Family & Kids
The Erickson/Winterbauer Fam: the city is their playground. A family guide for St. Paul museums, events, eats n’ treats, parks, and playgrounds. Wearing-out your kids by day = more Facebook time by night.
Although we’ve lucked out with the weather thus far, there’s no denying the holiday season is about to official descend upon us! This Saturday, November 24th from 5-6pm, St. Paul rolls out a charming annual tradition with Rice Park’s twinkling light display and Wells Fargo WinterSkate, a free, outdoor ice rink in the heart of downtown. Bring the whole fam and see the traditional tree lighting ceremony at 5pm, then take a spin around the rink!
With the gorgeous backdrop of the historic Landmark Center and the twinkling winter wonderland of Rice Park, WinterSkate is a seasonal tradition that you ought not miss. WinterSkate is a perfect day trip for the family, a delightful date night for that special lady or gent, or perhaps even a solo mission (those fancy ice skatin’ moves need an audience, are we right?). The best part? It’s free: skate rentals are a mere $2 or free when you present your Wells Fargo card, so you can save your moola for more important things, like a nightcap at Pazzaluna, or an appetizer at the St. Paul Hotel’s Bar. Make it a St. Paul experience!
The Rice Park winter lights create a sparkling wonderland with over 15,000 energy efficient LED lights strung amongst the trees and a huge Christmas tree “as tall and as bright as the iconic Rockefeller Center tree in New York City.” To round things out, charming holiday decor will pepper the historic park including Nutcracker and angel statues, and other festive eye candy.
The tree lighting and Winterskate grand opening celebration happens on Saturday, November 24th between 5-6pm.
The 2012/2013 rink season is November 24, 2012 through February 3, 2013. Holiday lights stay up through January 1st.
Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
For more info visit www.wellsfargowinterskate.com
BIG things are happening over at the Air Sweet Air gallery on Sunday, June 3rd as the contemporary art space gives up and coming artists a platform to show their work. Mind you, when we say “up and coming” we really mean it: the exhibiting artists range from 11 months to 16 years old!
ASA’s curator and all-around cool lady, Cheryl Wilgren Clyne has wrangled over 30 budding creatives for GIGANTIC, IT’S BIG, BIG, BIG, a whimsical title that refers to a theme that positively encompasses everything that is “UP” including skies, clouds, atmosphere, planets, galaxies, stars and the like. The exhibit will include not just local, but national and international kids as well.
Says Clyne, “The idea is to develop love for the arts at an early age, to validate the young artist, to embrace images from youth when they do not have ALL of the filters and influences that adults have, to create community around art, to create exhibit culture, to break down the assumptions surrounding an exhibit in a gallery.”
Clyne hopes to hold the show annually. She plans to invite the same participants to return, so she and the exhibit’s attendees can follow the evolution of these young artists and watch their creative process develop and evolve–a sentiment/experiment we can definitely get behind.
The long list of participating artists is already quite impressive, and Clyne says more may be added before Sunday. The current roster includes: Maurice Mayberry, Ameira Jemison, Lily Brean, Martin Brean, Maya Higdon-Topaz, Sol Ginsberg, Luna Ginsberg, Sineenart Junprakon Schroeder, Eliza Rose, Nicholas Bourne, Rosemary Bourne, Zeus Yust, George Schouweiler, Arjuna Herbst, Rama Herbst, Henry Stenzel, Charlotte Dehler, Severin Dehler, Taylor Hazel, Erlend Stulen, Lilja Boelke, Ella Boelke, Joshua Boelke, Harper Lynn Halloran, Adeline Toussaint Halloran, Ethan John Crosby, Isabel Grace Crosby and many more.
The opening reception will be held this Sunday, June 3rd from 2pm-6pm and is free and open to the public. ASA is located within 262 Studios at 262 E. 4th Street #203 in Lowertown. For more info visit www.airsweetair.org.
There are three great reason to visit the Minnesota Children’s Museum this spring.
First, the seasonal Rooftop ArtPark opens this Saturday, April 21. Situated on the Museum’s fourth floor rooftop, this exhibit overlooks 7th Steet in downtown Saint Paul. As with all MCM gallerys, this one is interactive and is an entertaining combination of art and nature, where kids can climb a treehouse or cast images under the shadow dome.
Next, there is the disgustingly engaging Grossology exhibit, which runs at MCM through May 13. What kid (or parent for that matter) wouldn’t want to learn about the oftentimes unpleasant workings of the human body through interactive displays that explore belching, vomit and flatulence?
