I love road trips! Thankfully, our boys are great little travelers and enjoy adventure like we do. I don’t know if that’s just in their personalities or if it’s because we’ve taken LONG road trips from Kansas City to Canada to see family several times in their short lives. Either way, they have hearts for adventure and have me looking forward to summer travel and experiencing new things by their side.
My niece and nephews live in Alberta and my kids have been begging for cousin time. The distance and busy sports schedules for all of our kids make it tough to get together as often as we’d like. We decided to meet up in Minnesota where the cousins are attending a hockey camp. Chris had to work a few extra days so I decided he could fly up to meet us and I would drive the boys and I up to maximize our time. We loved Minnesota and I will definitely be planning a future trip to experience even more of what Minnesota has to offer. I made the boys these fun LEGO tables for the car with a single blue LEGO board https://amzn.to/2XxKUDN or you can order two blue https://amzn.to/2XxKUDN or two green LEGO boards https://amzn.to/2XxKUDN.
It was extremely easy with these tables from Michael’s that ended up being $10 for both with a coupon. The LEGO base boards have strong adhesive and you can find them on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2LFn7iT. It was only a 6 hour drive from KC to our first stop in Minneapolis. Usually Chris would do most or all of the driving and I would be the car CEO, in charge of snacks and entertainment. Without Chris this time, I wanted to make sure the boys had access to drinks and snacks and lots to do. I had the boys pack their own entertainment backpacks with books and crafts so they knew exactly what they had. The drive went by in a blink. The tables were great and fit perfectly over their car seats to provide a perfect little work station for each. We also enjoyed listening to WOW in the World podcasts. They have an educational theme but are presented in a fun way that kids enjoy. We listened to several of these which made the drive go by quickly.
We stopped at the coolest playground in Ankeny, Iowa outside of Des Moines. It’s called Ankeny Miracle Park and it’s an inclusive playground. This split our trip in half perfectly and the boys napped for several hours after the opportunity to run out their wiggles.
This park has giant slides and is perfect for any age with a smaller playground for little ones and a larger playground that bigger kids enjoyed racing around and playing tag. I let the boys play for almost an hour and they easily would have stayed much longer if given the choice. But we had Great Wolf Lodge awaiting us in Bloomington, MN so we needed to keep on moving.
I found an awesome Groupon deal for the Bloomington GWL and was excited to surprise the boys with that. When we pulled up to the Great Wolf Lodge, the boys were squealing in delight. We’ve been to the GWL in Kansas City but were excited to see how it differed from this one in Bloomington. We were checked in and ready to swim by 4:30 and the waterpark was awesome. Roen is 5 years old and a bit of a daredevil. Big brother Jonathan likes to ease into things. So when Roen wanted to ride the largest slide of them all first, Jonathan was a bit apprehensive and needed some coaxing. They worked out a deal that they would take turns choosing each activity and off we went. The tallest slide is a large family slide that we could do together which I was excited about. I also loved that the rafts for this one go up a conveyer belt so you aren’t responsible for lugging it up hundreds of stairs. And I’m pretty sure it’s hundreds. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that my legs were actually a bit sore the next day after climbing those stairs so many times. The boys loved that right before you do the slide, you choose one of four themes for the slide which include beach waves or a storm theme. This added to the excitement and appeal of the ride so of course we had to do each one at least once. Jonathan is 7 and was nervous on this one. I was able to make him feel more secure by putting my legs over his in the raft. And while this was a lot of fun, there wasn’t a high fear factor for me because you never feel like you will fall out, even at the end when it splashes into a large pool. The boys are pretty good swimmers but without Chris there, I was a bit more nervous. What I loved about this Great Wolf Lodge, was that there was a good variety, the kids were tall enough for everything and felt brave and excited to try everything.
For younger kids, it had the bucket dump play area with a great shallow area for littles. My kids have never been fans of the bucket dump but this one was great because a large howling sound let you know the bucket would dump soon so you could get out of the way if you wanted. They also had a lazy river, wave pool, basketball hoop pool area, rope climbing, a few good body slides and one other raft/tube slide.
The main attraction for my boys outside of the slides was the Flow Rider. I’d seen photos of this on cruise ships but hadn’t seen one in person. You have to sign a waiver before you or your kids can try this so that heightened my nerves a bit. I always love seeing my kids try something new and feel proud of themselves for being brave and this was exactly what happened here. They stood in a short line and listened intently as the GWL employees explained what to do. To see their little nervous faces try this and then light up with excitement to feel the adrenaline was special to witness. They did this again and again. A few times they got swept up by the waves but they kept getting back on and trying again. The FlowRider experience was one we will always remember. Even I gave it a try. I’m sure I looked quite silly but the boys asked me to try and they were cracking up at me the whole time.
