Children’s Place and some specialty stores such as Air Traffic and Dollarsmart. Sometimes we grab a Jamba Juice, soft pretzel or kids meal from Chipotle (and they did just add a build-your-own frozen yogurt bar right next to the play area) but food excluded, the only option for potential toddler titillation centers around a coin-toss-worthy water fountain. However, the mall is clean and the play area is a decent size and my favorite option if I’m craving a good game of hide and seek, so we still go. And we go often.

From the play area…
Closest entrance: Sears, lower level
Closest bathroom: Sears, tucked behind the baby/kid clothing section
Closest coffee: Caribou Coffee on the corner between JC Penney and Sears on lower level

Rosedale Mall  |  Roseville


2 stars

rosedall mall play area

Rosedale’s Northwoods play area always leaves me frustrated. The tiny play area is tucked into an actual store space and the carpet is fun, but I find myself needing to choose whether I’m “that mom” who lets her kids take off their socks to allow them better grip on the slippery structures, or if I am instead “that mom” whose kids are wailing out of exasperation from repetitive climbing defeats. I’d choose bare feet over a tantrum any day, but that’s just me. Their food court is small and the food options I prefer (Panera Bread, Granite City, Potbelly) are only accessible from outside (as is the theater) which is not convenient with kids in the wintertime. Some kid-centric offerings include: Air Traffic, Alex & Allie, Dairy Queen, Carters, Claire’s, Stride Rite, Games by James, GapKids, Gymboree and Tomodachi. While my son will play video games at Games n Go or we purchase a Maui Wowi or soft pretzel from Auntie Anne’s, I much prefer to visit this mall solo (because the adult selection is really quite great!).

From the play area…
Closest entrance: JC Penney, lower level
Closest bathroom: Directly outside the play area down the corridor
Closest coffee: Caribou Coffee in center court on lower level

Honorable Mentions: Mall of America

It might be considered cheating to add the Mall of America to this list since it, technically, doesn’t have a “play place,” but it is certainly a hit with kids and can be done for cheap!

Check out my post on how to navigate the MOA with kids on a dime.

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  • Cheryl
    01/26/2015 at 4:07 pm

    I am surprised Burnsville got so many stars. The play area is pretty sad. Wish it wasn’t sponsored by scion.
    Thanks for the descriptions! Ep malls play area really is impressive! 🙂 I’ll have to check the others out. 🙂

    • Nicki
      01/26/2015 at 4:26 pm

      Cheryl, I did have it closer to the bottom originally, but the rest of the mall makes up for the pitiful tiny play area. We are big fans of arcades! 🙂

  • Joy Peters
    01/26/2015 at 4:27 pm

    This is a GREAT round up. But, I hope Roseville Mall doesn’t take your rating to heart and start enforcing the sock rule. Most of us who hang out there regularly are “that kind of mom”. The laid-back parenting style of most of the regulars is the reason I hang out there. Some of the other malls are just too full of hover moms. That makes it uncomfortable to hang out there as a free ranger. For whatever reason, Roseville tends to attract the bigger families and more experienced parents.

    At first I didn’t like the move to the storefront either. I understood the necessity since it had been vandalized. It didn’t take long to find the advantage — with four kids, I don’t have to worry that one has gotten away. I can pick a strategic spot and then my husband and I get some happy alone time while the kids run wild with their friends.

    Thanks again for such a great roundup.

    • Nicki
      01/26/2015 at 4:32 pm

      Joy, thanks for the comment. I am also “that mom” who whips off socks as soon as my kiddos start to get frustrated, so I am on your side 🙂 I had no idea there was a vandalization…how sad. To the play area? Wow, that’s so sad. You make a good point, with four kids I’d be happy with the smaller sized spaces too. I can certainly appreciate wanting alone time with your husband…and I only have TWO kids. haha. Have a great week!

      • Nicki
        01/26/2015 at 4:34 pm

        Upon re-reading my sock comment, i can see how people might interpret it as I am a “socks-are-a-must” kind of mom. I meant that I either choose to let them take their socks off or I get a screaming frustrated kid. 🙂 Might need to rephrase that bit.

  • 10 Free & Air-Conditioned Indoor Family Outings - Family Fun Twin Cities
    07/13/2015 at 1:50 am

    […] Indoor Mall Play Areas – Nicki of the blog MinneMama Adventures did a nice write-up of her top 6 favorite spots last year and included play areas at Maplewood Mall, Eden Prairie Center, Burnsville Center, Southdale, Ridgedale & Rosedale Malls. You can get all the details from her perspective here. […]

  • Sara
    01/08/2016 at 11:19 am

    Is the Ridgedale Mall play area still there after the recent renovation?