Finally, there is the How People Make Things exhibit, appearing at MCM through June 3. Here, children learn about how things we see in our everyday lives are produced; from crayons, to baseball bats. Also, they can don the wardrob of the fatory worker and participate in various industrial processes such as assembling a toy streetcar, milling wax or cutting and assembling a paper horse.
As if that weren’t enough, the Museum’s permanent attractions offers seemingly endless activities that kids never tire of, as we discovered at a recent visit. They can make paper, bubbles, explore the dynamics of water and participate in block production and shipping facility amoung many other things to do.
For information on hours, tickets, parking and other details involved with a visit to the Minnesota Children’s Museum, go to www.mcm.org.
If I have learned anything as a parent about children it’s this: kids love pirates. The swords, eye patches, prosthetic hooks and pegs, boots and pirate hats, not to mention tales of plunder on the open seas are guaranteed entertainment and certain to spur their imagination. While vacationing in South Carolina a couple of years ago, my son Leo read a story of the legend of the fame local pirate Blackbeard, and fantasized about seeing his glowing beheaded torso floating (as legend has it) in every body of water he came across over the next two years.
So, the new exhibit coming to the Science Museum of Minnesota next weekend, Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship is sure to deliver on fun and fascination. The exhibit follows the journey of the Whydah, a slave ship that was captured on her maiden voyage by the pirate Sam Bellamy. His crew converted the ship to a pirate vessel that plied the waters of the Caribbean until sunk by a storm in 1717. Nearly 300 years later, the ship was discovered and her treasures that were painstakingly salvaged help to reveal what life was like for an 18th century pirate. Visitors will explore the wreck of the Whydah and wander through more than 200 fascinating artifacts in the world’s first exhibition of authentic pirate treasure.
Real Pirates opens next Saturday, February 18 and runs through Labor Day. Tickets are $12 for members of the Science Museum, and range from $22-$32 for non-members and are available online, by phone, or at the SMM box office. As with other major exhibits at the Museum, tickets are timed and dated, so plan accordingly. Admission includes access to the rest of the Museum’s exhibits, plus a Real Pirates audio tour.
For more information, go to smm.org.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day seemed an appropriate time for our family to visit the Minnesota History Center, which currently features the acclaimed 1968 Exhibit through February 20, 2012. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in June of 1968 and his death and the impact he had on America culture is one of the many seminal events of that year chronicled in the multimedia, interactive exhibit. As with all MHC’s displays, 1968 is a unique and effective blend of fascinating historical material for adults as well as a fun and meaningful way for kids to learn about our State and Nation’s past.
In wondering through the exhibit, it’s hard to imagine a more turbulent time in recent American history. In addition to Dr. King’s assassination and the subsequent riots that swept across the country, the Vietnam War, Tet Offensive and anti-war movement is well-documented, both in terms of historical context and also the impact it had on everyday lives. To illustrate a classic MHC learning tool, the exhibit has a full-sized “Huey” helicopter on display, with a video projected inside the craft, featuring archival footage and people from this area sharing their stories of the war.
Told within the context of a month by month timeline, the exhibit also tells the stories of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Democratic National Convention, the rise of feminism and the 1968 Summer Olympics among other major events of that year.
In spite of the weightiness of these topics, lighter aspects of American life are also chronicled, such as the look of a common American living room, music, fashion, technology and other cultural imprints. For children, there’s the chance to try their hand at a rotary telephone, typewriter, phonograph and other relics from the area. One highlight was the chance to create their own custom album cover, which can be emailed as a keepsake.
We had a chance to visit a couple of the other ongoing exhibits at the History Center. Weather Permitting is always a favorite. My kids can’t get enough of the “tornado house,” a re-creation of 1960′s basement with a multimedia presentation of what it was like to experience a tornato that ripped through Fridley in 1965. Even Minnesota’s Greatest Generation offers kid-friendly displays and activities, including a period pinball machine and interactive drugstore soda fountain.
The 1968 Exhibit is around for another month at the MHC before it takes to the road for a national tour, check it out with your family, you won’t be disappointed. For more information on the exhibit, including timelines, a blog and videos, go to the1968exhibit.com. For more on the Minnesota History Center including tickets, hours and location, go to minnesotahistorycenter.org.
My recent blog regarding the Minnesota Transportation Museum piqued my interest in yet another Saint Paul-based, history of transportation-inspired attraction, The Twin City Model Railroad Museum. Taking advantage of our last day of winter break from school, my kids and I visited the museum on a Tuesday morning last week. Other than a couple of grandparents escorting their children’s children while their parents toiled away at work, we had the place to ourselves.
