Are you met with ever more eye rolls when you announce that it’s time to go find some fun as a family? Is it getting more and more challenging to design a family outing that makes all the ages happy? FFTC understands; navigating the tween and teen years is something we’re doing right alongside you. As we go, we are gathering ideas for things to do with teenagers and those those in be-Tweens.
We are new to this part of parenting ourselves, but we’re collecting ideas here as we find them. Double digit parenting seems to come with a stronger divergence among individual opinions of age appropriateness. We will do our best to cater to a wide variety of attitudes, but ultimately, we depend on our own instincts on whether something is family friendly. When deciding on things to do with teenagers, we do rely heavily on Commonsense Media‘s ratings for media. For books, we like the Scholastic‘s age and interest level ratings. For YA book reviews, check out Minneapolis blog, Proper Noun.
When letting older kids go off on their own, it helps to know the local curfew ordinances, we’ve gathered them here.
Active Family Fun with Teens & Tweens
In our experience, tweens and teens love a good physical challenge. Besides these specific lists, we keep a calendar of family-friendly sporting events such as races and benefit walks. These events are perfect things to do with teenagers and for any families who want to spend time being active.
Several Twin Cities area parks have free archery ranges. Some offer family programs that provide everything you need to try out the sport for about $10/pp or less. The DNR even offers free family archery programs (see link for the calendar) in some State Parks. The cost is just a $7 vehicle permit.
Bringing younger kids? Check the age requirements for these archery programs first. Many do not permit kids under age 8; other courses allow all ages as long as an adult is present.
Teens and tweens love to go bowling. It’s also one of those great things to do with teenagers when you want rainy day indoor activities, or a cool spot when you need some AC. And speaking of beating the heat, the Kids Bowl Free summer program offers two free games a day per kid at participating alleys. Shoe rental is required for a minimal fee at most.
The University of Minnesota boasts the best bowling deal in the Twin Cities according to these teens. Bowl for just a buck until 5pm Mon-Fri ($2 shoe rental) at the St Paul Student Center and $1 on Thursdays, 5pm-close at Coffman Union. Plus, there are video games, billiards, inexpensive (but high quality) ice cream and copious amounts of snacks.
Bringing younger kids? Most lanes will offer bumper bowling to keep it fun instead of frustrating.
Disc golf (or “frisbee golf” if you’re not feeling proper) is all the rage with our tweens and teens. It’s a fun, free way to keep them active and happy when they’ve outgrown the playground at the park. Disc golf is played by throwing the disc (or frisbee) into each of a series of metal baskets situated on an outdoor course. The object is to complete the course using the fewest possible throws. Find our huge list of disc golf courses here.
Bringing younger kids? Plan to hit up a course with many holes arranged close to the playground. Highland Park in St Paul is a good example of this. Make sure to pack a picnic and plenty of water.
Suggesting a mini golf outing for my teen is always a hole in one. Whether you are looking to golf outside in the beautiful summer weather or inside to escape the heat and humidity, we’ve rounded up all the mini golf courses in and around the Twin Cities. Our favorites include imaginative outdoor courses like Big Stone Mini Golf & Sculpture Park (shown) and Can Can Wonderland Mini Golf indoors.
Older kids (ages 8+) looking for an extra challenge alongside parents might enjoy the Centennial Lakes Putting Course in Edina. Not considered mini golf, but instead “golf in miniature” on grass fairways. The course is open seasonally.
Bringing younger kids? A smaller, lower-priced course can be found at Como Regional Park in St Paul (adjacent to the enticing Como Town Amusement Park and all-ages pleasing Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.) It’s also inexpensive for little ones to golf the courses at Grand Slam (Burnsville & Coon Rapids) while teens and tweens hit the batting cages and laser tag.
Older kids have extra energy to burn. They love to challenge the physical limits of their bodies. Indoor parks such as Rockin’ Jump (located in Eagan) has them literally bouncing off the walls, slamming dunks, and making like ninjas on the obstacle course. Other places to “fly” include Sky Zone Trampoline Parks, and Urban Air Adventure Park.
Bringing younger kids? There are always spaces set aside for the little ones to get in on the action. Most parks even offer special sessions just for preschoolers to have at the trampolines. See Rockin’ Jump’s Junior Jumpers program to get an idea.
Beautiful weather and it’s time to head outdoors? Teens and tweens inevitably outgrow the local playground and may even become (unintentional) hazards for younger kids who want to play there. Try a trip to Schaper Park Challenge Course in Golden Valley. One of only a few timed ninja-style courses in the Twin Cities, this was a major hit with my teen.
