|Minnesota History Center; image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society|
In addition to creating lasting memories and great photo ops, traveling with your children can actually make them better students. According to research conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, kids who travel are more likely to develop a greater interest in what they're learning in school, get better grades, attend college, and even earn more money as adults.
Opportunities for educational travel abound in Minnesota, with museums of all types, historic sites and monuments among the many options. Whether your kids are into history, science, art or world cultures, they'll find a place that expands their minds -- even if they're having too much fun to notice.
Numerous Minnesota museums and historic sites bring tales from the past to life in ways that textbooks can't. At the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, the "Then Now Wow" exhibit is specifically designed for school-age visitors. Activities include climbing aboard a Twin Cities streetcar, drilling in an Iron Range mine and visiting a 19th-century sod house.
In Minneapolis, the Mill City Museum is built into the ruins of what was once the world's largest flour mill. Hands-on baking and water labs will keep the little ones busy, and the museum has age-appropriate scavenger hunts available on its website. Kids will also have fun exploring the trains at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth and can become "junior rangers" at Grand Portage National Monument.
The Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul covers physical science, technology, biology and more on the banks of the Mississippi River. There are many hands-on exhibits as well as an Omnitheater and multiple live demos per day. In Bemidji, playing and learning physics concepts are combined at the Headwaters Science Center.
Budding engineers can take on design challenges at The Works Museum in Bloomington, and future astronomers can learn about the stars at planetariums in Duluth, Moorhead and Hibbing. If your kids like learning about animals, they'll love the Wildlife Science Center in Columbus, Ely's North American Bear Center and International Wolf Center, as well as the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.
You may be wary of bringing children to an art museum, but many in Minnesota have special activities just for them. On the first Saturday of every month, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis offers free family programming with live performances, films and art-making. It also hosts "playdates" on select Tuesdays for kids ages 3-5.
At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, kids can download the History Hero app to turn exploring the museum into a game, and attend Family Day one Sunday a month. The Rochester Art Center offers free family-friendly activities on the first Saturday of every month, and the Jacques Art Center in Aitkin hosts a monthly art-making workshop for ages 8 and up.