Last Updated on May 26, 2014 by Jody Halsted
On a recent trip to St. Paul I had hoped to take my girls to Como Park and Como Zoo. Unfortunately the weather wasn't cooperating and the cold rain drove us to an indoor activity: The Minnesota Children's Museum.
The Children's Museum is in the heart of downtown St. Paul, on the corner of W 7th Street and Wabasha. Parking is available in the ramp across from the museum with a special lane reserved for Children's Museum visitors. You can access the museum at ground level or through the skywalk.
Remember to take your parking stub with you to have it validated (and save yourself some money. I forget and parking cost me $12!). Admission is a set fee of $8.95, no matter your age. But if you're a AAA member show your card and save $1 per person!
The Minnesota Children's Museum is four floors of activities, experimentation and exploration. The first floor is where you check in and hang your coats. There is also a seating area for eating snacks or sack lunches, Kid Spark for a little something to remember your visit (and snacks) and stairs or elevators to take you to the fun that awaits!
At the top of the stairs is the flying fish- you are in the second floor Atrium.
At set times there are activities here- story telling or Big Fun. We missed the story telling but we joined in Big Fun. It was big fun- but more kids than there were things to play with and some parents weren't so good at keeping an eye on their kids; we stopped playing after Brenna had things yanked from her hands- numerous times.
The rest of the second floor was great fun. The kids “worked” in World Works, loading conveyor belts and operating cranes, getting wet in the water room (bubbles, boats and floating balls) and exploring daily life in Our World (a bus, post office, music studio, doctor's office and more).
The Changing World Gallery is also on the second floor. Now thru January 19, 2009 is Hmong at Heart. See the Special and Traveling Exhibits page for information on exhibits after that date.
The third floor has a quiet book nook and the Creativity Center classroom which has various activities.
The fourth floor was, by far, my favorite. If you are visiting between May and September (and it's not raining) you'll want to go out and explore the Rooftop Art Park. This is hands on art, not “shhh, don't touch”. Earth World is amazing. You step into a great forest and become an animal (Brenna was a robin and Caelan a wood tick). Learn what it's like to be a squirrel inside a tree or an ant in an ant hill. Be a beaver in a dam or a tortoise in a shell. Head up to the lodge and touch a snake or create a thunderstorm.
Just down the hall is the World of Wonder gallery. While we were there (and thru February 1, 2009) is Ball-O-Rama. This fun filled room shows physics, velocity, gravity, momentum and more in a fun way.
There is also a “tot spot” for smaller visitors with an eclosed ball “pit” and a maze to roll very large balls through. See the Special and Traveling Exhibits for information after that date.
Also on the 4th floor is Habitot for infants and toddlers to play without worry and a nursing room.
Each floor (except the 3rd) has two restrooms and classrooms with different “drop in” activities.
Eating While Visiting the Museum
If you are after more than a snack there are dining options around the Children's Museum. You can get a complete listing at the box office on the first floor. If you arrived through the skywalk you undoubtedly noticed McDonald's. I'm not sure how you could miss it with the life-sized Ronald just outrside.
Our kids, of course, wanted to eat there. It was crazy- packed. Luckily, right across the hall, is Asian Max, filled with fresh- and much healthier- Asian food. We adults enjoyed the food and the seating was much less crowded and noisy than McDonald's. Everyone was satisfied.
If you have any energy left after your time at the Children's Museum step out the doors onto Wabasha and walk down to Candyland. This wonderful little shop has been around for decades- and rightfully so. Just stepping in the doors you get a sugar high!
Their chocolates are made by hand and the popcorn is fresh. It's like walking into a penny candy shop- except the candies cost a bit more now. We got some licorice whips, popcorn and amazing chocolates. How I missed this shop all my years in St Paul I'll never know! It's certainly on my list of places to return to!