20 Air-Conditioned Indoor Family Outings

Free & Air-Conditioned Indoor Family Outings - Mom & Daughter enjoying the breeze of a fan

“It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity!” 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 Minnesota is as hot as Texas and you need to find the perfect place for some air-conditioned fun!

10 FREE 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. Many libraries offer board games and computers to entertain older kids and adults — and books! they also have a few books!

Girl enjoying children's space in Shoreview Library, Shoreview MN. Text: "Play and Learn" Spaces in Twin Cities Libraries. Family Fun Twin Cities.

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.

Kids play area at Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota
Southdale Center Play Area

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 theaters are offering FREE or cheap movies for kids this summer.

Students Enjoying Film at Marcus Theatre
Marcus Theaters – Kids Dream FREE Summer Movies

4. Mall of America and/or IKEA

60 E Broadway, Bloomington, MN 55425

After a couple years’ hiatus, IKEA Twin Cities has re-opened Smaland. Kids can play in this fully-supervised play area for up to an hour for FREE between 12pm and 6pm, daily. Nearby, at the Mall of America, there are always fun FREE things to do (along with plenty of things aimed at tourists that can be spendy). If you’re scorching day happens to fall on a 2nd Tuesday, you’re in particular luck because you can check out the Toddler Tuesday deals.

mom and son building at LEGO store

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 (or asking for one at the front desk) and exploring the art galleries.

MIA Family Room Pillows.
We call it the “Block Room” – A great reason to visit the MIA.

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 among its permanent collections. 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!”

Girl trying bell tree at the Schubert Club Museum in Saint Paul, MN

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 hereSt. 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.

Two children playing Foosball at Kenwood Park Community Center in Minneapolis, MN
Many Minneapolis Rec Centers have indoor games like Foosball, ping pong and pool.

8. Preschool Storytimes at Local Bookshops

I wrote this list of top preschool storytimes in the Twin Cities during the frigid days of winter, but it could come in just as handy during a spell of scorching days.

Moon Palace Books
Find Story Times at Bookstores around the Metro Area

9. Weisman Art Museum

Another free art museum option, is the Weisman.  It is roomy and beautiful and just makes you feel cool walking through it.

Weisman Art Museum Gallery
Gallery Talk at the Weisman

10. Grocery Shopping!

Once upon a time, Joy loved grocery shopping as a family (not 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.

10 More Indoor Play Ideas (Not Free):

We have a few more indoor outing ideas. These may not be free, but they are a relatively cheap way to cool down when the temps hit 90 degrees plus.

11. Indoor Playgrounds and Gyms

Open Play, Gym & Swim Spots for Tots in the Twin Cities! Most of these are air-conditioned and and some are free. Also check our  Twin Cities Indoor Playgrounds and Play Areas Guide.

Edinborough Park - Adventure Peak Indoor Playground
Edenborough Adventure Peak

12. Vertical Endeavors

Indoor rock climbing facilities, like Vertical Endeavors, may not be super cheap, but it is a fun way to get active on a warm day without overheating.

Boy climbing wall at Vertical Endeavors in Bloomington Minnesota
Image courtesy of Vertical Endeavors and used with permission.

13. Indoor Mini Golf Courses

We include several indoor options in our Guide to Twin Cities Mini Golf Courses. Most of these facilities are beautifully designed and offer other family fun, like arcade games.

Kids playing mini golf at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul, Minnesota
Can Can Wonderland Artist-Designed Mini golf Course

14. Bowling

Actually, this option can also be free or nearly free when you sign up for the Kids Bowl Free Program. Otherwise, check our list of The Best Family-Friendly Bowling Alleys in the Twin Cities. If they don’t participate in Kids Bowl Free, sometimes they have their own summer program.

Boy lifting heaving bowling ball at Twin Cities Bowling Alley

15. Batting Cages

Get a little baseball practice in on a hot day at one of these Indoor Batting Cages in the Twin Cities.

Boy practicing batting at Rice Arlington Batting Cage in Saint Paul, Minnesota
Rice Arlington Batting Cage

16. Indoor Skate Parks and Roller Rinks

Cool off like its 1985, at a retro roller skating rink or try one of the new indoor skate parks in the Twin Cities.

Girl celebrating her birthday at Cheapskate Roller Rink in Coon Rapids, Minnesota
Cheapskate Roller Rink

17. Trampoline Adventure Parks

“Trampoline Park”, “Adventure Park”, “Fun Center”. Whatever they call these parks, — like Urban Air Adventure Park and Sky Zone Trampoline Park — they are a little more expensive than the indoor tot playgrounds, but they offer a climate-controlled play area for kids of all ages — including teens — with activities like laser tag, high-ropes courses, VR, jumping, climbing and more.


Girl hanging from climbing nets at Sky Zone Trampoline Park
Sky Zone

18. Visit the Zoo or Aquarium

While the FREE Como Zoo offers less opportunities for air-conditioned spaces. The Minnesota Zoo has plenty of indoor exhibits and Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America is refreshingly cool and peaceful while you watch sharks and sea creatures swim all around.

Boy looking at star fish at SEA LIFE MOA
Image Courtesy SEA LIFE Mall of America

19. Indoor Waterparks

For the ultimate in air-conditioned activities for the whole family, you can’t beat swimming, sliding and splashing at an indoor water park. We created this list of Twin Cities Indoor Waterparks and Pools to help families escape the cold winters, but they are also great to escape the heat of July and August.

Williston Waterpark
Williston Treehouse Water Park & Splash Pad

20. Go Out for Dinner

When it is still too hot to cook at dinner time, consider dining somewhere air-conditioned. These Twin Cities restaurants and breweries offer Kids Eat Free or Cheap deals on their menus.

Kids Eat Free or Cheap Twin Cities List

Do you know of any more secret air-conditioned 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.

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5 thoughts on “20 Air-Conditioned Indoor Family Outings”

  1. This is great. I never liked outings but this one makes me want to have one tomorrow.Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey, Ben. Thanks for the feedback. I’m curious, what makes you not like outings and what brought you to our website if you feel this way?

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