The Minnesota Children's Museum is a wonderful purpose-built museum in downtown St. Paul dedicated to entertaining and educating children.
It is a large museum with lots to see and do: there are several permanent galleries at the Minnesota Children's Museum, and one or two traveling exhibitions.
The Minnesota Children's Museum advertises as appropriate for 6 months through 10 years, but it's rare to see anyone over 7 here. Not-yet-crawling babies aren't going to have much to appreciate either.
But, as soon as babies can crawl or roll over, they will enjoy the Habitot room, with padded floors, no big kids, and new textures, sights and sounds to explore.
Toddlers and preschoolers will adore exploring, climbing and crawling in the enormous Earth Works Anthill. There's creepy crawlies to meet, and a stream to splash in here too.
Preschoolers and older kids will love the World Works gallery, which has plenty of opportunity to make a mess with water and bubbles, and mashed up paper. There's also a miniature block factory, usually presided over by a miniature foreman (or forewoman) who directs all the other children as to exactly where she wants the blocks.
The Our World gallery is a kid-sized neighborhood, with mini versions of a supermarket, Metro Transit bus, post office, and doctor's surgery to play "grown-up" in.
On the roof is the ArtPark, open seasonally. A sandbox, water to play in, art activities, flowers and wind toys can be enjoyed in the open air.
Everything is as child-friendly as possible. Just about everything can be reached by small children, there's as few sharp edges as the museum could manage, and visitors are encouraged to climb, press, pull, crawl, jump on, create and experiment with everything.
Just in case that wasn't enough fun, every day there are several events, like where a load of active toys are dumped into a room with instructions to go wild, arts and crafts, face painting, storytimes, and live animals.
It's no wonder the entrance is full of kids jumping with excitement to get in, and parents dragging their wailing kids out to do unimportant things like eat, nap, or go home because the museum is closing.
Tips for visiting the Minnesota Children's Museum
- Buy a membership. Members receive free entry for one year. Here's the math: in 2010, one entry costs $8.95 for every person over one. A household membership costs $89. A family of four only has to visit three times in a year for a membership to be worth it. If you have small children and are in easy range of downtown St. Paul, it's likely to become your standby place every time that it is too cold, or too hot and humid to play outside.
- The best place to park is in the ramp kitty-corner to the museum, signs outside the museum direct drivers to the ramp. The parking fee for the ramp is reduced for museum visitors.
- The quietest times are usually Tuesday mornings, late weekday afternoons, especially Friday, and fine, playing outside, days. The busiest times are weekends, bad weather, and weekday mornings when school groups are almost always visiting. The busiest day of all is the third Sunday of each month, when the museum is free to visit.
- All visitors have to wear a sticker, given at the admissions desk. Stick it on your child's back, where it is less likely to be knocked off. And, for babies, it can't be pulled off and eaten.
- Bring a change of clothes. Many exhibits have water or some kind of mess and it's likely your little one may need a new shirt.
- Eating at the museum. There is no cafe or restaurant at the museum. There are snacks and coffee for sale in the museum shop, but there's many other more appealing options close by in downtown St. Paul. There are a couple of tables by the entrance, and window seats on the second floor, for picnics.
The Minnesota Children's Museum
10 West Seventh Street
St. Paul, MN 55102