The new and improved Children’s Museum is amazing and whether you’ve been there or not, I hope you’ll find something here to make your next visit extra special.
- Part 1 is an introduction to the museum.
- Part 2 is 6 potential side trips to mix up the day with a little outdoor time, food sampling, or sight seeing.
For First Timers
We loved the Children’s Museum before the remodel, we missed it terribly during construction, but the wait was worth it. They nailed their goals of appealing to wider age ranges, creating more imagination based play, having a more open layout, and expanding onsite food options.
Our 8 year old was getting bored in the old museum. Now, at age 9, he can´t get enough.
What You Need To Know Before You Go:
- Bring socks. The new “Scramble” requires them. Sold for $2.75 if you forget.
- The main entrance is now on the 2nd floor direct from the parking lot and skyway system. Doors are open on street level too but a friendly security guard will direct you upstairs.
- Got older kids? Go to the 1st floor. Super Awesome Adventures, Forces At Play, and the Scramble are our favorites.
- Got wee ones? Start with Sprouts on the 2nd floor.
- Got artists? Check out the new Art Studio on the 4th floor.
- An indoor “park” featuring laser tag and a 2 story slide on the 1st floor. The kids run, climb, and let off steam with plenty of seating for adults. A space is carved out for wee ones to play on their own too without getting overwhelmed by bigger kids.
- The Sprouts area for toddlers is twice the size of the previous toddler space.
- The Art Studio. This was there before, but small and easy to miss. It’s a major feature now.
- 1st floor Backyard. There are now 2 outdoor spaces, here and the roof deck. Walk through Forces At Play to reach it.
- Food. No need to plan ahead or leave the museum if you don´t want to. Only downside for us is lack of vegan options. I haven’t convinced my kids a salad can be a meal. Vegetarians are safe though, lots of cheese.
- Plus more bathrooms, an extra elevator, and a pretty cool staircase.
What You’ll Still Find:
They didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. In new forms or locations you’ll still find these reliable favorites:
- A place to get wet playing with bubbles and water
- A kid size grown up world
- A conveyor belt
- A mock Metro Bus
- Face painting
- The outdoor roof deck
- A green screen to make TV magic
- And of course, free entrance for all on the 3rd Sunday of each month
The Ant Hill. This was the best exhibit in the old museum. No more dressing up as an ant and crawling through tunnels under 16´ blades of grass. Rest in peace Ant Hill.
Suggestions for Older Kids:
- Bring a friend. There is a emphasis on imaginative play. Without a friend my kids were in and out of Imaginopolis in 5 minutes. With a friend I had to drag them out hours later. Smaller kids have no problems with imagination. Older kids sometimes need a little push.
- Have them find and do the Bubble Wall. This super cool thing-a-ma-jig next to the car wash in Forces At Play is not obvious. Smear the wall with soapy water and slowly, magically the wall comes alive.
- Do the Laser Game.
While you’re downtown anyway…
Parking is cheaper when you visit the Children’s Museum – thank you World Trade Center Ramp. (Or the 10th Street Green Line Train Station is a few blocks away too.) Might as well explore the city while you are here.
Side Trip #1: Landmark Center
Distance: 1/4 mile walk.
Check in with the visitor center to see what museums and exhibits are open. My kids love the Schubert Club Museum where they let you play most of the musical instruments on display. Also, treasure hunt for the judges chambers on the uppers floors – very cool rooms. Rice Park, Winter Skating, and the Central Library, which has a wonderful kids section, are all nearby too.
Side Trip #1.5: The Science Museum
Distance: 1/2 mile walk (passing the Landmark Center).
The reason for the .5 status, is it’s so big and impressive it really needs it’s own day, though, an omni-theater show maybe the perfect side trip after playing at the Children’s Museum. Hmm….
Side Trip #2: Minnesota History Center
Distance: 1/2 mile walk.
Super fun for kids are the permanent exhibits ‘Grainland’ and ‘Then and Wow’. Be sure to find the tornado too. Free admission on Tuesdays after 5pm.
Side Trip #3: State Capital Building
The building is amazing- take a tour if you can, but walking around will be satisfying as well. So many memorials and art in the Capital Grounds. For lovers of surreal urban novelties find Central Park – great spot for a picnic with lovely views, but you need to walk through and up over a parking garage to get there.
Food: Eat at the Children’s Museum, or in the skyway just outside the museum at Subway or Lee’s Express Asian Food.
Side Trip #4, for Winter: Union Depot
Distance: 3/4 mile
Saint Paul’s old train station is an impressive building with great art displayed. Recently renovated and often with activities, it’s worth the walk. Play ping pong, look at the views of the Mississippi out the back windows, watch the swimmers in the LED artwork. The whole trip can be walked indoors through skyway.
Food: Rival House Sporting Parlor accessible from the skyway in the Townsquare building is my favorite family restaurant downtown. There are games and activities for the kids to play while adults have a drink and order food.
Side Trip #5, for Summer: Raspberry Island
Distance: 1 mile
No frills, just a hidden gem. Walk southeast along Wabasha Street to the bridge crossing the Mississippi River. Walk down the stairs on the bridge for a short cut or continue across to Harriet Island to gain access without steps.
Have fun at your day at the museum!