There are so many things to do in Minneapolis, Minnesota that the whole family can enjoy. Josh and recently got to spend a few days exploring the area. We quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to do everything we wanted to, so we know we will be returning again to keep exploring! (We received complimentary tickets to some of the following. As always, all opinions are my own.)
Some of the fun things to do in Minneapolis and St. Paul are:
The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
The Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory are located in Como Park at 1225 Estabrook Drive, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Over 100 years old, they are owned by the city and are a part of the Park and Recreation department.
The zoo boasts free admission (although a $2 or $3 donation is very welcome!). Plan to arrive early in order to get a parking spot in one of the lots nearby. You can also reach it via the METRO Green Line on University Avenue. The most well known exhibits are the Polar Bear Exhibit, the Large Cat Exhibit, the Wolf Exhibit, the Land and Water Bird Exhibit, the Aquatic Animal Exhibit and Seal Island. Pretty impressive!!
Josh and I figured we would probably spend an hour to ninety minutes walking around the fort and then head out to our next destination. We greatly underestimated how interesting the Fort would be and how engaged we would be by all it has to offer.
Originally called Fort St. Anthony, Fort Snelling was built from 1820 to 1824 at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. It was built to protect the interests of fur traders from the encroachment by the Canadians and British. During the Civil War, Fort Snelling was used as an induction station and during WW2, it served as the location of the Military Intelligence Service Language School to teach Japanese language to the Army personnel. The Fort was decommissioned in 1946 and began to deteriorate until 1960 when it was listed as a National Historic Landmark. The Minnesota Historical Society has converted the site into an educational establishment and has rebuilt many of the buildings to exactly replicate their original appearance.
Most interesting to us were the reenactments. All through out the Fort we came across employees in period dress (despite it being a really hot day) who were very happy to talk with us at length about the historic roles of the people they were portraying. There were canons and guns fired, a piper, and even a store keeper who really knew his history!
The Mill City Museum
The Mill City Museum is located at 704 South 2nd Street in Minneapolis in the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill.
Josh and I love visiting different museums to learn about the history specific to the city we are in. I probably should have, but I really didn’t realize what a huge industry milling was for the Twin Cities. That was made abundantly clear once we entered the Mill City Museum.
The museum does a great job of making the lessons it has to teach fun and engaging!
My favorite part of the whole museum was the Flour Tower.
You enter a giant elevator with benches (think Disney’s Tower of Terror without the stomach jostling plunges) and move from floor to floor where the door opens and a period scene is revealed. The guide gives details about what you are seeing in each one.
When you reach the top, you can step outside where the view is amazing.
The Pillsbury Doughboy says to make sure you include the Mill City Museum for your next visit to Minneapolis!
Chanhassen Dinner Theater
Josh and I had the chance to see a production of Grease at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. We were seated with two other couples both who were regulars there. Once the show started, it was easy to see why people come to multiple shows there – the cast was AMAZING! If you know me at all, you know I love theater, musical theater in particular. I’ve seen Grease probably five or six times and this was by FAR the best production I’ve seen. It truly was Broadway quality. I would head back to Chanhassen Dinner Theater again if I were in the area! (Due to the theater’s rules, I couldn’t take any pictures during the show which is totally understandable!) If you are local to the theater or planning a trip there this fall, Grease is paying until October 28th. Go see it – seriously!! (BTW – the guy who play the guardian angel totally steals the show with just one song – and with this amazing cast, that’s not an easy thing to do.)
Gibbs Farm Museum
We arrived at Gibbs Farm Museum just as it opened. My first tip is going to be to have someone other than the driver look for the entrance – it’s kind of hidden, especially with all of the road construction going on right outside! Once you’ve located the farm, get ready to step back in time! The Gibbs Family purchased 160 acres on the northern side of St. Paul in 1849. Their first home was a 12’x10′ sod home. You can still see the outline of it on the property for reference – it was small. In 1854, the family built a larger home which grew with multiple additions as the family grew too. The home is open for guided tours.
The farm is full of animals that would have lived there back in the 1800’s and that might have been Josh’s favorite part!
