Back in the day, Twin Cities parents had a choice: Hire a babysitter and go out for a drink or grab a six-pack and head home.
Dragging the kids along to the corner bar was seldom seen as a good decision.
But with the recent explosion of spacious, family-friendly breweries and taprooms, parents suddenly have an option. In fact, they have a lot of options: According to The Growler magazine, Minnesota’s brewery scene keeps growing to a whopping 150!
Here’s a look at some of the best kid-friendly taprooms in the Twin Cities.
But keep in mind, most taprooms these days are surprisingly kid-friendly — and sometimes dog-friendly, too — due to their informal, airy spaces and relatively low price points on food and drink.
Some even allow outside food.
What: With one of the most spacious taprooms in the Twin Cities, BlackStack somehow also manages to be one of the most inviting. Its many couches and comfortable chairs and collection of board games makes it feel more like a living room than a brewery.
Where: 755 Prior Ave. N., St. Paul
Why kids love it: BlackStack is right next door to Can Can Wonderland, an indoor amusement center with a full restaurant and bar. Kids and adults can play a round of miniature golf or try their hand at dozens of pinball machines and other arcade games.
Why parents love it: Events at BlackStack / Can Can include options such as aerial performances, “trivia against humanity,” bingo and balloon artists.
Eats: Aside from food trucks outside BlackStack most nights, Can Can Wonderland also offers an extensive menu, ranging from fancy duck dishes to carnival staples such as cotton candy. Outside food is welcome BlackStack, but not at Can Can.
What: Dual Citizen prides itself on being part of the community, and its wide selection of unique beers — including a hand-pumped cask ale — doesn’t hurt.
Where: 725 Raymond Ave., St. Paul, across the street from the Raymond Avenue lightrail stop
Why kids love it: Tot time! Every Sunday afternoon from noon to 2 p.m. — and all day on special days like Mother’s Day — Dual Citizen’s taproom and patio convert to huge play spaces for babies and kids of all ages. Parents can linger amid the scooters and exersaucers while their little ones have the run of the place.
Why parents love it: Dual Citizen hosts various other weekly events, including trivia and bingo. The owners have small kids of their own, so children are always welcome in the open spaces of this lively taproom.
Eats: A wide variety of food trucks come to Dual Citizen’s patio most nights of the week and all weekend. There are plenty of restaurants clustered around University Avenue, too, such as Key’s Café and Dogwood Coffee Bar.
What: Lake Monster pours a healthy beer selection, including four to five staple brews and a good variety of rotating seasonals. Enjoy one on the incredibly ample patio or inside the spacious taproom.
Where: 550 Vandalia St., St. Paul
Why kids love it: Kids have plenty of room to roam and run. There are dozens of board games to choose from inside, and even a Cozy Coupe outside for scooting. Rain or shine — or snow — there’s always ample space to play.
Why parents love it: Even at its busiest, Lake Monster rarely feels overcrowded, especially in the warmer months. The venue also hosts community events, including yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings. A different food truck is parked at Lake Monster every night of the week. Or you can ask the bartender for a book of menus from local restaurants, all of which deliver.
What: Urban Growler, situated in a warehouse district north of University Avenue, is one of the first female-owned breweries in Minnesota. Though it calls itself a taproom, it boasts an in-house kitchen that opens at 11 a.m. every day, which makes it one of the few taprooms in town where you can grab a full lunch — with table service — and a microbrew.
Where: 2325 Endicott St., St. Paul. Your GPS may take you to the middle of some warehouses: Drive around the building.
Why kids love it: There’s a spacious patio and lots of noise inside. Kids’ meals are generously portioned and come with loads of ranch dressing for dipping. Old train tracks run right through the dining room — a conversation starter for your little train nuts. And there are many good games to keep everyone busy, too.
Why parents love it: The extensive kid’s menu offers carrots as the default side item, and there are changing tables in both the men’s and women’s restrooms. A huge selection of beers makes this a worthy stop as well. Bonus (if you’re checking breweries off your list): Next door is Bang Brewing Co.’s taproom, The Bin (limited hours), housed in a shiny retrofitted grain silo next to a dreamy patio.
What: Thanks to its adjacency to the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail, this recently relocated Victoria brewery offers an ideal destination for cyclists. (Suggestions: Park the car at Excelsior Brewing Co., jump on your bikes and head east for a gorgeous 12-mile round-trip trek.)
Where: 1495 Stieger Lake Lane, Victoria
Why kids love it: Spaces for families abound, including a large upper patio, a lower patio with house games like oversized Jenga and a spacious upstairs taproom, painted a cheerful bright gold.
Why parents love it: Live music and improv nights boost the kid-friendly feel with quality entertainment. In warmer months, you can bring a Frisbee or ball to play catch near the lower patio.
Eats: Enki recently added an in-house menu of flatbread pizzas and appetizers. (The beer cheese dip alone is worth a visit.) Food trucks also stop by for periodic events, and pizza is available for take-out at nearby Roulette’s. Bonus: Public access points on Stieger Lake are right off the biking trail, too, if you need a little nature escape.
What: This Minnetonka taproom, a couple of blocks west of the famed Gold Nugget Tavern & Grille, boasts “Belgian and stateside ales,” along with a constantly rotating menu of limited-release beers.
Where: 14625 Excelsior Blvd., Minnetonka
Why kids love it: Kids can enjoy a selection of craft sodas, a designated game corner (including foosball and a monster-sized game of Connect Four!) and plenty of open space to move, plus a patio area. You’ll find plenty of other kids to play with, too, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Why parents love it: Unmapped hosts a variety of regular events such as trivia on Mondays and “Pints and Poses” yoga on Saturday mornings. Other special offerings, such as beer and cupcake pairings, are offered throughout the month.
Eats: Different food trucks come to Unmapped most days of the week. Or stop at Gina Maria’s next door and get 10 percent off if you’re ordering from Unmapped. Bonus: Gina Maria’s will deliver right to your table upon request.
What: With an inviting atmosphere, bright indoor areas and a spacious outdoor patio, it’s easy to spend quite a few hours here, especially if you’re a fan of IPAs.
Where: 861 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Why kids love it: Owned by a couple with three kids of their own, HeadFlyer goes above and beyond to make kids feel welcome. Their play area includes Lincoln Logs, LEGOS, coloring books and board games; and events — such as the annual anniversary party — include kid-friendly elements such as arts and crafts and bouncy houses.
Why parents love it: Free bingo and beer-and-pizza happy hours keep adults as entertained as their kids. Try a variety of generously poured beers and reasonably priced flights.
Eats: Kids will love HeadFlyer’s locally made soda, juice pouches and snacks. Parents will dig the food trucks that roll through several times a week. The restaurants along Central and Hennepin are also just a few blocks away, too — such as Brasa, R Taco and Punch Pizza.
What: This brand new taproom — the first in Edina — is already making a name for itself among parents eager to have a high-quality brew in a family-friendly environment.
Where: 7421 Bush Lake Road, Edina
Why kids love it: There isn’t a lot of room to run and play — in fact, running is strictly prohibited — and the patio is fairly small, but there are plenty of games, snacks and other distractions to keep kids of any age happy and occupied, plus ample high chairs and changing tables.
Why parents love it: Food cooked on site (and quickly) makes Wooden Hill a fab stop for a family meal — with a beer.
Eats: No outside food is allowed, but there are plenty of in-house choices, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, plus kid-friendly classics such as hot dogs and hamburgers.
Rachel Berg Scherer is a freelance writer from Chaska, where she lives with her husband and two usually delightful children. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.