Last month our family traveled up to Minnesota for a Winter Getaway. Each winter we try to do a weekend trip with our family to get away, have some fun and usually go to a waterpark (so we can pretend there isn't snow piled up high all around us 😉).
This year we decided to make our annual winter getaway a two night trip. Since this year's trip was a little more than past getaways we actually made this experience our kids' Christmas present from us. It will definitely be a Christmas present that none of us will forget and the kids are already talking about needing to do again for next year!
Mall of America
No trip to the Twin Cities area is complete without making a visit to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. With over 500 retail stores, tons of restaurant options and several entertainment attractions, it is easy to find something to do for every member of your family. Living just over two hours away from the Mall of America, this wasn't our first trip and it won't be our last.
|Mr. K, Miss L and Miss A having fun at the
Build A Bear Workshop
On the car ride up we discussed with the kids what stores we wanted to check out, where we wanted to eat and what we wanted to do while at the Mall of America. In the past we have gone through the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium and have rode rides in Nickelodeon Universe, so this trip we decided to check out the Crayola Experience. We also checked out Build A Bear Workshop, The LEGO store, ate at Wahlburgers and grabbed some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.
|Miss A, Miss R, Mr. K and Miss L coloring at the Colossal Caddy
a giant coloring station with 1000s of crayons
From first stepping up to the front desk, we immediately were met with top notch hospitality. The Crayola Experience has several admission special offers for those celebrating birthdays, first responders, military, teachers, etc. The staff made sure we knew about all of those offers, as well as informed us that Groupon had a deal on tickets at the time we went. In general though, buying your admission tickets online will save you money. Children 2 and under are free, General Admission at the door is $20.99 and the Senior Citizens (65+) door rate is $16.99. Thanks to the staff our family of six was able to get in under $45. No matter what deal you might get, it is worth the price!
|Everyone had fun playing with magic model clay
Upon entering, each person will receive a bag and two tokens. The bag is to store all of your creations and the tokens are used to create a personalized crayon and a bag of magic model clay. There are over 20 hands-on activities at the Crayola Experience, many of which allow you to take home a goodie you create from making your own coloring page, to melting crayons into different molds, to spin art. Our family also really enjoyed the Rockin' Paper area where you make a paper creation and then with the magic of magnetism you can watch your creation dance and rock around to songs.
|Watching our Rockin' Paper show
Our family spent four hours at the Crayola Experience and easily could have stayed longer. One nice feature of the Crayola Experience is that day of re-entry is allowed. The Crayola Experience has food available inside and is outside one of the main restaurant areas, so feel free to grab a bite to eat or go shopping and come back.
Great Wolf Lodge
During our weekend getaway we stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington, Minnesota that is just a few minutes away from the Mall of America. This was our first time staying at the Great Wolf Lodge since they took over ownership and remodeled the old Waterpark of America. If I had to sum our stay in one word, it would be convenience.
One way they make things convenient is that the adult wristbands have multiple purposes. The wristbands not only get you into the indoor waterpark, it also unlocks your hotel room, and is linked to your credit card on file so you can charge items without worrying about having to carry around your wallet.
|Miss L, Miss A, Miss R and Mr. K warming up by the giant fireplace
wearing their wolf ears
The lodge is very kid friendly. Upon arriving, each child receives a pair of wolf ears and there are a lot of free activities scheduled each day for families to participate in. The setup of their hotel rooms are also made with families in mind. We stayed in a Queen Cabin Suite that had a Queen Bed in one room and two sets of bunk-beds in a separate area. The kids loved their own "cabin". 😊 The rooms also come with a small kitchenette including a refrigerator and microwave.
|The kids having fun in their double bunk bed cabin
Another way they make things convenient is that they allow outside food and drink into the waterpark. We spent an entire day at the waterpark and it was nice to have snacks available to keep us going. Inside the waterpark they also have towels, life jackets and puddle jumpers available for guests.
The main reason why we chose to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge was the waterpark. This is the best indoor waterpark we've ever been to. Our family spent a lot of time in the Fort Mackenzie area of the park that all of our kids ages 2 to 7 enjoyed playing in. This water tree house has slides, water features and plenty of space to splash around. We also enjoyed the River Canon Run, which is a multi-person raft slide that allows you to pick a theme, so as you slide down you listen to special music and see videos in the tube. Our older two kids enjoyed the tandem tube slides as well. And of course, we spent several trips traveling along in the Crooked Creek lazy river. The Crooked Creek passes through the Slap Tail Pond wave pool so we all had a lot of fun when we got caught up in the waves.
|Slap Tail Pond wave pool
|My Farmer, Miss R, Miss A and Mr L
walking through an Ice Castle Archway
Don't spend your entire Winter Weekend Getaway inside, go outside and explore the Ice Castles! Our family has traveled up to see the Ice Castles a few times over the years and we were excited to check them out again on our recent trip. The location of the Minnesota Ice Castles has moved over the years and this was the first year it was in Excelsior, Minnesota.
The Ice Castles are a magical place to explore. We recommend you getting there in the mid/late afternoon so you can see all of the ice details and features in the daylight, as well as after the sun sets and they turn on colored lights to give the castles a whole new look and feel.
|The Ice Castles after dusk
Be sure to wear your snow gear including snow boots, snow pants, hats and gloves so you can stay warm and dry exploring all of the ice slides, tunnels and archways. Be sure to bring your camera as well. I like to say that the Ice Castles are an Instagramers paradise. There are so many cool pictures, views and angels to be seen.
A couple more tips are to order your tickets online beforehand to save some money and reserve a time to visit. Also, for the current location in Excelsior parking is limited. Check out the complimentary shuttle service available.
So what is stopping you from planning your own Twin Cities Winter Weekend Family Getaway? What part of our trip would you love to do with your family?