I planned a long weekend getaway to Minnesota for my family in December, timing the trip to enjoy holiday festivities in the Roseville and Twin Cities while we were there. Lucky for us, the weather was mild, so we spent some time outdoors.
UPDATE: This post was first published in 2017, and has been updated in September 2020 to highlight changes due to COVID-19. Please call venues and restaurants ahead of time to make sure they are under regular operating hours.
Where to stay near the Twin Cities
Our home base was in Roseville, Minn., a city perfectly situated between the attractions we wanted to see there and in the Twin Cities.
Our stay was hosted by Visit Roseville, so we stayed at the Residence Inn Minneapolis St. Paul/Roseville. There’s free parking, free hot breakfast, large two-bedroom suites for families, and top selling point to my kids, an indoor pool.
Our hotel’s location conveniently located to get to everywhere we planned to visit in Roseville, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Read a review of our stay in the coming weeks.
Holiday fun in the Twin Cities
I love visiting Midwest cities during the holidays, and this trip to Minnesota didn’t disappoint.
For indoor festivities, visit the American Swedish Institute, which is gorgeously decorated for the holidays. Our visit, the first weekend in December, timed well, so we got to enjoy Julmarknad, a holiday festival featuring live music, kids activities, demonstrations, shopping, and yummy food and drink.
I couldn’t resist trying glögg and kringla. The festival is only one weekend a year, but you can visit during the holidays to see the decorations. Be sure to walk the grounds of ASI, too. The mansion is gorgeous.
Downtown Minneapolis is home to Holidazzle, which typically runs from the end of November through mid-December.
This FREE outdoor event has different activities like concerts, movies, and on the night we visited, fireworks. There are two huge animal sculptures made out of recycled materials that kids can help move. Those scared younger kids.
The kids absolutely loved the kids play area, full of hay mountains to climb, a mini climbing station, a pipe rolling thing. We didn’t get to ice skate there, but that’s another activity. Since the weather was warmer than usual, the place was really packed.
Where to play during a holiday weekend in Minnesota
Depending on the weather, you may spend a lot of time indoors. One of the biggest hits with the kids was the Science Museum of Minnesota.
We could have easily spent 4 to 5 hours here, but managed to keep it around 3 hours, zooming from exhibits about the body, mazes, dinosaurs, sports, engineering.
Netflix heads up: Science Museum of Minnesota is the museum with the “Stranger Things” shirt.
One of the more unique attractions we visited was Can Can Wonderland, a whimsical mini golf center featuring 18 holes designed by artists, architects, electrical engineers and others. It was challenging and entertaining.
There was about an hour wait to play, plus tack on another hour or so to putt. If your kids are young and struggle with putting, you might want to wait to visit because it can be an expensive.
We made a quick stop at Como Park to tour the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul. This was one of the few FREE things we did during our trip. The Holiday Flower Show full of poinsettias was all of our favorite to see, though the tropical plants and pond were a close second.
The conservatory is next to a FREE zoo, the Como Park Zoo. It’s small, and in the winter, there isn’t a lot to see outdoors. However, kids can’t resist a zoo, so we walked through the primate house, and enjoyed watching the very active animals.
Our original plan was to visit the Oval Skating Park in Roseville for a spin, but the timing didn’t work out due to a speed skating tournament. However, we stopped by to see OVALumination at night, and caught the end of the races.
Lastly, we made a quick stop at the Rosedale Center to do a little Christmas shopping, but ended up letting the kids build a new friend at Build-A-Bear.
Where to eat with kids in the Twin Cities
We had several great (totally-not-good-for-you meals) during our visit. Our favorite was at Surly Brewery Co., which was incredibly family-friendly.
The kids enjoyed playing outdoors while we waited for our food. There were 35 beers on tap, and the food was memorable. If you’re adventurous, try to hog frites.
Mickey’s is an institution, having been featured on several TV shows, magazines, and miniaturized as a collectible. My husband’s omelet was the best we’ve ever had with the fluffiest eggs ever. Service is quick and food was the best kind of greasy spoon.
Tip: Mickey’s is a small diner and I wouldn’t recommend bringing a large family here, nor any kids who need high chairs.
For lunch & dinner recommendations, try Lucky’s 13 Pub in Roseville. This large restaurant was another great family-friendly spot, and the kids were particularly happy with the popcorn served while you wait.
We also couldn’t resist trying the cheese-stuffed burger this area is known for, the juicy lucy. We went to The Nook in St. Paul at a friend’s suggestion. It’s a hole in the wall bar with some pretty delicious food.
The exterior doesn’t look kid-friendly, but it is. There’s a kids menu, and on Sunday evenings, kids eat free.
Recommended pit stop between Omaha and the Twin Cities
We were driving from the south, so we had to stop for lunch before we made it to our first destination. If you’re driving north on I-35, I recommend making a pit stop in Owatonna, Minn., for the delicious chocolate truffles at Costas Candies & Restaurant. It’s a busy week-day lunch spot, we discovered.
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Want to plan your own Great Minnesota Weekend? You can get some inspiration from my Roseville & Twin Cities Bucket List now, or check out these posts:
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