Monday, May 18, 2020

10 Minnesota (socially distant-friendly) Landmarks to Explore this summer

Dear Reader,

With the stay at home restrictions being lifted on June 17th (well, that's the plan so far!), there will be a lot of Minnesotan's hoping to finally enjoy the amazing park system our state has to offer.  Of course many parents are still going to be avoiding playgrounds (and for good reason), and keeping socially distant as best as possible.  However, in case another stay at home order is implemented down the road, or you just want to practice staying six feet apart outdoors, here's a great list for the twin cities/southwest metro area.  And yes, even though many things were closed, my family and I were still able to explore some of these amazing landmarks, parks, and even beaches and I'm here to share my top five (socially distant friendly) ones - and five more I plan on exploring over the summer. 
So though summer might not be turning out to be exactly what any of us had in mind, there's no reason we can't enjoy the outdoors, and burn off some energy! 
But first, pin this image for future reference
bohemian catholic minnesota family parks beaches park beach pin pinterest landmarks

Here are the top five that I've personally been to:
1. The Landing (Shakopee) [ website ]

bohemian catholic family boys the landing shakopee

Top Tip: great for the history buff, easy to add in a pioneer history field trip around this place

Yes, this place is open!  They have the metal gate closed to prevent cars from driving in, but you are welcome to explore the grounds.  The buildings are closed, and there are no tours at this time (but you can peer in the windows to travel back in time ;) ).  There's so much to take in - school houses (yes, more than one!), church, general markets, train station, houses, farms, etc.  And it's a great place for the kids to run free.  I would even suggest making two trips just to get the full affect. 

bohemian catholic family boys the landing shakopee

Best for ages 3+ - even though some of the terrain is stroller friendly, there's still plenty of pebble stones and the like that would probably make more sense to leave that at home. 

2. Minnehaha Falls (Minneapolis) [ website ]

bohemian catholic boys minnehaha falls
Top Tip: great for history buffs, as well as lessons on nature & geography for the homeschooling experience

This place is so expansive, and there are so many trails you could probably come here a handful of times before you'd really see it all.  The waterfall is a beauty, and is able to be viewed from multiple trail paths, and fun fact is named after the (fictional character) Minnehaha, from Longfellow's tales of Hiawatha (there's even a statue commemorating them nearby).  Here's a fantastic post about the park from MinneMama Adventures.

bohemian catholic map minnehaha falls
Best for all ages - even though there's plenty of places that aren't stroller friendly - nature trails and the like, half of it is with cement walkways, and with perfect views of the waterfall.

3. Lakefront Park (Prior Lake) [ website ]

bohemian catholic family boys beach park lakefront
Top Tip: park just before the playground area (see image), so your kiddos don't even notice.  Then take the trails to reach a small beach area.

This such an all encompassing park, that it really fits the bill for all sorts of activities (well at least it did before a pandemic!).  So this is a great place to revisit down the road eventually.  But for now, there's miles of winding hiking trails, small bridges, woods, and lakes to explore.  And finally if you follow the path I'm including on the map, you'll end on a small strip of beach area.

bohemian catholic boy beach lakefront park map

Best for all ages - the trails are stroller friendly, and there's a small area by the beach you can park the strollers.  Just keep in mind, that though the water is safe during this time, if it is crowded please don't take the risk, and come back another day!  When I plan these kind of outings with the kids, I don't even mention the beach anymore.  I look ahead, and if it's not crowded, I pull out the beach gear then.  But really, exploring the trails and leaving some kindness in chalk keeps the little ones active and busy, irregardless of beach time.

4. Huber Park (Shakopee) [ website ]

Top Tip: see image of map, to find a great mural area, and decorated tunnel that goes under the main road.  Cross the bridge and walk along the river. 

