Twin Cities Mom Collective

5 Destinations for the Perfect Minnesota Staycation

Spring break is right around the corner. Do you have plans to travel with your kids? While the typical spring break trip involves traveling south to warmer climates, I’m a fan of staying closer to home to enjoy a Minnesota staycation.

Minnesota Staycation
Rochester, Minnesota

Although I’m a Minnesota native, I love being a tourist in my own state. The desire to explore Minnesota’s gems led my family to start the tradition of an annual winter weekend getaway. Each year we pick a local destination to visit and plan an itinerary full of touristy activities. This yearly trip allows us to avoid the spring break crowds – and peak travel prices – while still having the opportunity to make priceless vacation memories.

If you want to stay local for spring break this year, here are five destinations in southern Minnesota I recommend. Made up of both well-known and lesser-known locations, this list offers a mix of activities to help your family make some great local memories. Although the temperatures won’t be quite as warm, you’ll still have the satisfaction of heading south for spring break!

1. Bloomington

While not technically in southern Minnesota, this city in the south(ish) metro offers a lot of options for family fun.
Where to stay
There’s a reason this hotel is a popular destination for tourists. My family had so much fun enjoying the indoor water park, arcade, and other attractions that we only left the hotel to explore restaurants in the area.
Sites to visit
  • This attraction is an oldie but a goodie. In addition to visiting the staples like Nickelodeon Universe and SEA LIFE Aquariums, check out the mall’s new The Fair on 4 which offers state fair food, go-karts, axe throwing, and other games.
  • Have some hands-on engineering fun experimenting with simple machines, sensors, and optic technologies. My family was especially mesmerized by the giant K’NEX Ball Machine at the entrance to the museum.

2. Wabasha

This small city along the Mississippi is the perfect destination for a slower-paced family getaway.
Where to stay
There are several hotel options near or in downtown Wabasha. Since our kids love to swim, we picked a hotel with a pool, which offered hours of family fun.
Sites to visit
  • My kids had a blast learning about eagles at this small museum filled with exhibits and interactive displays. Their favorite part was seeing eagles up close in the viewing room and watching wild eagles outside dive for fish in the Mississippi River.
  • This toy store is huge and just exploring all its sections provided a couple of hours of entertainment. The highlight of our visit was riding the wooden carousel inside the store.
  • The Chocolate Escape
    No vacation is complete without ice cream. My family loved stopping for ice cream and tasty chocolates at this small café along the Mississippi River.

3. Rochester

This year my family is headed to Minnesota’s third-largest city for our winter weekend getaway. From arts to museums to nature trails, Rochester offers plenty to do. Here are the items on our itinerary.
Where to stay
This hotel offers a noteworthy pool with a waterslide, in addition to a toddler splash area with bubble fountains and a small slide. We’ll definitely be spending some quality time playing together in the water.
Sites to see
  • Have fun playing and learning together as a family with hands-on exhibits, a water exploration area, and a 16-foot vertical maze.
  • This nature center is home to 35 Minnesota-native animals, a big aquarium filled with fish, and a pair of raptors. The park offers lots of trails for walking, skiing, or snowshoeing, and equipment rental is available.
  • Give your family a peek into the contemporary art scene by exploring exhibits of photography, paintings, multimedia projects, and more.

4. Owatonna

If you’re looking for a shorter weekend getaway, Owatonna is the place for you. The city’s small-town feel makes it the perfect place for a low-key weekend.
Where to stay
Lodging includes admission to the hotel’s Great Serengeti Indoor Water Park. Our family had a blast floating in the lazy river, riding the water slides, and splashing in the zero-depth entry pool.
Sites to visit
  • This zoo has over 150 snakes, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, and turtles. There’s so much to see and learn at this unique zoo that it was even interesting for a person like me who is a bit weary of reptiles and amphibians weary person like me.
  • While we’re not outdoor enthusiasts, we were captivated by the store’s mountain exhibit of animal statues in various nature scenes. We also enjoyed identifying Minnesota fish in the store’s huge aquarium.

5. Mankato

As a mid-sized city in southern Minnesota, Mankato offers lots of sites to see and opportunities for family fun.
Where to stay
Mankato offers a wide variety of lodging options, including homes you can rent. Swimming is a must for our family vacations so naturally, we picked a hotel with a pool.
Sites to visit
  • Located on the route to Mankato, this candy store is a must-stop road trip destination. The entire family will have fun wandering through multiple rooms filled with candy and elaborate décor from Star Wars, Frozen, and other movies.
  • We had a blast playing and learning at the various exhibits in this museum. My seven-year-old loved climbing the cargo nets in the Tree of Forts Climber, and my three-year-old enjoyed playing restaurant at the Grow it Gallery.
  • At this small farm, you can get close to alpacas, calves, goats, peacocks, horses, lambs, and chicks. Be sure to allow time to play at the farm-themed playground that includes a real tractor to climb on.
  • This state park is beautiful at any time of year and offers miles of trails to explore. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the park’s waterfall in its frozen form. Also, be sure to go on the Bison Drive to see the park’s roaming buffalo herd.
We live in an amazing state with so many unique places to explore. Pack your bags and join my family in becoming local tourists. Vacation memories can be made anywhere!
What are your favorite Minnesota destinations? Share your favorite local itineraries below.

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