Kid-Tested, Parent-Approved: Bloomington’s Best Family Attractions

18 Exciting Things to Do in Bloomington, Minnesota, with Kids 

Known for being the home of the Mall of America, Bloomington boasts plenty of fun places to go and things to do across the city with kids. Just minutes from Minneapolis and Saint Paul, this centrally-located suburb offers some of the best things to do and places to eat, shop, and stay in the Twin Cities. If you’re planning a fun day out or a weekend of activities, you’ll want to know all the best Bloomington family attractions. From parks and playgrounds to theater performances and seasonal things to do, like swimming and skiing, this guide features everything families love about Bloomington. Then, we’ve also included a few unique, family-friendly restaurants in Bloomington to keep you fueled on your adventures. Keep reading to discover all the fun things to do in Bloomington for families.

Bloomington Family Attractions: 15+ Fun Things to Do in Bloomington with Kids

If you’re searching for the best things to do in Bloomington with kids, you’re in the right spot! From summer to winter, this Minnesota city is chock-full of family-friendly activities, including a community pool, theater performances, the Mall of America, and more! Keep reading to discover fun, kid-friendly things to do in Bloomington.

1. Mall of America

Many of the best indoor things to do in Bloomington with kids can be found at the Mall of America. The Mall offers various activities for all ages, including dining, hotels, and shopping. Everyone can get their thrills at Nickelodeon Universe, an indoor amusement park. From toddlers to teens, your kids will love racing down the many exciting roller coasters and rides. Then, you can cap off your day of rides with a unique FlyOver America experience.

If you have young kids, your next stop should be the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. Kids will be mesmerized by the underwater worlds, where colorful fish and other marine creatures take center stage. You can immerse yourself in the experience as you meander through the series of tunnel aquariums. Young kids will also adore the Crayola Experience, where imaginations will run wild amongst the vibrant, hands-on activity areas. With live demonstrations, a massive indoor playground, and the opportunity to create personalized souvenirs, this whimsical experience offers the perfect balance of educational and imaginative family fun.

Then, those with tweens and teens can try to solve mind tricks at the Museum of Illusions. Families will be mesmerized by the interactive experiences featuring 60 astonishing exhibits! Here, you and your kids can experience visual, sensory, and educational exhibits that use science to trick the eyes, perception, and brain! Finally, the Mall of America also offers mini-golfing, arcades, behind-the-scenes tours, and much more for families.

dad and daughter at the mall of america

2. The Works Museum

If you’re looking for unique, kid-friendly things to do in Bloomington, The Works Museum is a fantastic option with young kids. It’s even on our list of the best museums in the Twin Cities! Here, kids are encouraged to explore their creative side freely and enhance their investigative skills through well-designed, engaging activities. Focused on engineering and technology, this hands-on museum offers interactive exhibits that cater to kids interested in coding, building, and engineering. Undoubtedly, the Works Museum is a haven for young inventors and engineers!

Finally, they even offer pop-up engineering activities and family STEM events. Keep an eye on their events calendar. Plus, make sure to attend their family engineering nights for even more fun! Children under two are free. 

boy with lego creation at the works museum in bloomington
Image: The Works Museum

3. Vertical Endeavors

Challenge yourself and your kids to have fun at new heights! Vertical Endeavors is a cutting-edge climbing facility where people of all ages and abilities can enjoy action-packed climbing opportunities and have a blast together! There is no minimum experience needed to get started.

One of the best things to do in Bloomington with kids, Vertical Endeavors includes more than 200 routes for all skill levels. They also offer two bouldering areas and climbing walls up to 60 feet. This climbing gym also offers fun programs for adults and kids. You can find everything from climbing camps to climbing teams and leagues. Finally, please note that kids under the age of 14 are required to have adult supervision.

climbers at vertical endeavors in bloomington minnesota

4. WhirlyBall Twin Cities

Those searching for fun places to go with tweens and teens in Bloomington must put WhirlyBall Twin Cities at the top of the list! Offering several thrilling activities, plus food and drinks, they provide endless ways for families to have a fun night out together.

Four heart-pounding activities are offered at the Bloomington WhirlyBall location (though escape rooms are coming soon!). Start with the namesake experience, WhirlyBall. This basketball meets lacrosse meets hockey game puts you in the driver’s seat of the bumper car! A team sport for all skill levels and ages (anyone 54+ inches can play), the game’s objective is to get a wiffle ball to hit the goal. Talk about a unique family experience! As if that’s not enough, you can challenge one another to a round of laser tag in an epic mission-based course. Or, spend time playing the many arcade games together (including billiard tables). Finally, if bowling is more your style, they have that too. Whatever you decide to play, end your evening with a delicious meal. Their menu features appetizers, hand-helds, and pizza.

