Discover a new outdoor play space! We can help you find some of the best playgrounds Minneapolis, St. Paul and greater Minnesota. Looking for specifics like a playground, swimming spot or bike trail? Want to find the perfect place to a pitch a tent or your city’s best sledding hill? Search by all of these amenities and more in our Twin Cities Parks & Playgrounds Search by selecting a category from the drop down menu or typing in the keyword of your choice in the search box. You can even enter an address and select a radius to search by city or region of the Metro.
Plus, find park hours, fees, directions, pictures and other extras.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, a top visitor attraction, contains more than 1,200 acres of gardens and tree collections, prairie and woods and miles of trails. As a premier northern garden, the Arboretum was borne out of the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center and established in 1958, with the Men's Garden Club of Minneapolis, Lake Minnetonka Garden Club, Minnesota State Horticultural Society and other community supporters creating the Arboretum as a gift to the University of Minnesota. Anne's family picks there top 10 Things For Kids at the Landscape Arboretum.
StoryTime at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The arboretum's Andersen Horticultural Library host's StoryTime on Thursday mornings at 10:30. Stories will reflect the seasons and nature. Arboretum admission is charged for these events. If this will be a regular activity for your family, you may want to consider a membership for the adults and teens (16+) in your house. $100/year covers two adults.
Pods for Preschool Program at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The arboretum offers a Tuesday morning parent/child preschool program. Sessions run for 10 weeks and are $120 members/$140 non-members. These programs have limited spaces. Each week kids will participate in activities such as planting, art, sensory and science, discovery zones, action and music, story time, Green Play Yard adventures, greenhouse exploration and snack. Parents should plan to participate with their child. Non-participating siblings can attend for free, but each participating child must be registered. Learn more here.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Homeschool Days
Whether you home-school or not, families can participate in Homeschool Days (although you'll have to pull the kids out of school if you don't home-school). Registration costs $10.00 for individual students with discounts for members. However, these events are always held on 3rd Mondays, so gate admission is waived. These educational enrichment experiences include hands-on interactive science. Classes can be registered for individually. Please pre-register.
Arboretum Summer Camps & Children's Garden
The Arboretum posts its summer programs in mid-December and they open for registration in early January. Learn more about summer programs here. Camps are offered for the following age categories:
Ages 5 - 7
Ages 7 - 9
Ages 9 - 11
Ages 12 - 15 (CIT program)
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Discount tip:
Admission is FREE every 3rd Monday/month, 12-6pm, April-October.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Map
Articles Featuring the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
- Twin Cities Spring Nature Play & Programs Guide
- Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities: Get Back to Green
- The Arboretum is among the most beautiful Tours of Fall Color
- While the gate fee can be high, Membership comes with free admission all year.
- Each year, the Arboretum has a beautiful holiday light display: Light It Up: Twin Cities Holiday Light Displays
- Learn More About the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Apple House: 13 Twin Cities Apple Festivals & Events For Families
History of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The history of the Landscape Arboretum begins with Peter Miller Gideon. He established a homestead and apple orchard on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in 1853. The orchard started with thirty apple varieties, but the harsh Minnesota winters and hot summers killed most of them.
By his tenth year on the farm, in 1868, only one seedling survived. However, Gideon was determined. He sent his last eight dollars to Maine for more seeds. Gideon crossed the large apple seeds he received with a hardy local crab apple to create a new apple, the "Wealthy". This fruit survived Minnesota's extreme weather, and was the foundation for apple growing in Minnesota. The Wealthy's success led to the Minnesota State Legislature's approval of state-funded experimentation in breeding new fruit varieties.
In March 1878, the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, using state funds, started the Minnetonka Fruit Farm on 116 acres next to Gideon's farm. Gideon was in charge of the fruit farm until his retirement in 1889. That farm was then sold, but new research opportunities were available. In 1883, the Minnesota State Horticultural Society established a series of research stations. These stations were for creation and testing of other new varieties of fruits and vegetables.
In 1907, the Horticultural Society successfully petitioned for a new fruit breeding and testing farm to be part of the University of Minnesota's Horticulture Department. The farm began on seventy-eight acres purchased five miles west of Excelsior. More land was bought in 1920 and 1931, for a total of 230 acres. Planting began with extra seeds and plants from the experiment stations and donations by farmers. By 1912, sixty-five acres were planted and thriving on the Fruit Breeding Farm.
The first new fruit variety, the Latham raspberry, was introduced by 1914. By 1923, twenty-nine new varieties were being enjoyed. Despite this early success, the farm faced yearly money and weather problems. Droughts, floods and extreme cold or heat caused problems for plants. Money problems were addressed by using Works Progress Administration workers during the Depression in the 1930s. The farm also collaborated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Fruit Breeding Program in 1938. This partnership brought USDA field agents to work on the farm and money to pay for their labor part-time.
