by Linda (minnemom) of Travels with Children
Like many little boys, my sons have been drawn to trains since they were babies. “Mom, can we go to the train museum?” is a question I hear often, and we’re fortunate to live in an area where we have several railroad-museum options available. If you’re in Minnesota and want a railroad-themed outing, consider these possibilities:
- The Luce Line Railroad Club in Hutchinson operates model railroad layouts in the Hutchinson Mall on Tuesday evenings and alternating Saturdays. Their primary layouts are hands-off, but they have a “You Be the Engineer” area where kids are allowed to take the controls. The club also hosts an annual train show that has additional layouts set up.
Luce Line Railroad Club
- The Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum has a large model train setup that portrays Minneapolis and St. Paul. Located in St. Paul’s Bandana Square, it’s a favorite with the kids. There are raised areas so the little ones can see the action, buttons that the kids can push, and Thomas the Tank Engine can be seen on the tracks on certain days.
- Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store in St. Paul sells a wide variety of gear for train enthusiasts, but it also has wooden play tables for the kids and models running around the store. They also have a room for kids’ birthday parties.
- The Jackson Street Roundhouse is part of the Minnesota Transportation Museum. There are several train cars inside the building, and short caboose rides are offered as well. There are train tables and activity areas for kids here, too.
- The End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum in Currie, MN, is off the beaten path but well worth the trip. Visitors can climb aboard a caboose, visit a restored depot, view collections of railroad artifacts, and watch a model setup, then visit the “old-days” buildings in the park area.
The Depot in Duluth
- In the other corner of the state, “The Depot” in Duluth has a large collection of trains, including an engine the kids can pretend to drive. Admission to the Duluth Children’s Museum, just down the hall, is included in the ticket price.
- The train museum in Dassel, MN, features a caboose and restored depot, and outside is a child-sized train for the kids to drive.
- The Excelsior and Lake Harriet Streetcar lines run seasonally in Excelsior and Minnesota, respectively. Kids love dropping their real fare tokens into the box, and the rides are just the right length for kids who wouldn’t enjoy an hour-long train ride.
What fun places have you found to delight your train lovers, young or old?
Photo credits: Luce Line Railroad Club by minnemom, The Depot in Duluth by minnemom.
by Linda (minnemom of Travels with Children)
So, you’re visiting Minnesota and Mall of America is on your list of things to do. You’re planning to shop ’till you drop. But do you take the kids along? Definitely!
Here are my top tips for visiting Mall of America with kids.
- It’s big, over 1/2 mile around a level, and there are three levels. If your kids aren’t good walkers, take a stroller, or rent one at one of the mall entrances. Even if your kids all walk, take a stroller and you’ll have a place to hang all your shopping bags.
- If you can get into one of the parking ramps, you’ll park close enough and that you should be able to leave coats in the car, even in winter. Make a run for it if it’s really cold outside.
- Try to go in the middle of the week. Weekends are busy. Wednesday afternoons, not so much. Toddler Tuesdays have some fun activities and discounts at mall restaurants, but a lot of people show up for them and it can be a tangle of strollers in certain places. Still, it’s a good time to visit with little kids.
- Kids love to go to Legoland and build with the legos. Just don’t wait too late in the day to go there. We went on a Sunday evening and they were putting all the blocks away 30 minutes before closing. Stop in the Lego store and buy a block separator. It’s $1.79 that will save many a fingernail from breaking.
- There are fast-food restaurants scattered around the mall, as well as in the food court. Sit-down restaurants that we’ve found to be kid-friendly (and allergy-friendly, if that’s a concern for you) are Famous Dave’s and Rainforest Cafe.
- There are two food courts on the third floor. One (North) is adjacent to the mini golf, and the other (South) overlooks the Nickelodeon theme park. If you want your kids to actually eat their food, go to the first one; if you want them to be quiet and still for a while, let them watch the rides while you eat.
- There are character meet and greets at selected times in the theme park. Be aware that the characters are big. Really big. Freakishly big. My kids were all terrified and ran far, far away from Diego. Even the seven-year-old.
- If you’re not close to the family restrooms that are by the mall entrances, there are ladies’ lounges in some of the department stores. They’re not on every level, but might be faster to access than the mall entrances, depending on your location.
- Many of the children’s stores (Gymboree, Children’s Place, etc.) are on the same side and level (1st floor, south). If you’re looking for kids’ clothes, this is a good area to hit.
- Nickelodeon Universe has several kid-friendly rides. Underwater Adventures is great for up-close views of sharks. Neither option is cheap. It’s possible to find plenty to do at the mall without visiting these attractions, but chances are your kids will beg you to go on at least one ride.
Read more about our trips to Mall of America.
Photo credits: Kids overlooking amusement park at Mall of America by minnemom, Dinosaurs at MOA Legoland by jpellgen.
by Linda (minnemom of Travels with Children)
Each year, I tell myself I’m not going to buy a lot of apples; in fact, maybe I’ll just pick them up at the grocery store instead of going to an orchard. But then fall comes around, with its painted leaves and soybean harvest and overnight frosts, and the bug hits me to take the kids to an orchard.
There are several orchards within a ninety-minute drive of our home, and each year we end up going to two or three. On a sunny fall Saturday, I love to take the kids to the orchards that have tractor-pulled wagon rides between the rows of trees, straw piles or corn boats to play in, and apple-y treats for sale. On the other hand, if I’m just looking to buy apples at a decent price, I go to the orchards that are sales outlets without the extra activities. And if I’m looking for a bargain on apples, especially for baking or for applesauce, I go to the ones that sell “seconds” at a discount.
Apple Trees at Orchard
These are some of the orchards we’ve visited in Southern Minnesota in the past several years:
- Holmberg Orchard, Vesta, MN: includes a wagon ride, gift shop, pumpkins and squash for sale as well as apples, corn boats and build-your-own scarecrows, snack bar, and special activities on certain weekends.
- Deardorff Orchards, Waconia, MN: has wagon rides to the pick-your-own area, beautiful views, straw pile to play in, farm animals, pumpkins, treats, and apples for sale in gift shop.
- Minnesota Harvest Orchard, Jordan, MN: wagon rides to pick-your-own, farm animals, corn maze, snack area, many varieties of apples for sale, gift shop.
- Jim’s Apple Barn, Jordan, MN: baked goods and apples for sale, including varieties not usually seen elsewhere, gift shop.
- Carlson Orchard, Silver Lake, MN: wagon rides to pick-your-own, straw pile, large restaurant, children’s play area.
- Dassel Hillside Farm, Dassel, MN: apple sales and gift shop, offers tours for school groups.
- Cedar Hill Orchard, Hutchinson, MN: apple sales.
- Apple Shack, Hutchinson, MN: apple sales.
- A-peeling Acres, New Ulm, MN: apple sales.
- Fireside Orchard, Northfield, MN: apple sales, including some early varieties, gift shop, flower gardens to enjoy.
- U of M Apple Barn, Chanhassen, MN: Home of the Honeycrisp! Apple sales, gift shop.
- Emma Krumbees, Belle Plaine, MN: large gift shop, weekend activities, cafe, apple sales.
Whether you’re just looking to buy some fresh apples or find a day of family fun, head to a local orchard and see what they have to offer.
Do you have a favorite orchard?
Photo credits: Apple Trees at Orchard by minnemom, Wagon Ride at Carlson Orchard by minnemom.