By Kristina Light
Minneapolis is a great family getaway from Kansas City. At about 7 hours away, we found many unique experiences to enjoy with the entire family on a trip visiting my husband’s cousins and exploring “Mill City.”
This trip included a visit to Mill City Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Ice Castle MN, and Mall of America.
Museums: Mill City Museum & Science Museum of Minnesota
We love including educational sites on our trips, and we especially love museums. Modern museums just keep getting better with interactive exhibits and demonstrations. I believe this experience is invaluable in helping our children have a better understanding of the world. My girls learned so much on this trip as they experimented with waterways and watched live demonstrations at the Mill City Museum and explored the many hands-on exhibits at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Mill City Museum
Mill City Museum is a must-see attraction to better understand the history of Minneapolis as a city. The museum was built on the ruins of the Washburn A Mill, the largest flour mill in the world when it opened in 1880. The museum tells the story of the mill, flour milling as the primary industry for Minneapolis in its beginning, and the history of baking companies – many of which were or are based in Minnesota.
The Washburn A Mill opened in 1880 and operated for years until an explosion in the mill shut it down. On a tour of the museum, presenters demonstrate how the explosion occurred. They tell the history of the mill and flour milling in general, give a tour of the flour tower where visitors learn about the equipment and the milling industry. We even learned about rivalries between companies like Pillsbury (the “Best Flour”) and Gold Medal Flour.
We were fascinated to see the historical equipment and better understand how it operates. The girls especially enjoyed the baking lab where volunteers demonstrate baking and teach the differences between modern types of flour (did you know the difference comes from what part of the wheat berry is milled to create the flour?). We also learned a lot from the interactive water exhibit where the use of water as a source of power and transportation was better explained through effective hands-on exhibits.
A solid visit of this museum will take a few hours, but it is well worth it! The staff at the museum does an impeccable job of sharing their passion for history and science with children. Also, visitors to the flour tour will experience a remarkable view of Minneapolis.
The entire museum was well done, but the water exhibit was the favorite for our girls! This display teaches children how water pressure is used in the mill.
Science Museum of Minnesota
The Science Museum of Minnesota is very well done. With three floors of interactive museums, and OmniIMAX theater, and cafeteria there is a lot to experience. You will want to allow at least two hours but can easily spend four or more. Due to weather, we were not able to spend as much time as we would’ve liked at this museum – it is top notch! The museum is laid out so that family members can explore different exhibits at the same time easily.
We saw dinosaur fossils and learned about the giant beasts. The girls explored the Human Body Gallery where the circulatory system exhibits were especially fascinating. The Weighing the Evidence exhibit enables visitors to learn how criminal investigation used and uses science to solve crimes. Other interactive exhibits included giant magnets, shadow exhibits, and mathematics.
- If you have a Science City membership you may enjoy free or discounted admission.
- The Omni films are well worth the price for the quality and educational value. They offer many films to choose from when you visit. This is a nice way to break up your time there.
- You may bring your food. Also, the museum does offer a cafeteria and concessions.
- This museum is easily accessible for strollers and wheelchairs with wide aisles and elevators.
Ice Castle MN
On Friday night, we headed to Ice Castle MN a real-life winter wonderland. This magical experience visiting a castle made entirely of icicles was truly unforgettable. You can read all about Ice Castles and discover our tips for your visit here.
Mall of America
On Saturday, we explored attractions at Mall of America. This Minneapolis landmark is well-known as the largest mall in the world. With over 500 stores, numerous restaurants, hotels, and attractions there is truly something for everyone. We were there from open (10 am) to close (9:30 pm) on a Saturday in February, and we barely scratched the surface! With 8 kids in tow (ranging from 5 years old to 13) and four adults, we had a blast making memories and trying new things.
Our visit included Nickelodeon Universe, FlyOver America, Crayola Experience, Dutchman’s Deck, Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, and lunch at Rainforest Cafe at Mall of America. This was a great family outing for a variety of ages and interests and the kids said they want to do it all again!
Read on for some tips to make the most of your Mall of America visit with kids…
First up, Nickelodeon Universe. The most famous attraction at Mall of America has to be Nickelodeon Universe. With 28 rides and attractions, including numerous roller coasters, large thrill rides, kiddie rides, classic carnival rides like bumper cars, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, log chute, and giant swings, this indoor theme park impressed us with the quality of the rides and the variety! The only complaint from our crew was that we would have loved more time to ride everything! We spent several hours in the morning at Nickelodeon Universe, then we visited more of the mall’s attractions, and we returned to the theme park for several more hours in the evening. The entire family had a great time and we thoroughly enjoyed this indoor theme park. I was impressed by the high quality of the rides, quite comparable to what you’d expect at many outdoor summer theme parks.
