Looking for places in town that feel a bit removed from the crowds of the metro area, but are well within city limits? When you’ve hit your limit on...
Finding an age-appropriate playground for your child can be difficult. You don’t want big kids trampling your little kid — or little kids always in the way of your big kid. And sometimes it can seem impossible to find the right mix of adventure and age-appropriateness all in one place.
But that shouldn’t keep you from getting out — far from it.
The Twin Cities offer some of the best indoor and outdoor park options in the country! You just have to know where to look.
Check out these 12 parks, broken into age categories of toddler, preschooler, elementary age and tweens and teens. Some of them are indoors — because even in spring, we need rainy-day activities.
Minneapolis Parks wading pools
Where: Take your pick!
Why: Minneapolis boasts 63 wading pools in neighborhoods throughout the city. Many are small and intimate, just right for a few families at a time. Others, such as the rock walls and waterfalls at North Mississippi Park (pictured) right on the Mississippi River are more elaborate and spacious. Pack a picnic lunch and your sunscreen and let your child bask in the water on a hot day. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at most sites. Pools will remain open until 10 p.m. if it's 85 degrees at 6 p.m.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/wadingpools or 612-230-6400
The Giggle Factory
Where: 2007 O’Neil Road, Hudson, Wis., 20 minutes east of downtown St. Paul
Why: Rain or shine, this indoor playground just across the St. Croix River includes multi-level play structure with a variety of slides, a moon ramp and a giant ball room. A special toddler area is reserved for ages 3 and younger. There’s also a space for parents to relax while watching their kids.
Cost: Day passes are $5, $6 or $7.
Learn more: thegigglefactorykids.com or 715-386-6639
Where: 50 Hickory St., Farmington
Why: This city of 20,000 has turned itself into a parks destination during the past 10 years thanks to an ambitious city park master plan. And even more parks are in the works. Westview Acres, one of more than 20 parks in the city, looks like a park meant for big kids, but its toddler-friendly sized slides and climbing structures provide a great adventure for younger children. Farmington also has a well-connected bike trail, so, if your tike likes to ride along in a bike caboose, bring your bicycles and explore the city and its other parks, too.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/westviewacres or 651-280-6800
Teddy Bear Park
Where: Second Street South and Nelson Street, near downtown Stillwater
Why: Sometimes, it just takes a theme to capture a child’s imagination. In Stillwater, this beloved park lives up to its name, and presentation is only part of it. You’ll find top-notch playground equipment, of course. But add in the decor of teddy bears, trains and log slides, and you’ve got a park your child will be sad to leave.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/teddybearpark or 651-430-8837
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
Where: 1225 Estabrook Drive, 15 minutes northwest of downtown St. Paul
Why: Yes, there are plenty of neat animals, which you can see by exploring yourself, or by stopping at various demonstrations and zookeeper chats. Your preschooler can begin his or her appreciation of plant life with a visit to the conservatory. And then, of course, there’s Como Town, an amusement park filled with a bevy of rides for your child. Como Town is also home to Hodge Podge Park, a super jungle gym with climbing structures, suspended bridges, towers, a slide and swings. There’s also a splash zone for hot summer days.
Cost: Free. A donation of $3 for adults and $2 for children is suggested. Como Town wristbands and ride tickets cost extra.
Learn more: comozooconservatory.org, comotown.com or 651-487-8201
Where: 7700 York Ave. S., Edina, near 494 and France Avenue
Why: Though a wonderful attraction for children of all ages, this indoor park and playground is one of the best for preschoolers. This facility includes a pool, multipurpose gym and running track, but your preschoolers will flock to Adventure Peak, a 37-foot-high play structure that invites children to climb low, high and everywhere in between to find their slide of choice, including a 30-foot tall oak tree slide for the most adventurous kids. There’s also a padded Tot Area for younger kids, including climbing, crawling, siding and bouncing opportunities aplenty.
Cost: $7 per child for Adventure Peak only. 10-visit passes (with no expiration date) are $60.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/adventurepeak or 952-833-9540
Hyland Play Area
Where: 10145 Bush Lake Road, Bloomington, about a mile east of Highway 169
Why: Wow. That’s the best way to sum up this award-winning creative play area also known as Hyland Play Area or, as parents call it, Chutes and Ladders. Structures include platforms, hexagonal climbers and slides up to 50 feet long.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/chutesandladders or 763-694-7687
Photo by Derek J. Dickinson / Three Rivers Park District
Good Times Park
Where: 3265 Northwood Circle, Suite 100, Eagan, near 35E and Yankee Doodle Road
Why: Imagine having your very own space equipped with a basketball court, an electronic hologram game, a turf field, a 38-foot inflatable jumper and an imagination playground. You’ll find a wide variety of modern, innovative play options designed to spark motor development, imagination and teamwork in a playful, unstructured environment. And the hours are parent friendly — 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week.
Cost: Day passes are $8 per child with discounts for multiple kids.
Learn more: goodtimespark.com or 651-454-5736
Rambling River Park
Where: 17 Elm St., Farmington
Why: Seriously? It’s a castle? How cool is that? This recently renovated, castle-themed park encourages kids to pretend they’re knights in shining armor. With climbing walls, slides, jungle gyms, swings and even crowns emblazoned atop the structure, this park is a joy for kids who love using their imagination.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/ramblingriverpark or 651-280-6800
TWEEN AND TEENS
Elm Creek Park Reserve
Where: 12400 James Deane Parkway, Maple Grove
Why: In some cases, size does matter. At 4,900 acres, this is the largest park in the Three Rivers Park District. A tween or teenager with any interest in outdoors can find something to do here. Archery, biking, disc golf, cross-country skiing and geocaching are just a few activities offered. Elm Creek is also home to a variety of wildlife, including eagles, deer, beavers, loons and trumpeter swans.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/elmcreekparkreserve or 763-694-7894
Photo by Derek J. Dickinson / Three Rivers Park District
Lebanon Hills Regional Park
Where: 860 Cliff Road, Eagan
Why: At 2,000 acres, this is Dakota County’s largest park, including five trailheads that lead to many lakes, plus year-round outdoor sports, recreation and environmental education. The visitor center on the east side of the park features interactive nature displays, courses, programs and equipment rental, too.
Learn more: tinyurl.com/lebanonhillsregionalpark or 651-554-6530
3rd Lair Skatepark & Skateshop
Where: 850 Florida Ave. S., Golden Valley
Why: This premier indoor skatepark is one of the longest running indoor skateparks in America, a destination for the skating kind since 1997. Camps, lessons and camaraderie abound for any teen looking to advance his or her skills.
Cost: Session passes are $12
Learn more: 3rdlair.com or 763-797-5283
Corey Butler lives in Northfield with his wife and toddler, with Baby No. 2 on the way.
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