Now Hiring! Full-time Sales and Tire Technician Positions at our Bloomington location. Apply Now


Things to Do With Kids in Minnesota When Cold Weather Arrives

The lazy days of summer are behind us, when it’s easy to find fun things to do with kids. In the summer, camping in state parks, picnicking at playgrounds, and catching a small-town baseball game are easy things to do.

When winter comes to the upper Midwest, however, it can be a little more challenging to find things that will get us out of the house for some fun.

Here are some of our favorite Minnesota (or near Minnesota) winter escapes:

1) Museums. A trip to Minneapolis or St. Paul gives us a grand choice of museums. Some of our favorites are Mill City Museum, the Minnesota History Center, The Works in Edina, and the Minnesota Children’s Museum. My son is asking to return to the Twin City Model Railroad Museum for his birthday. If the Twin Cities aren’t in your area, check your local museums. The Children’s Museum in Fargo and Kirby Science Discovery Center in Sioux Falls are also good getaways.

2) Waterparks. There’s something about a steamy waterpark in the middle of winter that makes things seem right with the world. The Great Wolf Lodge (formerly the Waterpark of America), near Mall of America, bills itself as the largest indoor waterpark in America, and it is big. We also enjoy The Edge in Duluth and Splashers of the South Seas in Grand Forks, North Dakota. A day at the waterpark can go a long way in keeping the winter blahs at bay.

3) Seasonal Activities. We love to go to the holiday lights parade in New Ulm, MN, the day after Thanksgiving. Visiting the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids, MN, when it was 15 below zero gave us a special appreciation for the loggers in the camps. There’s a great tubing hill at Fort Ridgely State Park, near Fairfax. Sometimes we have to embrace the elements and take in some real winter fun.

4) The Library. Whether it’s our own local library or an afternoon trip to a neighboring town, we love to cozy up with a good book at a library. On those days when we just need to get out of the house, the library is a haven, and the quiet moments when we return home with bags full of books can’t be beat.

While winter fun can involve a little more planning than summer activities, it’s worth the effort to find new things to do or begin some family traditions. For information about all of the places I mentioned above, as well as ideas about things to do, any time of year, in Minnesota and beyond, I invite you to read my blog, Travels with Children.

About the Author: Linda (minnemom) is a mom of four young children who enjoys finding new adventures near and far.


Traveling the Mountain Highs and Valley Lows: Part 1

Part 1: The Trip South

Last summer I took time off from work because my job was not covering the costs of my daycare bill. Since I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be working in the coming summers I decided to take my two girls, ages 4 and 2 at the time, to visit my mother in western North Carolina while my husband stayed behind to work. The car ride from northern Virginia (where we live) to North Carolina is about 11 hours. The final two hours of the drive takes place in the mountains. Without the mountains, the drive west from Asheville would probably only take about 30 minutes to an hour at most. The closer we get to my mom’s house the more switch backs we encounter, which invariably means everyone in the car gets nauseous. Those in the back suffer the most. This, of course, means my children, seeing as how they are too young to ride in the front and are required to remain strapped into their car seats.

When I was a girl I did not ride in a car seat. I don’t think car seats even existed for babies back then. My mother held me in her lap when my father drove her home from the hospital. Whenever we drove to visit my grandparents in western North Carolina, I could stand in the middle of the back seat so that I could see the lines on the twisting road. Or, I was allowed to sit in the front seat. This prevented the nausea, though not always.

I began the journey down to North Carolina early, knowing that we’d have to stop halfway through at a hotel. I wanted to make the trip in two days. Before I even got out of our suburban neighborhood, however, I discovered that our DVD player was not working. I thought it was because it was broken. I stopped at Target and purchased a new DVD player, desperate to have some form of entertainment for the troops for the long journey ahead. Little did I know at the time that the fuse to my lighter had blown, as the new DVD player had about an hour of battery that enabled us to play a movie while I scooted down the road. We hadn’t even made it to the next interstate when the DVD player shut off suddenly.

I called my husband in a panic. Should I turn around and head back home? How would I drive 11 hours without a DVD player? How did my mom make the trip back in the day without one? My husband couldn’t explain why the DVD player wouldn’t play, but he agreed to look into it and get back to me. I kept driving. Surely I could manage to keep the kids occupied for a couple of hours until we fixed the problem. If my mother could manage, so could I.

About this time I suggested we channel Wonder Woman. After all, the girls had been watching her on the DVD player when it quit. Wonder Woman didn’t need a television to survive. We were brave souls and we would cope. The girls agreed. So, on we went.

To my surprise, they managed quite well without the DVD player. We had CDs to listen to and books to read and games to play. We stopped for lunch and played for awhile. They napped in the car after lunch.

Despite the late start and several stops we actually made it to the halfway point while there was still daylight. The TV didn’t work in the room we got, but I requested a new room and they switched us. We played in the pool after eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant near the hotel. All in all, we survived and even laughed now and then.

I should’ve been deterred by all the hurdles, but for some reason I just wouldn’t let them prevent me from giving up. Maybe it was Wonder Woman. Maybe it was something else. But, clearly, this vacation was a series of what my mother used to call “adventures.”

The next morning I woke early and left the room to get a cup of tea. My oldest daughter woke up at some point when I was downstairs. She woke up my younger daughter. They opened the door, but they didn’t see me in the hallway. They didn’t think to keep the door open, which meant they locked themselves out. They searched in vain for me, but they didn’t venture beyond the confines of the floor, probably because they were too scared and needed me to guide them. When I came back upstairs I found them lying face down outside our door sobbing. They thought I had left without them.

I nearly died.

“I just went to get some tea!” I cried. “I would never leave you! I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I promise it will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever happen again.” By this point I was crying, guilt oozing out of my every pour. Clearly, I had failed them. I should’ve just sat quietly in the room while they slept and, I don’t know, pushed through the hunger and need for caffeine. They usually sleep for at least another hour. I thought I had time! I was devastated by my poor parenting skills.

Needless to say, the girls refused to let me out of their sight for the rest of the morning. A stop at the local Wal-Mart enabled me to purchase a pair of needle nose pliers so that I could swap the old lighter fuse for a new one. The stop also involved the purchase of two new dolls for each of the girls, as the auto parts were conveniently located behind the toy section. Given my mishap that morning, I allowed them to pick one doll as long as it was no more than $20. Thanks, Wal-Mart.

We finally arrived at my mother’s later that day, fortunately without much incident. The return trip home, however, is a different story and one that also makes it into the record books as being unbelievably fraught with “adventure.”

Stay tuned for Part 2…Coming soon!

About the Author: Ruth(aka DoodleMommy) is a happily married woman and mother of two young girls (with one on the way) living in the Northern Virginia area. She is a Beta mom wannabe, an NPR junkie, and studies rocks for a living. Her husband is an incredible cook and does laundry. She is a lucky gal. You can connect with Ruth on her blog or on

Are you interesting in writing a guest travel piece? Do you have a great road trip story to tell, fantastic family vacation destination, or tips to help other parents cope while on the road? Email us at