I'm linking up with Katie for Friday Favorites today, sharing some of my favorite places to go with the little ones during the summer. What are your favorite places to visit in the summer? We're always looking for new ideas.
Nature Centers: My favorite nature center that we've been to is the Tamarack Nature Center. It's only a few years old, and a spot we make sure to visit every summer. In fact, we've been twice this week. There is a big area for kids with a big rock climbing area, a stream and a wooded/log area. I really like that everything is hands on. For example, in the stream there are a lot of little rocks and sticks around so kids can build dams and see how it changes the water's path. There are also walking paths, with one that goes through woods and a prairie area, and it's short enough for both girls to walk on their own. I also really like the Dodge Nature Center. The girls and I visited for the first time last fall, and it's a place I hope to get back to soon. I think I tracked our walk there at 1.5 miles, and both girls were able to do that on their own. We stopped along the walk for some breaks to check out a pond and a small farm with a bunch of animals.
Lake Elmo Park Reserve: There's a lot to do at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve, but our main reason for visiting is the man-made, filtered swimming pond. A daily permit for a car is $5, not bad at all. The pond is great because there's a sandy beach, but otherwise it's more like a pool. There's an area of the pond that only gets to 4 feet deep which is also great for having the little ones.
Como Regional Park Pool: This is close to our house (big bonus!) and super nice. The pool has a really great area for kids that is zero entry, with some splash pad like areas, space to swim and three little water slides. There's also a regular lap swim style pool, a pool with a zip line and "cliff" to jump off, as well as a lazy river. A family (up to 5 people) pays $20 at the most, so it's not super expensive, but also not somewhere we go all the time. It's great for a couple of visits each summer. Earlier this summer the girls and I went in the morning for a couple hours with friends, then went back with E for an hour or so in the evening. That worked really well for us.
Como Zoo: Another place that's really close to us. It's just about the right size for Miss A and Little J right now. We actually haven't visited the bigger Minnesota Zoo with the girls yet because Como works so well for us right now. My grandma was a huge carousel fan, so I also love Cafesjian's Carousel at the zoo. Last summer they also opened a new playground at the park next to the zoo which the girls enjoy.
Horse Tracks: We have two horse racing tracks in the Twin Cities area. Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park. At first these might not sound like the best places for kids (and for some people maybe they're not) but we've always had a really good time going as a family. Of the two, my preference is for Canterbury Park. There's a play area for the kids all the time, and Sundays are family days with extra activities (like pony rides) for the kids. Overall, there's a lot of space to run around and a lot to see. The girls, especially Little J love being able to see so many "orsies."
Teddy Bear Park: This is a super cute park in Stillwater, so it's a bit of a drive, but worth at least one visit each summer. There are a lot of things for littler kids to play on, as well as a play structure for bigger kids, and some cliffs to climb next with sand below to play in (and for a soft landing).
Minnehaha Falls: I've always love water falls, so having such a beautiful spot right in the Twin Cities is great. It's a great park for walks and just hanging out (we even had family pictures taken there a couple years ago). I'm not a sea food lover, but I know Sea Salt Eatery is a big hit with those who are. I believe there's also a nice wadding pool/splash pad area, but we haven't made it there yet.
Puppet Wagon: A nearby suburb has a puppet wagon that travels around to the city's parks each week during the summer. You watch a short puppet show, then the kids get a turn to try out the puppet wagon themselves. Puppet wagon + picnic + playing at the park is a great combo for us! Besides the daytime performances, the puppet wagon also visits the weeknight Discover Your Parks events. We went to one last year where they made snow for the kids to play in. So fun in the middle of the summer!
Lakes: Minnesota is famous for its lakes, and they're one of our favorite spots to spend our time. Before moving to St. Paul, E and I lived in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, and spend lots of time walking around Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. Now that we're in St. Paul, we walk around Lake Como many times each week. This summer, the girls and I have been meeting up with one of my friends to walk around Lake Harriet. Not a place I previously spent much time, but I've been loving it. The playground is great, the walking path is quite shady, there are swimming beaches and there is an elf living in one of the trees. Mr. Little Guy, or Thom, moved to Lake Harriet in 1995, and if you leave a note for him at his house, he'll write back. The girls left notes last week, and they're (we're!) excited to see what Mr. Little Guy has to tell them.
Splash Pads: Splash pads seem to be the cool thing for cities right now, and we're loving that. It feels a little more manageable to me to take two kids to a splash pad than a pool, so this is an easy way to get out of the house and cool off on hot summer days. Here's a list of splash pads around the Twin Cities.
Minnesota Children's Museum: I also shared this in my cold weather favorites, but the Minnesota Children's Museum is always a favorite of ours! This summer Creativity Jam is back and there's a special Thomas the Train exhibit (more info coming soon!). Every summer they also open the Rooftop Art Park. It's always fun to check out the view and see what they have going on up there.