Several 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. This is our list of go-to places when it is hot and you need to find some air-conditioned fun!
10 Air-Conditioned Destinations
1. 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 a few years ago. Here is our full list of 101 Twin Cities Libraries — Mapped.
2. Indoor Mall Play Areas
This was my go-to when my kids were smaller. I could grab a coffee and read while they played to their hearts content. Malls have the added benefit of family-friendly restrooms and some even have stores that sell diapers. Nicki of the blog MinneMama Adventures did a nice write-up of her top 6 favorite spots 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.
3. 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.
4. Mall of America
60 E Broadway, Bloomington, MN 55425
We used to include IKEA Twin Cities as #4 on this list. Kids could play in the fully supervised in Smaland for up to an hour for FREE. Smaland is currently closed in the summer of 2022. However, is is close to the Mall of America, where there is always fun FREE things to do (along with a lot of places to spend money). If you’re scorching day happens to fall on a Tuesday, you’re in particular luck because you can check out the Toddler Tuesday deals.
5. Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404
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.
6. Landmark Center exhibits
75 W. 5th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102
Not only is Landmark Center 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. 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!”
7. 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.
8. Preschool Storytimes at Local Bookshops
I wrote this list of top preschool storytimes in the Twin Cities during the dead of winter, but it could come in just as handy during a spell of scorching days. Keep in mind that some stores are small and offering story times in less-crowded outdoor spaces right now.
Another free art museum option, is the Weisman. It is roomy and beautiful and just makes you feel cool walking through it.
10. Grocery Shopping!
Once upon a time, Joy loved grocery shopping as a family (no so much after baby #4). However, sometimes its a necessity, and there’s no arguing that grocery stores or Target are generally cool and comfortable in a heat wave. To make the whole process more of an adventure, the Toddler Toddler website offers this cute printable toddler grocery list to take along to the store.
More Indoor Play Ideas:
We have a few more indoor outing ideas in our guide: Open Play, Gym & Swim Spots for Tots in the Twin Cities! Not all of these are air-conditioned and/or free. Also check our Twin Cities Indoor Playgrounds and Play Areas Guide. Again, these may not be free, but they are a relatively cheap way to cool down when the temps hit 90 degrees plus.
Do you know of any more secret spots to cool off when the temps get high? Please let us know! Leave a comment, so we can share this information with the community.