Twin Cities Parks with Littles

Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN a.k.a. the Twin Cities has so many great parks and places to explore with your littles on a sunny summer day! Since the Twin Cities are right in our back yard it makes for a great day trip. I actually just returned from spending three days there with my three littles. I’m going to highlight a few of the fun places that we spent a good chunk of our time at. My kids loved these places and so we felt compelled to share these great Twin Cities parks with you so that you too can experience the fun!

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Located in the Three Rivers District, this park seems to have access to everything you could want! It is home of the Richardson Nature Center . The center has many different events for families as well as a bunch of fun kits that the kids can borrow to catch bugs, explore the ponds, or go on a bird watching hike.

Along with having a variety of landscapes for walking and picturesque spots for a picnic, the main attraction to this park for us was their massive playground! I mean seriously massive. This place spans 16,000 square feet and has slides up to 50 feet long! A word to the wise I would definitely go with man to man coverage on your kids if you are a little more on the cautious side like I am. There is truly something for everyone at this park. I can honestly say I have never been to anything like this before. One look at it and you know why they have won awards for creativity and ingenuity!

There are multiple different play areas that are perfect for different ages and stages. The toddler park is located to the left and has a small plastic climber with a few small slides. The only downfall to this part is that it is sand which we all know can be a little challenging with littles who love to put everything in their mouths.

There are only two swings at this playground so it does take a long time to get a turn if your little one has their heart set on swinging!

At the center is a play set that is the next step up. It’s got a lot of ramps and smaller slides for those kids who are a little too old for the toddler area but not quite ready for all the climbing of the other areas. This was where my two year old found her niche. She could run and climb on everything independently and wasn’t scared of going down any of the slides by herself.

All the other areas of the park are great for stronger, more independent children probably ages 4+ (depending on your child). A large area of the park reminds me of the McDonalds Play Area only on a much larger scale! It has netted tunnels that are a maze to me from down below. My oldest had a heyday climbing through these. Coming back to this park I would make her wear something super bright colored (avoid blue or black clothing-the color of the equipment) so that I could spot her as she spider monkey’s her way through all the netting. At one point I chuckled out loud as a large mass of children were climbing their way through ropes and sitting on a suspended chair because it truly did look like a troop of monkeys!

Good to Know:
  • It is completely free!
  • Bring lots of help (one adult to one child ratio is best especially with younger children) or try to avoid weekends/holidays where it may be extra busy!
  • Establish a meeting spot in case you do get separated.
  • Have kids wear bright colored clothing (avoid black or blue).
  • They do have a Visitor Center with bathrooms and concessions.
  • Pack a lunch, snacks, lots of water or drinks, and of course SUNSCREEN!
  • Towels, swimsuts, or a change of clothes may be helpful since there is an area that sprays a mist of water.
  • Wear shoes that are good for climbing but that can also get wet. The equipment and floors can get very hot so I would make sure to bring shoes.
  • Fenced in with only one exit (whew!)
  • Handicap accessible with ramps for wheelchairs and strollers
  • Open April through October (weather permitting) 9 a.m. to sunset

 

Central Park of Maple Grove

12000 Central Park Way
Maple Grove, MN

I can’t even begin to express how much fun the Central Park of Maple Grove is and how nice it is!

Let’s start out with the interactive fountains, a 2,100 sq. ft. area with 49 jet sprays and 18 arching sprays. It is a hot day haven for kids and parents alike! This feature is free and open seven days a week starting at 10 a.m. Bring swimming suits and towels and use their clean restroom facilities to change before heading home!

Fun fact: It goes into show mode from 8:45-10:00 p.m. where the fountains light up with different colors!

Next to the fountains is the playground with seven play zones, 24-foot climbing tower with tunnel slides, a hillside slide area, a 3 unique swing including one that was like a teeter-totter swing (I seriously considered making my sister try that one out with me!), and a 120-foot long climbing wall. This park is customized with unique play equipment you won’t find anywhere else. It really is almost like a piece of art!  Most of the area is rubberized so I would advise good play shoes since it does get very hot! A few areas are sand which can be a little tricky if you are still wet from playing in the fountains.

I want to go back in the winter to try out their LED lit 810 feet long ice skating loop! Check back and who knows maybe I’ll update you on this park’s winter features!

Good to know:

  • There is a picnic area as well as a lot of beautiful green space if you want to pack a lunch or snack.
  • They do have a small concession stand inside near the restrooms.
  • Be prepared with good shoes and sunscreen since there isn’t much shade so the ground gets hot and the sun is strong!
  • Changing areas and restrooms are available.

 

Van Cleve Park

901 15th Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414

In the heart of Minneapolis is a little park with a great wading pool for little ones. At it’s deepest it is 2 feet deep, perfect for little swimmers! It is open daily from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and will stay open till 10 p.m. if the temperature is over 85 degrees at 6:00 p.m. They do have a playground and toddler playground but truly the best part about this park in the summer is the wading pool! It is free for anyone to use and has been newly remodeled. Best of all, it isn’t crazy busy like a lot of the other parks I have mentioned so you can have a more intimate and relaxing time with your family.

