Looking to get out of town but don’t have the budget for a hotel? Or, let’s face it, you don’t want to pack up the entire family, load the car and play entertainer while you drive just to get there and find out it’s raining and your lovely planned weekend away is ruined? Why not try a Family Day Trip?
My family and I woke up on Sunday morning and decided it was a “Spur of the Moment Sunday.” We were going on a family adventure to explore an area of the Twin Cities we were not too familiar with. I had wanted to take my children to the Three Rivers Park at Lake Rebecca for a while now. My husband didn’t understand why we had to drive 45 minutes to see a park. “Come on,” I said. “It will be fun!” Using Google Maps, we started to explore what was around the area and noticed several breweries, so he was hooked.
Only 40 minutes west of Minneapolis, the Delano/Waconia area is a perfect destination for a day trip. Here are some of the locations we explored on our day trip as well as some other locations you might enjoy.
Three Rivers Park: Lake Rebecca
Three Rivers Park at Lake Rebecca is known for its “Big Woods” landscape and wetland areas. Back in the 1800’s, this area of Minnesota was a dense forest made up of Elm, Maple, Basswood and Oak trees. The play structure is designed around the “Big Woods” theme and is what grabbed my attention. The children scrambled on man-made logs, adventured through a log cabin and climbed a fire tower to slide to safety. The playground is steps from the parking lot and has easy access to restrooms. Another feature of the playground my children enjoyed is the scavenger hunt through the playground to find native animals and plants. A large tree stump greets you at the playground entrance and shows pictures of the plants and animals to find. It is perfect for even the smallest of playground visitors.
Of course, after exploring the playground, everyone worked up an appetite. I wanted somewhere unique and kid friendly to eat, so I used our West Twin Cities Moms Blog Neighborhood Group to ask the local moms where to eat. Many of the local blog members guided us to the cutest drive-in ever. Peppermint Twist is a family-owned restaurant serving up burgers, shakes and fun at the Teddy Bear Park. They have been voted ‘Best of Minnesota Drive-In’ by WCCO and did not disappoint. One friendly reminder is that they do NOT take credit cards, only cash or check, so plan ahead. A bonus for the parents is the Teddy Bear Park for kids to explore after they eat, leaving you time to relax and enjoy a cold treat.
One way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right? Well, another way is with a cold drink, especially after he has enjoyed the playground with his children. My husband is into craft beer and has a collection of growlers (the jugs used to purchase and take home craft beer). He had never heard of Lupine Brewing and of course added it as a stop on our day trip. Lupine Brewing is a kid-friendly brewery with pretzels and homemade Ginger Ale as well. Their unique recipes provide a variety of beers that will satisfy nearly every palate, and the displayed local artwork provides another view of the local craft scene.
After enjoying our time in Delano, we felt it was time to drive again and let the kids rest before we continued our adventure. We headed south for the 20-30 minute drive towards Waconia to visit another brewery.
Waconia is a town I am familiar with because of my upbringing, but it was new to my husband and children. The town has so much to offer. We visited Waconia Brewing, where my husband fell in love… with the Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. If beer, however, is not your choice of drink, check out one of Waconia’s wineries, such as Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery, Sovereign Estate and Parley Lake.
After some day trip fun for mom and dad, we headed over to Waconia’s Bayview Elementary School to visit the playground. This playground is unique in that it is formed like a castle. There was a lot of unique equipment to explore. My children loved the tire swing, balance bridge and the spinning cups. If you’re interested in grabbing a bite to eat in Waconia, I suggest checking out Lola’s Lakehouse.
If you have time for other family fun options around the area west of the Twin Cities, check out the city of Minnetrista. My children and I visited Big Stone Mini Golf on a separate trip and had so much fun. The mini golf course is challenging and kept my children engaged. There is so much to see at this place. The grounds are covered in unique sculptures and art, along with being home to animals. My children loved seeing the goats, chickens, horses and ducks on the property. The only negative is that their only restroom facility is a port-a-potty. Otherwise, it is a great attraction.
Two other places to explore in Minnetrista include Gale Woods Farm that is a real working farm within 45 minutes of the Twin Cities. On this working farm, your family can learn about agriculture, food production and taking care of the environment. My family learned about animals, gardening and trying new foods.
Secondly, if you need to stop and stretch your legs, try the Lake Minnetonka Regional Park. The playground will challenge any age group and you can cool off by enjoying the chlorinated sand bottom pond.
Taking a day trip to nearly any part of the Twin Cities allows for a relatively low cost vacation to avoid the staycation. There are numerous places to visit that provide fun and excitement for all ages. Once you begin to explore, you’ll understand the reason why the Minneapolis area has been rated as one of the best metro areas for parks and recreation for so many years. With the booming micro-brewery, distillery and winery scene, parents can have a destination too. Our family plans to have many more ‘day trips’ this summer, so stay tuned for more day trip destinations.
Heather is mom to identical twin red-headed daughters. Her and her husband of 6 years, Jason, live in the south suburbs and are busy making their house a home. Heather is a SAHM who also volunteers for the TCMB Event Team, the Edgewood Advisory Council, and teaches Sunday school.