I fully admit that, for a night out, nothing beats dinner on Hennepin followed by a show at First Ave, then drinks at The Loop. However, for a casual Sunday out with my family, I’ll take what St. Paul has to offer. Western suburb friends, I’m about to blow your minds. Here are four awesome places to take your family this fall… EAST of the river!
Aamodt’s Apple Farm and St. Croix Vineyards- Stillwater
This is, hands down, the best family-oriented apple orchard in the Twin Cities. This place has everything—goats, tractor trikes for toddlers, treasure hunts for bigger kids, hayrides and a tractor-train for rides around the orchard. When we visited a few weeks ago, it was still early in the season so we were able to pick our own apples which, at many local orchards, isn’t an option. The historic apple barn now houses the orchard’s store and bakery where you can stock up on apples or sit down for a cup of cider and slice of pie. Unfortunately, our visit was not complete since we didn’t grab a glass of wine at the St. Croix Vineyards tasting room while we strolled around the grounds. Maybe next fall when I’m not pregnant.
Minnesota Children’s Museum- St. Paul
This is one of our favorite destinations year-round, but becomes increasingly attractive as the weather turns colder. There’s a reason it was just named in the top 25 best children’s museums in the country. We started visiting last winter after we received a family membership for Hanukkah when my daughter was just a year old. Now that she is almost two, she challenges herself with climbing, sliding and navigating tunnels in “The Habitot”, a nature-themed room. The attached “mom’s room” is awesome for mamas who need some privacy for breastfeeding, and a toddler-friendly bathroom is just around the corner. We also love playing with the giant bubbles and water tables in the World Works exhibit. Even though the hand dryers are powerful enough and smocks are available, we always bring a change of clothes just in case. It’ll be awesome when Sasha is ready for the Rooftop Art Park and Earth World exhibits, which are geared for slightly older kids.
Tamarack Nature Center- White Bear Lake
I didn’t know about this gem until I moved to the northeast suburbs, but it has quickly become one of our most frequented spots. Tamarack offers fun and educational programming for pre-schoolers, elementary school aged kids, as well as teens and adults. Sasha spent many mornings this summer splashing through the water and digging in the sand in the Discovery Hollow and Garden area, but this fall we’re looking forward to the weekly story series, drop in discovery stations with live animals and nature experts and, of course, all of the hiking trails in the preserve.
Pine Tree Apple Orchard Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze- Dellwood
For apples, go to Aamodt’s. For pumpkins, go to Pine Tree. To call their six acre pumpkin patch “expansive” is an understatement. The selection is awesome and they’ll even transport your pumpkins from the check out counter to a designated drive up pick up spot. The corn maze is geared toward families and takes about a half hour to walk through. Bonus fun includes Pony Rides for the little ones, offered for just a few more weeks, and occasional live music featuring local bands.
We who choose to raise families in the Twin Cities are lucky when it comes to the abundance of kid friendly places and spaces around us. I take pride in living in an area that truly values family and offers so many enriching experiences to our kids.
More East of the River suggestions to come this winter!