Located on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, The Red Balloon Bookshop is a perfect stop for everyone in the family. Find 2021 shopping information here. Story times are currently held virtually on Facebook Live, each Wednesday at 10:30am.
Family Book Clubs at the Red Balloon Bookshop
Visiting the Red Balloon Bookshop
The first time I ever entered this store, I was 10 years old (give or take). It was so magical then. And it is still just as magical today. Okay, so I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for books. I like to be surrounded by books. I like piles of books and stacks of books. Books on shelves. Books on beds. Books in bags. Books scattered around my house (just not on the floor where they can and will be stepped on).
And The Red Balloon Bookshop does everything right to make books magical.
Now that I've used the word magical three times in my description of The Red Balloon Bookshop, let me describe it for you. It's located in big gray house right off of Grand Ave in St. Paul. As you walk into the store, you find yourself in book wonderland.
Picture the library scene in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. While the books don't climb exactly that high on the walls, you get the same sense of breathtaking "Wow!" It's spacious lay-out makes it very user friendly. Almost every corner is visible from anywhere in the store, and because it is open, I was able to hear my children when I wasn't able to see them.
Can I say that I love that they call themselves a bookshop and not a bookstore. The word shop is just so sublime for this gem.
Red Balloon Bookshop Highlights
Parking on Grand Avenue can be hectic and The Red Balloon has a small parking lot in the back. This is extremely helpful. I'm sure on busy days, it gets filled up quickly, but check it out first before trying to park on the street. There is also a back entrance into the shop so you don't need to walk around the store (in the snow if it's a snowy MN winter).
They offer red balloons to families. One per family. People know where you've been if you decide to walk Grand Ave. after enjoying your visit.
The staff is sweet. You can tell that they truly love books. And that they truly love children. They are upbeat and kind, ready with a smile. JackJack was playing with a broken toy and honestly, I wasn't sure if he had broken it or not. I brought it up to the counter and they didn't accuse us of breaking it. They didn't even allude to that (which honestly, I probably would have done). They were so gracious.
Disadvantages to the Red Balloon Bookshop
They are on Grand Avenue, so when it's busy, parking can be extremely difficult.
Some of the books within JackJack's reach were a little too fragile (especially in the basement). A 21 month old tearing through a pop-up book without major adult intervention makes me a little nervous. I do not want to buy a torn pop-up book even if it did come from the Bargain section.
There is a single step (or was it double? I can't exactly remember) up into part of the store. Everything was carpeted so tumbles were not a major factor but not everything was wheelchair accessible.
Birthday Parties at the Red Balloon Bookshop
The Red Balloon hosts birthday parties in their basement party space. Parties are supervised by two Red Balloon party hosts and include 2 hours of book fun for kids aged 3-7, invitations and thank-you cards, red balloons and $5 gift cards for attendees, all the decorations and party ware. You bring your own food and drinks. Party packages are $225 and include up to 10 kids. The birthday child can even register for a book registry before the party. Themes can be found at the link above.
Support Red Balloon with Bookshop.Org
Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. When you shop through this link, Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on books ordered and you can choose Red Balloon Bookshop as your local bookstore and they’ll receive the full profit off your order. Learn more here.