Shuffle Off to Buffalo (and Beyond) with the Kids

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Lake Maria State Park 

Shuffle Off to Buffalo (and Beyond) with the Kids

By Amy Barrett

Not quite ready to call it quits on summer? Take the kids on a journey that will involve hunting for buffalo, riding a trolley and staying overnight at a park. This Trip on a Tankful will take you on a loop from Minneapolis to Excelsior to Buffalo and back. You can leave Saturday morning and get back with plenty of time for the kids to finish their homework on Sunday night.

Apple Day, Excelsior

Excelsior's annual Apple Day festival

1. Grab a bite

Time your arrival to coincide with Apple Day (Sept. 16-17), the annual lakeside festival in Excelsior, and you can get lunch from one of the many vendors serving locally produced food, then check out the Happy Apple Kids Corner, poke around the craft booths and enjoy the live music.

Unable to visit during Apple Day? There are several options on Water Street – Olive’s Fresh Pizza, Lago Tacos and 318 Café, for example  – or find a waterfront table at Maynard’s with a view of Lake Minnetonka. Save room for dessert at Licks Unlimited or nearby Adele’s Frozen Custard.

Excelsior's historic street car

2. Tour the town

Climb aboard a historic streetcar for a one-mile, 15-minute trip through downtown Excelsior. Get tickets online or at the ticket booth adjacent to the Excelsior Library (337 Water Street). You can do some window shopping along the way, then go back and explore anything that catches your eye, such as Something Safari (for toys, games, puzzles and candy) or Excelsior Bay Books, which has an inviting and well-stocked children's section. 

Big Stone Mini Golf, Minnetrista

"Shoot the Rapids" at Big Stone Mini Golf / Andrew Parks

3. “Shoot the rapids” at Big Stone Mini Golf

That’s the name of just one of the 14 creatively designed and named holes at this one-of-a-kind mini golf course and sculpture garden in Minnetrista. Others include Eye of the Donut, Dead Tree Forest and Across the Universe. With water features, kinetic sculptures and occasional neighs, moos and cock-a-doodle-doos from a gallery of live farm animals, this is no ordinary mini-golf experience.

Buffalo statue from Buffalo, Minnesota

Photo: Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce Tourism Bureau

4. Hunt for buffalo

Proceed to Buffalo, where you can hunt for 23 life-size buffalo statues at businesses, parks and elsewhere around town. Each one is uniquely painted and just waiting for you to take a family selfie with it! Maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce (205 Central Avenue) or you can download one from the city’s “Do the Roam” webpage. Come back in June for Buffalo Days, which includes a carnival at Sturges Park and a grand parade downtown.

Family standing and sitting in front of open flame campfire

Photo: Paul Vincent

5. Bond around a campfire

Reserve a campsite or camper cabin at Lake Maria State Park in Monticello or Baker Park Reserve in Maple Plain. Something about roasting hot dogs and marshmallows around a crackling campfire sparks memories that last a lifetime.

Amy Barrett

Amy Barrett is the communications manager at Explore Minnesota. She previously worked as a staff editor at MPLS.ST.PAUL Magazine and spent 10 years working in communications for the Parks and Trails Division at the Minnesota DNR. She enjoys camping, hiking, biking and paddling and has visited all of Minnesota’s state parks with her husband and three sons.