Founded by a club for model train enthusists that has been around for more than 75 years ago, the museum is an expansive model railroad exhibit that features detailed replicas of the Twin City’s railroad industry during it’s heyday in the 1930′s, 40′s and 50′s. There’s the Minneapolis water front complete with the flour mills, Stone Arch Bridge and St Anthony Falls among other recognizable features. Saint Paul’s railroad past is depicted in representations of the Mississippi Street Roundhouse, the Midway switching yards and the Northern Pacific Como repair shops, which is now Bandana Square, home to the Museum. Weaving its way through the exhibit is an electric street car line, modeled after the Twin City Rapid Transit Company’s street-car system, which operated in Minneapolis and Saint Paul from 1891-1954.
Every Saturday night, through February 25, the Museum’s popular Night Trains event affords the chance to view the exhibit in the evening with the lights turned down and the trains, buildings and streetscapes lighted in full glory. The Toy Train Division is a new attraction available on weekends and features rotating exhibits and interactive displays for kids, such as the Thomas the Tank and amusement park layouts.
In addition to the exhibits, the Museum offers a number of artifacts and archival photos from Minnesota’s railroad history. The Museum also includes a gift shop and children’s play area that will keep the disinterested and younger children occupied while the grown ups and enthralled kids explore the model trains. My children were pretty entertained for the hour plus that we were there, one shooting video of the various trains, the other playing with the wooden train sets.
Located on the second floor of Bandana Square (which is listed on the National Register for Historic Places), the Twin City Model Railroad Museum is open Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 1o a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m. Admission fee is $6, children under 5 are admitted for free. For more information, go to tcmrm.org.
With the Holidays in full swing, you have one last weekend to visit one of the most unique Holiday attractions in the Twin Cities, Santa’s Train Shop at the Jackson Street Roundhouse in Saint Paul. This annual event concludes December 17 and 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The historic Roundhouse is all decked out for Christmas, and offers a great lineup of activities for kids, and adults, including appearances by the man himself, Santa Claus. In addition, you can ride on board the Christmas Train; one of the museum’s working trains decorated in the holiday spirit that travels along the tracks that run along the grounds of the Roundhouse. The Greater Midwest Lego Train Club and New Brighton Connection Model RR club have a fantastic model train set up that mesmerizes and fascinates children. Plus, there’s music, kid’s crafts and refreshments.
The Jackson Street Roundhouse is a part of the Minnesota Transportation Museum, which also operates the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway in Osceola, WI and the Minnehaha Depot in Minneapolis. The Roundhouse is a former steam engine maintenance facility for the Great Northern Railway. Not only is it an amazing museum of railroad history in the Upper Midwest, but it is also a working restoration facility, with volunteers (many of them former railroad workers) laboring on historic and vintage locomotives.
Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $8 for students (5 to 15 years old) and seniors, and $5 for kids 5 and under. There is an additional charge for pictures with Santa. The Roundhouse also has a gift shops with unique items available to knock off a couple of names from your Christmas list.
For more information on the Jackson Street Roundhouse and the Minnesota Transportation Museum, visit mtmuseum.org.
WinterSkate, downtown Saint Paul’s annual outdoor ice skating venue, opened this past weekend for the start of the holiday season. WinterSkate is a great way to experience Downtown Saint Paul, particularly during the holidays. We visit WinterSkate a number of times each year. My kids have honed their skills on this ice, especially early in the season when other outdoor rinks are unavailable. We’ll bring grandparents and other guests to enjoy the surroundings and watch our kids strut their stuff. With the amazing architecture in this area, the sound of holiday music and a diversity of participants, this is one of the more unique places to be in the Twin Cities.
The mechanically chilled sheet of ice, located in the shadows of the beautiful Landmark Center in Landmark Plaza, is available for free public skating all winter through the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. No skates? Don’t worry, skates are available to rent for only $2. Open skating is available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, and open later on weekends, 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 9 p.m. on Sunday. A warming house offers beverages and snacks.
In addition to WinterSkate, Rice Park, located kitty corner from the ice rink, is decorated in full holiday glory this time of year, featuring a gigantic Christmas tree adorned with 15,000 LED lights.
Although WinterSkate and Rice Park are destinations of and by themselves, our family parlays outdoor skating Downtown with visits to nearby coffee shops, one of our favorite restaurants, or shopping at Macy’s or another our other preferred shops such as Heimie’s Haberdashery. Also, special events take place throughout the holidays that make Downtown Saint Paul a unique place in December. Landmark Center offers the Holiday Bazaar in the main cortile, December 1-3. Saint Paul’s multiple theaters offer great shows this time of year, including the Ordway‘s Cinderella.
