Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service The majestic waterfront of the Boundary Lakes Canoe Area Wilderness. Just one of many breathtaking views offered by the Minnesota countryside.

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Family Vacations in Minnesota Overview

With its scenic countryside and gorgeous lake- and riverside vacation spots, Minnesota is the perfect place for families looking to relax and "get away from it all." At the same time, the land of 10,000 lakes also boasts bustling metropolises teeming with sights and sounds for the whole family to enjoy.

From the world-class shopping available at the Mall of America to a soothing canoe trip down the Boundary Waters, Minnesota has a wealth of options for a family vacation. Look below for information on some of Minnesota's many attractions.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness offers a relaxing trip down majestic rivers on the northern tip of Minnesota. If paddling with your family along miles of scenic riverfront sounds like the perfect way to take a break, look no further than this gorgeous collection of lakes and rivers, which, combined with the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, make up one of the largest areas of protected wilderness in North America.

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival in scenic Saint Paul is one of the country's oldest winter festivals. With a cornucopia of events ranging from ice sports (hockey, softball, fishing) to a parade, ice-carving contests and the hunt for the Winter Medallion this festival is two weeks of frozen fun for the whole family.

The Mall of America

The Mall of America in downtown Bloomington is aptly named. As the largest shopping center in the country, it is host to over 520 stores and America's largest indoor amusement park. With rides, games, gourmet food and a fully-stocked aquarium, it would be easy to spend the day at the MOA and not even set foot inside a store!

The Children's Theatre Company

The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis produces a huge range of stage plays designed for children. With a troupe of award-winning adult and child actors, this company brings to life age-old classics and showcases up and coming plays for the delight of children of all ages.

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is home to a stunning display of free standing 20th-century art. In addition to the sculpture, the Garden provides free weekend events, featuring live music, performing arts acts, and hands-on activities.

Continue to the next page to learn about a relaxing vacation at Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Minnesota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Minnesota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service The miles of untouched riverfront at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness let vacationers paddle their cares away.

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Family Vacations in Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

If your family's idea of a cruise is paddling along a peaceful waterway, the Boundry Waters Canoe Area could be the perfect vacation for you. Located in northern Minnesota, near the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, this stretch of pristine wilderness is one of the largest areas of protected wilderness in North America. Glaciers have carved out a breathtaking series of more than 1,000 interconnected waterways linked by portage trails.

This labyrinth of lakes served as a travel network for Native Americans for thousands of years and was once one of the main routes to the west for European explorers and fur traders. Known as the Voyageurs' Highway, it ran through what is now the Boundary Waters and Quetico Provincial Park.

There are more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes, and motorized boats are not allowed. There are paddle-in campsites throughout the park. The rugged terrain is populated by moose, beavers, otters, minks, and loons. Fishing is superb, and lake trout, smallmouth bass, walleye, and northern pike are plentiful.

Entry points are established to control the flow of visitors and protect the wilderness area. The town of Ely is considered the gateway to the Boundary Waters, and here you'll find outfitters of all kinds that sell supplies and specialized equipment, rent canoes, and provide guides.

During your visit, stop by the International Wolf Center to meet the center's resident wolf pack and take a wolf-howling lesson. After dark, you can practice what you've learned to exchange calls with the wild wolves.

In winter, the area is known for ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Dogsledding is also popular, and special trails have been created just for that sport. Several outfitters operate sleigh rides in the evening to take advantage of the crystal-clear view of the starry sky and the northern lights.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Information

Address: 118 S. 4th Ave. E., Ely, MN

Phone: 518/885-9964 877/550-6777

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $ 10 adults; $5 kids

Check out the next page for information on the frozen fun available at St. Paul's Winter Carnival.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Minnesota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Minnesota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy of Andy Cosgrove One of the breathtaking ice sculptures carved at the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Skilled artists spend days creating these masterpieces.

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Family Vacations in Minnesota: St. Paul Winter Carnival

This gala St. Paul Winter Carnival is a much-anticipated event in St. Paul and is the country's oldest winter festival. The city is filled with ice-carving contests, car races on ice, and torchlight parades.

The crowning of the festival royalty -- King Boreas and the Queen of Snows and their court -- heralds the beginning of two weeks of frozen fun. The coronation is followed by the Grande Day Parade, when more than 100 outrageously decorated floats wind through downtown. A second procession, called the Torchlight Parade, features floats aglow with giant flames and festive lights.

