Summer fun with your baby

After the winter that would not end, most Minnesotans are probably extra motivated to get out and take advantage of the summer months. But if you have a new baby in your life, you might be wondering if summer will ever be the same. Maybe you like to spend your summers taking long bikes around the city, or maybe you are more of a “beer on the patio” kind of person. You might be asking yourself, “Can I still do these things with a baby?”

Whatever your personal preferences for summer activities, the beautiful thing about babies is that they’re incredibly portable. Want to visit the farmers market? Strap your baby into a stroller or baby carrier and away you go. Need to cool off on a 90-degree day? That baby is your ticket to the finest wading pools in town.

Of course, even when it’s beautiful outside it’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to hitting the town with your little one. This month I talked to a bunch of veteran parents about some fun things they’ve done around town with their babies. Read on to learn more about their suggestions and get some new ideas for summer fun with your baby.

Land of 10,000 Lakes
(and wading pools)

Visiting the local wading pool is a classic summer outing, but the current craze is definitely the splash pad—a “pool” that features sprinklers and fountains and has virtually no standing water (reducing the risk of drowning). They’re popping up all over the metro area, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park, and Apple Valley. I visited the splash pad at the Wabun picnic area at Minnehaha Park last summer and can attest that both the babies and the older kids seemed to be quite engaged in their water play. Another good thing about the Wabun splash pad is the close proximity to the Sea Salt Eatery by Minnehaha Falls, for all your fish taco and beer pitcher needs.

The great outdoors

For an urban area, the Twin Cities metro area provides quite a few opportunities to “get back to nature” without leaving the city. One of my personal favorites is the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, located in Wirth Park. The 15-acre garden is a perfect place for a relaxing walk with your babe (a sling or carrier pack is probably a better bet than a stroller here). If you go this month you’re likely to see the showy lady’s slipper, Minnesota’s very own state flower.

If flowers aren’t your thing, Wirth Park is also home to a quaking bog, a great beach, and playgrounds for toddlers and older kids alike. Parking is available, but if your baby is big enough to ride in a bike trailer or bike seat you might want to consider biking—the park is easily accessible via Minneapolis’s excellent system of bike trails.  

City stuff

“Some parents get so fixated on packing the baby years full of activities,” says one friend who has older kids. “They should give themselves a break—childhood is long.” In other words, don’t feel like every outing has to be designed for maximum baby enrichment. Make sure you’re doing things you want to do, too.

For example, get out your stroller or baby carrier and visit one of the area’s many farmers markets. The markets in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul are large and popular, but don’t forget the other markets that are located in other parks of the city (Northeast Minneapolis or Kingfield, for example) or the suburbs. Search online for the market closest to you.

The Music in the Parks series in Minneapolis is another way to get outside and take in some free entertainment. With concerts being held virtually every day at a variety of locations, you’re bound to find something that appeals to you, whether it’s retro surf, gypsy swing, or classical. And if you’re at the Lake Harriet Band Shell, you can take advantage of the tasty food options at Bread and Pickle.  

Day trips

When you have a new baby, sometimes a long ride in the car is just what the sleep doctor ordered. Take advantage of your baby’s love of car rides (if indeed that’s the case for you) and schedule a day trip. Options abound, but one intriguing possibility is the Pizza Farm in Stockholm, WI. It’s a 90-minute drive from the Twin Cities, so you’ll want to be sure to stock your diaper bag well. The pizza is reported to be great, and you eat picnic-style on the farm itself.

Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband, 
Nick, and daughter, Lydia. Send questions or comments