We couldn't get this-close to Minnesota and NOT go! It was unexplored terrain (brief Spam museum visit, notwithstanding), and we had to at least visit. Unfortunately, without another adult along, I was not up to the daunting Mall of America, but we found some pretty neat museums and places to see - all of which were FREE with our ASTC membership. I know I keep saying it, but it's sooo worth the annual cost!
It was over two hours from the hotel to Minneapolis, which is right on the Minnesota / Wisconsin border. We usually stop at the tourist center by the state line to pick up information and coupons and look for other interesting places we may not have heard of yet.
First stop on our Minneapolis Day was the Works museum. Their exhibits and challenges engage kids in science, technology and engineering and make learning memorable and fun.
You're greeted inside by a GINORMOUS, working K'NEX sculpture, which will occupy your kids long enough for you to get registered, find the restroom, visit China... Make it past the K-nex, and you'll find a large room with electronic / digital oddities, designed to fascinate and educate. Our family favorite was the laser harp, which we spent quite a bit of time playing with. It felt like momentarily stepping back into an old black & white film .......minus the strings.We made goofy faces by the funhouse mirrors for a while, and then found the digital house. You can turn on the appliances / lights with your voice and sitting on the couch turns on the radio (as the youngest has just discovered in the photo)!
The laser maze uses multiple types of sensors and challenges you to get through the maze without setting any off. The kids went ninja-style and got through the maze in less than a minute!! My backpack set it off in less than ten seconds...
The entire second floor of this museum is an engineering study. Multiple stations are set up in one large room, with challenges and supplies. Since we had been studying Minn of the Mississippi , by Holling Clancy Holling, the boys decided to build a steamship. All of the supplies are donated and recycled materials....they built the ships from CDs, tongue depressors, rubber bands, Styrofoam, and hot glue. Another challenge that we attempted was to build a working windmill from tinker toys and PVC pipe.From the Works Museum, we headed to the Bakken Museum, on the other side of Minneapolis. This gave us a chance to experience the airport traffic, as well as see their beautiful downtown. The Bakken is located right next to a municipal lake and park, with trails, volleyball courts, picnic areas, and other outdoor activities. We had a picnic and appreciated the view before heading into the museum.
Located in an old mansion, the museum is like nothing you've experienced before! First off, the house is beautiful...vintage beautiful. I would adore living in a place like it! But of course, you have to take into account that they've refurbished it as a creepy, Frankenstein museum...and that makes it lose some of it's charm. As a museum, however, it rocks!
The focus of the museum is electricity, with a subfocus on electromagnetism. Having just finished up units on both electricity and magnetism, the boys were very interested in what they had to offer. We learned about the body's electric field, the electrophysiological workings of the heart, and (most importantly) how to play the theremin. Have you seen The Big Bang Theory , when Sheldon plays his theremin??? (If not, see bottom of post.)We saw how magnets affect your television and learned some of Benjamin Franklin's best party tricks! ..........and then we headed into the Frankenstein room. The museum is very proud of this particular exhibit, as they should be, but my youngest was not having any part of it. The oldest sat, rather apprehensively, on the furthest-away bench to watch the show. I must admit, I was startled myself once or twice! (I'm not going to spoil the show for you, in the event that you decide to go.)
Being the only family there at the time (it was the Minnesota State Fair, and based on highway traffic, I'm pretty sure everyone was either at the fair or headed that way), we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the house. I've already expressed my adoration for the gothic architecture, but what you don't know is that my son is as artsy-fartsy as his momma, and he was very vocal about "how cool this house is!!!" A staff member heard him, and took us up to the restricted areas. Unfortunately, the only photo I was allowed to take was looking down into the ballroom. But just imagine a turn-of-the-century ball going on, with an orchestra in the balcony...
Outside, we visited the gardens and learned about medicinal herbs. This ties nicely with a new family project that my husband and I have been starting, so it was nice for me to see the layout and herbs firsthand. The boys were just happy to have a place to run around for a bit before getting in the car for another two to three hours.
This is probably not your traditional visit to Minneapolis, but it was perfect for our family. Both museums were free, thanks to our membership. (I get no credit or anything for recommending it; just passing on a good thing.) With more time, there was plenty more to see, but we experienced as much as possible in half a day, and enjoyed the visit!
Minneapolis & museums resources :
- Roller Coaster unit study (free) (engineering & science)
- K'NEX Amazin' 8 Coaster Building Set
- Frankenstein DVD
- Walking Twin Cities: 34 Tours Exploring Historic Neighborhoods, Lakeside Parks, Gangster Hideouts, Dive Bars, and Cultural Centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul