There’s something about exploring your own city that truly makes it dazzle. It’s even more fun to see it through your kids’ eyes. The excitement when they discover something cool, (“Wait, that’s actually here??”) and the sense of pride and ownership they feel after a day of uncovering new-to-them places and spaces is really unmatched.
We spent a beautiful fall day in the Mill District with kids (and a few Mill District adjacent places in the North Loop) doing some exploring and adventuring and wanted to share our itinerary with you! Some might be old hat, but you might discover something new.
Parking: For the first part of our North Loop adventure (Gold Medal Park, Mill City Farmers Market, Mill City Museum and Mill Ruins Park, and the Stone Arch Bridge) we generally park directly across the street from the Mill City Farmers Market in the Mill Quarter Parking Ramp. Parking rates are $3 (0-1 Hours), $5 (1-2 Hours), and $8 (2-12) Hours.
Walking: Once you park, make your way to the West River Parkway Bike and Pedestrian Trail (part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway) near the river. This trail will connect you to the first four stops on the itinerary!
2nd St. and 11th Ave. S. Minneapolis 55415
Gold Medal Park is a special gem located in the heart of the Mill District along the riverfront. Here you’ll find 7.5 acres of a beautifully kept park and art garden. At the very heart of the park is the Mound with Spiral Walkway. You’ll reach the top of the 32-foot-high mound by walking the spiral walkway. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with views of the riverfront, West Bank, and the city of Minneapolis skyline. There are also mature trees providing shade and picture-perfect photo opportunities. The mound takes its inspiration from traditional Dakota Indian burial mounds, found throughout Minnesota.
There are other artworks throughout the park and you’ll have a great time exploring. Or as our kids did, rolling down the hill over and over again.
704 S. 2nd St. Minneapolis 55401
Outdoor Market: May – September, 8 am – 1 pm | October, 9 am – 1 pm
Indoor Market: November – April, 10 am – 1 pm
We simply cannot get enough of the Mill City Farmers Market (or any other Twin Cities Farmers Market for that matter). It’s fresh, it’s fun, it’s scenic, AND (hot take) the parking isn’t too bad! We generally park directly across the street in the Mill Quarter Parking Ramp and have found that there is plenty of space. Parking rates are $3 (0-1 Hours), $5 (1-2 Hours), and $8 (2-12) Hours.
The year-round Saturday Market runs outdoors from May through October and is located next to the Guthrie Theater on 2nd Street S. and Chicago Avenue. Winter Markets are inside the historic Mill City Museum (no admission required) on select Saturdays from November through April.
There are 100+ vendors, makers, and artists that make up the market. Be sure to check out the schedule to see if your favorite vendor will be there or learn about new vendors.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll turn a little corner and find something new. Make sure to pick up a treat, some produce, or a gift for you and a friend! The kids like to make a beeline for the snacks, of course. That and all the dogs in the courtyard! (No dogs at the indoor market.)
Mill City Museum and Mill Ruins Park
704 S. 2nd St. Minneapolis 55401 | Admission
Hours: Thursday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm | Saturday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
Built within the ruins of the Washburn “A” Mill next to Mill Ruins Park next to the Mississippi River, Mill City Museum tells the story of the city of Minneapolis and how it rose to become the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.” Young and old will love the opportunity to learn about history, and get hands-on with special exhibits as you explore where old meets new in what once was the world’s largest flour mill.
This is such a cool part of our area’s history it feels like an important stop to make in the day. Learning about the industry and the rise and fall of the mil was really neat — and all of the special exhibits kept the kids intrigued and the adults eager to learn more. Definitely well worth the stop in our book!
Mill Ruins Park is a National River and Recreation Area. Opened in 2001, the park celebrates the history of the 19th-century industry associated with the milling that is the subject of the Mill City Museum. Of course, looming over this park is the infamous, always photogenic, Minneapolis landmark: the stunning Stone Arch Bridge.
Also, here’s a little tidbit for you to share depending on your kids’ age and how much they can handle a bit of spookiness: rumor has it Mill Ruins Park is haunted. The Washburn “A” Mill is in ruins for a reason…there was a massive explosion that claimed many lives. They say the presence of the 18 men who lost their lives can sometimes be felt in Mill Ruins Park…
Ahh, yes. The crown jewel of the Minneapolis skyline and the heart of The Mill District. The Stone Arch bridge makes every Minneapolis photo op that much better. It’s impossible not to love its beautiful arches and historic significance. Originally built between 1881 and 1883, the James J. Hill Stone Arch Bridge was originally used to carry the Minneapolis Union Railroad over the Mississippi River just below St. Anthony Falls.
Did you know this wasn’t always a pedestrian bridge? It wasn’t until 1994 that it was converted to a pedestrian/bike-only bridge. The more you know! Our kids love running along the bridge and looking over at the Mighty Mississippi and during the summer, we try to visit the Saint Anthony Falls Visitor Center (super limited hours, so check here before you go).
Here’s where you will need to make a decision about where you want to go for lunch and/or dinner depending on the time of day. Walk the length of the bridge and you’ll run into St. Anthony Main, an adorable and historic neighborhood with plenty of places to eat. OR turn around halfway and head back to the car for our pick below.
548 N Washington Ave Suite #105, Minneapolis 55401
Hours: 10:30 am – 9 pm, every day
Stalk and Spade is a short drive from The Mill District in the super cool North Loop neighborhood. If it’s lunchtime it might be hard to find a parking spot at first, but do not give up, because you WILL find something!
Stalk and Spade is a fast-casual restaurant with 100% plant-based, dairy-free offerings. We’ve been intrigued to try this place out and honestly, it had french fries, so we knew it would be a win/win for kids and grown-ups. The menu has plant-based burgers, chick’n sandwiches, wraps, cauliflower wings, friends, and frozen treats and desserts with dairy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free options available.
Honestly, yum. The burgers we ordered were so good and the cauliflower wings were so tasty. Our kids were on the fence about trying it out which is fine, but they loved the fries and happily announced they were some of the best they had ever had. Worth it!
James Rice Park — 402 W. River Parkway, Minneapolis 55401
This amazing park is right on the edge of the North Loop in Minneapolis. There are plenty of benches and lots of large trees for shade. The playground is situated along the Mississippi with views of Boom Island. There are two playgrounds right next to each other — One especially for kids 2-5 and another for kids 5 and up.
North Loop Playground especially shines in the fall. We couldn’t say no to the bouquet of leaves picked especially for us amongst all of the playing. This park is one of fourteen in our Toddler Playground Guide. For even more playgrounds, check out our 12 Best Playgrounds in the Twin Cities.
631 Ottawa Ave N, Golden Valley 55422
This park is definitely outside of the North Loop and the Mill District but is on the same side of the cities AND worth the 10-minute drive in our opinion. Check out our entire Go, See, Explore Guide on Schaper Park.
The playground at Schaper Park is so much fun! This special park was opened in 2017 as an all-abilities playground and also features a ninja-style challenge course. There are several features to this fun space:
- The play area provides full access for all ability and mobility levels and was the first all-inclusive play area in Golden Valley.
- The challenge course offers an outdoor fitness experience designed for people of all ages to enjoy. It encourages families of every fitness level to be active together!
- The fitness park has been designated as a project of excellence for meeting the four elements of a well-rounded exercise program as designated by Playcore.