About Minnesota

Summer Activities for Kids

Summer Activities at the Lake

Summer activities for kids are easy to find in Minnesota.

You can plan a memorable family vacation, or fill in some lazy summer days, with these family fun ideas.

The best thing is that so many of these activities are free.

Most family vacation destinations in Minnesota include beautiful family vacation resorts, cabins, and dozens of state parks and many other top family vacations spots.

Summer in Minnesota is a great time of year.

It's also the time of year when kids are on summer break from school and you are looking for some summer activities for kids that will get them away from the TV and video games, keep them active and stimulate their minds.

Or maybe you're visiting on vacation and have no idea where to start!

The "great outdoors" is the perfect setting for so much of our favorite summer activity.

Our lakes, forests and natural attractions offer swimming, hiking, biking, camping and other fun that just naturally appeals to kids and adults alike.

Family summer vacations are the traditional "let's go up to the lake" time in Minnesota.

You will get some great ideas by reading reviews of what others think are the best things to see and do in Minnesota.

Minnesota Hotels, Attractions and Vacation Packages: Read Trip Advisor reviews from other travelers about places to go and things to do in Minnesota.

Discovering summer activities for kids that you can do together is a great way to strengthen family bonds. You will find different activities and adventures in each of the regions of the state that we've termed the Top Ten Family Vacations.

Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids

Family Vacation Resorts in Minnesota provide the opportunity for your family to experience some of the best outdoor recreation anywhere. 

One of the most inexpensive ways to enjoy Minnesota in the summer with your kids is to visit Minnesota state or county parks. These parks may require a park sticker on your vehicle, which you can purchase daily or annually.

Keep it simple for some of the most enjoyable and memorable family times. Our kids still talk about the fun we shared hunting for Lake Superior agates.

Minnesota State Parks are the place to go to experience the great outdoors in all the ways kids love. The MN Department of Natural Resources offers the "I Can" program. Your child can learn the basics of many sports including "I Can Camp," "I Can Fish," "I Can Paddle," "I Can Climb," and "Archery In The Parks."

Your family will be instructed by friendly parks employees and all the gear is available on loan. Kids, and grownups as well, will learn skills they can enjoy for a lifetime.

These parks provide hiking trails, swimming beaches, interpretive centers, picnic areas, and much more. Many parks also offer special naturalist programs for children during the summer months.

Admission: $25 for an annual State Park permit, which grants you free admission to any Minnesota state park for one year.  

Horseback Riding: There are many stables where you and your child can enjoy a trail ride or horseback riding lessons.

See Minnesota Wildlife: Minnesota is home to a wide variety of animals. Summer activities for kids that get them outdoors into our parks and forests almost guarantee wildlife sighting. 

Take the Kids Fishing: Minnesota lakes are a natural destination for summer activities for kids. Most kids love to fish and will enjoy it even more if you do it together. As well as fishing, a day (or a week) at the lake can include all kinds of water sports. Most resorts have special activities for kids. Check out what is offered by our best Minnesota Resorts and Lodges.

Take a Road Trip to see some of Minnesota's little known roadside attractions and tourist attractions.

Staycations...where you vacation in your own area, can incorporate many of the ideas on this page. Another, similar, type of vacation is the Back Yard Vacation.

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt where, using GPS or your smartphone, you hunt for small "caches" of "treasure."

Geocaching is something you can do with your kids in parks, including our state parks, but you can also do it just about anywhere!  Once you find a cache, you log your name in the cache's logbook and put it back where you found it, for someone else to find. Caches are located on public property. This is a really fun way for kids to enjoy the outdoors...what kid doesn't like a treasure hunt?!

Attractions Kids Love

Minnesota Zoos

The Minnesota Zoo, located in Apple Valley, has plenty for children of all ages to explore and enjoy.

You can take a tour of the zoo on the monorail, play in the outdoor fountains, and of course see tons of animals!

The Minnesota Zoo has a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a huge tropical fish aquarium, every wild animal you could think of, and a farm exhibit, featuring a petting zoo for hands-on interaction with the animals.

The zoo also is home to an IMAX theater, so you can make an entire day of this excursion, rain or shine!  

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

The Como Zoo, free to visit, is located in St. Paul and is the smaller of Minnesota's zoos, but still has plenty for the whole family to enjoy! The Como Zoo, has a wide a variety of animals to see.

Como Park also contains Cafesjian's Carousel and Como Town, a small amusement park with rides for all ages, games, and concessions.

