Best Minneapolis Indoor Activities for Kids this Winter
Stay inside but don't stay home!
*Please Note: the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily closed some of the following places or limited their hours and availability. Please visit their website or social media channels for up-to-the date information and to find out how you can still support these local businesses during this time.
We’re not new to Minnesota (if this is your first rodeo, welcome), and we know how snowy Midwest winters can get. Once in the midst of the winter chill, all we want to do is stay warm and get cozy! Though, we still have to keep ourselves entertained through these long months. More importantly, we have to keep our kids entertained. Play time and exploration doesn’t stop with the snow. Luckily there are so many great indoor options around the Twin Cities for you and your kids to “get out”. From places that will broaden minds to places that will spend all their energy, there’s something for everyone.
For those who love art, there are monthly events every third Thursday of the month at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) and the Walker Art Center. MIA hosts other events such as Family Day and the Walker has a Free First Saturday where the theme is different and engaging every month.
For the history buffs out there, you can get hands on at the Mill City Museum. Once the world’s largest flour mill, kids can see the ruins come to life, and enjoy activities like climbing through the flour tower and getting hands on with the water lab. The newly opened Bell Museum is also a place for history in mammoth proportions. Literally, there’s a 20 foot woolly mammoth in the exhibit hall. They have family discovery days where families can learn all about space and natural history.
If you’re excited about science, Minnesota Children’s Museum is free every third Sunday of the month, and if you decide to sign up for a family membership, you are allowed unlimited play and get extra perks with the museum. There are dinosaurs and exhibits galore for the family at the Science Museum of Minnesota. In addition to the exhibits, check out the Omnitheater, a 90-foot giant dome screen where you can take a deep dive into the ocean, launch into space, or get up close and personal with wildlife. Children three and under get free museum admission, and if you’re a member, everyone in the family gets in for free!
Games and Activities
If you have a LEGO fanatic in the family, Snapology is there for you offering winter long classes and challenges for all ages. You and your family can enjoy time in the Makerspace building and participating in educational play. For a more active play time and to stay fit, Minneapolis area YMCAs offer year-round sports classes for members and non-members. They also offer child care services for the youngest members of the family. A not-so-obvious play area happens to be located at the Minneapolis Central Library. In the Children’s section, there’s room to learn and explore the world of literature. There’s also Family Story Time events.
Looking for a great night out with the kids? A great option includes seeing a Minnesota Timberwolves game at the Target Center, where you don’t need to love sports to love the action at live games. Join them on Sundays for Family Day, where the kiddos can get $5 kids meals, enter into special giveaways, get pregame photos with Crunch, make signs for the game, and even get their face painted. Stick around after the game for postgame free throws on the court for kids 12 & under.
Can Can Wonderland is a magical place with arcade games, a one-of-a-kind mini golf course, and live entertainment. You could spend an entire afternoon playing games, but note they’re closed Monday through Wednesday and don’t allow kids after 9 p.m. Need to really “escape” the winter? Trapped Puzzle Rooms gives you and your family to play a Super Heroic Escape Room where you have an hour to stop the supervillains before it’s all over! Up to eight heroes can work together in this room.
Zoos and Parks
The Minnesota Zoo is a cherished place during the winter time. The zoo offers an animal-themed indoor playground for your tykes to explore. There are also daily shows at the zoo, so check out the schedule to see what animals will be center-stage each day. Children under two years are free and offers a Free to Explore pass for qualifying families. If you have the winter blues, you can brighten your day at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. The tropical plants and animals will make you feel like you’ve traveled to another place. How can they do that? The greenhouse may be indoors, but the glass make it seem like you’re outside in a jungle. They host special events and family programs all winter long, and even better, visiting is always free with suggested donation.
Have you ever been to an indoor theme park? Yes, roller coasters that are actually indoors! You can find them at Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America where you’ll also find favorites like Spongebob and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wandering around. They have rides for all ages, so you can take the entire family.
Want to reach even more heights? Spend a day at Vertical Endeavors. This indoor rock climbing wall is the perfect place to spend the afternoon trying something new! They offer youth (and adult) climbing lessons as well as a climbing camp, a climbing club, and discount days for the kids. With walls up to 58 feet, 150 routes, and late hours, the climbers in your family can spend endless hours here. Not to mention, it’s on Eat Street, so you get both food and fun. Need a little pick me up after spending all that energy? Sovereign Grounds coffee shop has an indoor playground that’s toddler approved, but kids of all ages are welcome. So you can have your coffee, and they can continue their playtime.
Need some kid-friendly entertainment? Children’s Theater Company has shown classics such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Wizard of Oz, and more. You can find classes and camps available throughout the school year for your kid who’s interested in being on stage. The Hennepin Theater Trust brings in acts for all ages, from Broadway to concerts and comedy. You can see early matinee shows at the historical Orpheum Theatre. Great shows in the past have included Aladdin, The Lion King, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Take your kids to see the childhood classics you grew up with at the Riverview Theater. A 1950’s style theater, they offer cheap movie showings where they present everything from Hollywood's biggest blockbusters to niche art films, all in a classic auditorium featuring new high-backed rocker seats and digital sound. Children 11 and under get in for $2.50, and all shows on Tuesdays are $2.00.
If you didn’t already know, the Mall of America (MOA) is THE place to be in the winter. It has everything you could ever ask for. There are dozens of restaurants to eat at, an aquarium full of sea creatures at Sea Life, virtual tours across the globe at FlyOver America, indoor roller coasters at Nickelodeon Universe, arcades, The Escape Game escape rooms, a movie theater, hands-on fun at Crayola Experience, hundreds of stores, and that’s just the start. Best of all, you can easily get there on the light rail! If you prefer to drive, there are plenty of parking lots surrounding the mall. MOA also has a schedule of events to check out throughout the winter months.
A Twin Cities favorite you have to check off your shopping to-do list is Wild Rumpus. A bookstore with page-turning events and a whole library of animals, they have Tail Time every Monday. It’s free for families to join in the cozy space and listen to great stories - some you’ll want to take home with you. Ever been around the world in 80 minutes?
Take your tastebuds on a trip at Midtown Global Market. This bustling offers shopping and world-class food from 18 different restaurants. From Indian burritos to tamales, they’ve got it all. They also have craft beer along with kid-friendly events and live music to make the culture come alive. If you want to keep your food more local, check out one of the indoor farmers markets, like the Winter Market at Mill City Museum. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays November through April, you can find winter crops, artisan cheeses, kids’ veggie tasting club, and live music. You can check out their calendar to see what’s happening each week or sign up for their newsletter, so you don’t miss a "beet".
Need more inspiration for cold weather activities? Check out the rest of our itineraries for events and experiences in Minneapolis.