What to see in Minneapolis in December?
August 30, 2007 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for things to do, where to stay, and places to go in Minneapolis, with a 2 year old, in December.

I am driving down from Winnipeg with my wife and 2 year old daughter for the December 2nd game between the Lions and the Vikes (go Lions!). We haven't had a vacation this year, so we're going to extend this to something like six or eight days.

Since we're driving, we'll have a vehicle that can handle any inclement weather, and since we are from Winnipeg, we can handle the cold, although early December shouldn't be that bad.

My wife's company was going to get us the corporate rate at the Holiday Inn Express in Coon Rapids, but I've read nothing but bad reviews. I'd rather spend $140 a night and enjoy the hotel than spend $80 a night and regret it. Should we stay downtown, or avoid that and find a hotel in a more residential area?

The Mall of America is a given to visit, primarily for the aquarium, but what other attractions can anyone recommend that are mostly indoors and family friendly?

Finally, we are a vegetarian family, so are there any veggie restaurants we should visit?
posted by WinnipegDragon to Travel & Transportation around Minneapolis, KS (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Coon Rapids is way out there. If you elect to stay outside the city proper try to stick to first tier suburbs like Roseville, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley... Bloomington is of course where the Mall of Apocalypse is so it might be convenient, and it is very easy to take the new light rail to downtown from there. Try to stay in a hotel fairly convenient to a major freeway which is the only convenient way to get around to a lot of the outlying territory.

Downtown is a nice place to stay though it can be expensive. It is not all that nice to drive or park, though the hotel will likely take care of the latter, you can get around a lot downtown itself walking indoors with the skyway network, and the light rail does provide fast transport to a number of destinations. There is also a bus service but it's not so great, though you can get most places and their call-for-directions service works really well.

I'd suggest you check out the MN Children's Museum. I took my son there when he was 2 and he had a great time. The MN Science Museum sometimes has exhibits that would be okay for toddlers but check ahead because most of their stuff is oriented to older kids. Crown Block E, a downtown multiplex, sometimes does a "Movies for Moms" feature with a dedicated theater showing current releases for parents with children to 24 months, presumably with all the mayhem that entails (I've never been). The library system does a lot of children's events, the new Central library downtown is recently opened and worth a visit. A good general place to look for date-specific activities (but better nearer the date) is MN Parent Magazine Online - see the event calendar in the lower lefthand sidebar. For general events and restaurant reviews the City Pages is essential.

Hopefully MN vegetarians will come in with more suggestions, two restaurants that I've been to and liked are Cafe Brenda downtown, and Nala Pak, a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis. There is quite a bit of good Indian food in Minneapolis, a town that is a bit weak on ethnic in general.
posted by nanojath at 1:46 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: First, I'd certainly recommend staying downtown, or at least *not* in Coon Rapids. Better to stay downtown in Minneapolis or St. Paul.

As to things to do or see, the Minnesota Children's Museum (Downtown St. Paul) has some great things going on, from "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?" free with admission daily through 4/27/08 (except Mondays).

There's also the Raptor Center in the St. Paul Midway area. You register in advance (612.624.9753) to meet some of the 30 raptors, various species, and learn about their comeback.

In downtown Minneapolis, the Hollidazzle parades will be going on, and they are colorful and jazzy and great for people of all ages. That's on Nicollet Mall on Wednesdays through Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve from 6:30 to 7.

Then there's the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis. You should check their website (www.childrenstheatre.org), but I think they'll be presenting theatre for the 2 and up crowd in December.

