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Kid-Friendly (And Cheap!) Weekend Adventures in Minnesota

Pack up the kids and get ready for an awesome, affordable adventure.

Credit: Affton Apple Orchard
Credit: Affton Apple Orchard

Written by Bridgette Outten

Sometimes all it takes is a little planning to have a great family outing. When routine exploits just aren’t cutting it anymore, shake things up by exploring new terrain, taking in an exhibition, or visiting a landmark and learning a little something about our local history. Here are awesome events to attend and places to visit around town before fall ends. Best part? All of them can be done on the cheap and on one tank of gas—or less!

Mill City Museum

704 South 2nd Street

Minneapolis, MN 55401

Why Go? Poking around the ruins of what was once the largest flour mill in the world can make for a great weekend trip. The Mill City Museum boasts hands-on history, where kids and adults can do things like “get their hands wet to learn how the river was used to help make Minneapolis the flour milling capital of the world,” said museum director Laura Salveson.

Insider Tip: There’s a picnic area, so if you want to cut back on the dough you’re spending as you’re learning about er...dough, pack a lunch for the family.

Must Do: You don’t want to miss the Making Pies Family Day in early November, which will feature a Baking Lab, Salveson said. To plan for other events, be sure to check out the museum’s calendar. “There is always lots to do and see, including sweeping views of the Mississippi River and the Falls of St. Anthony,” she added.

The Fine Print: The museum is located in downtown Minneapolis. Programs are included with museum admission of $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $6 for children ages 6-17; free for MHS members. The museum is open year round, Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. and isn’t on open on Mondays except for the summer season.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

1500 East Lake Street

Minneapolis, MN 55407

Why Go? You don’t just get to enjoy the absolute joy of a puppet show at the HOBT, you get to make your own and take it home. The theatre hosts great, lively events, said Laney Ohmans, HOBT’s Development & Marketing Manager. HOBT got its original name—Powderhorn Puppet Theatre— from the neighborhood where it is located, Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis.

Insider Tip: Consider bringing your lunch or exploring the fare of the Mercado Central, full of authentic Latino food and goods. There is parking directly behind the theater.

Must Do: Did we mention you can make your own puppets? It’s worth mentioning again. Ohmans said the Saturday Morning Matinees are a great program for families. “These matinees are small-scale puppet pieces presented in the lobby of our theater by professional puppeteers,” she said. “Each show is followed by a make-and-take workshop where kids and their family members can make a puppet to take home that relates to the theme of that Saturday's show.”

The Fine Print: The make-and-take events are extremely affordable, Ohmans said—at a $4 suggested donation per child and a $5 admission per child ($3 per guardian). For other shows and pricing, check the performance schedule.

Cutline: Kids of all ages can have a blast first at a In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre puppet show, then at a make-and-take workshop to create their own puppets to take home. Credit: HOBT

Afton Apple Orchard

14421 South 90th Street

Hastings, MN 55033

(651) 436-8385

Why Go? Is there anything that says fall quite like tromping around a farm to pick a pumpkin or your fill of apples?

Insider Tip: Pay attention to the picking seasons, which are described fairly thoroughly on Afton’s homepage. For example, raspberries may be available until mid-October, but the crop can always be affected by inclement weather.

Must Do: Beyond the picking, you may want to take a look at the frozen apple pies (unbaked) made from Minnesota-grown apples, frozen apple crisps, homemade jams, sugar-free jams, fresh honey, sweet maple syrup and a variety of creamy fruit butters for sale. Be sure to take a ride on the orchard’s "Moo Moo Choo Choo" train on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm. The ride is $2 per person.

The Fine Print: The orchard is about 40 minutes southeast of Minneapolis. The orchard is open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. General admission is $3 for ages 5 and up and $2 for ages 4 and under but keep in mind that pricing will also depend on what you’re picking—and how many times you take a spin on the Moo Moo Choo Choo train.

Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers

2720 West 43rd Street

Minneapolis, MN 55410

Why Go? It’s certainly easy to imagine that stepping inside Wild Rumpus Books, self-described as an “independent children's bookstore in Minneapolis with a penchant for Manx cats and chickens (as well as many other interesting creatures living at our store),” is a bit like stepping into a storybook in itself. This creative spin on a bookstore is sure to keep things interesting.

Insider Tip: Animals really do live at the store, so keep that in mind when you’re considering a child’s allergies—or your own.

Must Do: Consider putting some chats with various authors on your list when you visit the store.

The Fine Print: The Wild Rumpus closes at 5 p.m. most days during the fall. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota

1920 Fitch Avenue

St Paul, MN 55108

(612) 624-4745

Why Go? The Raptor Center rehabilitates more than 700 sick and injured raptors each year, while helping to identify emerging environmental issues related to raptor health and populations, in case anyone is curious about the bird of prey.

Insider Tip: There aren’t any reservations for educational programs and talks; it’s first come, first-served. So, be sure to head out early if you really want to participate in a Saturday or Sunday public workshop.

Must Do: If you ever have the opportunity to meet a live raptor—which includes eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, vultures and osprey— then why not do it?

The Fine Print: The Raptor Center is located on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, just west of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Public programming costs $5.50 per student or senior and $8 per adult.

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