Internationally famous, Walker Art Center is the Twin Cities' art museum visitors from out of the country make a point to visit. But, it is also a great place to visit as a family. With special activities geared toward kids and Free First Saturdays, it is a great way to introduce children to contemporary art. Located across from Loring Park where Lyndale and Hennepin merge, it can be difficult to get to at times and difficult to find free parking (although the lot is not outrageously priced).
Our favorite family programming includes Free First Saturdays and Sensory Friendly Sundays. In the summer, play a family round of mini golf on the roof.
Visiting the Walker in 2020/21
The Walker reopened in July of 2020 with accommodations for Covid-19. Visitors can order timed tickets online. You'll need to arrive during your designated time slot, but you can stay as long as you like. Free First Saturdays and Thursday evenings are still free, but you will need to reserve admission tickets ahead. Reserve tickets online here.
In the meantime, the museum is also offering family activities online. If you prefer, you can enjoy the Free First Saturday activities online at your own pace. Activities include performances, art-making activities, kids’ films, and interactive workshops. Find those activities here. Families can also enjoy anytime activities on the museum's Activities for Families page where you can watch videos, story times and short films, make art at home and find ideas for activities to do when you visit.
Skyline Mini Golf is returning 2021!
Free First Saturdays at the Walker
The Walker offers free admission on the first Saturday of every month. From 10am to 4pm on these days, they also offer a variety of family-friendly activities - both indoors and out in the sculpture garden. While these can be busy days, these are good days to visit if you have an interest in a current exhibit. Chances are there will be more hands-on learning to go with the exhibit on these days.
Sensory Friendly Sundays at the Walker
Sensory Friendly Sunday is usually the second Sunday of each month and is a free event designed for kids, teens, and adults with sensory processing differences, autism spectrum disorder, or developmental disabilities. This drop-in event is free but pre-registration is encouraged because the museum is otherwise closed to the general public. Families can enjoy the museum in a calm environment with accommodations such as quiet spaces, noise-canceling headphones, and sunglasses available. Special art-making activities and films will be offered as well as the Walker's current exhibits.
Walk-ins are normally welcome but the Walker encourages reservations. Find reservation information here. (Note that during Covid19 restrictions, everyone needs to pre-purchase timed tickets).
For more venues with sensory-friendly events, visit our Special Needs Shortlist.
Mini Golf at the Walker
Most summers, museum patrons can play a round of mini golf on a course designed by artists. Anne and Joy had a chance to try it out when it was still played in the garden. Now the course is on the roof of the museum, offering the same great game, but with a skyline view. Read about our visit here: Walker on the Green.
In 2021, a round of mini golf is $10 for adults and $8 for children 7-18. Kids 6 and under can play for free with their families. If you are looking for an excuse to purchase a membership, you can get a free round of golf (and discounted rounds after that) with the purchase of an annual membership.
If the free-day crowds bother you, remember kids are always free and a Dual membership is only $6/month or $80/year - making the Walker one of the best membership deals in the Twin Cities.
The Walker - Is this Art?
"No, that's art," came his reply.
"Oh, okay." Pause. "Thanks."
Apparently, I have a lot to learn about art.
My kids and I had decided that we wanted to discover the Walker Art Center on the First Free Saturday in April.
Let me tell you about the Walker Art Center. First of all, it's pretty famous! Even if you aren't from Minnesota or the Twin Cities, you have probably seen this:
This sculpture is in the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden which is free and open to the public. However, the Walker Art Center is not. Every Thursday evening from 5-9pm it is free to the public and every first Saturday of the month it is free from 10am-5pm and they have special activities for the family until 3. This month eight activities were scheduled including a performance of Big Little Brother with Kevin Kling and Chris Monroe.
Here is a sampling of some of the art making activities we participated in to give you an idea of what a visit with kids might be like for you:
Felt Garden was fun for the kids to join artists from the Textile Center in making wool felted garden objects. Lots of people made leaves and flowers and butterflies. My children? Watermelon, two carrots, and a banana. Then, the Textile Center artists sewed each object onto a piece of fabric that was going to go on tour and ultimately end up on display in their gallery. How COOL is that? We can participate wholeheartedly and not take a single thing home! Instead, we can go see my children's artwork on actual display! Now, this is a mama's dream come true.
Fill the Gap was the opportunity for the kids to sculpt with modeling clay. And their models? Teeth and smiles. They could use just the clay or they could make a mixed media project with paper AND clay. Everyone got into this activity even though mostly the teeth didn't really look like teeth at all. And once they got home? They were pretty much obliterated!
We took a quick peek at the Poison and Candy display in another gallery. We were supposed to wear 3D glasses to make the candy-like pictures do something. But they did nothing for me. As we wound our way deeper into this collection, I started to notice a sinister vibe to his work. Suddenly, I turned around to see Wordgirl in another part of a gallery looking very intently at a picture. Just as I turned around, I heard a gasp, "She's NAKED!" Princess Pea had noticed what Wordgirl was looking at before I did. Well, it was about time we were done. We were just going to take a quick peek anyway!
The highlight of visiting the Walker Art Center came not because of what the Walker had to offer, but instead of what it couldn't offer. And that was a working elevator. So instead, we had to use the freight elevator! Let me tell you, we rode that thing up and down multiple times! It was FANTASTIC! We felt like we were in NYC. This was by far our favorite thing to do!
- Go right away in the morning. I was told multiple times that at noon, it becomes insane!
- Plan to do 3 or 4 of the offered activities, not all of them.
- Once the kids get tired, stop. They offer it every month so you can see more next time.
- Park in the underground ramp. It's $4 and to me that was like $1 a child! Totally worth it especially since it was raining.
- Pray that the regular elevator doesn't work so that you can experience the joy of the freight elevator. I absolutely know that my children will be sad next month when they have to take the regular elevator!
Learning More About the Walker Art Center Before You Go
The article above was written by Gianna. She has always done really well with the jump in and go method of visiting new places. She learns really well on the spot. Joy, however, prefers a more bookish approach and enjoys doing research before a visit. It's good to know your learning style.
If you have bigger kids and want to expand your family's knowledge of the Walker Art Collection before heading out or answer questions you may have after your visit, Amazon offers several art books about Walker's collection. (This is an affiliate link and Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on any purchases made through Amazon affliate links). You can also learn More about the history of the Walker at MNopedia.