5. Rainbow Midwest Indoor Playground

Located right off Highway 494, Rainbow Midwest Indoor Playground is a fantastic indoor playground for kids. Not only is the indoor showroom filled with Rainbow Swing Sets, but there are also basketball hoops and trampolines. It’s the perfect spot for rainy day doldrums or holiday break fun. 

Before you go, reserve your playtime online (it’s only $8 per child; children 12 months and under are free). Once you arrive, kids will be delighted by the colorful playroom! It is filled with different play sets where they can climb, bounce, and shoot hoops in a safe, vibrant indoor playground. Finally, Rainbow Midwest Indoor Playground is open year-round and offers birthday party options.

6. Artistry and the Bloomington Center for the Arts

Why not treat your kids to a night at the theater? Bloomington Center for the Arts features two theaters with a fantastic lineup of performances. Located on the north end of Bloomington Civic Plaza, the Center is a hub for theater, art, and culture in Bloomington. In addition to the theaters, it showcases eight independently operated resident arts organizations, two art galleries, and several art classrooms.

Within the Center, Artistry Theater and Visual Arts is an award-winning theater that brings the community vibrant and diverse arts experiences. This season, The Sound of Music is the perfect option for families looking to enjoy a performance together (showing April 18 – May 12, 2024). Later this summer, families can enjoy a production of Disney’s Newsies (showing July 18—August 11, 2024). 

Alternatively, families will also cherish wandering the art galleries together. The rotating exhibitions span a diverse spectrum of media and subject matter. Plus, the galleries’ exhibitions are always free, making them some of the best free things to do in Bloomington with kids!

7. Hyland Hills Ski Area

The Three Rivers Park District operates Hyland Hills Ski Area, a family favorite for downhill skiing and snowboarding in the Twin Cities. Located within Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, this ski area provides a fantastic ski park filled with progressive and innovative features. There are 12 ski runs, ranging from easy to more challenging. All of the trails at Hyland Hills Ski Area are designated with the standard ski trail marking symbols used in the United States (with green circles being the easiest runs). The park has two freestyle terrain areas, including half-pipes and other exciting features. Finally, if you or your kids want lessons to learn how to ski or to freshen up your skills, Three Rivers also offers lessons through the SnowSports Academy. No wonder this is one of the best things to do in Bloomington with kids this winter!

hyland hills ski area in bloomington minnesota

8. Bloomington Family Aquatic Center

One of the best summer things to do in Blooming with kids is, without a doubt, the outdoor pool at the Bloomington Family Aquatic Center. Featuring multiple swimming pools monitored by lifeguards, a concession stand, changing rooms, and tons of loungers throughout the pool area, it’s easy to see why families drive near and far to check out this community pool!

Those with toddlers and young kids can enjoy the zero-depth entry pool with unique features like slides and a waterfall. Families with littles can also enjoy Tot Time, Monday – Friday, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Meanwhile, older kids and teens can swim in the larger pool, race down the multiple giant slides, or jump from the over-water climbing wall. The larger pool area also has diving boards for showing off epic jumps and skilled moves. Finally, the on-site snack bar has all the usual fare, or you can bring outside food and beverages (no glass or alcohol). Several picnic spaces are available outside of the facility for lunch, too.

Best Parks and Playgrounds in Bloomington with Kids

Some of the best things to do in Bloomington with kids are the many parks and playgrounds found across the city. If you are looking for fun, free things to do in Bloomington with kids, these seven parks and playgrounds have everything you need for a fun day out with kids – no matter the season!

9. Hyland Lake Park Reserve & the Chutes and Ladders Park

Are you looking for one of the best outdoor activities in Bloomington with kids? Then, the Hyland Lake Park Reserve and Play Area is a great option! Hyland Lake Park Reserve is part of the Three Rivers Park District and offers one of Bloomington’s largest playgrounds. 

Locally dubbed the “chutes and ladders park,” Hyland Play Area showcases a series of hexagonal climbing areas and slides. Plus, it features play surfaces ranging from sand and wood chips to rubber surfaces. The playground was innovatively designed for supreme fun for kids of all ages. Kids will marvel at the series of ladders, multi-story slides, and sky tunnels. The park also offers several play areas, including one designated for toddlers and young kids (5 and under). With endless ways to play, no wonder kids think this is one of the best playgrounds in the Twin Cities. For parents, benches are located throughout the playground area. Finally, please note this park is open seasonally. There is a massive parking lot available nearby. The small visitor’s center near the playground offers limited concessions and indoor bathrooms.

The reserve offers even more than just this excellent playground, however! Hyland Lake Park Reserve also provides tons of seasonal fun things to do for families, including a disc golf course, paved hiking and biking trailscross-country ski trails in the winter, and more. Throughout the park, you can enjoy scenic prairie and river views. Undoubtedly, this park offers some of the best kid-friendly things to do in Bloomington!


