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12 Day Trip Itineraries for Minnesota Families

There is nothing quite like a full day out with the kiddos when you have no “real” plans or obligations. What will we do? Where will we eat? Will they be bored? How do I keep it affordable? How much can we squeeze in?

To relieve some of that pressure, we’ve come up with a list of areas in and around the Twin Cities (nothing more than a 90-minute drive) to visit as a family, AND included a slew of kid-(and parent-)approved “what to do” ideas.


How to spend your days?

We’ve made it easy to navigate different areas in and around the Twin Cities with kids to fill a whole day with good food, good fun, ways to burn energy, and create memories.

MANKATO

How to spend your day:

NORTHEAST MINNEAPOLIS

How to spend your day:

JORDAN

How to spend your day:

  • Open at 8am in summer months, you can start the day at the big yellow barn. Pick up candy galore at the famous sugary oddity, Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store.
  • Once the candy is purchased, run off some of that sugar at Grassman Park, a Ninja Challenge Course park with obstacles for a variety of ages.
  • Stop to grab burgers or pizza at Clancy’s Bar & Pizza Parlor, open for more than 40 years. And there’s a reason for that – you won’t regret it.
  • Wash off the pizza grease at Lagoon Park and play in the interactive splash pad, playground or head down the sand to play at Mill Pond swimming beach.
  • OMG it’s a real live old school arcade! Dry off from the swimming and spend an hour or two playing retro video games at Zap Arcade right in downtown Jordan. For $7, you can play all day.
  • On your drive back, get outside again and enjoy the Louisville Swamp hike – a beautiful walk tucked in the woods next to a – you guessed it – swamp. But it’s prettier than it sounds, I promise.

HUDSON

How to spend your day:

  • Start your day with a gorgeous waterfall hike at Willow River State Park. The trail to the falls is short if you park in the closer lot to the falls, and the view and hiking is worth every step.
  • Still have some energy? Swing by Grandview Park for a cute castle playground – the perfect place for a clever game of hide and seek.
  • Head to downtown Hudson for a little Main Street charm, but be sure to make stops at Knoke’s Chocolate for some candy, Chapter2Books for a relaxing book-shopping experience for the kiddos, Bees Knees for a sweet shopping experience.
  • There’s plenty of places to sit and dine for lunch, but our family likes to grab Brick’s Neapolitan Pizza to go, and eat it either at Prospect Park (which overlooks the city) or settle in with a blanket at Lakefront Park right on the St. Croix River.
  • End the day with a walk across the Hudson Pier Bridge and spend some time cooling off at Hudson Pier Beach (different from Hudson or Lakefront Beach) – a sandy spot that is shallow enough for some good kid-friendly swimming.

STILLWATER

How to spend your day:

  • Start out early and get a good hike in at the Arcola Bluffs Day Use area. This is one of my very favorite hikes in Minnesota – overlooking the St. Croix with elevation variations, trees to climb, streams to skip, and the high bridge to walk alongside.
  • Make a stop at the Stillwater Boom Site. Follow “Stillwater Cave” on Google maps to lead you to this deep, dark, graffiti-laden, buried-in-the-limestone hidden cave. Then play by the water and sand as a bonus!
  • Rest your feet at one of the many restaurants in downtown Stillwater – our family loves Leo’s Malt Shoppe or Nacho Mama’s.
  • After lunch, walk the pedestrian-only Stillwater Lift Bridge Historic Site. It’s a unique experience – and maybe you’ll even see it go up while you’re there!
  • Don’t forget to hit up Teddy Bear Park on the tops of the Stillwater hills. This wide-open playground is fenced-in, sweet, and has free parking right across the street.
  • Top the day off with the world’s biggest scoops of ice cream at Nelson’s Ice Cream. Just do it.
  • For the extra ambitious, bring bikes and bike the paved Brown’s Creek State Trail. It takes you as far as you want to go, but we usually start at the Trailhead Kiosk next to the marina and bike to Gasthause Bavarian Hunter for a beer and a giant pretzel, and then head back (under an hour there and back on the trail).