After four hours in the waterpark, they were ready to try the MagiQuest. At 5 and 7, the boys had seen other kids try the MagiQuest at the Kansas City GWL but had not expressed interest and I was happy to not have the added expense. This time though, they were all in on this. They were ecstatic to choose the wands and start the quest. After an hour of following them back and forth as they traversed the same areas of the hotel to advance in their quest, I decided I was going to prop my feet up in the lobby while they continued their journey toward slaying a dragon. They reported back to me with updates on their journey and were so tired by 10 p.m. that they decided it was bedtime and the dragon slaying would need to wait for tomorrow. You know it’s been a good day when your kids are so tired that they decide it’s bedtime on their own. We wrapped up our time at GWL the next day with several more hours of MagiQuest and waterpark time before heading to our next stop at the Mall of America.
This was our first time at the Mall of America so we didn’t know what to expect. We stayed at the Radison Blu Mall of America for the convenience. The hotel lobby is very cool and the boys enjoyed trying out the fancy hanging pods and couldn’t contain their excitement and giggles over the “butt chairs” on the second floor loft.
We loved the convenience of this hotel and being able to walk right into the Mall of America right by the LEGO store which was our first stop. The boys built mini figures and enjoyed seeing the giant LEGO creations adorning the store.
We ate dinner at Rainforest Café which was a cool experience and the boys were ready to hit the rides at Nickelodeon Universe. We couldn’t believe how many rides they have inside the mall. We bought the evening all you can ride passes and rode nonstop from 5 p.m. until we shut the place down at 9:30 p.m. This was the perfect amount of time and the lines were short on a Thursday evening which allowed us to pack in a lot.
They have a darling Paw Patrol Adventure Bay playground area which even at 5 and 7 years old, my kids enjoyed. The boys loved the Fairly Odd Coaster, little kid Crazy Cars bumper cars, Pepsi Orange Crush coaster (which provides a great view of the whole Nickelodeon area) and the Log Chute water ride. Jonathan and I rode the Avatar Airbender which was wonderfully thrilling while Roen waited patiently. There was a great variety for kids of all ages and I definitely see a return trip here in our future.
We awoke the next day with excitement to visit the Crayola Experience inside the Mall of America, which I had a great Groupon for. When we walked in, I was a bit surprised that the place didn’t seem large. The boys ended up loving everything here and we wished we had more time. We spent three hours here and easily could have stayed longer. The first station we tried was naming and wrapping your own crayon.
Roen opted for a bright red, naming it “Radical Roen” while Jonathan opted for his own quirky style with “Blue Sloth”. From here, they created their own coloring pages where they could include photo outlines of themselves on the printable coloring pages. This was really cool as you can see in the photos. They loved watching a demonstration about how crayons are made and then melting wax to create their own shape crayons. The boys also enjoyed coloring pages and then using a computer that animated their drawings on the screen. I liked this combination of art and technology that got them thinking about art applications in technology. I was pleasantly surprised by how this place got their creativity flowing and I would highly recommend it. I think from infants to age 10 would be the ideal ages. I’m not sure older kids would love it but even as an adult, I really enjoyed it. We only had a quick 48 hours in Minneapolis so I’m excited to return in the future. I recall years ago visiting the children’s museum, Como Park, the Minnesota Zoo and look forward to a longer stay next time to revisit those locations.
From Minneapolis, we drove about four hours to Fargo to visit with friends and family. Look at these sweet, happy faces as the kids were reunited! We bought these fun clown sunglasses https://amzn.to/2XrTvg8 which made for a fun surprise and cute pictures with the cousins.
We took in a Red Hawks game which was a lot of fun and checked out the amazing Fargo Youth Baseball facility called The ATTIC. This facility is top notch and we loved the opportunity to play some indoor ball with all the kids. From Fargo, we traveled to Detroit Lakes where the cousins were in an awesome hockey camp with Lamoureux Hockey.
The lakes here are stunning. We stayed in a cabin on Lake Ida which is small, peaceful and afforded wonderful family time. The kids had a blast playing on a Lilly Pad and paddle boating over to a rope swing where they got to show their bravery by going Tarzan-style into the water.
We also rented a boat and spent a few nights at the Holiday Inn on Detroit Lake. The Holiday Inn had a nice indoor pool area with a hot tub and small zero entry pool area for little ones. They also offered free paddle boat and fishing gear rentals during your stay.
We ventured over to Long Bridge where the boys bravely opted to jump off the bridge. My mom insists I’m creating little dare devils. She may be right but I’m thankful they love adventure and we had an amazing trip making memories with family.