10. Richardson Nature Center

Located within Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Richardson Nature Center features beautiful hiking trails that wind through various habitats, including restored prairie, oak forests, and wetlands. There is also an on-site interpretive center and natural playground.

Inside the nature center, start your visit by meeting Richardson’s resident raptors, reptiles, and amphibians! Kids will love learning about these creatures, all native to Bloomington and Minnesota! Then, let them play and read one of the many nature books. Afterward, snag one of the free resources to enhance your outdoor exploration. These include bird-watching backpacks, pond exploration kits, bug kits, frog kits, and Nordic walking poles.

Outside, keep your eyes out for wildlife. Visitors have spotted everything from deer and foxes to muskrats and turkeys! Not to mention, there is a wide assortment of birds and insects that call this park home. There are several paved and unpaved trails across the nature center. Plus, most of the lakes include boardwalk lookout areas to search for birds and marine life. Finally, the Nature Exploration Area encourages outdoor free play. Here, children can explore, climb, dig, and build a fort while adults play along or observe from a nearby bench. No wonder this is one of the best parks in Bloomington for kids!

11. Normandale Lake Park

Part of Hyland-Bush-Anderson Lakes Park Reserve, Normandale Lake Park is a fantastic urban park for families to explore together. Surrounding the beautiful lake, you’ll find paved walking and biking trails. The entire loop is just shy of 2 miles. Then, if you have a kayak, stand-up paddle board, or canoe, there is a dock where you can put in, too! After enjoying the lake views, have a picnic together at one of the nearby picnic tables. If you’re looking for a low-key day out with kids, this is one of the best free things to do in Bloomington with kids!

12. Normandale Japanese Garden

One of Bloomington’s hidden gems, the Normandale Japanese Garden is a beautiful spot for a summer day with kids. Located on Normandale’s campus, this exquisite Japanese Garden offers a serene and picturesque destination for all ages. 

The grounds include many unique features, like a garden wall and entry gate, a lovely waterfall, three islands, three lanterns, four bridges, and a Bentendo. This hexagonal structure is typical throughout Japan. And it’s named for Benten, the goddess of wealth, happiness, wisdom, and music. Additionally, the Garden features more than 300 plants, shrubs, and trees! Then, kids will adore seeing the colorful koi that swim from the lagoon to the pool. You can even feed the fish (from May through October) by purchasing koi food at the entrance of the Garden for 50 cents (they only take quarters). Finally, please note that the Normandale Japanese Garden is open seasonally, April – November. 

13. Running Park

Do you have kids who love parks with zip lines, ponds, and sledding hills? Then your family will love Running Park! One of the best parks in Bloomington for all seasons, Running Park offers plenty of options for family fun all year round, including two playgrounds, softball fields, a sledding hill, ice rinks, and more.

When you’re ready to play, there are two playground areas. One for big kids and one for littles. While they are on opposite sides of the pond from one another, both offer fantastic playground features for kids. Discover swings, small slides, and musically-themed activities on the little playground. Meanwhile, big kids have a massive zipline (with a platform), several slides, and other whimsical features. Both play areas offer benches for parents. In addition to the playgrounds, wide-open green spaces are perfect for tossing a frisbee, kicking a ball around, or family picnics. Finally, there is a large parking lot on-site and seasonal portable toilets. With so many great features, no wonder Running Park is one of the best free things to do in Bloomington with kids!

14. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Bird and wildlife lovers can’t miss visiting the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Located blocks from the Mall of America, this sprawling nature preserve encompasses over 14,000 scenic acres. With so much to do and see, it’s hard to believe this park is located in an urban city. 

Start your family adventures at the Visitors’ Center. Inside, you’ll find several interactive exhibits that showcase information about the wildlife and plants that live here. Kids will also love sitting in the observation area and watching birds come to the feeders. Challenge them to use the identification cards to name each bird they see. Then, grab some binoculars and one of the explorer bags and head outside. They are free to borrow while you explore the grounds. The bags are filled with items to help kids stay engaged and have fun.

one of many Bloomington Family Attractions

With more than 45 miles of trails for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, there is a lot of ground to cover. While adventuring, kids will love watching for different types of birds, like bald eagles, owls, and herons! Families love hiking the Rapids Lake Trail. Along this trail, you can walk along the Minnesota River valley. If water levels are low, you can even see river rapids! Then, if you want to let kids play freely, head to the Nature Play Area at Old Cedar Trailhead.

Alternatively, bikers will enjoy pedaling along the Minnesota River on the River Bottoms Trail. In addition to hiking and biking, you can fish and canoe here. Finally, there is a large on-site parking lot, and indoor restrooms are available in the Visitor’s Center during open hours. Indeed, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most fun places to go with your family in Bloomington!