Nickelodeon Universe Tips:
- Purchase tickets online in advance for the best value. Also, you may redeem prepurchased tickets at kiosks located throughout the park which is faster than the lines to purchase tickets there.
- Look over the website in advance to decide whether you want an all-day all-rides wristband, or want to purchase points to apply to the rides. Each ride is valued at a different number of points according to the size /quality of the ride with most of the kiddie rides at the lower point level and the big thrill rides at the higher point level.
- Check heights in advance. There are many rides that smaller children may ride if accompanied by an adult, so you may need a wristband for parents too.
- Bring snacks. There are restrooms throughout the park with water fountains. I was happy that they had family restrooms in addition to the general public restrooms, ideal for families with many ages of children.
- Wear comfy shoes. You’ll be standing in lines and on your feet throughout the day. Dress in comfortable clothes and enjoy the experience. The Mall is 70 degrees inside year-round, so plan accordingly.
- Expect lines on evenings and weekends. Our wait times varied from 10-45 minutes throughout the day (according to the popularity of the ride and time of day). As we visited on a Saturday, it was busy all day but it was busier in the evening.
Dutchman’s Deck is an indoor ropes obstacle course, an add-on attraction to Nickelodeon Universe. Participants must be 48″ to participate in this obstacle course. The best value is to add this attraction on to an all-day wrist band, but you may purchase it separately. Also, this includes the Ghostly Gangplank, the worlds tallest Sky Trail ropes course (56′ above the theme park), Barnacle Blast (the longest indoor zip line in North America flying 55′ above the park), and the Anchor Drop (giant spiral slide). You may choose to purchase tickets for only one or two of the three attractions – however when asked our crew voted that all three attractions are a hit. Experiencing this attraction to the fullest took about an hour, but our participants all said it was well worth it.
Adventurers are safely strapped into a harness and secured into the course where they will be challenged to try a variety of ropes obstacles including balance beams, nets, ropes, and more. The zip line was a huge thrill with riders zipping across twice – first on the highest zip line of the two, and then back on a slightly lower zipline – zooming past roller coasters and rides below. For the finale, adventurers exited via the giant five-story spiral slide! This was a thrilling attraction that the kids (ages 7-13) and dad really loved!
Moose Mountain Adventure Golf
While half of our crew experienced Dutchman’s Deck, the younger cousins or those who wanted a more relaxed attraction enjoyed Moose Mountain Adventure Golf. This indoor miniature golf course featured a rustic mountain theme and was great fun.
FlyOver America was loved by our ENTIRE family – we give it a hearty two thumbs up! This was quite possibly the all-time favorite of the day. This flight-ride experience takes visitors on a ten-minute “tour” as they “glide” over America’s landmarks. This full sensory experience takes riders on a journey as they move gently in front of the screen creating the sensation of flight. As you soar over mountains, cities, forests, beaches, and national landmarks riders feel gentle breezes, mist, and wind and even experience the scents of pine trees, tropical islands, and other natural areas. This attraction does not permit photos inside, enabling visitors to fully enjoy the experience. If you’ve been to Epcot, this is similar to Soarin’.
I’m a big fan of Crayola products and our kids all love to create art and use their imaginations, so we were excited to check out Crayola Experience. This attraction was very well done for families (especially recommended for elementary age children). We spent about an hour and a half at Crayola Experience, but one could easily spend more time. They have a cafe, gift shop, tunnel play area, and numerous art stations in addition to the highlights featured here.
Crayola Experience Tips:
- Purchase tickets in advance for the best value, and check online for discounts.
- Plan to spend 3-4 hours if possible.
- You may come and go throughout the day.
- Dress for creativity! Your kids will be using crayons, markers, melted crayons, modeling clay, and exploring numerous play areas.
Rainforest Cafe at Mall of America
We treated the kids to a memorable lunch at the original Rainforest Cafe! The kids enjoyed the thunderstorms every fifteen minutes, the many animatronic animals, and the chocolate volcano dessert. Kids meals were $7/ea, with adult entrees from $15-30/ea.
Our family had a great time in Minneapolis and we highly recommend it for a family getaway!
Kristina Light’s family loves new adventures. All of the kids give Minneapolis two hearty thumbs up!