We love the Mall of America, the popular zoos and museums (Minnesota Children’s Museum, Science Museum of Minnesota, etc.), and many other hotspots in the Twin Cities. We visit them often and because there’s always something new at these places, we always enjoy returning.
But sometimes we want to explore something new or a little different.
This past weekend our family decided to have a “Twin Cities Adventure Day.” We visited some places that we had heard about but that were not as well known or tend to be easily forgotten. They included the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Aircraft Viewing Area, Wild Rumpus Bookstore for Kids, and the Brooklyn Park Library. Here I share these places and a few other hidden gems for families in the Twin Cities!
(List is updated regularly – let me know if I missed an update!)
And here’s my segment on WCCO about this round-up!
Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport’s Aircraft Viewing Area
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport’s Aircraft Viewing Area is located right in the heart of the airfield. It’s free and open to public 365 days a year, and includes parking (25 spaces), picnic tables and information about the airplanes! We learned the differences between an Airbus and a Boeing and some other interesting things.
It’s great for kids or for anyone to just sit and observe the constant flurry of takeoffs and landings. We were here 10 minutes and there was no more than a minute or two between an arrival or a departure. You can sit here in your car and watch, or in warmer weather, sit and eat lunch at a picnic table.
It’s located at the end of Cargo Road and next to the FedEx Shipping Center. We just took 24th Avenue north from the Mall of America, turned right at Cargo Road and followed the signs. Super easy!
There’s a map here with directions to the viewing area too: https://www.mspairport.com/sites/default/files/2017-06/Aircraft-Viewing-MAP.pdf
Wild Rumpus and the Linden Hills neighborhood
Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers is a must-see in the Twin Cities. Here you can shop for children’s books among live animals such as a chicken and chinchillas! Many are caged, like the ferret, rats, and tarantula (thankfully – eek!), but the chicken and cats roam loose in the store. (It was busy when we came and they were behind the front desk to avoid all the traffic but you could still see them.)
They even have videos of their animals that you can watch.
The Wild Rumpus prevously had a FREE storytime on Monday mornings at 10:30am called Tail Time but that was put on hiatus due to COVID. Check their website for virtual storytimes and other events!
It’s located at 2720 West 43rd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55410. It’s right in the Linden Hills neighborhood, right by Sebastian Joe’s, Great Harvest, and Heartfelt Crafts, all of which have fun or a play area for kids! Many families start with storytime at Wild Rumpus, and then parents “lure” kids out of the toystore with ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s!
Plus, it’s just a few blocks away from the Lake Harriet Bandshell park.
Brooklyn Park Library
The Brooklyn Park Library remodeled and reopened in 2016, and features a STEM-focused play and learn space that’s a huge draw for families. There’s a microscope (with a few big slides to look at), a giant “Lite Brite” wall and vacuum tunnels that kids can put balls in (watch it shoot them out!). My kids loved playing here and could easily play here for hours.
The library is located at 8500 W. Broadway Ave., Brooklyn Park, MN 55445.
Snapology Minneapolis opened in 2017 at its permanent location in Uptown! It’s an indoor play center offering creative building experiences for kids. My son just had his birthday party there – he and his friends created LEGO helicopters then programmed them to move and make sounds! It was so cool!
In addition to birthday parties, Snapology offers classes, camps and other events.
Learn more: https://www.snapology.com/locations/minneapolis.
SPECIAL DISCOUNTS! Use code FRUGAL15 for 15% off Snapology programs at the Discovery Center or FRUGALBD15 for $35 off a birthday party!
Their address is 2649 Lyndale Avenue, South Minneapolis. Note that there’s no dedicated parking lot for them but there is parking on the street.
We love museums but there are many lesser-known museums in the area including these.
Firefighters Hall & Museum
The Firefighters Hall & Museum in Minneapolis has 12,000 square feet of historic items from Minnesota fire departments dating back to the 1860’s! There is everything for the fire fighting fan in your family – fire trucks, fire equipment, historic photos, and interactive displays for children.
The museum is open on select Saturdays. See their Facebook page for updates.
In the past you could occasionally get up to 2 free tickets from the MELSA SmARTpass with your library card. (Check regularly as its availability on the SmARTpass website comes and goes.)
It’s located at 664 22nd Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418.
Minnesota Transportation Museum
The Minnesota Transportation Museum in St. Paul is a favorite of my kids’. The Jackson Street Roundhouse was built by James J. Hill in 1907 as one of the Great Northern Railway’s steam engine maintenance facilities. There’s a Museum, Restoration Shop, Blacksmith Shop, Rutledge Depot, and train yard filled with historic train cars and vintage buses! Plus, volunteers will give you a “behind-the-scenes” tour! You can go on a real train ride. The lesser-known blacksmith shop is active with blacksmiths on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
There are events for families including Tots & Trains, 1st and 3rd Wed of month.
The Jackson Street Roundhouse is at 193 E. Pennsylvania Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55130.
Twin City Model Railroad Museum
Love model railroads? Explore a museum filled with them at the Twin City Model Railroad Museum. Night Trains is a special event running November through February on Saturday nights.
You can find them at 668 Transfer Road, Suite 8, Saint Paul, MN 55114.
This is a must-see site – play construction site, that is – in Hastings, Minnesota. I drove a bulldozer here with a friend! You can drive a bulldozer, wheel loader or excavator, or go to a cool event like their Heavy Metal Dine-In events in summer.
Save $50 on an experience here with my code FrugalMom.
Extreme Sandbox is at 1901 Glendale Rd, Hastings MN 55033.
Old-fashioned roller skating anyone?
Cheap Skate in Coon Rapids
What’s better than cheap or even free skating?
I listed this place as it’s the only one in the Twin Cities that participates in the national Kids Skate Free Program – sign up and you can enroll up to 4 children ages 10 years and under for 2 free skating passes per week per child!
Parks! I can’t forget parks! We have many favorites in the Twin Cities.
Here are a few:
Schaper Park – Golden Valley
– has an Outdoor Fitness Challenge Course (for ages 13 and up) and opened summer 2017!
Teddy Bear Park – Stillwater
-Quaint, cute park at the top of a hill
-I clustered these together because when they’re all open, they’re close enough to hit all in a day. Definitely all worth visiting. They’re just northeast of the Twin Cities by the border of Wisconsin.
The Franconia Sculpture Park (which is free) and the Wisconsin Interstate Park are both open year-round.
Twin Cities Adventure Guide
This is a great book written by a local mom, Megan Meuli. It is a compilation of lists of everything FUN in the Twin Cities. It has helped our family discover new places – I recommend it to help yours! Here’s my review of the book!
I know this isn’t a complete list…there are many more places worth checking out! What are your favorites?
And check out my Ultimate Guide to Minnesota Family Fun!
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no cost to you. All opinions are 100% mine.)