Dinosaur Science Museum of Minnesota

Take a Post-Vaccination Family Vacation in Minneapolis-St. Paul

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Dinosaur at the Science Museum of Minnesota / Lisa Willey

Take a Post-Vaccination Family Vacation in Minneapolis-St. Paul

By Zoey Cole

Once we were all vaccinated, my parents and sister drove up to visit me in the Twin Cities. We had spent a long time away from one another and I spent the weekend giving them a tour of my favorite spots around town.

With years of living in Minneapolis under my belt, I planned a fun weekend itinerary that would appeal to the diverse interests of everyone—my dad the biology professor and gardener, my mom the book lover and my 14-year-old sister who was just excited to try something new (as long as it involved pizza).

Woman shopping at Red Balloon Books

Stop into Red Balloon Books on St. Paul's charming Grand Avenue

Day One

Morning: Red Balloon Bookshop & Punch Pizza

There’s nothing quite like a bookstore that appeals to the entire family, and Red Balloon Bookshop fits the bill. Located off of historic Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Red Balloon prides itself on its large collection of children’s and YA titles, though they also have a generous general collection as well. My mom had been trying to get my sister into summer reading, so with the help of a fantastic bookseller, they picked out a small stack of reads to keep this teenager reading all summer long. 

After thirty minutes of perusing, my sister started to ask where we could find the best pizza nearby, so we walked a block down to Punch Pizza to split the Napoli, Borgata and marinara pizzas, along with a chocolate hazelnut panini for dessert.

Como Park Conservatory interior

The Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul is a year-round destination for botanical brilliance

Afternoon: Como Park Conservatory & Science Museum of Minnesota

Full of pizza and energy, we drove over to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory to soak up a bit of botanical beauty. My dad studied botany in college and was enthralled by the conservatory's many diverse greenhouses. He stayed in the fern room for a good thirty minutes just to identify all the types of flora! After an enchanting stop to view the bonsai collection, we ended our loop at the Sunken Garden—a domed greenhouse with fountains and bright, blooming seasonal flowers (we enjoyed a variety of roses, geraniums and hibiscus for the summertime). As we were leaving, a couple announced their engagement—a lovely and common occurrence in these gardens.

Giant Astronaut sculpture at Science Museum of Minnesota

This giant astronaut sculpture greets visitors in the Science Museum of Minnesota's sunny atrium / Science Museum of Minnesota

From Como, it’s a short drive to the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul. With tons of interactive displays, it’s really a fun museum to visit at any age. My dad is an avid fisherman, so we headed straight for The Mississippi River Gallery. He was thrilled by the various displays on the river’s history, the plants and animals that thrive around it, and ongoing preservation efforts. We also visited “The Bias Inside Us,” a thought-provoking exhibit about countering our implicit biases around race and culture.

People biking and walking in front of the Midtown Global Market building

Visit the Midtown Global Market food hall to try meals from dozens of up-and-coming Minneapolis chefs / Fibonacci Blue

Evening: Dinner at Midtown Global Market

To finish off the day, we drove back to Minneapolis for dinner at the Midtown Global Market. If you’re with a group of selective diners, Midtown really is the best spot for everyone to get their fix. This indoor market boasts 14 different dining options, from Manny’s Tortas to Moroccan Flavors, and a variety of artisan shops and vendors. Everyone ended up getting something different to eat, and we settled down for a family-style meal of arepas, couscous, pad Thai and, for the least adventurous diner (my dad), a burger from Andy’s Garage that turned out to be one of the best he’s ever had.

People playing mini golf at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul

Mini golf at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul / Mike Krivit

Day Two

Morning: Mini Golf at Can Can Wonderland

After an incredible, Ecuadorian breakfast at Chimborazo in northeast Minneapolis, we headed over to Can Can Wonderland to kick off the day with some high energy fun and games. The attraction is known for its artist-designed mini golf and the Gramma's Living Room hole is a case in point; it looks just the way it sounds and was the family favorite. After a rowdy 18 holes (my family is very competitive) we headed to the retro arcade, which features a wide variety of games from the 80s and 90s. My dad is a self-proclaimed ping-pong pro, so everyone took a turn at trying to beat him but had little success.

Afternoon: Waterfront Lunch at Minnehaha Falls & Sea Salt Eatery

For lunch, I convinced my sister to forego pizza and we sauntered over to Sea Salt Eatery, a counter-service seafood restaurant in one of the most beautiful parks in Minneapolis. We split an order of the fried calamari for appetizers and each tried our own main, including a fried catfish po boy, seafood gumbo and an order of grilled ahi tacos. My shrimp creole had everyone asking for a bite. After the meal, I insisted that we take a quick walk down to the Minnehaha Falls area, and we snapped a family photo beside Instagram's favorite urban waterfall.

Group of people sit in a circle in front of the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture on a busy summer day

Spoonbridge and Cherry (1988) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden / Courtesy of Walker Art Center

Evening: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Despite my dad’s complaints that he “didn’t get modern art,” I insisted on taking them all to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden located outside of the Walker Art Center. The gorgeous view overlooking the Minneapolis skyline put my dad in a better mood and soon we were exploring with gusto.

Highlights included the interactive sculptures Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth and Arikidea. If you’re trying to appreciate art with younger people (or people with a low tolerance for modern art), the interactive sculptures are a must. To end the excursion, we headed to the center of the park as the sun set and asked a friendly visitor to snap another family photo in front of the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Zoey Cole

Zoey Cole is a reader and writer from Southeast Minnesota. She works in book publishing, and enjoys Midwest summers and cross-country skiing.