For more information on WinterSkate with directions and links to other things to see and do in Saint Paul, go to wellsfargowinterskate.com.
My wife and I celebrated our 15-year wedding anniversary this week by dining out with our children. Not the most romantic way to celebrate I know, but we’ve never let the fact that we have children interfere with one of our most cherished activities, dining out. The key of course has been to find restaurants that cater to kids. This doesn’t mean Chuck-E-Cheese’s or McDonald’s; it has to appeal to the adults as well. Rather, the key ingredients to a good kid-friendly restaurant are atmosphere, menu and the speed in which the food is served.
That being the case and with deference to the 651.com foodie Juleana Enright, here is my first foray into listing kid-friendly restaurants for families looking for dining ideas Saint Paul:
In the case of our anniversary dinner, we chose Sakura in downtown Saint Paul. This may not be the kind of restaurant that comes to mind for family dining, but they do meet most of our kid-friendly requirements: large open space with plenty of booths and windows, fun food like Edamame, miso soup and bento boxes, served quickly with chopsticks, and free boxes of cookies for desert. We often add a stroll through Rice Park after dinner as a part of the experience.
The Chatterbox Pub
The key to The Chatterbox in Highland Village as a kid-friendly restaurant is obvious the moment you walk in the door, games. With throwback video games from Atari and Nintendo, plus classic board games like Battleship and Sorry!, it’s easy to see the appeal for kids. The kid’s menu includes strawberry lemonade and home-made mac and cheese, big favorites. Coupled with a funky decor and staff, this eatery is always near the top of the list for our kid’s choice of restaurant.
All Champps are relatively kid-friendly, but Tuesday’s are Kids R Kings night at the Champps located on West 7th Street. Not only do kids 12 and under eat free (with the purchase of one adult meal), but Fred the magician roams the restaurant performing magic tricks and making balloon animals, all while telling jokes. Plus, there’s bingo with prizes from Creative Kidstuff. Popcorn, free desert and helium filled balloons all add to the over indulgence.
Day by Day Cafe
A favorite breakfast spot, the Day by Day’s appeal for children is in the buckets of toys lining the shelves of this funky West 7th Street restaurant. Most of them appear to be broken and discarded by other children, but our kids can’t resist sorting through them as if they’re treasured favorites. The menu features the venerable Mickey Mouse pancake. Warning, there may be a short wait for a table on weekend mornings, but your kids will appreciate what’s inside.
That’s it for now, stay tune for future recommendations.
We finally had the chance to experience an incredible hiking trail in Lillydale-Harriet Island Regional Park, The Brickyards of Saint Paul. The trail winds through the former site of the Twin Cities Brick Company, which was in operation for 80 years, up until the 1970′s. As a result, the area is an interesting mix of former industrial site, natural reclamation and the efforts of the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation department to turn this into user-friendly, historic nature walk.
The trails offers a couple of paths, one leads to fossil beds where collecting is permitted with a permit. We chose the trail that leads to the Bruce Vento Scenic Overlook. The trail head begins off of Water Street/Lillydale Road, south of Harriet Island from a large parking area known as the Fossil Ground Parking Lot. The head is not well marked and wasn’t obvious to us until we walked up to the interpretive sign and map that marks the beginning of the trail.
The unpaved trail starts off gradually, but gets steeper the further along you go. Much of it is lined with crushed stone and brick, with shallow gullies created by runoff exposing clusters of mortared brick and flagstone. The path runs through fairly dense woods, so it remained cool even on an unseasonable warm day. Along the way, hikers are exposed to remnants of the Brickyard including a brick kiln (where the bricks were fired) and several quarries, as well as caves and trickling streams and waterfalls. Interpretive signage dots the trail offering maps and narrative history of the Brick Company, Pickerel Lake, and the town of Lillydale, in addition to geological information.
The end of the line delivers panoramic views of the Mississippi River valley at the Bruce Vento Scenic Overlook. Large blocks of stone strewn about the overlook offer a place to sit, soak in the surroundings and catch your breath for the trip back down the bluffs.
Our family is by no means hiker or outdoorsy types, but enjoyed the experience very much. Our 8 and 5 year old kids handled the trail with relative ease, as did our new 4-month-old Goldendoodle puppy “Junior.” We saw several other families passing by along the way, some with children younger than ours, all seemed to be enjoying themselves. A casual hike up and down the trail, with several stops to explore along the way, lasted probably an hour and a half.