Color Magic

Minnesota is raising the bar on its well-earned reputation for family- and kid-friendly activities. Several new, best-in-class attractions are joining an already impressive roster of facilities that cater to kids, making history, science, nature and culture more fun than ever. Be sure to check some of them out if you have little ones in tow for TBEX.

Opening this spring at Mall of America, FlyOver America promises to be an immersive multimedia flight simulation ride/show/experience. Riders are strapped into seats that move up to 25 feet above the ground, while breathtaking images of landmark scenes from across America are projected on a giant half-dome screen and enhanced by movement, wind, mist and scents. The ride is designed to be exciting but gentle, and is appropriate for children at least 3 feet 4 inches tall, typically ages 4 and up.

Crayola Experience, also opening at the mall this spring, will feature 60,000 square feet and multiple levels of interactive exhibits and activities related to the coloring crayons known and loved by kids worldwide. The 26 interactive exhibits let kids name and wrap their own Crayola crayon, paint with melted wax, create and bring their own coloring page to life with touch, and see how crayons are made with live demonstrations. The space also features a store with the world’s largest selection of Crayola products and souvenirs.

Beyond these new attractions, Mall of America is home to Nickelodeon Universe, the nation’s largest indoor theme park; Sea Life, a 120-million gallon walk-through aquarium; and Moose Mountain Adventure Golf. Right across the street is the Water Park of America, with a wave pool, a surf simulator, a 10-story, mile-long family raft ride, and numerous water slides and tunnels.

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota opened at a beautiful new facility in Mankato last year. This spring, the museum will debut its outdoor spaces including the Farmyard, which allows kids to interact with farm animals such as chickens and hogs, and take part in planting, watering and harvesting corn, tomatoes, peppers and other crops. “There are always ways to help and get dirty,” say staff.

Other popular exhibits include the Coughlan Quarry, with a big sand pit, moveable crane, and conveyor system for moving blocks across the quarry; the Grow It Gallery, where kids can sit on a 1917 Little Giant tractor or help monarch butterflies germinate beans; the 28-foot-high Mankato Clinic Tree of Forts, with tunnels, tubes, and bridges connecting six forts; and the Two Level Makers Space, with tools and materials for hands-on play and learning.

The popular Spam Museum will reopen in April in a brand new, 14,000-square-foot facility in downtown Austin, just in time to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Hormel Foods, which makes the famous spiced, canned meat. Visitors will find interactive and informative exhibits about the iconic product, including showings of the famously wacky “Spam” sketch and song by Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Hormel will also sponsor a community festival on July 29 to celebrate its anniversary, with food, activities and entertainment, including music by popular country group The Band Perry.

Downtown St. Paul has long been home to a trifecta of Minnesota’s best-known family attractions, all within blocks of one another—the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota History Center.

In addition, the Minnesota Children’s Museum has opened a 4,400-square-foot play space at Mall of America while the main space undergoes a major expansion in the coming year. “Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog” will run from May 28 through Sept. 11. Over the spring and summer, the St. Paul museum will host the technological interactive playspace “digiPlay,” and the Rochester location will feature “Air Play” and “Little Builders.”

The Science Museum will show “Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs” this spring, featuring the world’s largest collection of mummies, as well as a new Omnitheater film celebrating America’s national parks; the History Center will feature “What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones,” and living history reenactments take place at many of the society’s 26 historic sites and museums around the state.

For comprehensive listings of kid-friendly activities statewide, including children’s museums, zoos, aquariums and more, visit the Explore Minnesota’s website.

Photo credit:  Courtesy of Explore Minnesota