​​15. West Bush Lake Park & Bush Lake Beach

​​West Bush Lake Park is a waterfront recreational area that is a favorite among families for its playground, volleyball court, and picnic areas. It is also located across the street from Bush Lake Beach, which offers a lovely natural setting for swimming, canoeing, and more.

When you’re ready to play, West Bush Lake Park has a small playground. It features twin slides, swings, and more. Woodchips create the play area’s surface. There are also plenty of green spaces around the playground for a family picnic. If you want to stretch your legs, walking paths are available, including one that passes through fields of wildflowers. Then, a boardwalk and dock lead out over the water. This is an excellent fishing spot!

Bush Lake Beach is open from June 1 through Labor Day. While beach admission is free, there are no lifeguards on duty. The large sandy beach is perfect for laying out a few towels and building sand castles together. Most of the beach is full sun, so bring an umbrella for a bit of shade, too! Plus, the shoreline is relatively shallow, allowing kids of all ages to splash around and swim. When kids need a break from the water, there is a small play structure on the sand. Picnic tables with grills are nearby, allowing families to enjoy a beautiful summer day together. Finally, please note that parking is free here too!

Fun Places to Eat in Bloomington with Kids

Now that you know the best things to do in Bloomington with kids, let’s talk about where to eat. Between the Mall of America and the greater city area, Bloomington offers some of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities. Here are three fun options we know you will love!

16. Snuffy’s Malt Shop

After exploring some of the top fun places to go with your family in Bloomington, you’ll want to refuel at Snuffy’s Malt Shop! One of the best restaurants in Bloomington with kids, Snuffy’s Malt Shop is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters, offering a menu filled with family favorites, like burgers, fries, and malts. 

Kids can select from their dedicated menu from hamburgers, chicken strips, mini corn dogs, and other fun eats. Meanwhile, teens and adults can munch on exciting options like the Spicy Snuffy Burger, Jalapeno Bacon Bleu, or Chili Cheeseburger – to name just a few. And everyone can top off their meal with a spectacular malt made with real ice cream. Tons of flavors are available, including everything from banana and cookie dough to fudge.

malt at snuffys malt shop. part of many fun Bloomington Family Attractions

17. Hazelwood Food and Drink

Located near the Mall of America, Hazelwood Food and Drink offers an inviting, family-friendly atmosphere with expertly crafted food and drinks. Plus, the spacious dining room can accommodate large parties. No matter who you enjoy dinner with, you’ll be blown away by the top-notch service and extraordinary food.

When you’re ready to order, kids (ages 12 and under) can find their favorite foods on the dedicated kids’ menu. It includes everything from chicken fingers and cheese pizza to rotisserie chicken. Then, teens and parents can indulge in many delicious options, like wood-fired pizzas, hand-helds, pasta, steaks, rotisserie chicken, seafood, and more. Additionally, they offer a dynamite brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays. Make sure to check out their signature prime rib hash! With so much to offer, no wonder this is one of the best places to eat in Bloomington for families with kids! Finally, reservations can be made here.

18. Cedar + Stone, Urban Table

Cedar + Stone Urban Table is located on the first floor of the JW Marriott in the Mall of America, serving locally sourced American menu items in a beautiful space. It’s ideal for families looking for a relaxed, upscale dining experience with kids after a long day of exploring Bloomington together. Their exceptional staff ensures everyone enjoys their meal, making this one of the best places for families to eat in Bloomington.

The kid-friendly touches include a dedicated kids’ menu + coloring items. While kids get comfortable with their coloring supplies, parents can sit back and enjoy a well-curated menu featuring bold, delicious flavor combinations. Kids can enjoy delicious options like chicken strips and pizza, and parents can relish trendy menu items like Comfrey Farms Pork Chop, Roasted Mushroom Risotto, or Wagyu New York Strip Loin. For dessert, try the Dark Chocolate Crème Brulee or Butterscotch Bread Pudding. In addition to dinner, Cedar + Stone, Urban Table also serves breakfast and lunch Monday – Friday and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

Have Fun Exploring Bloomington with Kids

We hope this list of the best things to do with kids in Bloomington, Minnesota, helps you plan your next day out! From parks and playgrounds to the Mall of America, Bloomington boasts some of the best things to do in the Twin Cities with kids. It’s a beautiful Minnesota city where you can enjoy time with your family and make new memories together. Regardless of what you choose to do, we know you will have a blast exploring the many kid-friendly things to do in Bloomington together!

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 and on her website. She shares all things family travel, outdoor adventures, and their favorite foodie finds.

We hope you likes our article all about Bloomington Family Attractions! Find more places to visit in Minnesota with kids-

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