5 Summer Family Adventure Ideas in Minneapolis

Minneapolis is well known for Mall of America, Children's Museum, and Amusement Park Valley Fair.  All of those are great ideas, but they aren't cheap.  If you prefer having some adventures in the great outdoors, here's our top choices for families visiting the Twin Cities. Most of these are off the beaten path, but are well worth the drive.

1. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. See my blog post about the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Here you can hike, see exhibits, and make some great memories as well as take photos. Adults pay $15-18 per visit, or less if you can find a Groupon.  Kids under age 16 are free.  There's a nice cafe with sandwiches and sweets.  You can grab breakfast there on the weekends. Parking is free. Admission is free if you belong to a botanical garden elsewhere. Just remember to bring your membership card and a photo ID. You could easily spend half a day here. 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska MN 55318  (952)443-1400
One of the seasonal tree house inspired displays

2. Big Stone Mini Golf. This place is a combination sculpture garden, golf course, farm, and nature preserve.  Adults will love it as much as the kids. You can roast marshmallows at stonehenge while a big black pig lays in the shade, pet horses, feed goats, see sculptures, and of course play golf too. The course is very creative- even a water maze! They also have snacks like frozen ice treats for afterwards. The landscaping is pretty with lots of perennials which attract hummingbirds and butterflies. We ended up staying more than 2 hours and went near dusk to avoid the heat, though there is shade.  Parking is free. The website is a bit clumsy, so it's maybe better to call for hours and admission.  It was $8.50 per person when we went. 7110 County Road 110, Minnetrista, MN 55364 (952)472-9292
How cool is this? A boat with stained glass windows!

You can get up close and personal with farm animals

3.  Minnehaha Falls Regional Park. This is a large park in the city center which boasts a beautiful 53 foot waterfall, limestone bluffs, and hiking trails.  You can rent multi-person surrey bikes and single person choppers. ($13-35 per hour) at Wheel Fun Rentals. We tried both.  The older kids preferred the choppers as some of the seats on the surrey have no pedals.  It was a hot day when we went, and the covered top was a welcome addition on the surrey bikes.  I might mention that these multi-person contraptions take some real pedal power. It's more work than an ordinary bike, but half the fun is in the team work.  It should be fairly easy to follow the park paths, but I have to confess we passed the park limits and ended up on a course nearly half-way to Fort Snelling. Don't let this happen to you.

Be sure to plan time at the playground and do the hike down to the waterfall.  There is a wading pool, some lovely gardens and historic buildings.  We found a vendor for popsicles, away from the waterfall. Lines were quite long at the Sea Salt Eatery, which is supposed to be a nice lunch stop.  Bathroom lines were also long.  Parking is metered in some places. This was nearly an all day outing for us.
4801 S Minnehaha Park Dr, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55417 (612) 729-2660
Towards the beginning of our ride

After nearly 3 hours and 7 miles because we'd left the trail and the park
Playground has some great photo ops too

You can hike to the base of the falls

4.  Nicollet Commons Park Splash Pad. We've been to splash pads in other places, but this one is very unique.  Even though you're in the middle of a city center, you feel like you're in nature because of the creek that runs through it. The stones get a bit slippery. Bring your own snacks and you can enjoy a picnic in the amphitheater setting. You can find on street parking. This is free. 12550 Nicollet Ave, Burnsville, MN   (952)895-4500

5. Lake Nokomis Watersports. There are plenty of watersports opportunities in the area, but this is my pick because it has shade and is less crowded than the other lakes where there are rentals.  If you have a variety of levels of experience in your group, you can choose a pedal boat or canoe. Maybe try a stand-up paddleboard.  Wheel Fun Rentals rents everything I mentioned. If you're going to visit multiple parks or use rentals several times during the summer, you might be better off to purchase their discount card or look at Groupon for savings.  It's a rare occasion when I pay full price. Bring bathing suits for swimming. Also great hiking and biking here. 5022 W Nokomis Pkwy
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55417 (612) 729-1127

(Wheel Fun Rentals photo)


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