Saint Paul MN, aka ‘the other twin city’ has many free family activities. But if you want to spend some money, Saint Paul has you covered, too. After visiting Minneapolis several times, Vegetarian SheBuysTravel Judy Antell had a chance to explore Saint Paul. Here are five of the best activities for families.
On previous trips to the Twin Cities, I only went to Minneapolis. But I felt bad about neglecting Saint Paul and spent a recent long weekend exploring the city. While the city is smaller, there are many things to do in St. Paul MN. While downtown attractions are walkable, and you can take the light rail from the airport, a car is the best way to get around.
5 Top Things to Do in St. Paul MN
- Minnesota Science Center
- Minnesota Children’s Museum
- Minnesota History Museum
- Como Town Amusement Park
- Minnesota State Fair
1. Minnesota Science Center
The Minnesota Science Center gets kids – and adults – excited about science and math. There are hands-on activities about sports, weather and the human body. There are also dinosaur specimens, Native American artifacts and an Omnimax theater.
You can spend the whole day here. Several cafes had plenty of vegetarian and gluten free options. One even serves breakfast.
2. Minnesota Children’s Museum
The Minnesota Children’s Museum is designed for kids ages 1-10. There are special toddler areas and lots of climbing (and sliding) opportunities for older kids. There are also spaces for quieter pursuits, like a studio where kids can build and create. The outdoor play area is open seasonally.
3. Minnesota History Museum
At the Minnesota History Museum, you can trace the history of a home that had immigrants from several countries live there. In the Grainland exhibit, learn about soy and corn and climb though a grain elevator. We sat through a tornado simulation, which can scare young children.
If you are traveling with grandparents, don’t miss “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation.” This exhibit goes from the Depression to the 1950s. There is also a long-term special exhibit on the year 1968, which explores civil rights, the summer of love, music and fashion during that time.
4. Como Town Amusement Park
Within the free Como Zoo, the seasonal Como Town Amusement Park has kiddie rides, family rides and thrill rides. You pay by points; bigger rides cost more. The park is for ages 2-12.
5. Minnesota State Fair
The annual 12 day extravaganza ends on Labor Day. “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” features concerts, agricultural shows and plenty of animals. There are also rides, contests and lots to eat. Nights conclude with firework shows.
Bonus – Near the top things to do in St. Paul MN: Paisley Park
Prince’s home and recording studio, Paisley Park, is a must for any Prince fan. You are immersed in his music, seeing his instruments, costumes, artifacts from his movies (the motorcycle from Purple Rain) and clips from his performances. The 70 minute tour ends with his epic 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance. Paisley Park is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Saint Paul.
Note: Paisley Park restricts admission to those five years old and up and you must buy tickets in advance. Cellphones have to be turned off and locked in a bag before the tour. And unless you book a special tour like Sunday brunch, there is nowhere to eat or drink. We picked up fantastic vegan sandwiches from the Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis beforehand.
Where to Stay: Saint Paul MN downtown hotels
We stayed at the super convenient Doubletree by Hilton St. Paul Downtown Hotel. When you check in, you get warm chocolate chip cookies. Other family friendly amenities include a large indoor pool, plenty of lobby space if you want to hang out, and a bowl of free fruit in the lobby. Rooms have microwaves, a mini fridge and coffee maker.
The hotel connects by skyways to much of downtown. You can walk several blocks indoors to the Children’s Museum and restaurants.
The hotel’s sports bar has a variety of board games. There are pizzas, local beers on tap and happy hour specials where you can cheaply feed the kids early.
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Saint Paul MN best restaurants
Near Macalester College, Shish has inexpensive kid friendly Mediterranean food. Falafel, hummus and kebabs and plenty of vegetarian food have wide appeal. There is also a children’s menu.
J. Selby’s, a vegan cafe, offers a healthy take on comfort food. There is a kid’s menu, and when we went, there were two children celebrating their birthdays there. There is also craft beer and wine.
Note: the Doubletree Hotel gave us a complimentary room. Opinions expressed are my own.