11 Best Places to Visit in Minnesota with Kids

Many families are starting to plan their vacations for the year. And, while you may be considering thrilling destinations across the globe, remember Minnesota offers plenty of fun places for families to go and make memories, too! Embark on an unforgettable family adventure using our guide to the 11 Best Places to Visit in Minnesota with Kids! Minnesota is a treasure trove for family-friendly experiences, from the scenic lakes of Alexandria to the vibrant city of Mankato and the historical charm of Saint Paul. Our guide will help you decide where to go and what to do once you get there! Whether you are looking for epic outdoor adventures in northern Minnesota or days filled with museums and shopping, a Minnesota city is waiting for your family! Keep reading to find the best Minnesota destinations for you and your kids this year.

1. Duluth

Duluth, one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids, shines in all seasons! With a prime location on Lake Superior and just under 3 hours from Minneapolis, it’s an ideal destination for families year-round looking for outdoor adventure, great lake views, and plenty of kid-friendly activities. Begin your visit with a stroll through Canal Park to watch huge ships pass under the Aerial Lift Bridge. This is a great spot to find family-friendly dining, too! In particular, families love Vitta Pizza and the iconic Grandma’s Saloon & Grill.

For families with little ones, the Duluth Children’s Museum awaits, offering hands-on exhibits in aviation, STEM, and insights into the local Ojibwe communities. Alternatively, the Great Lakes Aquarium or the Lake Superior Zoo are great family stops. Those interested in maritime history will enjoy visiting the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Canal Park. Glensheen Mansion also offers family-friendly tours of the historic home and gardens on Lake Superior. Then, explore fun hiking trails at Chester Park LoopLester Park Trail, or Hartley Nature Center. Want a great view of the city and Lake Superior? Check out Enger Tower. Finally, in the winter, Spirit Mountain offers alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. Meanwhile, summer visitors can get their thrills at the Adventure Park or by mountain bike.

2. Grand Marais

Grand Marais is one of the Midwest’s most family-friendly destinations, suitable for all seasons. Not to mention, one of the most fun places to go in Minnesota for families! Nestled along Lake Superior’s northern shore, this town exudes a welcoming small-town charm. Visit Artists’ Point for a scenic view of the harbor and the Grand Marais Lighthouse. It’s even better at sunset!

Then, explore the town from a different perspective with a tour of the iconic Hjørdis. Alternatively, those traveling with older kids and teens can embark on a kayak adventure for a unique view of the Sawtooth Mountains. Or across an inland lake. Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages can scenic enjoy hikes in Cascade River State ParkJudge C.R. Magney State Park, and along the Gunflint Trail, including the Moose Viewing Trail and Magnetic Rock Trail. Families can’t miss the thrilling tree-top adventures at the North Shore Adventure Park just south of Grand Marais. Or racing down the Alpine Slides or soaring above the trees by gondola at Lutsen Mountains.

For a more relaxed experience, grab a coffee from Java Moose, sit on the nearby beach, and let the kids toss rocks into the water. Summer visitors traveling with toddlers and young kids will love the Children’s Story Hour at Drury Lane Books. Finally, don’t miss the chance to savor Beth’s famous, in-house-made fudge – an iconic North Shore treat! With so much to offer, Grand Marais is one of northern Minnesota’s best places to visit.

3. Taylors Falls

Under an hour from Minneapolis, Taylors Falls has undoubtedly earned its spot as one of Minnesota’s best places to visit with kids! Families will uncover iconic eateries, an enchanting downtown area, and epic outdoor adventures here. Set along the St. Croix River, Taylors Falls features a variety of family-friendly activities. Start your visit at Interstate State Park. It is one of Minnesota’s most unique state parks. Kids will love seeing the towering rock formations and exploring the glacial potholes. Afterward, check out the indoor exhibits at the visitor center to learn more.

Then, families will love exploring the area by boat! Embark on a tour with Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours to learn more about the area’s unique rock formations and local history. Adventure families can also take a One-Way Trip to Osceola by kayak or canoe. Feel free to stop for a swim or picnic at one of the many beaches or islands along the route. Alternatively, let kid’s imaginations run wild at Franconia Sculpture Park, just a short drive from Taylors Falls. Here, walk amongst 100 towering outdoor sculptures across 50 acres! Some installations are even interactive. 

Do your kids love animals? Pack a picnic and enjoy a day on the farm with a few friendly alpacas at Evergreen Oasis Farm. Many families also enjoy going to Fawn-Doe-Rosa, a wildlife education park across the border in Wisconsin. Back in town, make sure to eat at Schoony’s Malt Shop and Pizzeria or The Drive-In Restaurant, which also offers mini-golf.

Taylors Falls paddle boat on the river in Minnesota  a fun place to visit minnesota kids

4. Bemidji

As one of the best places to go in Minnesota, Bemidji is an ideal year-round destination for Minnesota families seeking a peaceful retreat and outdoor recreation. Bemidji offers diverse outdoor activities for all seasons, from winter ice fishing and snowmobiling to summer boating and hiking. 

