Beat the heat!

Photo by Tracy Walsh

Splish splash

The Twin Cities has become Splash Pad Central in recent years, including small neighborhood haunts as well as bigger spaces such as the 1-acre splash pad at Valleyfair’s Soak City waterpark in Shakopee.

We especially love the Central Park Interactive Fountain in Maple Grove (pictured above) and the Burnsville Lions Splash Pad at Cliff Fen Park because they both offer awesome adjacent playgrounds, too.

Check out all our top picks at

Wade it out 

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board operates 62 wading pools in neighborhoods throughout the city. Many are small and intimate, just right for half a dozen families at a time, such as the one at Brackett Field Park in Longfellow.

Others — such as the one at North Mississippi Regional Park (above), featuring rock walls and waterfalls — are more elaborate and spacious. And they’re free!

See them sorted by neighborhood at

Slip and slide

Lazy rivers, wave pools, waterslides and diving boards! Water parks are a good fit when you’re entertaining a variety of ages and you can find both indoor and outdoor options — so you can avoid the sun altogether if you wish.

St. Louis Park’s Outdoor Aquatic Center is a local favorite that’s in full sun, while the Tropics Indoor Water Park in Shoreview is entirely enclosed.

Don’t forget your essentials: Grab our indispensable printable list for swim outings at

See our list of 20 top water parks at

Frolic in foam

Como Town in St. Paul is now offering free foam parties three times a day (12:30, 2:30 4:30 p.m.), featuring safe, non-toxic foam.

Bring a towel for cleanup afterward and/or cool off at Como Town’s splash pad.

Though the foam parties are free, Como’s splash pad entry is included with the purchase of a kids’ unlimited ride wristband ($21.95), or can be purchased separately.

When you’re done, pop over to Conny’s Creamy Cone (only two miles away) for some soft serve. See

Jump among the roos

See Australia’s red kangaroos (plus wallabies and emus) daily through Labor Day as part of the Minnesota Zoo’s walk-through Kangaroo Crossing exhibit in Apple Valley.

And check out the Jump Squad — humans dressed as giant, muscular roos — appearing weekly at the zoo and around town. Afterward, cool off at the zoo’s spacious splash pad (bring your flip-flops, swim suits and towels).

It’s all included with zoo admission of $12 for ages 3–12 and 65 and older, $18 for ages 13–64. Go to

Play inside

Avoid the sun, but keep the kids active by visiting an indoor playground. Options abound in the Twin Cities, including some spaces reserved for ages 6 and younger — such as The Wishing Tree Play Cafe in White Bear Township and Pinwheel Play in Chanhassen (above).

Many offer activities for school-age kids such as laser tag, bowling and arcades games, including our new fave, Big Thrill Factory with locations in Minnetonka, Oakdale and Shakopee.

See our list of two dozen indoor play spaces at

Visit a museum

We often think of museums as dead-of-winter or rainy-day destinations, but museums are often less crowded in the summer and they’re delightfully cool, too, so they can help you escape from the heat.

This summer, why not try a museum you’ve never seen before? Our Family Directory ( lists 30 museums, including lesser-known gems such as Firefighters Hall and Museum in Minneapolis (ride on a real fire truck) and the Schubert Club Museum of Musical Instruments in St. Paul.

Plus, for the first summer in three years, the newly restored Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul is open for tours. Two other free options for families include the Walker Art Center (pictured) on the first Saturday of each month (see the newly revamped Minneapolis Sculpture Garden while you’re at it) and Family Days at Mia on the second Sunday of every month, both in Minneapolis.

See for a list of museums.

Expore the new MCM

The Minnesota Children’s Museum’s flagship location in St. Paul — temporarily closed since December — recently reopened in June. And it’s a breath of fresh (conditioned) air! Check out the $30 million expansion and renovation, including 10 new exhibits and 35 percent more space for visitors. 

Don’t miss The Scramble (a four-story vertical adventure with climbing towers, a spiral slide and a netted catwalk); Sprouts (an area of discovery for babies and toddlers, above); and The Studio (where kids can tinker and create with real tools and authentic materials). 

There’s also a new cafe with a coffee bar!

Regular museum admission is now $12.95 (formerly $9.95) for ages 1 to 101. Go for free on Target Free 3rd Sundays. (Aug. 20 is the next one.) See

Get Smaaashed 

Need a cool place to take the older cousins visiting from out of state? The new indoor Mall of America amusement park known as SMAAASH features a multi-level indoor racetrack for electric go-karts — no fumes!

While you wait for your turn to race, you can check out an insanely good array of VR (virtual reality) games, plus an arcade, restaurant and bar (specializing in beers).

Sky Kart riders must be at least 50 inches tall. Karting costs $25 for six minutes. Find all prices at

Younger kids? Check out the Crayola Experience and Nickelodeon Universe (including Toddler Tuesdays every week) at MOA. See

Fly Over America

Go on a small-plane ride across America (and now Canada!) at this theater-style ride at the MOA.

Riders sit suspended in ski-lift-like chairs with their legs dangling 10 to 40 feet off the ground, as they move (wearing seatbelts) seemingly through a 15-minute film, projected on a wrap-around giant screen. Music and special effects — such as mist, wind, sounds and scents — make you feel like you’re truly flying through the scenes displayed before your eyes. Riders must be at least 40 inches tall.

Tickets are $12.95/$16.95 for one film or $19/$25 for two. See for more details.

Sarah Jackson is the editor of Minnesota Parent. 

Need more ideas?

Pick up our Family Directory at select rack sites for more than 200 Minnesota attractions for families, or browse our online version at