When polling readers on their favorite day-trip destinations from the Twin Cities, one of them suggested the lovely St. Croix River Valley town of Taylors Falls, an easy hour-long drive from the Metro. And how fortuitous that I had just returned from a jaunt there with two of my four children, fresh and already inspired to highlight some of the fun family activities we’ve enjoyed in the area over the past several years. Here are six of our favorite spots around Taylors Falls — and most won’t cost much more than the gas it takes to get there:
Discover the Pothole Trail at Interstate State Park
Milltown Road, Taylors Falls, MN 55084
Family Fun: Keep your little ones close and you can have a great (if quite alert) time exploring the natural potholes that dot the cliffs along the rushing St. Croix River. My 3-year-old wanted to climb every rock staircase she could find and gaze into the depths of such marvels as the “Bake Oven” and the “Bottomless Pit”. We’ve also camped at the park, geocached, and taken a paddle boat ride up the river on the “Taylors Falls Princess”.
Cost: $5 per vehicle day permit to explore Interstate State Park.
Explore Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 St Croix Trail, Shafer, MN 55074
Family Fun: What’s cool at Franconia Sculpture Park is that visitors are encouraged to interact with the art. Children are naturals at this — and there are many sculptures in the 43-acre park that they are free to clamber over, crawl through, and swing from!
Cost: Free admission for a self-guided tour, free guided tours on Sundays, 2pm • May 3-Oct. 25
Strawberry Picking at Pleasant Valley Orchard
17325 Pleasant Valley Rd, Shafer, MN 55074
Family Fun: On our very first strawberry-picking trip six years ago with our young family, we had the good fortune to choose Pleasant Valley Orchard outside of Taylors Falls. The berries were so fantastic we still refer to them as the best we’ve ever tasted and not a single one made it back home. The orchard is also open for apple picking and other activities in the fall.
Cost: About $2 per lb. picked
Coast the Alpine Slide at Wild Mountain
37200 Wild Mountain Rd Taylors Falls MN 55084
Family Fun: A little pricey for a large family, but a lot of fun. We enjoyed the fall colors of the St. Croix River Valley on our way up the chairlift and on our way back down the 1,700 ft. slide. Riders have control of how quickly the sled descends through the 21 banks. Wild Mountain also offers packages for their waterpark and go-karts.
Cost: $7.99/single ride plus tax for adults or kids over 54″. Kids between 36″-54″ ride free on the lap of a paid adult.
Cheap Mini-Golf at Wildwood Campground
20078 Lake Blvd, Shafer, MN 55074
Family Fun: It’s a no-frills course, but you can’t beat the price for 18 holes of mini-golf. Plus, there’s a playground adjacent if you’ve got kids too young to putt. We’ve used Wildwood RV Park & Campground twice as a base for our explorations around the Taylors Falls area and recommend it for a great family camping experience.
Cost: $3/pp, kids shorter than the sales counter play free.
Delicious Donuts at Lindstrom Bakery
12830 Lake Blvd, Lindstrom, MN 55045
Family Fun: We stumbled upon the bakery on, get this, National Donut Day! Good thing we were able to scrape together enough change for their melt-in-your mouth treats — Lindstrom Bakery accepts only cash or checks.
If you know of a hidden gem near Taylors Falls, please drop us a line so we can add it to the list. Happy travels!