UPTOWN / LAKE STREET

How to spend your day:

  • Begin your day with a puppy dog tail from Isle Bun and Coffee. It’s like pulling the inside of a cinnamon roll out and eating just that part. I mean, are you kidding me?
  • With full tummies, get your toes sandy at Bde Maka Ska’s 32nd Street Beach and playground. Small and shallow with a great view of the whole lake, you can do a little morning splashing.
  • If your kids are 5 or older, head to Uptown Collab for an artsy game of mini golf. I was really impressed with it – especially the UFO hole at the end.
  • Not into mini golf? Head down Hennepin instead to spend an hour mingling with cats at The Cafe Meow, where you can pay a small donation admission to be in the company of dozens of adoptable cats.
  • Hungry for lunch? Visit Midtown Global Market and do some shopping and grab a slice of pizza at Slice Pizza, Minneapolis’ first black-owned pizzeria. Not a pizza fan? The Global Market has sushi, Tibetan, Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean, BBQ, and more.
  • If you have energy left, drive a little further down Lake Street to visit Moon Palace Books and do some reading and shopping (new and used).

TAYLORS FALLS

How to spend your day:

  • Depending on where you drive from, you MUST stop at Coffeesmith in Forest Lake for a coffee flight and pastry.
  • Because you’ll be driving through Lindstrom anyway, you should snag a rosette or a sugar cookie from Lindstrom Bakery – cash only.
  • The stop you shouldn’t miss is Fraconia Sculpture Park in St. Croix. You can’t miss it – and kids think the enormous sculptures are really cool to look at (and even play on some of them).
  • Interstate State Park welcomes you to St. Croix and is such a gorgeous place. You can climb rocks, overlook the river, and even go into glacial potholes. Do be careful here – plenty of dangerous spots for unsupervised kids.
  • Time for lunch! Right next to the State Park parking lot is a row of restaurants. We almost always go to the Drive In Restaurant for cheese curds and burgers. But we’ve also had Schooney’s Pizza and Romayne’s Grill. The Drive In also has outdoor mini golf, a fun addition to an already fun meal!
  • Finally, the grand finale should be Fawn-Doe-Rosa Wildlife Educational Park. A tranquil deer park-meets-farmyard that allows full interaction with beautiful deer and other critters. It’s magical. Read my blog about it.

HASTINGS

How to spend your day:

  • Start with a coffee (or a whole flight of them!) and a breakfast toastie from Froth & Cork in downtown Hastings.
  • While downtown, head over to SC Toys, Level Up Games, Rivertown Treasures, and more shops along 2nd Street. Have time? Head down by the Mississippi River Regional Trail and play the instruments at Levee Park.
  • Time to swim! The Hastings Family Water Park is open all summer and has zero depth entry, water slides, dropo slides, play structure, climbing wall, and more. Rates and hours can be found here.
  • Once you’re beat from swimming, don’s miss grabbing a scoop at Schoolhouse Scoop Ice Cream shop (if they have it, try the maple bacon ice cream).
  • If you have energy left (this is my favorite stop), be sure to get to Vermillion Falls Park to see the waterfall and walk the Vermillion River Trail Bridge. The bridge is covered in padlocks and carved initials and it’s long and quite beautiful. If you walk a little further, you can also find Old Mill Ruins Park where you’ll see the rock formation frames from an old building. It’s way cooler than I made it sound.

ST. PAUL

How to spend your day:

EXCELSIOR

How to spend your day:

MINNEHAHA, SOUTH MINNEAPOLIS

How to spend your day:

FARIBAULT

How to spend your day:

  • Depending on the route you take to get to Faribault, Jensen’s Cafe in Burnsville serves a mean pancake. If you can make it to Faribault, save space in your stomach (TRUST ME) for Crack of Dawn Bakehouse. Some days, I want to drive there just for the pistachio white chocolate cookies.
  • While you’re downtown, take a walk around looking at building murals. There are many. For indoor fun, try painting a canvas at The Upper East Side. For outdoor fun, visit River Bend Nature Center.
  • Cat lovers, you’re gonna love this – head to Furball Farm Cat Sanctuary just outside of town, open to visitors between 1-5pm. Be surrounded by and play with 350+ cats being cared for by volunteers and donations.
  • Have a lunch date at Basilleo’s Pizza, Depot Bar and Grill, or Janna’s Market downtown.
  • Finally, end the day on the highest note – the Faribault Family Aquatic Center is such a sweet spot. My youngest had to take a loose swim test to be able to use the slides and climbing walls, but there’s also lily pads, a diving board, kids features, and a sand pit play area.

You could just read my whole blog about Faribault here and pick and choose to your liking.

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