The Twin Cities area is home to several wonderful bookstores and, although they are not exactly a place to let your children run unchecked, they can be a low pressure, quiet outing on a cold February or March day. We all know the mall stores, and they are definitely good places to take kids, but here is a list of some independently owned stores to check out. Some — like Red Balloon and Wild Rumpus — specialize in kids books. Others have a more expanded catalog. I know it’s just easier to go to Amazon for our book needs, but the experience of these bookstores can’t be beat. If you know of others, please leave us a message, we’ll add it for future reference.
Birchbark books specializes in books about indigenous people, including children’s resources spanning from early grades to high school. They also host various events throughout the year. Watch our calendar for family friendly events.
Wild Rumpus is the rogue bookstore of the bunch — complete with chickens and chinchillas. The store is staffed with fun people who can make personal recommendations for books, have personal opinions of authors who are visiting (not just the standard press release stuff), and a tiny kid-size door that is just too tempting to not enter. On the downside, their calendar upkeep is inconsistent and often last minute, so it is hard to plan for author events.
Red Balloon Bookshop is an FFTC favorite. You can read about why Gianna considers it her magical place here. The Red Balloon offers the most author visits of all the stores and the most options for story hours. It is a bright roomy space, whereas most independent bookstores I’ve visited are more cluttered and dimly lit (a good thing in my introverted world). When visiting with kids in tow, the bright roomy space may feel easier to take on.
If you don’t want to deal with city traffic and parking, Excelsior Bay Books is an indie bookseller that is not in the heart of Minneapolis or St.Paul. Since I have not personally visited this store, I would love to hear your feedback.
If the Red Balloon is Gianna’s magical place, Magers & Quinn is mine. Although it only opened a couple years before I moved to Minnesota, it felt like it had been there forever. It was my favorite place to hide out. The smell and feel of shelves and tables of full of old books just relaxed me. I don’t think of it as a kid’s bookstore, but it does have a nice children’s section, and there are always surprises to be found.
Common Good Books, like Magers and Quinn, is more geared toward adults — but it does have a children’s section. It is owned by Garrison Keillor. I’m not sure that would mean anything to our kids, but if you are also taking their grandparents, it could be a really big deal.
Since writing this article, we now have the addition of Eat My Words! Bookstore. Learn more about it here.