10 Free & Air-Conditioned Indoor Family Outings

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My kid broke the fan yesterday.Three summers ago, Joy — sweating it out in an un-air-conditioned house — wrote our original article about seeking relief from the heat in a series of much cooler public buildings, most of which offered free family activities to boot. Following a quick check of this week’s weather forecast, I thought it might be time to revive the suggestions for others out there needing to cool off the kids on a budget. Here you have it, freshly updated for 2016:

This post is generously sponsored by

frozen yogurt

Local Libraries with Play & Learn Spaces – Joy suggested seeking out a new library on a scorching day and reading stories to chill out. I recommend checking out a library with a “Play and Learn” space, often designed by Minnesota Children’s Museum, that provides interactive fun and helps promote reading readiness. Samara of the blog Simplicity in the Suburbs provided this list of such spaces for the Star Tribune last year.

Libraries are Usually Air-Conditioned

Indoor Mall Play Areas – Nicki of the blog MinneMama Adventures did a nice write-up of her top 6 favorite spots last year and included play areas at Maplewood Mall, Eden Prairie Center, Burnsville Center, Southdale, Ridgedale & Rosedale Malls. You can get all the details from her perspective here.

Catch a movie - get some air-conditioned relief

free family flicks mall of america

Free Indoor Movies for Kids FFTC’s Guide to Free and Cheap Summer Movies is mostly populated with flicks at outdoor venues, but a handful of Twin Cities movie houses are offering FREE movies for kids this summer, including Theatres at Mall of America, host of the year-round Saturday Free Family Flicks.

IKEA for KidsIKEA Twin Cities could be an air-conditioned savior on a steamy day. Toilet-trained kids 37″-54″ tall can play fully supervised in Smaland for up to an hour (any day of the week, space provided). Plus, up to 2 kids under age 12 eat FREE in the cafe with the purchase of one adult entree (Mon-Fri thru Sept. 2).

Minneapolis Institute of Arts – Joy reminds us that the MIA (2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis) is free every day, has Wi-Fi, and an expanded Family Center with books and toys for kids. Older children might be entertained by printing out this scavenger hunt and exploring the galleries.

Schubert Club Museum - fun, educational, air-conditioned

schubert club museum

Landmark Center exhibits – Not only is Landmark Center (75 W. 5th Street, St. Paul) a beautiful air-conditioned building to explore, there are a couple hidden museums tucked away inside that families often are unfamiliar with. The Schubert Club Museum has a number of hands-on musical displays and and instruments for kids to experiment with. You can read about my experience taking my own children here. Also, the American Association of Woodturners has a Gallery of Wood Art within Landmark with woodturning demos and a family-friendly exhibit called “Touch This!”

Minneapolis/St. Paul Public Parks & Recreation Buildings – Joy included a list of public park buildings in Minneapolis with AC; you can find the updated roster here. St. Paul offers drop-in Tot Times in many of their recreation center gyms with wheeled toys, mats, balls and other tools to help kids 5 & under burn off energy indoors during potentially dangerous temps.

Air-conditioned fun at Choo Choo Bob's Train Store

choo choo bob’s train store

Preschool Storytimes at Local Bookshops – I wrote this list of two weeks’ worth of preschool storytimes in the Twin Cities during the dead of this past winter, but it could come in just as handy during a spell of scorching days. Some of the story spots included on the list are Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store (along with its lovely free train table play area), Wild Rumpus Books, Red Balloon Bookshop, and many of the local Barnes and Noble host storytimes.

University of Minnesota’s free museums – Joy reminded us that the Bell Museum of Natural History (Minneapolis campus) waives admission every Sunday from noon-5pm, and there is never a charge to visit the Weisman Art Museum (also Minneapolis).

Grocery Shopping! – Joy included this on her original list because she might be in the small minority of parents that relish grocery shopping with their small children. There’s no arguing that grocery stores are generally cool and comfortable in a heat wave, and Joy offers you this cute printable toddler grocery list to take along to the store.

Finally, the City of Minneapolis has complied their own PDF list of air-conditioned buildings.

Know of any more secret spots to cool off when the temps get high? Please let us know!

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About the author

Anne Kingston

If we left it up to Anne to write her own bio, it would never get posted. She doesn't enjoy talking about herself, but Anne does love exploring the Twin Cities with her family and sharing her finds here. She, her husband and their four kids are lifelong residents of St. Paul.


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