Start your visit at Lake Bemidji State Park, where families can hike, fish, or camp. Then, explore nature at its best at Itasca State Park, home to the Mississippi River’s headwaters! Itasca is also Minnesota’s oldest state park. Plus, you can pack your bikes to cruise along the Paul Bunyan Trail. For an educational experience, visit local museums like the Beltrami County Historical Society Museum or the interactive Headwaters Science Center. Creative families can also discover the art of yarn-making at Bemidji Woolen Mills for cozy souvenirs. Animal-loving families will adore Paul Bunyan Animal Land, Minnesota’s largest wildlife park and a petting zoo featuring over 100 animals.

Afterward, don’t miss the iconic Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues. It’s the perfect spot for a family photo opp. Those traveling with littles will also find a nearby playground, perfect to burn some extra energy! In town, the Bemidji Sculpture Walk is another fun experience for all ages. Challenge kids to find their favorite amongst the many sculptures across downtown. With so many fun things to do in all seasons, you’ll quickly see why Bemidji is among the best places to travel in Minnesota with kids!

5. Ely

Ely, a hub for epic outdoor exploration in Minnesota, offers year-round adventures for families with kids of all ages, from canoeing and camping to hiking and more. Beloved as an entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), Ely also features a variety of other activities. 

If you’re interested in exploring the BWCA, you’re in for a special treat! Book your permit, and explore scenic lakes, rivers, and forests with your kids. You can paddle through pristine waters, and kids will delight in spotting unique wildlife! This experience is sure to grow their love of nature and time outdoors. After your adventures, learn about the BWCA’s renowned “Root Beer Lady” at the Dorothy Molter Museum.

Then, discover the area’s rich history at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park or the Ely-Winton Historical Society. If visiting during the summer, head to the North American Bear Center to learn about bears in North America. Alternatively, visiting the International Wolf Center to see and learn about the local wolves is a must! Winter visitors can also try dog sledding with Chilly Dogs Sled Dog Trips. From outdoor exploration to indoor educational experiences, Ely is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Minnesota with kids.

6. Crosby

For an enjoyable weekend escape in Minnesota with kids, consider Crosby, a beloved destination for nature lovers and mountain bike enthusiasts. Known for crystal-clear pit mine lakes and outdoor activities, Crosby is certainly one of the best places in Minnesota for families. 

Adrenaline-seekers can rent mountain bikes from local outfitters like Cykel Cuyuna to explore the area’s iconic red dirt trails. Then, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area offers kid-friendly trails, like the 2.1-mile Crusher to Miner’s Mountain Loop. Families can cool off in warmer weather by swimming in nearby mine pit lakes or renting kayaks, crystal kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards from Cuyuna Outfitters. Young kids will also enjoy the iconic serpent statue on Serpent Lake and the nearby castle-themed playground. Need an indoor activity? Try your hand at a bit of bowling at Cuyuna Lanes. Families also like learning about the local area’s rich mining history at the Soo Line Depot Museum in the summer.

Finally, leave time to explore downtown Crosby with a bit of shopping! In particular, those traveling with kids will love Victual, as it offers many ice cream flavors, specialty foods, and gifts. When hunger strikes, try Iron Range EateryRaffertys Pizza, or Red Raven Bike

clear kayak at cuyuna in crosby minnesota

7. Mankato

Next on our list of best places to visit in Minnesota with kids, consider Mankato for a versatile family getaway in Minnesota. Mankato boasts an array of fun museums, excellent restaurants, outdoor activities, and shopping. Start your visit at Minneopa State Park’s trails for hiking (or snowshoeing in the winter). Here, you can also glimpse the local bison herd, which roams the 325-acre range! Then, Sibley Park is a lovely city park located at the convergence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers. The park offers fun activities for all ages, including a small farm with a petting zoo, playgrounds, fishing, and two miles of trails.

For indoor fun, visit the Wow! Zone Family Entertainment Center for bowling, laser tag, mini-golf, and family-friendly dining. The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is a top-notch museum with exhibits like the Coughlan Quarry, engineering lab, and tree forts climbing area. It’s a favorite amongst families with young kids! Alternatively, those visiting with older kids may prefer the Blue Earth County Historical Society or the Carnegie Art Center. Then, take a self-guided tour of the CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour, which showcases over 30 sculptures. Mankato is a fantastic weekend getaway for Minnesota families with a mix of indoor and outdoor activities.

8. Visit Alexandria, Minnesota with Kids

Alexandria, surrounded by some of Minnesota’s best lakes, is a year-round destination for families in West Central Minnesota. Start your adventures at Big Ole Central Park for a photo op with Alexandria’s famous Big Ole.

