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Fort Snelling State Park is the only Minnesota State Park located in the heart of the Twin Cities. As a state park, it is managed by the DNR, however, the Minnesota Historical Society runs Historic Fort Snelling (and it has additional entrance fees) and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board manages the golf course.
Airplane Viewing at Fort Snelling State Park
By now most people know about the Aircraft Viewing Area set up by the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. While this is a really awesome place to see aircraft take off up close, it does have some downsides - like no restrooms, no shade and it's crowded at times. The beach at Fort Snelling is another option. While you won't see the actual take-off, the aircraft take off directly over the beach, so you will see plenty of up close planes. The beach has restrooms, shade, and a play area. If the beach is crowded, families could hike a little further away to watch planes. The curious can find a photo guide to the various aircraft near the beach buildings.
Fort Snelling State Park Beach
We visited the beach in early spring. This may not be on everyone's favorite beach list because of its close proximity to the airport. At least in the spring, there was a lot of animal droppings in the sand. I'm curious to see if that is cleaned up in the summer. The positives are the nearby play structure, the shallow entry, the nice beach buildings, and the outdoor shower. Also, at least during our spring visit, we saw an amazing variety of animal tracks in the sand -- several deer, raccoons, ducks and geese, coyote? (maybe a dog?). That may have been my favorite part of our visit.
Visitor Center at Fort Snelling State Park
The Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center has films and and exhibits where families can learn about Minnesota history and natural resources. Kids can check out Kids Discovery Kits to explore the park.
Fish for Free Without a License
Because this is a state park, adults and children can fish for free without license. Even better, loaner fishing kits can be checked out, so you don't even need to own your own tackle.
Birding and Geocaching at Fort Snelling State Park
This park also has free birding kits and GPS units for patrons to borrow. Fort Snelling is one of the State Park Geocaching Checkpoints and through October of 2017, you can collect wildflower cards at this an other State Parks. Park Rangers are happy to give pointers and assistance.
Birding Kits include binoculars, guide books and bird lists that are unique to each state park.
Disc Golf at Fort Snelling State Park
While Fort Snelling is a State Park with a St. Paul address, the City of Minneapolis operates The Fort Snelling Golf Club within the park. Families may enjoy playing the 18-hole Disc Golf course during warm months. This is one of two pay disc golf courses that the City of Minneapolis operates. Adults cost $5.00 and children are $2.50. Season passes can also be purchased. Pay at the clubhouse.
Cross Country Ski at Fort Snelling State Park
In the winter trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. Adult and older teen skiers are required to have a Minnesota Ski Pass.
For more outdoor play ideas:
- 10 of the Best Twin Cities Playgrounds
- 20 Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer
- Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities - Get Back to Green