Twin Cities Art Scene Fit for a Child's Imagination

By Katie Dohman

To some, art and theater come across as stuffy, sophisticated and best suited to adults. But not here. Multiple museums, theaters and performing arts groups in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area cater to the littlest ones in the family with special exhibits, performances and events created just for them.

It’s easy to teach children the magic of the arts—and make a trip super special—with groups and places such as these lighting the way.

circus juventas dan norman
Circus Juventas / Photo by Dan Norman

Where can you find high-flying acrobatics and compelling drama performed by kids? Some of the coolest and most talented youngsters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area train for Circus Juventas’ incredible youth circus, giving Cirque du Soleil a run for its money. Public performances are held in the spring and summer.

Best known for its outstanding puppetry on the move during Minneapolis’ May Day Parade, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater has been dazzling children and adults alike with its commitment to beautiful, complex storytelling and incredible puppets (no socks or brown paper bags here). On Saturdays, find shows that end in a make-and-take for the little ones. Venues vary by season, so check the website for updates.

The always-free Minneapolis Institute of Art accommodates young families every day—visit the Family Center for books, toys and more—but it really shines on Family Day, held the second Sunday of the month. Kids can see priceless works of art up close and personal, and make their own, plus enjoy live music and dancing.

Mia also hosts an annual collaboration with public radio station The Current (89.3 FM) called “Rock the Cradle,” which features halls full of kids busting moves and listening to smooth grooves. In the same building, the Tony Award-winning Children's Theatre Co. has been entertaining multigenerational audiences for more than 50 years.

A long-beloved organization operating in the beautiful Hopkins Center for the Arts, Stages Theatre Co.’s list of accolades is as warranted as it is long. But what will delight the tykes is seeing other children make some of their favorite stories come to life. Plays appeal to children as young as 18 months, while others begin at age 8 and up—from “Twinkle, Twinkle” to “Annie” and plays based on Louis Sachar and Lois Lowry’s young-adult fiction.

Kids at Walker Art CenterThe iconic Walker Art Center in Minneapolis invites the entire family to visit for free the first Saturday of the month. Nestled among Rothkos, Murakamis and other beloved modernist pieces are opportunities to take in live performances, films, and even chances to make your own art—all the better when surrounded by such beautiful, puzzling and innovative inspiration. Prime hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and activities are best suited to children ages 6-12.

Beyond these highlights, many other arts organizations host children’s festivals, such as the Ordway’s International Children’s Festival and the Urban Expedition program at the Landmark Center in St. Paul.

Find more family-friendly arts opportunities in the Twin Cities area.