Bringing younger kids? They’re welcome to test their ninja skills, too. Just be aware that the course is popular and there may be a line to use the timer. This is definitely a park where you’ll have to be on your toes (though that’s part of the fun!).
For a free way to burn off some steam, Saint Paul Parks offer Teen Open Gym times at various rec centers around the city for ages 12-17. Find a teen open gym near you here.
Are your teens climbing the walls at home during the cold winter months in Minnesota? Take them rock climbing instead! Places like Vertical Endeavors and the Minneapolis Bouldering Project will gladly accept the challenge of pushing them higher. No experience necessary; staff are on hand to give orientations to first-time climbers. This would make a great active outing for a parent and teen.
Teens and tweens embrace our Minnesota winters by throwing themselves down steep slopes at top speeds. Whatever gets them outside and active works for us! Sledding hills are free and abundant and good for mild thrills (find our suggestions at the link.) Tubing hills can be a fun family splurge.
Bringing younger kids? We have noted in our guides where “bunny hills” are provided alongside the daredevil tracks.
Whether you’re a winter sports beginner or you’re dealing with thrill-seeking tweens and teens, we’ve got family skiing and snowboarding suggestions for the season.
Bringing younger kids? Some slopes, like the Como Park Ski Center in St Paul are very budget-friendly and offer special family nights where everyone skis for $15/pp, rentals included.
Our teens and tweens like to fill the slim summer window of hop temps with time spent chilling by the water. How to break down all the swim spots? We’ve collected a master list of all the Twin Cities beaches, outdoor swimming pools, and water parks into one handy guide.
Bringing younger kids? Many pools have special Tot Time open swim hours. Take a dip with your little one for a reduced price; teens and tweens can join in once the pool has opened for all ages.
Find more ways to fill your school break with our Ultimate Summer Guide to Family Fun in the Twin Cities.
The more thrills, the better! Many teens have a need for speed and they can find acres of it indoors and out at local amusement parks. Valleyfair is your best bet for a full day of fun with older kids. It’s not a cheap outing, but there are many ways to score discounted tickets. (Hit the link for some tips.) Get up early and stay late to fit in 75+ rides and a swim at the Soak City Waterpark.
Nickelodeon Universe is Mall of America’s indoor amusement park and fits the bill when the sun won’t shine. Make the most of your trip to the mega mall with our floor-by-floor Mall of America Family Guide.
Bringing younger kids? Tweens (and anyone who prefers less hair-raising rides) can still enjoy Como Town, a junior-sized amusement park located next to the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. You can purchase a wristband for unlimited rides or stop by for a few on the way to the zoo. Valleyfair and Nickelodeon Universe both have no short supply of attractions for younger kids. If you’re picking up a season pass for Valleyfair, make sure to register kids ages 3-5 for their FREE Pre-K Passes!
Book Stores Specializing in Young Adult Books
Red Balloon Bookshop in St Paul hosts a Teens Read Book Club each 3rd Monday of the month at 6:30pm. Each teen participant will select an advanced copy of an upcoming book, write a short review, and come back the next month to share it. The program is open to teens in grades 8-12 and is FREE.
Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers offers two clubs at its cozy, critter-filled space in Minneapolis. The Purple Door Book Club gives tweens ages 8-12 the chance to chat books one Sunday a month. There’s a teen club as well to discuss and write short reviews of YA selections.
Bringing younger kids? They won’t be able to tag along to book club meetings, but keep in mind both of these wonderful independent bookstores offer a children’s storytime. Check our Top Twin Cities Storytimes for more details.
We often don’t want to stock the supplies or make the mess in our own households – but want to provide an outlet for our teens and tweens to be creative.
Color Me Mine – Paint your own ceramic masterpiece with all materials included and have it fired in the store. Locations in Maple Grove and Eagan.
Heartfelt Crafts – Drop in to this cozy space and spend some time crafting with your tween. A menu of seasonal crafts rotates throughout the year or you can browse the supplies, get inspired and create your own. Located in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis. Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, noon-4pm. Price determined by craft.
Bringing younger kids? Let them spend time poking around the playthings and reading in the treehouse.
Northern Clay – Offers special Teen classes on Saturday mornings from 10am-12pm. Kids ages 13-17 can purchase 8-visit punch cards to use on their own schedule over the next six months.
Bringing younger kids? Look for Family Classes and Open House events.
