Jan 12, 2023 - Things to Do

Best indoor playgrounds, museums for kids in the Twin Cities

A child watches a fish tank at the Minnesota Zoo.

The Minnesota Zoo is a great place to dive into. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

Twin Cities parents have plenty of options for indoor wintertime activities.

Driving the news: We asked readers to share their favorite places to take their kids when temperatures and inclement weather put a damper on outdoor playtime.

Why it matters: Minnesota winters are long. And cold. And snowy. We love (and endorse) getting outside. But sometimes you need a climate-controlled activity outside the house to keep the kids happy and the parents sane until spring arrives.

The big recommendation: Edina's sprawling Edinborough Park was a popular recommendation.

Why kids love it: The facility features three separate play areas, including the "Peak," a 37-foot-tall maze of slides and climbing areas. A separate 5,400-square-foot multipurpose room has scooters, balls and lots of room to burn off some energy.

  • Admission is $9 per child; parents enter free.

Go Deeper: We have plenty more recommendation for those looking to avoid the crowds or just mix it up with a new activity.

Places to get moving

Edinborough Park
Edinborough Park. Photo courtesy of the City of Edina

More indoor playgrounds: Good Times Park in Eagan ($10.95/child), Maple Grove Community Center ($6), Lookout Ridge at Woodbury's Central Park ($5.50) and Eagles Nest in New Brighton ($8) are a few great options.

Rainbow Play Systems (Bloomington): Kids can run wild on play sets in the company's suburban show room. "It’s great – especially if you live in a small Minneapolis/St. Paul lot, where one of their awesome monster systems will never fit," Anne M. says. $8 per child/$10 on weekends and school holidays.

Sky Zone: The indoor trampoline park has several locations across the metro. Best for older kids. Tickets start at $16.99.

Museums and more

A wooly mammoth and polar bear.
The Bell Museum's permanent collection includes a wooly mammoth and life-sized polar bear. Photos: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Minnesota Firefighters Museum (Northeast Minneapolis): "It is basically a giant garage with fire trucks from various eras," Julie S. writes. Other features include trucks kids can climb in and a fire pole. Her family stayed for two hours. $8 adults, $5 children 3-12.

Walker Art Center offers free family activities one weekend day each month.Minneapolis Institute of Art has a virtual option.

The Bell Museum in St. Paul has family-friendly natural history exhibits, including the hands-on "Touch and See" Lab, and hourly planetarium shows. $12 for adults, $9 ages 3-21, free for kids under two.

Hennepin-Overland Railway Historical Society, The nonprofit's railroad museum features a giant model train layout. Admission for the entire family is just $25. The Twin City Model Railroad Museum is another great location for locomotive lovers. $10 for visitors 5 and older, free for kids under five.

Minnesota History Center (St. Paul): Current exhibits include an iron ore mine where kids can pretend to blast with dynamite and use a jackhammer, Kristin H. writes. "It was very kid friendly and the staff was fantastic!"

Minnesota Children's Museum (St. Paul): Three floors and 11 unique play areas means lots to explore. It's pricier than some other options, but one reader noted that an annual family membership pays for itself in just a few visits. $16 per person.

Stages Theater (Hopkins): Enjoy a kid-friendly show at this suburban playhouse. "Maybe," a 60-minute musical "about the magical, immeasurable possibilities that make up who we are," opens Jan. 13. $19 adults, $17 children. Lap tickets available for $5 for kids under five.

Minnesota Zoo (Apple Valley): The zoo campus features several indoor attractions, including the warm and humid "Tropics Trail" and the "Discovery Bay" marine education center. Don't miss the sharks! $12.95 children, $17.95 adults. Annual memberships can also be purchased for $155 per household.

Free activities

A sloth in a tree and a large glass conservatory filled with flowers.
Look up in Como Conservatory — you might spot a sleeping sloth. Photos: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Southdale Mall (Edina): The shopping center opens to the public at 10am Mondays through Saturdays, an entire hour before the stores. That means there's lots of room to explore without crowds of shoppers. Plus: An indoor play area and coin-operated rides. One reader's tip: Bring snacks for a food court picnic.

  • Many other local malls, including the Mall of America and Ridgedale Center, also have free play areas and open early to walkers.

Como Zoo and Conservatory: Escape to more tropical temperatures — and come face to face with turtles, fish, snakes and birds — in the conservatory's indoor gardens. The zoo is open year-round, for those who want to bundle up to watch polar bears, Arctic foxes and other cold-weather animals romp in the snow.

Libraries: "From story time to meeting other parents while our kids play they really make a great place to bring the kids when you just can't with the other options any more," Frances O. writes.

Cabela's: "Between the taxidermy animal displays and the fish tanks, it helps keep them busy," Jessica L. tells Axios.

Public transportation: Amy F. took her four-year-old on a city bus so he could experience those wheels going round and round firsthand. "The ride took 30 minutes or so and the kid was enthralled the entire trip. He saw the Minneapolis skyline ahead and asked if it was the Emerald City!" Not free, but just $2 outside of rush hour.

The fun doesn't stop here: Check out the best playgrounds in the Twin Cities

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the name of the Twin City Model Railroad Museum.


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