The carnival offers all kinds of sporty events, including ice hockey, softball played on ice, a children's ice fishing contest, ice skating, snow volleyball, ice golf, and more. A frozen winter playground and a giant ice slide are popular stops for younger children. The intricate and elaborate sculptures of the ice-carving competition are on display throughout the entire carnival.

One of the most anticipated events of the festival is the treasure hunt for the special Winter Carnival medallion, which is worth thousands of dollars to the winner. It's a tradition that has St. Paul residents following daily clues in the local newspaper and searching high and low for the hidden prize.

St. Paul Winter Carnival Information

Address: Harriet Island Regional Park at Plato Blvd. and W. Water St., Saint Paul, MN

Phone: 651/223-4700

Hours of Operation: Last week in Jan. - First week in Feb.

Check out the next page for information about the adventures a family can have at the country's largest shopping center, the Mall of America.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Minnesota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Minnesota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

In addition to being the largest shopping center, the Mall also houses the world's largest indoor amusement park.

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Family Vacations in Minnesota: Mall of America

You can spend the whole day at Bloomington's Mall of America (MOA) and never even set foot in any of its more than 520 stores on four floors. The Park at MOA is a seven-acre playground with more than 30 rides and attractions for children. It is the nation's largest indoor theme park, complete with its own food court and restaurants.

There is a 14-screen movie theater, a NASCAR simulator, a four-story Lego play area with more than 30 full-size Lego models, a lively, interactive dinosaur museum, and much more.

The MOA's popular Underwater Adventures Aquarium is a 1.2-million-gallon tank that teems with more than 4,500 sea creatures. Visitors cruise by on a moving walkway inside a transparent tunnel to observe sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and all kinds of fish. Its Seven Seas Gallery features poison dart frogs and an octopus that likes to pull her crab dinner out of a peanut butter jar. A turtle center and hatchery has more than 1,000 turtles.

Mall of America Information

Address: Interstate 494 and Highway 77, Bloomington, MN

Phone: 952/883-8800

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. - 9: 30 p.m., Mon. - Sat. and 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sun.

Admission: Cost varies by attraction

Continue on to the next page to see some of the dramatic entertainment opportunities provided by the Children's Theatre Company of Minnesota.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Minnesota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Minnesota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy of the Children's Theatre Company/Rob Levine Adult and child actors alike bring classic tales to life at the Children's Theatre Company.

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Family Vacations in Minnesota: Children's Theatre Company

North America's flagship theater for young people brings to the stage classic children's stories such as The Magic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Pippi Longstocking, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The productions are brilliantly staged with wildly imaginative, colorful sets and vivid costumes. The shows are performed by a troupe of talented professional adult and child actors.

The Minneapolis theater company also commissions new works from significant artists, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning Nilo Cruz, who adapted for the stage the short story A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by magical realist author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In 2003, the Children's Theatre Company was the first theater for young people to ever win a Regional Theatre Tony Award. Plus, its musical adaptation of the Arnold Lobel story, A Year with Frog and Toad, had a successful Broadway run.

The theater complex has two stages, where the company features an average of ten different plays and performances each year. A separate floor of classrooms and a state-of-the art performance studio round out the educational facilities for kids.

Children's Theatre Company Information

Address: 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Phone: 612/874.0400

Hours of Operation: Hours vary

Admission: Cost varies

Continue on to the next page to learn more about the sprawling grassland full of exciting and dynamic free-standing art that makes up the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Minnesota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Minnesota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy of the Walker Art Center Garden visitors admire one of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden's more famous works, "Spoonbridge and Cherry."

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Family Vacations in Minnesota: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Dozens of awe-inspiring and extraordinary sculptures by 20th-century artists such as Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, and Frank Gehry are situated about the grassy landscape of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Its most famous work is the playful Spoonbridge and Cherry, a 50-foot-long teaspoon with a 15-foot-high, water-spouting, bright-red cherry perched on its rim. Created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, it sits in the middle of a lily pond.

The unique setting is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country; it's also a place where children can run around and blow off steam while enjoying some of the world's finest modern three-dimensional works of art. A map with pictures and explanations of each piece is available. Children enjoy using it as a treasure map to hunt down the various artwork depicted. During the summer, free Saturday events feature live music, performers, and creative activities.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Information

Address: 1750 Hennepin, Minneapolis, MN

Phone: 612/375-7600

Hours of Operation: 6 a.m. - midnight, daily

Admission: Free

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Minnesota State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Minnesota, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.