This summer we are exploring ways to have fun close to home. Why cross the metro when there is fun at your doorstep? Today, we’ve pulled together some family fun south of Minneapolis & St Paul in the communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St Paul.
Note: In 2020, we are facing unique closures and delays. While we are writing this article for now, we also hope it will prove useful in the future. We’ve listed projected opening dates for anything that is currently closed. For an up-to-date listing of what is and isn’t open in Inver Grove Heights & South St Paul Parks, check the city website.
Inver Grove Heights Parks
1. Walk out over the Mississippi at Swing Bridge Park
The draw to tidy, quiet little Swing Bridge Park is the chance to walk out over the Mississippi River on a piece of history. The striking 680-foot pier is what remains of the historic Rock Island Swing Bridge, the last toll bridge in the Twin Cities Metro area. When the bridge closed to traffic in 1999 it sat decaying for years until the last portion of the span was restored for pedestrians.
Visitors will also find a picnic pavilion within the park along with a trailhead for the Mississippi River Regional Trail.
Learn more about what you might find at Swing Bridge Park.
2. Play a round of disc golf at North & South Valley Parks
All say “aye” who need something to keep their tweens and teens outdoors and active this summer! Disc golf is my son’s favorite summer sport so we’re constantly on the lookout for new courses to play. The Inver Grove Heights Disc Golf Course is made up of 18 holes divided between North & South Valley Parks.
Bringing younger kids along on your disc golf outing? South Valley Park is the kid-friendlier half of the valley. This park has a playground and covered picnic shelter. Plus, if you pick a summer Tuesday to show up, kids entertainment is often presented at 10:30. Please check the city’s special events calendar for the schedule.
3. Take your bike off road at Harmon Park Reserve
Harmon Park Reserve is a 43-acre undeveloped natural space threaded with 4.3 miles of mountain biking trails. These are divided into three loops of lengths ranging from .7-3.6 miles that travels through areas of hardwood and prairie restoration. They are also fairly flat and good for beginner mountain bikers who want to hone their braking and cornering skills.
Learn more about the trails at Harmon Park Reserve.
4. Have a splashy birthday party at Veterans Memorial Community Center
BIRTHDAY PARTIES ARE CURRENTLY ON PAUSE AT THE COMMUNITY CENTER, BUT THE FACILITY IS OPEN FOR A LIMITED NUMBER OF GUESTS AND THE PARK IS OPEN.
We know it’s splashy fun because we’ve tried it out! One of my daughters had an easy-peasy 8th birthday party at the community center. The kids had a blast in The Grove Aquatic Center and there was just enough time to enjoy cake the in party room and open gifts on the playground. The public is welcome to enjoy during open swim hours ($6-$9/pp) or just come play on the outdoor equipment.
Learn more about reserving a birthday party at Veterans Memorial Community Center.
5. Point out some pollinators at Simley Island Park
This 3-acre park, a few feet off the shore of Simley Lake, is generously planted with pollinator-friendly wildflowers. See how many monarchs you can spot! Pick up a picnic lunch at the shopping center across the street and enjoy it at the small shelter on the island. There’s also a fishing pier on the lake; if you’re in need of gear, Simley Island Park participates in the city’s free tackle loaner program.
Learn more about what you can find at Simley Island Park.
South St Paul Parks
6. Spin your wheels from Kaposia Park to Kaposia Landing
Jump on your bike at Kaposia Park, one of South St Paul’s oldest and largest, and glide down through Simon’s Ravine to connect with the Dakota County Regional Trail. Bikes can cross the bridge over Concord Street and continue down to Kaposia Landing. Here at this low, flat green space it’s easy to get close to the Mississippi and skip a few rocks.
Kaposia Park is also home to a top-notch, 24-hole disc golf course. A day pass is $5. Bring a picnic and spend the day in the park.
Learn more: 10 Ideas for Family Fun at Kaposia Park.
7. Splash the day away at Lorraine Park
LORRAINE PARK SPLASH POOL IS CLOSED FOR THE 2020 SEASON.
The interactive zero-depth entry pool at Lorraine Park is ideal for little waders. Fun features include a slide and sprayers and there are handy changing facilities. The splash pool is open daily 12:30-7pm for all ages; a special Toddler Time runs 11am-12:30pm weekdays. And it’s super affordable at only $2-3.50/pp.
Find more Tot Swims and the best splash pads & wading pools in the Twin Cities.
Learn more about what you’ll find at Lorraine Park.
8. Or swim at Northview Park Pool
NORTHVIEW PARK POOL IS CLOSED FOR THE 2020 SEASON.
Then there are those tweens and teens who want nothing to do with the kiddie splash pad and that’s why the pool at Northview Park works for them. It’s nothing terribly fancy but it’s got a deep end, diving board and climbing wall – and is extra affordable at only $4/pp, or $31 for a resident season pass. This covers admission to the Lorraine Park Splash Pool, too.
Learn more about swimming at Northview Park.
9. Get an eagle’s eye view at Grandview Park
Climb to the top of South St Paul for the best views over the Mississippi River. You’ll be nearly as high as the eagles you may spot while at the overlook. The play equipment is small but with the large grassy lawn you’ll never feel crowded.
Learn more about Grandview Park.
10. Fred Lawshe Park
THE MEMORIAL MUSEUM & SOUTH ST PAUL LIBRARY ARE CURRENTLY CLOSED.
The park itself is a tiny green space on one of the busy arteries of South St Paul, but we’ve included it on this list because it makes for a nice break if you’re exploring the city on foot or bike. Just one block down from the park is the Lawshe Memorial Museum, filled with free exhibits and managed by the Dakota County Historical Society. A few steps further is the charming and historic South St Paul Library.