8 Family-Friendly Ways to Celebrate Summer
Sunshine! Flowers! Lake weather! Get in the summertime spirit with these eight outdoor adventures the whole family will love.
With a reputation as one of the country’s greenest metropolitan areas, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region hums with activity as songbirds sing, flowers flourish and Minnesota’s famed rivers and lakes once again beckon kids who love to skip rocks and look for frogs. Delight the whole family with these outings for young ones and the young-at-heart alike.
1. Go Outside and Play
The region’s numerous nature centers offer hands-on, fun and free programs no matter the weather. Try maple syruping, birding and bird-banding, geocaching, paddling and guided hikes at places such as Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park, Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville, Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington and Dodge Nature Center in West Saint Paul.
2. Hit the Greens
Get ready for golf season with a trip to the climate-controlled, three-story Topgolf driving range in Brooklyn Center, where players can score points by hitting a variety of targets using balls tracked with GPS chips.
To soak up the warm weather, head outside to Edina’s redeveloped Braemer Golf Course, which consistently ranks among the country’s top public greens. Kids will have a great time learning to golf at the 18-hole putting course or trying a game of croquet at Centennial Lakes Park. Or if summer showers get in the way, escape the rain with a round of pirate-themed, indoor mini golf at Grand Slam in Burnsville.
3. See the Seals and Sea Lions — for Free
One of Saint Paul’s best attractions is perfect for families — and it’s free to get in. Como Park Zoo and Conservatory provides for a full day of entertainment and education that doesn’t cost you anything. The zoo opened Como Harbor, its brand-new seal and sea lion habitat, in June 2021, where you can check out gray seals, harbor seals and sea lions.
4. Feel the Rush
Valleyfair, the Upper Midwest’s largest amusement park, opens for the season in early May and runs through the fall, offering thrills for all ages. Adrenaline junkies should head straight for the 70-foot looping Delirious, which was added in 2018 and anchors a Route 66-themed area. And don’t miss Valleyfair’s Soak City Waterpark, with its wave pool, rapids and water slides.
For weatherproof thrills, head to Mall of America’s indoor amusement park, Nickelodeon Universe; Bloomington’s indoor waterpark, Great Wolf Lodge; or Shoreview’s Tropics Indoor Waterpark, which features a three-story water slide with pick-your-own music and a light show.
5. Cruise the Mississippi
See the Saint Paul skyline from the deck of Padelford Riverboats, which has been cruising the Great River for more than 50 years. Daily cruises from Harriet Island run through Labor Day.
Or round up your family and explore the Mississippi shoreline on foot or by bike via countless area trails. Check out downtown Minneapolis’ historic Mill Ruins Park and the picture-perfect Stone Arch Bridge, or Mississippi Gateway Regional Park in Brooklyn Park. Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area offers a trailhead facility in Inver Grove Heights and rewards hikers with sweeping river valley views.
6. Stop and Smell the Flowers
Walk beneath the blooming cherry trees at Normandale Community College’s Japanese Garden in Bloomington and experience a full dose of tranquility and wellness.
You can also spend a day exploring the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum near Chaska for the ultimate spectacle of flowering trees and blossoming shrubs.
7. Catch a Game
Got any baseball fans in the family? Take them out to a ballgame and watch the Minnesota Twins play at Target Field. Even non-fans will enjoy the gourmet eats and stunning views of the Minneapolis skyline. Or for a more playful and laidback version of American’s favorite pastime, the St. Paul Saints play at CHS Field in Saint Paul’s Lowertown.
8. Wander as You Wonder at Art
Get a glimpse of area icons such as the Spoonbridge and Cherry and the giant blue rooster that rise from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center — little ones will marvel at their majesty and teens will appreciate the selfie possibilities. Eagan’s Caponi Art Park offers another popular spot to enjoy art, plus outdoor concerts and events.