As far as "insider scoops", here you go. I recommend The Essence of Nonsense, a small but wonderful bears-books-and-marbles shop in St. Paul; the Wild Rumpus bookstore in Linden Hills, which has roosters, manx cats and and the happiest children on the planet; and, as you're vegetarians, Cafe Brenda in downtown Minneapolis. It's veggie done very well. ...I'll post more as I think of more.
posted by Arch1 at 1:53 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: One other thing you might look at - though it is more summer oriented, there is a tourist trade along the North shore - this might be worth checking into if you're considering stopping off for a day or two before or after the Minneapolis part of your trip along your drive, cabins with fireplaces type lodgings abound. There is also a neat railroad museum in Duluth, I took my (now almost 3) son there this June and he really liked that.
posted by nanojath at 1:54 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: Inside the city limits (and St. Paul), you won't have much trouble finding vegetarian options- my wife and I are vegetarians and eat out without thinking of it. Pretty much any restaurant that catches your eye should have something for you. We're neck-deep in good thai restaurants, which are all veg-friendly.

If you're inured to the cold, you should check out some of the city parks; the chain of lakes gets pretty scenic when there's a snow coating. And if it's your sort of thing, there's a dog park south of Minnehaha Falls that's actually a lot of fun to hike around in; it's several acres of wooded hills along the Mississippi, with trails and a bunch of dogs goofing around.

Nonojath's telling it straight about avoiding Coon Rapids. It's way out there, there's nothing there, it's just not really a good place to stay. Bloomington's a good option, with the light rail access and easy freeway connections to lots of stuff worth doing. Lots of hotels down there, too, because of the airport.
posted by COBRA! at 2:07 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: Well, Mpls is a GREAT city for veggies, and pretty much everything is kid-friendly, so you be in a good place for a family vacation.

- The Birchwood Cafe in South Minneapolis has all organic, mostly-local food, and all of it is kid-friendly.

- PUNCH! Neopolitan pizza in St Paul is seriously some of the best pizza I've ever had, and I've lived in NYC.

- Cupcake on University Ave in Mpls is a cupcake cafe, so of course you have to bring the kids there. They also have excellent soups, sandwiches and salads. They make *everything* on the premises, from the frosting to the soups, and the kitchen is open, which I'm sure would be fun for the kids to watch.

- The Midtown Global Market is a new place on Lake Street in Minneapolis, and they have tons of stalls with different ethnic foods, clothing, even an organic market. It's a fun place.

You definitely want to stay in Mpls or St Paul. In December, you should be able to get a good deal. Check out the hotels around Midway in St Paul...
posted by lunasol at 2:37 PM on August 30, 2007

Agh, I meant "you WILL be" not "you be." Damn lack of an edit feature!
posted by lunasol at 2:38 PM on August 30, 2007

Nala Pak is the successor restaurant to Udupi, isn't it?
posted by gimonca at 2:42 PM on August 30, 2007

as an aside regarding Nanojath's North Shore suggestion: as someone who lives there/here, early December is only for those who are *really* into bitter winds off icy steel blue waves. it is probably the worst time to visit here, unless you're a crazy-ass surfer with an expensive wet suit.

i have nothing to say about Minneapolis, except that the Seward is awesome.
posted by RedEmma at 2:42 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: The MN Zoo actually has quite a bit to see that is indoors (the tropics trail, the MN wildlife trail, the aquarium areas, etc.), and I think they do some fun christmas-light decoration in the outdoor parts for those who are willing to bundle up.

We've also had a lot of indoor waterpark hotels built around here lately, if you're into that kind of thing. (I don't know much about kids, so I have no idea whether a 2-year-old would enjoy that, sorry.)

I remember loving the Twin City Model Railroad Museum in St. Paul when I was a kid, too.

As for restaurants, the owner of the much-acclaimed Cafe Brenda recently opened another local/organic/veg-friendly restaurant called SpoonRiver, next to the new Guthrie theater on the waterfront in downtown Minneapolis. It's quite good, and if the weather's mild you could take a walk down to the nearby Stone Arch Bridge to look at the St. Anthony waterfall and lock & dam.

Pizza Luce is another local pizza option (in Uptown, Downtown, or Seward) that has TONS of veggie/vegan options on their very tasty pizzas.