The Fruit Breeding Farm continued to grow and produce new hardier fruit varieties. Between 1919 and 1953, sixty-two new varieties came out. Among the better known were the "Fireside" and "Haralson" apples, the "Northstar" cherry, and the "Superior" plum. The "Haralson" was very successful. It has provided more income than any other Minnesota apple variety. In 2005 Haralsons made up over fifty percent of all Minnesota apple production.
The farm had many leaders over the years. Between 1953 and 1970, Dr. Leon C. Snyder was in charge. He was interested in planting for landscapes. He first planted shrubs and trees around his home on the farm, and then later planted in the farm's open fields. In 1954, Snyder started the Woody Landscape Breeding Program. Over 600 varieties of trees and shrubs were planted by 1955.
Snyder dreamed of an outdoor laboratory to create new plants and an outdoor living classroom for students. Soon after, in 1958, land was purchased by the University of Minnesota for a Landscape Arboretum. In 1967, the Fruit Breeding Farm became the Horticultural Research Center (HRC), growing more than just fruit. In 1987, the HRC and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum were merged administratively as one program, or department, by the University of Minnesota.
- Gould, Heidi. "University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum ." MNopedia, Minnesota Historical Society. http://www.mnopedia.org/place/university-minnesota-landscape-arboretum (accessed March 28, 2019).
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
Check out our Parks and Playgrounds Pinterest Board.
The Family Fun Twin Cities Parks & Playgrounds Search directory is your one stop for the best Twin Cities Park Guide! We share some of the best playgrounds in the Twin Cities in this directory. We are so passionate about how awesome are parks are, that we don't want you to stop with 10 parks or even 150 parks! There are so many parks in the metro area, you could visit a new one every day for some free Twin Cities family fun and still not have seen them all in 5 years.
We've currently reviewed over 400 parks in this directory, but we would love to hear from you! What do YOU think are the best parks in the Twin Cities? How about the best parks in Minnesota? What parks did we completely miss? What is your favorite little unknown gem? We really want to share all your favorite indoor playgrounds and outdoor parks! Let us know and we'll add a review here.
Twin Cities parks are great for hiking, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, canoeing and other fun physical games. But, they are also just great for hanging out in a hammock and picnicking while the kids explore and enjoy some of the best playgrounds in Minnesota. Let's enjoy our parks:
In Minnesota indoor playgrounds are a necessity! I know we think of outdoors when we think of parks, but with our long, dark and cold winters, some indoor active games are a must. You can even have indoor picnics at these parks. This such a great way to stretch the summer feeling into the winter! Check out some of the best indoor playgrounds in the Twin Cities this winter.
Outside Parks and Outdoor Waterparks
Minnesota has these, too! And during our short summer, we want to take advantage of them as much as possible! best In fact, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Parks are some of the best outdoor playgrounds twin cities - actually in the country. They win awards - every year! Look and See. Every. Single. Year. So get out to our area parks, make up some fun games to play.
Some of the best beaches in the Twin Cities are hidden little gems. Anne has her favorite 20 Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer. She revises the list every year to keep us in the know.
Shakespeare in the Park at Twin Cities Parks
One of my favorite ways to enjoy our parks is with a play or musical in a park. It doesn't really have to be Shakespeare, it can be the latest Disney princess musical or even a puppet wagon. In fact, sometimes Open Eye Figure Theatre's driveway tour has some park stops. Watch our Performing Arts page each summer to find these fun, free park events.
Music in the Parks - Minneapolis, St. Paul, Suburbs
Nothing says easy summertime fun like music in the parks! The best thing is, there is seriously a concert every night of the week from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Obviously, some get cancelled due to weather, but pick any nice night, take a look at the Family Fun Twin Cities calendar and you can find music in a park. No sign up, no tickets, no money, no commitment. Show up, bring a picnic, play at some of the best playgrounds in Minnesota and relax to great music.
Movies in the Parks at Twin Cities Parks
One thing I love about Movies in the Park is that they tend to screen at some of the best playgrounds in Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities. I love to make it a full evening with a picnic and some fun outdoor kid games and Park Games for Kids. This is a good time to see newer kids movies that you didn't catch in the theater or to introduce your kids to your own childhood favorites without having to gamble on library DVD quality.
Active indoor games for preschoolers are something we are always on the search for when the weather is uncooperative. The parks have a lot to offer with their tot times and open gym slots. For instance, they often offer riding toys, hula hoops, games to play with preschoolers, balls of all kinds, climbing structures, fun games for toddlers, etc.
Looking for the Best Playgrounds and Parks Beyond the Twin Cities?
If you are traveling outside the metro, you'll want to check out some of our favorite day-trip parks. If you are going further than that, we have a list of great family-owned websites to direct you to the best parks around the country so you don't have to depend on national websites or random internet searches.