Gaming & Escape Rooms
Even the coolest teens and tweens won’t pass up an ultimate family game night now and then. Two of our favorites – Fantasy Flight Games and Source Comics & Games (both located in Roseville) offer hundreds of FREE games to borrow and play right in the store. There’s tons of table space to spread out with a large group, and at Fantasy Flight, a cafe to feed your hungry kids.
Escape rooms are interactive, themed puzzles. Book a room with friends or take your chances with strangers. Participants work together to find clues to solve a mission and escape the room. Most are designed with adults in mind, but we’ve found our teens love the challenge. Two of our recommendations: Escape Frenzy in Minneapolis and Escape Game at Mall of America.
Bringing younger kids? Escape rooms may be too much for sensitive children, but a lot of fun for kids who enjoy puzzles. Parental participation is mandatory for children under 16 and other age restrictions often apply. On occasion, if a child is participating, you may be required to book the entire room.
Find more indoor games to play with your teens and tweens.
Museums and Historical Places
Many museums and historic places are better suited to older kids.
- Minneapolis Institute of Art – Family Day is great for all ages and offers free admission every day of the week. Also consider Thursday nights with your teen.
- Minnesota History Center – Lots of interactive exhibits (free admission Tuesday after 3pm).
- Walker Art Center – Often has more mature exhibits (free Thursday evenings)
- Mill City Museum – Read up on 10 Things For Kids: Mill City Museum first, but rest assured all ages will be entertained here.
- Minnesota Transportation Museum – Real train rides included! ($5-$12)
- Bell Museum of Natural History – Boasts a brand new building packed with intriguing space exhibits and a planetarium.
- Federal Reserve Bank Tours – Designed for Ages 12+
Seasonal Fun With Teens & Tweens
We know that Halloween can be a tricky holiday to navigate with teens and tweens. They seek more independence while we grapple with keeping them safe. We’ve got some suggestions for traditional Halloween Events for Teens and Tweens that can be done as a family or with friends.
Stage and Music
The Garage | Burnsville
All ages, alcohol and smoke free music venue.
Como Zoo’s Music Under Glass Series | Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, St Paul
While this program is open to all ages, teens and adults are more likely to appreciate the music and atmosphere of music in the conservatory. Sundays, January – early March.
Ordway | St Paul
The Ordway is home to the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera, some Schubert Club concerts and traveling shows. Children must be over six to attend most Ordway events, but many of them are best shared with your older children.
The Guthrie | Minneapolis
If you have been regularly enjoying Children’s Theatre with your kids but now find they aren’t much interested in the fairy tales, you may be ready to move up to the Guthrie! Most Guthrie shows are recommended for ages 12+.
Recording Studio | Zanewood Teen Center, Brooklyn Park
Sign up for Studio Flow to get an intro to the elements of the recording process, including mixing/mastering tracks, writing workshops, making beats, etc. Open Studio is designed for youth with material ready to record. An onsite producer will help with mastering. Space is limited for these programs and reservations are required.
Splurge Outings With Teens & Tweens
Flyover America | Mall of America
While this ride was appealing to my six-year-old, it did not lose its excitement for our tween or the adults. It is, however, a splurge at $19.99/ages 13+ and $15.99/up to 12.
Kerfoot Canopy Tour | Henderson
For the absolute ultimate splurge, treat your teen (or 10+) to an aerial adventure at Kerfoot Canopy Tours. Conquer the skies as you zipline over rocky gorges and wobble across the high ropes. This would make a most memorable birthday outing. $35-$100/pp.
SMAAASH | Mall of America – closed permanently
This new restaurant/gaming facility at the Mall of America has an adult atmosphere but also has games and activities that would appeal to older kids as well as their parents.
X-Games | US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Four days of extraordinary sports competitions such as skateboarding, BMX biking and motocross plus a diverse lineup of music performances. August 1-4 2019. Admission is FREE to the public Aug 1, 5-11pm. Kids general admission tickets start at just $12/pp.
TWEEN & TEEN RESOURCES
Homework Help for Teens & Tweens (and Parents):
If you are finding it increasingly difficult to help with homework, remember that Hennepin County Library has tutors available online every day of the week from 1-11pm. You do need a library card.
Saint Paul Public Library has weekly Homework Help Centers at 5 libraries. Learn more on SPPL’s Homework Help page.
Zanewood Recreation Center in Brooklyn Park’s Teen Zone is a safe place for teens to get together for fun activities, arts and sports. Teens must fill out a registration form and go through a quick orientation to get their FREE membership.