I'll also n-th the suggestions to stay away from Coon Rapids, check out the Holidazzle parade, and visit the Children's Museum.
posted by vytae at 3:04 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: I recommend staying downtown as well. Any of the hotels down there are very reasonably priced and are all very nice. Staying downtown also means that you can use public transportation to get to most of the places you are talking about going to (Block-E, Mall of America, etc.). Even if you have a car, it might be worth it to leave the car in the parking lot and explore.

I recommend using the light rail to get down to MoA (Mall of America) -- it's faster than driving (usually) and is better for people watching and kid entertainment.

Also, make sure and go to the Science Museum in Saint Paul. It's pretty expensive, but was definitely worth it when I went.
posted by yellowbkpk at 4:03 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: Since my wife and I are vegetarian and have a 2 year old, I feel obligated to help out.  

Holler if you need a babysitter ;)


Como Park Conservatory

Children's Museum - 

Children's Theatre

Mall of America - toddler tuesdays, aquarium, theme park, lego area, mini golf 

Eden Prairie Mall - huge soft kid's play area

Walker Art Center - worth checking out while your kid whines ;)

Edinborough Park - gym and kids play area, climbing/slides

Light Rail - go from the MOA to Downtown

Minneapolis Public Library - great kids area and a cool building

Centennial Lakes Park Ice Skating

Bell Museum - see and touch room and cool dioramas


Wild Rumpus (bookstore)

Have lunch and let your kids play in the playareas.

Grand Ave (st. paul) Shopping
- Red Baloon Book Store
- good dessert places




Evergreen (crazy variety of mock meats)


Vescio's in St. Louis Park (ask which pasta's are homemade)


Pizza Luce (get the Rustler)

Punch Pizza 


Maria's Cafe on Franklin (corn pancakes... mmmm)


Snuffy's - Get a shake and Snuffy's grilled cheese
posted by rdurbin at 7:42 PM on August 30, 2007

King and I is better than either listed Thai restaurant. Let rdurbin watch the youngster and have a good time.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:47 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Erm. Also you should stay downtown-- it's usually pretty cheap that time of year as there is absolutely no convention business.

Since you have a car, you should do some driving around the lakes (Harriet, Isles, and Calhoun) and enjoy the absolutely beautiful residential architecture nearby. Find some Frank Lloyd Wright houses while you're at it.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:52 PM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: [forehead slap]... of course... The Birchwood. It's 90% vegetarian and was, for a long time, the only Zagat rated restaurant I knew of that was funky, fun, not expensive and SO kid-friendly.

And as long as you're there, you might want to go see the Minnehaha Falls, about ten minutes away by car. It's often frozen in December, which fascinates kids.

Then you can hit the dog park or the trails right there as mentioned by COBRA! (good call!)

And Punch Pizza is right across the 46th Street Bridge (over the Mississippi) in Highland, not to be missed. Wonderful, wonderful stuff made with San Marzanos, buffalo mozz and baked in a wood-fired brick oven.
posted by Arch1 at 8:44 PM on August 30, 2007

rdurbin pretty much nailed it.

It's worth pointing out that the Walker Art Museum currently has a Picasso exhibit going on, if you're into that sort of thing.

nthing the advice to stay the hell out of Coon Rapids. I grew up there; as I understand it, it's been pretty developed since I left but only with the usual chainstore crap. Downtown or Bloomington should be fine to stay at. There is light rail from the MOA to downtown Mpls, and numerous express buses from downtown Mpls to downtown St. Paul.

The Twin Cities proper are very veg-friendly (caveat: I am not a vegetarian but that is just my observation), especially Minneapolis' Uptown area. There are even a couple of raw-food places, if you're into that.

(Additional caveat: I have not spawned.)
posted by neckro23 at 11:38 PM on August 30, 2007

(just noticed the question is for December. Picasso will be gone by then.)
posted by neckro23 at 11:38 PM on August 30, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, this is great.

Fantastic advice, thanks so much!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:35 AM on August 31, 2007

gimonca, yes, Nala Pak is where Udupi used to be and is I believe under new management. They cleaned it up a bit but the menu and food seem pretty similar.
posted by nanojath at 11:17 AM on August 31, 2007

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