Best for all ages - extremely stroller friendly, and if you see the image you can see the best parts to park to avoid sight of the playground.  If you just want to see the mural area, and the decorated tunnel, I marked that as well (which might be great for a quick stroll).  If you are comfortable, some shops on main street are open and very close so this might be a great opportunity to support local business and make a day trip out of it.

bohemian catholic huber park shakopee family

5. Lagoon Park in Jordan [ website ]

Top Tip: see image of map, to find the best places to park, with a great little stretch of beach, and across the road is a waterfall and trail as well.

bohemian catholic lagoon park jordan family beach park

I couldn't wait to come back to this place this summer after discovering it last year.  Sadly I know we won't get the full affect of the park, and the water play area, till this pandemic is over.  But the beach is a pretty generous stretch of lake access, and unlike many lakes, this one feels more like a beach with sand, vs rocky ground.  There's also a beautiful short trail to explore just across the street with the small waterfall.

Best for all ages - grab the beach gear, and stretch out on the sand.  Please be mindful of crowds, and if it is busy just remember there's a walking trail and waterfall just across the road that you can check out, too.  Because at the end of the day, let's all be socially conscious and stay safe.
Now onto five more places that I can't wait to check out
(hopefully this post will be updated with some pics at the end of the summer ;) )

I spent a little time exploring the Minneapolis Park Systems [ LINK ], and a few local blogs to find some fun hiking trails, landmarks, and historical sites to explore.  And here's the five that piqued my curiosity!

6. Flandrou State Park (New Ulm)
[ website ]
I feel like this is one of those, "I had no idea this existed" kind of places that turns out it's about twenty minutes from where we live.  So it's a great little mini road trip, perfect for a lunch picnic, and if opened - the man made sand beach, little lake would be a great little spot to wade through (though of course, there is the chance they might not fill it in June).

7. Fort Snelling (Minneapolis) [ website ]
Even though the actual fort is closed, the area around it isn't - according to a fellow local blogger, you can even walk along the fort walls and climb a bit ;)  Plus there's a ton of walking trails to explore, and a small island, and I'm excited to share a bit of a history lesson to make this a field trip activity for our summer homeschool.

8. Mill Ruins Park (Minneapolis) [ website ]
Alright so this one looks more like a post apocalyptic scene from a dystopian future . . . but imagine the fun family photos you can send out for Christmas this year? ;)  My two boys are going to bounce all over this place, and I'm so excited for them!

9. Minneopa State Park & Buffalo Drive Views (Mankota) [ website ]
We had done a fantastic unit study on Native Americans back in March (before the school district introduced its distance learning).  And of course, my kids were fascinated by the Buffalo and the symbolism and importance they held among the Native Americans. 

In this state park you can actually take a drive along their 300+ acres of protected land, to watch bison roaming the hills!  Please follow the guidelines laid out on their website, but what a great way to explore the country side, and practice safe social distancing.  Plus, if you need to stretch your legs after, the park has not one, but TWO waterfalls :)

10. Elko Drive In (Elko Raceway) [ website ]
Okay, this one isn't a landmark per se - but it's socially distance friendly (stay in the car the whole time, bring your own snacks, crank the radio frequency to the assigned station, and bam there ya go!).  But it's also a great way to support local business (check), do something nostalgic (check), is family friendly (check), and low cost (check).  Normally they open in April, but were not considered an essential business and so have to wait for the stay at home order to be lifted - but their hope is to open up in June :) 

Quick tip: be aware though that the show doesn't start till 9 or even 9:30 (per their website), so this might be better for older kids vs littles.  Or maybe you have kids who would like to have a sleepover/camping trip in the mini van while the parents watch a movie ;)
Alright, that's it!
So in a time of uncertainty, and global pandemics, and well just weirdness all around . . . I hope this list provides one less thing to worry about: what to do as a family together this summer. 

Please feel free to leave any comments of local places in your area that you are excited to check out this summer (who knows, maybe a neighbor will spot it and be grateful!).

Much love,

Stock photo credit: Josh Hild via

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