The Marjory McNeely Conservatory is on the zoo grounds as well and is filled with tropical plants and beautiful flowers. The conservatory requests an optional small donation. Como is just one of several outstanding Minnesota Zoos.

Mall of America

The Mall of America is the perfect place to take the kids on a hot, or rainy, summer day. There are hundreds of store, and not just for adults. Kids will enjoy going to the Build-A-Bear Workshop, the American Girl Store, and much more. The mall contains Lego Land, which is a Lego store that also features a Lego play area and giant Lego sculptures more than a story high! The Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium is also located within the mall, and contains tons of tropical fish, as well as those native to Minnesota's waters. This huge complex is a top destination for summer activities for kids and all year round fun.

Of course, the biggest attraction for kids in the Mall of America is Nickelodeon Universe, the largest indoor amusement park in the nation. This features rides and games, roller coasters and concessions. After a long day of play, check out the Rainforest Café for a fun family dinner. Kids will love the special effects in this restaurant as it "storms" in the rainforest periodically; there is also a gift shop within the restaurant, selling stuffed wild animals, toys, and apparel.  

Travel With Tots - Enjoy vacations with the smallest of the family members.

Minnesota summer fun for kids


Located in Shakopee, Valleyfair is the largest amusement park in the Upper Midwest, with fun for kids of all ages. Valleyfair is known for its multiple roller coasters, including its most famous: Wild Thing. Valleyfair contains rides, games, concessions, gift shops, and shows. On especially hot summer days, be sure to check out the water park within Valleyfair, which features water slides, pools, fountains, and a lazy river tube ride. The park also includes a miniature golf course.  

Science Museum and Children's Museum

These St. Paul museums are also fun for the kids on a hot or rainy summer day. The Minnesota Children's Museum is better suited for younger children; while the Science Museum, which also has an Omnimax theater, is more entertaining for older children and teens. Both museums have permanent exhibits, as well as visiting exhibits that change throughout the year.

Saummer Family Fun in Minnesota

Free Summer Activities for Kids

  • Free Museums and Attractions: with the Museum Adventure Pass. Metro area libraries offer (limited) passes for two free admissions to local museums and attractions like the Children's Museum, the Minnesota Zoo, the Bell Museum of Natural History and Science Museum. Visit Minnesota museums in all parts of the state.
  • Free Family Concerts: Sign up at the Minnesota Orchestra website and get an email alert about tickets that are distributed by random drawing. The Minnesota Sinfonia offers free family oriented concerts all over the Twin Cities metro area. Check their website.
  • Free Children's Music, Movies and Entertainment: Parks in the metro area offer summer programs with free screening of children's movies, children's musicians and bands, and entertainment. Centennial Lakes Park in Edina has family-friendly events with concerts and entertainment during the day and early evening.
  • Free Summer Activities for Kids at the Minneapolis Central Library: Check with them for their summer schedule of short films for children, free art projects and other free entertainment. All public libraries in the metro area offer free events for kids and adults.
  • Free Parades and Annual Events: The Twin Cities has a parade, a festival or event, or some kind of family-friendly celebration just about every month, from the Winter Carnival in January and the Holidazzle in December, and the Aquatennial and Irish Fair in the summer, fireworks displays for Independence Day, and many more. Most are free to visit or watch.

Indoor Summer Activities for Kids in Minnesota

Family Day at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: One Sunday per month the institute offers a theme-based day of music, art and activities. Also look for their annual "Rock the Cradle" day in partnership with Minnesota Public Radio.

Mall of America Free Events for Kids: Every Tuesday you and your kids can enjoy "Toddler Tuesday" with entertainment and music.

Free Family Movies at Mall of America: every Saturday morning on a first-come basis.

Events at Libraries, Toy Stores and Bookstores: Check for free story times, free play areas, art project days and more. Our favorites include Wild Rumpus, Creative Kid Stuff and Choo Choo Bob's Train Store.

Midtown Global Market "Wee Wednesdays" inclulde art projects, dancing, ethnic cooking demonstrations and a free meal for the kids.

Twin Cities Rec Centers: have lots of play equipment, open gym times, and free summer activities for kids.

Check ahead to make sure about program offerings and times.

More Ideas for Summer Activities for Kids:

Summer Activities for Kids

Minnesota Family Fun

Best Family Vacation Spots

Minnesota Family Vacations

Back to Top 10 Family Vacations

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Minnesota State Parks: From Afton to Zippel Bay