Did you know that the state of Minnesota has more shoreline than California, Florida or Hawaii? Minneapolis alone boasts over 20 lakes and wetland areas. In addition to lots of water and shoreline, the city of Minneapolis is also home to one of the largest shopping malls in the U.S., with 520 stores and 50 restaurants. Theme parks? The Minneapolis metropolitan area’s got that, too, and some of the best are indoors, where the weather’s always perfect.

There are also fabulous outdoor activities in and around Minneapolis, with the rivers, the Chain of Lakes and nearby Lake Minnetonka offering every type of water sport imaginable in tandem with hiking, cycling and much more. If you’ve been searching for the perfect family vacation destination, Minneapolis deserves your attention.

Known as the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and the nearby state capital, St. Paul, share many attractions. Between the two, you’ll find unbeatable access to shopping, dining, recreation, professional sports, arts and culture. The fabulous thing about these cities is that you won’t pay the premium that other water, shopping or theme park destinations demand, plus all three come neatly packaged in a convenient, urban setting.

The Chain of Lakes, part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, gives the city some central water chic, with bicycle and running paths, canoe and kayak routes, and perfectly manicured neighborhoods rimming the shores of lakes Harriet, Calhoun, Cedar, Brownie and Lake of the Isles. You can paddle the 2-mile waterway from Calhoun to Brownie, catch a show at the band shell at Harriet, ride the Como-Harriet Streetcar or stroll the quiet edges of them all.

If you’ve got a little more time to spare and are interested in some real water fun, head to Lake Minnetonka. With two yacht clubs for sailing and boating, plus 125 miles of shoreline, its 14,000+ acres are also great fishing grounds. Home to bass, bluegill, carp, bowfin, pike and walleye, the lake also claims Lou, the fabled 10-foot sturgeon. Close to the city on the southwest edge, it’s a convenient recreational resource. There’s a busy summer sailboat-racing schedule, a full fleet of boat and water toy rentals and lots of water for you to dive into.

If shopping is on your list, Minneapolis certainly won’t disappoint. The Mall of America, described as a city within a city, is not your ordinary mall. This amazing collection of retailers has some impressive names to drop. You are bound to find something to suit every fashionista’s taste: upscale, designer, trendy, affordable, niche and specialty. And Minnesota charges no tax on clothing, so get your list ready for a shopping marathon with a bonus.

The mall is located close to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, so there are several hotels nearby. Additionally, there will soon be a new, large luxury hotel associated with the mall, along with expanded retail space, a new office tower and underground parking in the works.

Shopping is hard work, especially for kids going to the mall with their parents! Wait till your little ones hear this, however: there is a Nickelodeon Universe theme park with 24 rides and coasters located inside the mall. There’s also the 1.2-million-gallon Sea Life Aquarium, a huge Lego store with displays, Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, the Barbie Dreamhouse, A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center, an American Girl store complete with shopping, dining and doll hair salon, and a Mirror Maze.

On Toddler Tuesdays, the Mall of America decrees that kids eat free with mom or dad at 17 different restaurants. Offers also include a specially-priced ride wristband for the theme park, photos with favorite furry characters from Where the Wild Things Are, stories and live performances, and special toddler shopping discounts. Check the website for times and details.

As wonderful as the Mall of America is, there are some truly exceptional shopping spots in other areas around the Twin Cities that we would hate for you to miss. If you’re in the market for menswear, stop at Heimie’s Haberdashery in the Hamm Building on St. Paul’s Peter Street. Beautifully tailored clothing, exceptional leather goods, cigars, hats, cuff links and a host of gentlemen’s finery have been the hallmark of this store for three generations.

A similar experience for the ladies can be found at Hot Mama in Edina near Lake Harriet. It offers trendy, affordable threads. For true bargains, though, consider a quick shop at Opitz Outlet, where haute couture makes itself available for those whose budgets normally wince at such price tags. This outlet carries jaw-dropping merchandise at a fraction of the regular retail price. Check their website for a hint of what’s in store.

One thing you’ll notice if you bring young travelers to the city is that Minneapolis loves kids. This is especially true for its restaurants – and some eateries love them even more than the others. If you’ve got kids in tow, head to Tilia for everything from hot dogs to escargot, with $3 little kid and $6 big kid meals. Near Linden Hills on West 43rd Street in Minneapolis, it’s an easy drive that pleases a wide range of appetites. There’s also the Midtown Global Market, offering Wee Wednesdays music and educational presentations, kids’ cooking classes and a virtual melting pot of restaurants and small businesses presenting a wealth of global cuisine. Fun, interesting and offering something for everyone, it’s a winning cuisine stop.

Whether you’re seeking water, thrilling rides, great shopping or fun diversions, Minneapolis is your ticket to a great family getaway. For even more information (and some particularly good deals!), pick up a copy of the weekly City Pages news, where you’ll find all sorts of useful local input to enhance your stay.

  • William

    Most of what you say about Minneapolis is true, however, we went to Tilia twice with two small children and couldn’t have been treated more rudely. Once with three open tables and we were next in line, we were made to wait for over 30 minutes for dinner because the tables were saved (and they don’t take reservations-figure that one out). Finally when our 2 year old was about to have a melt down, they sat us. Right after we sat down, a women and her friend came in and walked past the crowd and took a table. The staff looked shocked but did nothing. Meanwhile, a family who was second in line after a couple got to wait some more. A year earlier we were in Tilia, when they had different staff, and it was excellent. At Tilia, it feels like they forgot who brought them to the dance. I’ll never go again!!! Edina, however, has lots of fantastic restaurants (both upscale and traditional) that will make your child very happy and welcome. It is only a few minutes away.