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Minneapolis Winter Fun Includes Mall of America, Urban Skiing, and Minnesota Zoo. From marvelous theatrical productions and waterpark thrills to dreamy snow covered parks and tempting hot chocolate stops, the city sparkles during the snowy months - hot and cold.Minnesota Zoo Feeding of the Fish

Here's the scoop. Spend any time at all in Minneapolis and smiling will be unavoidable. Voted the best in the USA for dozens of things, the ongoing results span the gamut. The place is fun for families of all age combinations. Yes, the days can be crisp, no cold. But it’s a dry cold so, no swea and there are plenty of indoor islands of fun to enjoy.

Share a take a wet or wild safari.  The bison, wolves, elk, moose, bears, and Siberian tigers are happiest once the snow falls and luckily for visitors they are easier to observe from the climate controlled monorail which weaves above the 500 plus acres in Apple Valley south of Minneapolis. The zoo is home to about 2,300 animals plus a variety of birds and aquatic residents including penguins. On cold winter days the dramatic two-story atrium entrance to Discovery Bay provides a surreal experience for visitors just in from the cold. The man-made estuary and tidal areas encourage interaction and discovery. For extra enjoyment there’s an IMAX theatre onsite. Bonus Points: In addition you will find a series of Family Adventures at the Zoo scheduled throughout the year and the possibility to join a Zzzoo After Dark Family Overnight. (IMAX at Minnesota Zoo. Information Line (952) 431-4629 or 1-877-660-4629 FREE and Minnesota Zoo. 13000 Zoo Boulevard Apple Valley, 55124. (952) 431-9200, 1-800-366-7811 FREE or 24-hour information line (952) 431-9500 or www.MNZoo.com)Disney Store at Mall of America

Experience it all at the Mall.
 The Mall of America Mall of America really does have more than 500 stores and 60 restaurants. It is one of the most visited destinations in the United States because it has something for everyone. At the heart of an amazing array of shops and department stores is Nickelodeon Universe, the nation's largest indoor family theme park. For visitors shopping breaks include a roller coaster ride or a fling on a revolving swing. Bonus Points: In addition to shopping, the Mall is home to a variety of unique experiences.  Visitors may try a high tech indoor stock car racing competition or go bowling at Jillian’s Hi Life Lanes. Additional unique attraction experiences include SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium - a 1.2 million gallon walk-through aquarium, Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, American Girl Experience, Barbie™ Dreamhouse Experience™ ,  CSI: The xperience™ and Star Trek™: The Exhibition - one of the largest collections of authentic Star Trek artifacts ever made public. Here’s the deal. There is no sales tax on clothing. For shoppers there is a Mall of America Super Savings Coupon Book loaded with more than 200 offers from stores, restaurants and attractions. (Mall of America. At the crossroads of Interstate 494 and Highway 77, Bloomington. Toll-free 1-800-879-3555 FREE or www.mallofamerica.com)

Is it a mask or puppet? Awesome masked puppets come together in unique productions presented by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT). The company uses the ancient tradition of puppet and mask theatre to entertain and inspire all ages. The performances are masterful and visually poetic. In addition to words, the productions include musical dialog and inspiring choreographed movement. Bonus Points: In addition to scheduled productions, Saturdays from October through mid-March they conduct puppet shows in their lobby. The puppeteer vignettes are ideal for young children. (In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT). 1500 E. Lake Street 55407. (612) 721-2535 or www.heartofthebeasttheatre.org)Mississippi River View Minneapolis on the Horizon

Hike along the hillside. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Ranger Encounter short walk from the back door of the Mall of America is a secret place with a window on nature-- an urban park extraordinaire. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center anchors the green space, featuring four levels of interactive exhibits, an ever-changing art gallery and a wonderful bookshop. It functions as a portal to the diverse ecosystems found in more than 7,800 acres of landscaped parks as well as the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Hiking trails lace the wilderness and observation blinds provide opportunities to overlook the river valley and Long Meadow Lake. With patience, expect to see squirrels, chipmunks, coyotes, bald eagles, badgers, beavers and hundreds of birds in transit.Bonus Points: There are weekly programs that span a variety of topics, often making poignant cultural connections with history and nature. The refuge offers visitors hiking and cross-country ski trails. (Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. 3815 American Blvd. East, Bloomington, 55425. (952) 854-5900 or Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge)

Remember “Top Gun”? What better on a cold winter day than to file a flight plan and fly a mission? At Air Combat Entertainment Simulations (ACES) participants get to wear an authentic flight suit, helmet and parachute harness as part of the on-the-ground simulated air adventure. Experience the thrill of piloting a full-motion F/A-18. During this simulation, participants have the ability to launch from and land on an aircraft carrier, dog fight a sibling in a second simulator, compete in aerial combat tournaments and design a flight plan. It’s ideal for ages 10+ but, no surprise, Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis are not on staff. (Air Combat Entertainment Simulations. 5005 Excelsior Blvd. St Louis Park, 55416-3013. (952) 920-3519 or www.flyaces.com)Fort Snelling in Winter

Ski the Twin Cities. Adjacent to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Fort Snelling State Park has an extensive network of hiking, biking and ski trails that link to Minnehaha Park. The Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center provides interpretive exhibits and films as well as naturalist programs year-round. Trails also allow visitors to hike up to the historic Fort Snelling for a view of military life in the 1820s. Bonus Points: In winter, the park maintains six miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, seven miles of groomed skate-ski trails and 12 miles of hiking trails. Snowshoeing is permitted anywhere in the park except on groomed ski trails. Both dog sledding and ski jouring are permitted on seven miles of trail on the Dakota county side of the park. (Fort Snelling State Park. 101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul, 55111. (612) 725-2724, 725-2389 or Fort Snelling State Park)

If the snowshoe fits, wear it. Wirth Winter Recreation Area is located is the largest regional park in Minneapolis. In the winter months it provides miles of trials suitable for cross country skiing and snowshoeing as well as easy slopes for snow tubing. Trails are designed for beginners, intermediates, and ski skaters, so all ages will enjoy the snow. Some trails are lighted. Bonus Points: The chalet serves snacks and a place to warm little toes. Rent cross country skis, snow tubes or snowshoes onsite. (Theodore Wirth Winter Recreation Area. 1301 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Minneapolis 55411. (763) 522-4584 or www.minneapolisparks.org)
 
Content researched and posted by Amanda Nelson-Duac, the Family Travel Files resource in the Twin Cities. Images from Family Travel Files.  Copyright updated 2018.

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