Family Vacations to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

Mall of America
Mall of America (courtesy, Greater Minneapolis CVA)

Although sister cities on opposite sides of the Mississippi River, Minneapolis and St. Paul sport different styles. More traditional-looking St. Paul is known for its brick and stone mansions along tree-lined Summit Avenue and for its historic State Capitol, an elaborate domed structure of marble, limestone, and granite. Minneapolis has skyscrapers plus a lively, renovated warehouse district. Overall, it has a quicker pace than quieter St. Paul, too. Together, the "Twin Cities" make for a dynamic destination.

At the top-rated Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, meet Diplodocus, an 82-foot-long dinosaur skeleton, move a giant set of tyrannosaurus rex jaws, climb aboard a river towboat, and watch out for objects that jump out at you at the 3-D Cinema. "Body Worlds" (through September 4, 2006) presents 200 authentic human specimens—lungs, hearts, torsos—as well as entire bodies that have been skinned and preserved through "plastination" to reveal the human body's intricate musculature and systems.

The Mississippi River Visitor Center in the Science Museum's lobby has information about Minnesota's National River and Recreation Area, a 72-mile, narrow stretch of river that runs north and south of the Twin Cities. At the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, Fort Snelling State Park offers hiking and biking trails. Nearby, Historic Fort Snelling, a re-creation of the1827 hilltop fortress, once a wilderness outpost, has costumed interpreters who, at select times, perform musket drills and canon demonstrations.

Explore the state's past at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, where you can peek into an ice-fishing hut and learn about the lives of the German, Italian, African-American, and Hmong families who, over the years, resided in the same house. Kids literally put themselves in the picture at "Inside Art," through November 12, 2006, at the Minnesota Children's Museum, St. Paul, by entering settings re-created from famous paintings. The facility, targeted to infants through ten-year-olds, also features a music studio and a play area for toddlers.

Flour mills, powered by St. Anthony Falls, lined the Minneapolis side of the river from 1880s to the 1930s. The Mill City Museum, located in the former Washburn A Mill, tells this story. Ride the "flour tower," the factory elevator, to view scenes from a working mill, and grind wheat and work hands-on models of cleaners, sifters, and flour packers in the galleries. From the rooftop, take in the sweeping view of the Mississippi River.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts' impressive collection spans some 4,000- years and features art from all over the world. There's also a Family Center equipped with games, computers, and restrooms for some downtime from all the art and crowds in the galleries. The Walker Art Center showcases contemporary paintings, photographs, and sculpture. Its Minneapolis Sculpture Garden presents scores of works, including Claes Oldenburg's whimsical "Spoonbridge and Cherry," a giant spoon balancing the ripe, red fruit. Among the Twin Cities' many theater companies, the award-winning Children's Theater Company, Minneapolis, stages plays targeted to preschoolers through teens.

Go ahead—shop till you drop at the Mall of America, Bloomington. Along with 500 stores, the huge facility houses the Park at MOA, where families can zip along on a roller coaster and plunge down a flume ride.

Tip: Board the RiverCity Trolley, June through Labor Day, for a city overview and for access to various destinations.

Recommended Side Trips: Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud


Away.com's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from Amazon.com.

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 10 Jan 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Minneapolis

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#1
The Grand Hotel Minneapolis a Kimpton Hotel
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Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis
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#3
W Minneapolis - The Foshay

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