There is SO much to do in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, we couldn’t possibly cover it all in a single weekend, but we certainly tried! Our good friends, with a 4yo and 1yo of their own, relocated to the cities last year after living here in Des Moines, so they were our go-to resource of ideas as we planned with our own 3yo in mind.
The Twin Cities is a straight shot north of Des Moines on I-35. You can get there in under 4 hours, and that even includes a quick bathroom break!
Here’s the rundown of what we did during our weekend in the Twin Cities:
We headed up on a Friday afternoon and checked into the Radisson Country Inn & Suites right across from the Mall of America. This was nothing fancy, but for a family trip, it was a great suite setup with a pullout couch, king bed, microwave/fridge. It has a pool on-site and a free breakfast buffet in the mornings. Easy and everyone could have what they wanted — score.
Exploring St. Paul
After we checked in and dropped our stuff, we went to meet our friends in St. Paul. I’ve admittedly never been to the St. Paul half of the cities. I was SO charmed by the historical vibe and the great mix of local and better-known shops and restaurants.
We went for an early bird/”we have kids with us” dinner at Cosetta, an Italian, cafeteria-style restaurant that is very family friendly. There’s an assortment of pasta and pizza, plenty of beverage options, and no wait to eat. Perfect way to start the fun! This was the one spot I didn’t get a photo of while wrangling kids and food, but their website gives you plenty of “flavor” for their atmosphere!
From dinner, it’s either a ten-minute walk or a quick drive to park over at the Minnesota Children’s Museum. On Friday nights, it’s open until 8 p.m. and it was NOT busy that evening, which was wonderful. We could have gone back another day to check it all out further! We’ve been to several children’s museums around the country in the last year, and I always expect them to be a replica of the previous. This one was full of fresh, creative exhibits! There is an area called “Sprouts” for the 0-3 crowd, otherwise, everything else was a total hit with our preschool aged kiddos. I saw plenty for the school-aged gang as well.
Favorite exhibits were the car wash, the rooftop area (outdoors among the skyline, so cool!), Our World (a mini “city” in which the postal delivery office and fire truck were particularly popular), and The Scramble, an indoor gym area where kids can climb up stories high and slide back down, or just bounce among the skyline on the trampoline. We could have easily gone back another day to check it all out again!
We ended our first evening with a trip to Grand Ave, a main drag through St. Paul that boasts lots of cute shops and restaurants. At our friends’ recommendation, we picked up ice cream cones at Grande Ole Creamery. The servings are VERY generous. I would definitely visit this spot again!
Mall of America
The rest of our trip was spent in the Mall of America. Our first stop was the LEGO store (with fun hands-on stuff to do beyond just shop).
The huge installments of Lego statues were amazing! And of course, we had to shop the wall and make our own kit!
We did a good share of the rides in the center of the mall. Our son is just over 3 feet tall, but he could still ride plenty of things to make it “worth it”. When he wasn’t, my husband or I were allowed to ride along for no extra cost as a required chaperone. I loved that this wasn’t dependent on good weather, but with all the pretty skylight in the center, it still felt like we were getting some outdoor time.
It’s hard to stop all the fun for something as boring as eating to a small kiddo, but Rainforest Cafe was the answer. Simulating real (but not TOO real) thunderstorms, the restaurant is a wall-to-wall rainforest. It features animals that move and make sounds. There is eye candy galore to keep squirmy preschools in their seat while they finish their meal. It might drive me crazy to eat here all the time, but for a one-off experience, it was fun and memorable.
Stores worth hitting that we don’t have in Des Moines: Hanna Andersson, H&M, Zara. I didn’t do a lot of shopping this trip, but if you need a shortened list, that would be mine!
Stuff We Will Come Back to Do
We had Crayola Experience on our list (you can make your own crayons, among other activities!) but we had so much fun at other spots that we never made it there. I would also like to check out the Aquarium.
The forecast was 100 degrees hot the weekend we were there, so I was glad we didn’t buy tickets to a soccer or baseball game. On a cooler weekend though we would love to come back and do one or both!
By the time we left town, all the fun had worn our main man out. Otherwise, I had every intention of checking out Wild Rumpus, a children’s bookstore in Minneapolis that features books (of course) but also real animals.
I could come back and do a whole separate mini trip at Lake Minnetonka. With boat rentals, waterside restaurants, and more. This would be an awesome getaway with a completely different focus.