Gibbs Farm Museum has a lot of activities that take place throughout the year. Check their schedule here.
Mall of America
No trip to the Twin Cities is complete without a stop at the Mall of America! This was my second visit to the MOA and Josh and I spent the whole day there. Since it was the only day it rained on our trip, it was perfect! Besides having a gazillion stores (yes, that is the official number!) and being the second largest Mall in the US, there is lots to do beside eating and shopping. One attraction we really enjoyed was the Nickelodeon Universe Amusement Park. If you’ve never been there, it boasts several rollercoasters and even a full size ferris wheel!
We also enjoyed a show at Fly Over America which is a 4D ride that takes you across the US. It’s 4D because you see, feel, hear and even smell the attractions and locations as you soar above them. It’s really an amazing experience and one that should not be skipped if you have some time at the MOA.
We also played a round of mini golf at Moose Mountain Adventure Golf. The view from some of the holes made the experience worth every penny even though I was averaging about 10 strokes per hole!
The MOA boasts a ton of other attractions we didn’t get a chance to check out – the SEA LIFE Aquarium, SMAAASH, a comedy show, an escape room experience, and a mirror maze. Just another reason to come back again, right??
You can probably tell that we had a BLAST during our stay in the Twin Cities. Big thanks to the Roseville Visitors Association for arranging a fabulous itinerary and making our trip so special!!
Looking for a place to stay while visiting the Twin Cities? Check out our review of the Radisson in Roseville! It’s an easy drive to all of the attractions we’ve written about here.
robin rue says
I have always wanted to visit this area. I truly hope to get out there one of these days.
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
Thank you so much for sharing this! We’ve traveled all over the country and the world, but we’ve never been to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. It looks great!
Colleen Lanin says
The Minneapolis/St. Paul area doesn’t get nearly enough love, in my opinion. It’s one of the best trips you can take! There’s so much to see and do there.
Michelle Waller says
That zoo looks amazing, especially with a conservatory! This looks like an amazing place to visit with kids.
Our Family World says
What an awesome trip! It really makes me want to pack my bags and travel. My first stop in a new place is always the museums. There is so much to learn about the place’s history and culture. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
Pam Wattenbarger says
I have always wanted to go to Mall of America. It seems like it would be so much fun to visit.
You got to see Grease live!! I’d love to do that… I haven’t been to Minneapolis, but I’d love to visit, and of course, St. Paul would be the first stop.
travel blogger says
There are so many great family activities! I haven’t heard of a zoo that had free admission! That is really great especially when on a family vacation. I would love to check out the Gibbs Farm Museum. I love seeing stuff like that when we travel.
Since I live near the twin cities, I like to read up and see what others find when they come here. It’s true our area has so much to offer, and it changes with the seasons which makes it even more interesting.
Wendy Polisi says
The zoo looks absolutely amazing. That is something we would definitely love to do.
Angela Milnes says
We’re not in the states often, however, we would love to visit this area. It looks like there’s plenty to keep us busy!
There really is a ton to do there. I love that the zoo is free. The Lincoln Zoo in Chicago is free too and is one of the best zoos I have ever been to. I’d love to go to the Mall of America some day. There seems like a never ending amount of things to see there!
We love museums! There are so many unique options in Minneapolis and St. Paul! I think the kids would have a blast checking out the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the goats.
Liz Mays says
I think we’d have a lot of fun exploring the fort and museum. Learning about the history of milling in Minneapolis would be cool!
Toni | Boulder Locavore says
This is a great list! We’ve been here but didn’t have enough time touring the place. We’re sure to do all these next time.
Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says
My kids will enjoy everything about this place! I love that they have so many activities and places for the kids to go to.
Carol Cassara says
The hotel looks amazing! I think I’m going to enjoy most in the Zoo and Conservatory and the museum as well. Those are places that I love going to when we travel.
Wow so many things to do in Minnesota. Its not my typical vacation tourism spot but I have always wanted to go to Mall of America!
Kylie N says
I’m looking at visiting MOA for a weekend maybe this month or next, you’ve sold it to me now I know there’s mini golf!! 😀