Outdoor families can explore nearby parks like Lake Carlos State ParkKensington Rune Stone County ParkSpruce Hill County Park, and Lake Brophy County Park. Alexandria even has an inexpensive outdoor gear library offering kayaks, lawn games, bird-watching kits, and more. In the summer, Casey’s Amusement Park is a must with kids, offering bumper boats, go-carts, mini golf, an arcade, and more! Then, Erickson’s Petting Zoo is an excellent stop with young animal lovers. They even offer a petting zoo area, pony rides, and a playground. Looking for a family-friendly horseback riding opportunity? Try Silver Sage Ranch! In the winter, Andes Tower Hills offers a local ski resort with 16 downhill runs, lifts, cross-country skiing, tubing, and snowshoeing. Winter visitors can also create snow-filled memories with tubing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing in the area.

While visiting one of the best places to visit in Minnesota, try Big Splash Indoor Waterpark at Arrowhead Resort for indoor fun! Then, Shenanigans Indoor Playground is a hit with those traveling with toddlers and young kids. Finally, The Sugar Shack is the perfect spot to treat your kids while exploring Alexandria!

9. Saint Paul

Are you looking for fun places for families to go to in Minnesota? A visit to Saint Paul is in order! It is one of Minnesota’s largest cities and offers several kid-friendly attractions, from museums to beautiful outdoor spaces. 

Together, explore museums like the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Schubert Club Music Museum. Regardless of what your kids enjoy learning about or their ages, there is a museum or two perfect for your family! Then, enjoy a stroll through Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. Featuring animals like orangutans, giraffes, polar bears, and gorillas, the zoo and gardens are also free (donations encouraged). Afterward, discover scenic hikes at Hidden Falls Regional Park or Crosby Farm Regional Park

Families can also drive down Summit Avenue to view historic houses. Leave time for lunch and a little shopping along Grand Avenue. Additionally, Fort Snelling, a historical landmark, provides insights into military history and local indigenous tribes. Finally, Can Can Wonderland is a must, offering a vibrant twist on mini-golf and arcade games.

family playing in the splash zone area at Minnesota children's museum in st paul minnesota
Image: Minnesota Children’s Museum

10. Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a fantastic city for Minnesota families to visit and appreciate year-round! With its trendy food scene and numerous museums, hikes, and outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone in this lively metropolis. 

Explore Minnehaha Regional Park with its unique urban waterfall and lush gardens. You can even rent bikes to explore the area on wheels! Or, enjoy a leisurely stroll around one of Minneapolis’s scenic urban lakes; Bde Maka Ska offers kayaking and paddleboarding, while Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis provide family-friendly beaches and playgrounds. For a unique experience, ride the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line, which operates between Lake Harriet and Bde Maka Ska.

As one of the best places to visit in Minnesota with kids, you can also engage in many cultural activities. Consider watching a play at the Children’s Theatre Company or seeing a show at Roxy’s Cabaret. Then, museums like Mill City MuseumThe Bakken Museum, and the  Minneapolis Institute of Art make great stops on any family itinerary. Sports enthusiasts can catch a baseball game at Target Field or see the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. And no trip is complete without a photo in front of the iconic spoon and cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

sailboats at lake Harriet in Minneapolis Minnesota a place to Visit Minnesota Kids

11. Visit Bloomington, Minnesota with Kids

Choosing Bloomington for family getaways in Minnesota is always an excellent idea. Bloomington offers the Mall of America and hosts plenty of other fun family activities for all ages, making it one of the best places to travel in Minnesota with kids. A day of family adventure awaits at Hyland-Bush-Anderson Lakes Park ReserveThose with littles will love the “chutes and ladders” playground, while those with older kids can hike or bike on one of the many trails. Summer visitors can rent a kayak or canoe to explore the on-site waterways.

Then, continue your outdoor adventures at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, where kids can borrow explorer packs (when the Visitor’s Center is open) to enhance their experience. When you’re ready to head inside, take young kids to explore the science-inspired exhibits at The Works Museum. Alternatively, engage in some family-friendly competition at Whirlyball, offering everything from bowling to escape rooms. 

Of course, the Mall of America is one of the best places to go in Minnesota and hosts a wide range of activities for all ages, from toddlers to teens. Enjoy exciting rides at Nickelodeon Universe, visit marine creatures at SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, engage in mind-bending tricks at the Museum of Illusions, or try mini-golfing. In Bloomington, the opportunities for family fun and memory-making are truly endless!

girl and dad visiting sealife in bloomington minnesota. A Place to Visit Minnesota Kids

Keep Exploring!

We hope this guide to the best places to visit in Minnesota with kids has helped you find a destination (or two!) to explore this year with your family. From Mankato to Ely, exploring the best places in Minnesota for families has never been easier. Whether you are searching for epic outdoor adventures or days filled with museums, a Minnesota destination is waiting for you and your kids.

Antonia Grant is a Minnesota mom + freelance writer who loves encouraging parents to find ways to connect and make memories with their kids. She’s a firm believer in providing children with experiences over things. You can find more from Antonia and her family adventures on Instagram @knead.to.roam and on her website. She shares all things family travel, outdoor adventures, and their favorite foodie finds.

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