(And it might just be on my winter ice skating list as well since they too have a rink in the winter!)

 

Como Park Zoo ad Conservatory 

I’m always surprised with the number of people that haven’t been to Como Park Zoo! We frequent it multiple times a year and are always please with our visit! It is a free zoo (donation based $3 for adult and $2 for children is suggested). Como is filled with elaborate gardens including a fun butterfly garden with moths, I kid you not, as big as birds, an amusement park, a splash zone, and of course a variety of animals! Every time we go we are pleasantly surprised with how active and engaging the animals are! The monkeys and gorillas are sure to put on a fun little show for you as they play together. And of course there is a whole carnival, amusement park with a splash pad to explore as well!

Before you go be sure to check out their website to find out what unique programs they are offering that day!

Good to know:

  • You can pack a cooler with drinks and food.
  • They do have a restaurant and concession stands.
  • Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen!
  • Strollers and wheelchairs are available to rent. Single strollers and wheelchairs are $5/day and double strollers are $8/day. Electric scooters are also available for $20/day.
  • There are multiple bathrooms throughout the area.
  • It is open every day of the year! (April-September 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and October-March 10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
  • Also in the area is Lake Como, mini-golf, a pool, and picnic areas!

Future Parks we will be visiting:

  • Elm Creek
  • Centennial Lakes

Check back or subscribe so you don’t miss out on info on these parks when we go try them out! And of course be looking for more about our winter adventures as well!

 

 

 

 

Traveling With 3 Small Children is Possible

Traveling with three young kids is possible. We are living proof. Here are a few helpful tips for flying with little ones.

 

  1. Do some fun projects to learn about an airplane before you go. Talk about the rules on a plane, pretend you are on a plane, and just get them learning and prepared for the adventure. We did a bunch of fun “A is for Airplane” activities before we went. Check them out on pinterest under Parenting the Principal or on instagram https://www.instagram.com/parentingtheprincipal/.

(I had a lot of questions on the puzzle that we used. You can find a similar one here.)

 

2. Travel with a bag of fun smaller toys. Pack this about a week before you go and show the kids what is in the bag ahead of time. My kids were dying to play with the “Texas toys” but knew they had to wait till we traveled. This helped keep the toys engaging and exciting the whole trip. My bag consisted of:

 

 

 

 

 

  • A tin full of Minnie Mouse characters and their outfits for imaginative play and all of her Disney friends.
  • Triangle crayons that won’t roll off the plane tray table, paper, and a coloring book.
  • 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury full of great stories to read! One book with many stories is a win for traveling!
  • Wikki Stix Numbers and Counting: Wiki sticks are great because you can bend them into many different creations. They aren’t sticky or messy and are easy for kids of all ages to use.
  • Opposite puzzle cards: These are just cute puzzle pieces that match up like up and down or straight and curly. I found these at the target dollar spot as well and the girls have really enjoyed doing them.
  • Quiz it Kindergarten Pen and Eric Carle Quiz It books: I found these are our local thrift store and the kids love them! It’s full of age appropriate questions and they have to touch the correct answer with the pen. If they are right it lights up.
  • Felt house book: I found this cute book at Target in the dollar spot. It has cute little felt people and outfits. You can unfold the book and it has multiple rooms for them to pretend with.
  • Baby toys for the littlest traveler.

 

3. Always keep lots of snacks on hand! Full tummies always help to keep travelers happy! You never know when hunger will strike!

4. Befriend the flight attendant. Ours named herself the “Mary Poppins of Delta” and she was AMAZING. She even taught us the “Delta Shake” a.k.a. a bag of pretzels for the littlest travel to shake. And showed the older two how they can spin an ice cube in a cup and mystify the baby. You never know what you might need on an airplane so having a flight attendant on hand that you can trust is super helpful!

5. Keep gum for the older ones to chew to avoid ear pain with the pressure change. If your littles are too young for gum, try Starbursts.

6. They make straps to go on your suitcase so you can strap the car seat right to the roll-away suitcase and roll the child right through the airport that way. You can also rig it up yourself using a metal ring and seat hooks from the car seat. Take the top car seat hook and slide it under the handle of your luggage and take the side car seat hooks around the sides of your luggage. They will all meet in the back where you can clip it to a metal ring found a most hardware stores. (However, my practical husband actually found ratchet straps to be the most user friendly and did the same thing!) The kids love riding in their car seats strapped to the luggage. We tested it out around the house before we left!

Here is the link for the one they sell on Amazon. Car Seat Luggage Strap

7. Bring a stroller! It comes in handy both at the airport and when you are on vacation. It can be gate checked so you will have it up until you get on the plane and they will have it ready and waiting for you when the plane lands!

8.Pack the kids clothes in big zip-lock bags labeled with the day they are going to wear it and the child’s name. This makes it super easy for anyone to help get the littles dressed. They just grab the bag and everything they need for the day is in the bag.

Have faith in yourself and your kiddos! You will do great! Relax and know that your children feed off of your energy so when you are stressed the kiddos respond to that! You got this! Travel safe!

 

Got any other good travel tips? Leave them in the comments for us!