Minneapolis and St. Paul are, in general, very kid-friendly. Unless you’ve chosen one of the poshest restaurants in town, it’s not hard to find booster seats, kids’ menus, and crayons. Arts venues, too, welcome kids, although you should note that some, including the Guthrie (818 2nd St. S., Minneapolis, 612/377-2224, www.guthrietheater.org ) have a minimum age for most of their shows.
The must-see list for families visiting the Twin Cities is long: the Minnesota Children’s Museum (10 7th St. W., St. Paul, 651/225-6000, www.mcm.org , Sun.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., $7.95), the Science Museum of Minnesota (120 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul, 651/221-9444, www.smm.org , Sun.–Wed. 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m., admission $11 adults, $8.50 seniors and children; additional cost for Omnitheater), the Minnesota History Center (345 Kellogg Blvd. W., 651/251-3000, www.mnhs.org/historycenter , Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Tues. till 8 p.m., Sun. noon.–5 p.m.; Labor Day–Memorial Day closed Mon., $10 adults, $8 seniors and students, $5 children 5–17), the Mill City Museum (704 2nd St. S., Minneapolis, 612/341-7555, www.millcitymuseum.org , Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Thurs. till 9 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m., $10 adults, $8 seniors and college students, $5 children ages 6–17, free ages 5 and under), Historic Fort Snelling (Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 55, 612/726-1171, www.mnhs.org ), and the Minnesota Zoo (1300 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, 952/883-8600, www.mnzoo.com ) and Como Zoo (1225 Estabrook Dr., 651/487-8200, www.comozooconservatory.org ) are all good bets.
Keep an eye out for monthly special deals: Admission to the Minnesota Children’s Museum is free on the third Sunday of the month. The Walker Art Center (1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612/375-7600, www.walkerart.org ) hosts an all-out family-oriented bash on the first Saturday of the month, free of charge. The joint is hopping as families work on two crafts projects, rock out at the dance party in the auditorium, and watch offbeat films and live performances. (Note to those traveling without children: This is not a good day to try to enjoy the exhibits.) And admission to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, 888/642-2787, www.artsmia.org , Tues.–Wed. and Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Mon. closed) is always free, but the museum hosts Target Family Day one Sunday a month, with art projects, performers, and special tours for families.
Finally, on select winter Saturdays, the Jungle Theater (2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612/822-7063, www.jungletheater.com ) collaborates with the Wild Rumpus (2720 43rd St. W., Minneapolis, 612/920-5005, www.wildrumpusbooks.com ) bookstore to put on live readings of favorite children’s books. For a schedule of all children’s theater shows and all family-oriented activities in the Twin Cities, go to the calendar section at www.mnparent.com .
If you’re traveling with toddlers, you need somewhere for them to get their wiggles out. You’ll find great playgrounds in downtown Minneapolis’s Loring Park (15th St. W. and Willow St. S., Minneapolis, www.minneapolisparks.org ), on the shores of Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet in South Minneapolis, and in St. Paul’s Como Park. Inclement weather? Run the kids ragged in the empty hallways of the Mall of America (60 E. Broadway, Bloomington, 952/883-8800, www.mallofamerica.com ) in the hours after the doors open at 7 a.m. and before the stores open at 10 a.m.
Got older kids who have to move, move, move all the time? Take them to 3rd Lair Skate Park (850 Florida Ave. S., Golden Valley, 763/797-5283, www.3rdlair.com ), rent them a board and a helmet, and say, “See you in three hours.”