Last week I crossed off states #40 and 41 in my quest to visit all 50 states by the time I turn 50 in September. This time, I took along a four-year-old for the adventure!
It was spring break, mid-March — I knew it wouldn’t necessarily be the best weather or time to visit the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, but I don’t have any more southern/warm-weather states on my list. And my grandson, Jude, wanted to see snow. So off we went!
I decided to combine Iowa and make it a road trip, to visit another state while there; and also to drive through Madison, Wisconsin to visit my nephew and his girlfriend (although I’ve been to Wisconsin before). Jude and I landed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Monday. After a morning at the fantastic Iowa Children’s Museum, then the next day in Dubuque at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, we drove to Madison, WI for the afternoon.
Then it was on to Minnesota! I’ve heard wonderful things about the Twin Cities, and although I would still love to visit in the summertime, I knew there were so many cool museums and indoor activities, not to mention the awesome Skyway system in Minneapolis, that even if the weather was at its worst we would have a great time. In fact, we had pretty decent weather most of the time — and it did snow overnight, enough to leave snowfall on the ground, which made Jude happy!
We stayed the first two nights at Radisson Hotel in Bloomington, at the Mall of America. That gave us two solid days of doing all kid stuff — which was fantastic. To be honest, I’m not sure which of us was the bigger kid!
The Bloomington Radisson has the Water Park of America INSIDE the hotel itself. We spent 5 hours on our first day there splashing and sliding our way around it, including the tallest indoor water slide in the U.S. What a blast! Later that afternoon, we headed over to the mall itself.
I’ll admit, that I am not a mall person. In fact, in general I detest them and avoid them whenever possible. It’s been years since the last time I was in the mall. Mall of America, however, was totally unique and a pleasant surprise. I mean, it has an amusement park, museums, mini-golf course and so much more within the mall itself. Who can’t appreciate a mall where you can spend days without even shopping or going in a store, if that’s not your thing?
That first evening, we checked out the Minnesota Children’s Museum location at MOA — which I have to admit was very underwhelming. I’m sure the main museum downtown is fantastic (which we didn’t get to), but this one was a disappointment. It was really just a play area with some activities and a small dinosaur exhibit (which rotates into other exhibits). If you have some time to kill and the kids want to play, it’s fine — but with so many other fun attractions at MOA, I would say skip the museum. We went on to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, which I used to take my daughter to when she was a kid — and Jude loved it every bit as much as she did!
The next day, we came back to MOA to do what was one of our most fun excursions on the trip: Nickelodeon Universe! Right smack in the middle of the mall, the day here let both of us be goofy kids. We rode everything we could ride (there were about 4-5 rides that required a minimum of 48″ height, which Jude was too small for — and mad that he couldn’t ride them!) It’s a really fun amusement park, especially for the kids (and their parents) who love the Nickelodeon characters like Dora the Explorer and Sponge Bob Square Pants.
The rest of our time in the Twin Cities was spent exploring Minneapolis from the Radisson Blu downtown, as well as St. Paul. In fact, the day we had snowfall (Saturday), the historic James J. Hill House sponsored an Easter Egg hunt for the kiddos. It was a first for both of us, hunting easter eggs in the snow!
The hunt was kicked off by a bagpipe player, there were snacks and storytime inside, and getting a glimpse of the gorgeous mansion was nice. Afterward I drove around the Summit Avenue historic district, admiring the homes and seeking out the birthplace and former home of one of my favorite all-time American writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Video of the St. Paul Easter Egg Hunt
All in all, we had a fantastic time on our family vacation, and I can’t wait to take Jude someplace again. Next month I’m off to visit state #42: Wyoming. Stay tuned!