Seek Out These New Kid-Friendly Attractions

By James Riemermann

Minnesota is raising the bar on its well-earned reputation for family- and kid-friendly activities. Several best-in-class attractions have recently joined an already impressive roster of facilities that cater to kids, making history, science, nature and culture fun.

Flyover America, at Mall of America in Bloomington, promises to be an immersive multimedia flight simulation ride/show/experience. Riders are strapped into seats that move up to 25 feet above the ground, while breathtaking images of landmark scenes from across America are projected on a giant half-dome screen and enhanced by movement, wind, mist and scents. The ride is designed to be exciting but gentle, and is appropriate for children at least 3 feet 4 inches tall, typically ages 4 and up.

Crayola Experience, opening at Mall of America
Crayola Experience, at the Mall of America

Crayola Experience, also at the mall, features 60,000 square feet and multiple levels of interactive exhibits and activities related to the coloring crayons known and loved by kids worldwide. The 26 interactive exhibits let kids name and wrap their own Crayola crayon, paint with melted wax, create and bring their own coloring page to life with touch, and see how crayons are made with live demonstrations. The space also features a store with the world's largest selection of Crayola products and souvenirs.

Beyond these new attractions, Mall of America is home to Nickelodeon Universe, the nation’s largest indoor theme park; Sea Life, a 120-million gallon walk-through aquarium; and Moose Mountain Adventure Golf.

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, at a beautiful new facility in Mankato, features outdoor spaces including the Farmyard, which allows kids to interact with farm animals such as chickens and hogs, and take part in planting, watering and harvesting corn, tomatoes, peppers and other crops. “There are always ways to help and get dirty,” say staff.

Other popular exhibits include the Coughlan Quarry, with a big sand pit, moveable crane, and conveyor system for moving blocks across the quarry; the Grow It Gallery, where kids can sit on a 1917 Little Giant tractor or help monarch butterflies germinate beans; the 28-foot-high Mankato Clinic Tree of Forts, with tunnels, tubes, and bridges connecting six forts; and the Two Level Makers Space, with tools and materials for hands-on play and learning.

New Spam MuseumThe popular Spam Museum recently reopened in a brand new, 14,000-square-foot facility in downtown Austin, just in time to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Hormel Foods, which makes the famous spiced, canned meat. Visitors will find interactive and informative exhibits about the iconic product, including showings of the famously wacky “Spam” sketch and song by Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Downtown St. Paul has long been home to a trifecta of Minnesota’s best-known family attractions, all within blocks of one another—the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota History Center. The Children’s Museum opened a 4,400-square-foot play space at Mall of America while the downtown museum undergoes a major expansion, scheduled to reopen in June 2017.

Current special exhibits at the Science Museum include "Sportsology" and "Mythic Creatures," with "The Science Behind Pixar" opening June 9; and living history reenactments take place at many of the Minnesota Historical’s 26 historic sites and museums around the state.

View kid-friendly activities statewide, including children’s museums, zoos, aquariums and more.