I was reluctant to relocate from south Minneapolis to the suburbs. I couldn’t see how leaving behind my favorite lakeside running trails, walkable coffee shops and chef-driven restaurants in exchange for a longer commute, a bigger yard and a cookie-cutter house was an even trade.
Two kids later, I’ve learned that home might not always be where the heart is, but the heart can catch up. These days, my perfect Saturday includes exploring the wide open spaces of the northwest suburbs with my family. There’s no place I’d rather be. When we get an itch for the city life — and we do often — there’s always date nights.
7 a.m.: Breakfast at home in Plymouth, then pack up the bikes and a picnic lunch.
8 a.m.: I’ve already had a carafe of French press to myself, but it’s not enough for the energy I’ll need for our day ahead, so we stop for coffee and hot cocoa at Daily Dose Cafe and Espresso (15517 N. Grove Circle, Maple Grove). This locally owned gem is tucked away in a strip mall, but reminds me of my favorite Minneapolis cafes — nothing fancy, just really great food and coffee. Plus, my daughter loves seeing a bear or a fire-blowing dragon in the froth of her hot chocolate. Seriously, best latte art ever.
8:30-10:30 a.m.: Minneapolis has the Chain of Lakes. Maple Grove has Elm Creek Park Reserve. This is the largest park in the Three Rivers Park District, so we plan to stay awhile. At the Creative Play Area (12400 James Deane Pkwy., Maple Grove), kids can climb a rock wall or an 18-foot net, dig in the sand for a 30-foot dinosaur fossil, pick from seven slides and get dizzy by swinging on giant discs. There are plenty of spots for parents to sit and watch their kids.
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: The kids are ready for a break, so we’re off on our bikes to the Eastman Nature Center (13351 Elm Creek Rd., Osseo). With luck, they’ll doze off on the 3-mile bike ride through the preserve. The nature center has several activity and learning stations. The last time we were there, there was a “bee farm” where we watched real bees make honeycomb and fill it with honey.
1-3 p.m.: We have worked up an appetite and are ready to cool off with a picnic and swimming at the Elm Creek swimming pond. This is a manmade pond with filtered water and a sand bottom. Most of the pond is 2 to 3 feet deep with some deeper spots that are roped off.
3:30 p.m.: Back home to meet the babysitter before we head to St. Paul for a date.
6:30 p.m.: W.A. Frost (374 Selby Av., St. Paul) is a special place for my fiancé and me, so we find ourselves back here for dinner, then sipping bootleg cocktails on the patio. This drink is widely considered Minnesota’s official cocktail and is made with lemonade and limeade, blended with mint, plus vodka or gin and club soda. The most refreshing way to end a perfect day.
8 p.m.: Back home — the kids are waiting for us to tuck them into bed.