Spurred by "Covid guilt," families who stocked up on puzzles, games and craft materials may be finding their homes a bit full. They're increasingly looking to treat their children to experiences.
Minnesota has plenty of long-running, well-known kid-pleasers, such as the Twin Cities' science and children's museums, Mall of America's Crayola Experience and myriad sledding hills. But if you're looking for a few fresh ideas, we've selected five indoor and five outdoor activities that offer novel thrills — and make great gifts.


It's showtime

At Hopkins' Stages Theatre, kids perform "junior" versions of Broadway favorites, condensed and tweaked for a younger audience. "Once on This Island" and "Newsies" are slated for spring. (Each production includes one "pay what you can" performance.) stagestheatre.org.
To see high-flying tightrope and trapeze acts, head to the big top at St. Paul's Circus Juventas, the country's largest youth circus school. Young performers put on original themed shows, packing each dramatic story line with Cirque du Soleil-style aerial acrobatics and other awe-inspiring tricks. circusjuventas.org

Great gaming

Old-school video gamers can play Pac-Man or Donkey Kong at various metro arcades, including Starcade in Rosedale Center, home to the state's largest collection of more than 150 machines from the 1970s-1990s ($15 to play all day). starcade.us
For the latest in video game tech, virtual reality experiences at spots such as Rem 5 VR Lab in St. Louis Park let you slip on a pair of goggles and immerse yourself in all sorts of activities, from throwing punches in a simulated boxing ring to performing ersatz office tasks. rem5vr.com


A veritable Lego-polooza of colorful plastic bricks turn into creative constructions at the Minneapolis branch of Snapology. A range of classes teach kids science and engineering via play, through building programmable robots or creating stop-motion animation videos. Saturday morning Latte & Lego Bricks events give kids ages 5-14 free rein with bricks, train tracks, marble mazes and more while parents relax at Bob's Java Hut next door ($12, includes coffee voucher). snapology.com

Park Thrills

A day of trampolines and ropes courses inside is just the thing when parks and backyards are covered in ice. Some indoor adventure parks, like Urban Air's locations in Coon Rapids and Plymouth, offer a few novel thrills, including a "Sky Rider" zipline-like ride that soars and zigzags above the other park attractions. (All-day passes are $26.99 to $41.49 depending on attractions; $11.99 for those 5 and under). urbanair.com
Or Play trampoline dodge ball in the special bouncy courts at Zero Gravity Trampoline Park in Mounds View. (Tickets start at $11.99 for 60 minutes). zerogravitymn.com


Kids can play mini-golf year round at a few fabulous spots in the Twin Cities, including the Mall of America's two courses (it's $19.99 for a pass to both Moose Mountain Adventure Golf and Rock of Ages Blacklight Minigolf). mallofamerica.com
At the epically wacky, artist-designed course at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul, the 18 holes have putters dodging a twirling tornado, sending their ball through a waterfall and banking off cozy crocheted afghan-covered furniture. (Cover charges vary depending on day of visit; golfing fees are $13 for kids under 12 and $15 for 12+) cancanwonderland.com


Terrific Tubing

Compared to sledding, snow tubing offers a more cushioned descent — and a towrope assist to get back up the hill. Among the many snow tubing sites around the state, those at ski resorts offer the longest, steepest runs. Some have nighttime events with colorful light shows projected onto the snow, including Northern Lights at Buck Hill in Burnsville (buckhill.com); Starlight Tubing at Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls (wildmountain.com); and Glow Tubing at Spirit Mountain in Duluth (spiritmt.com). Most hills have age and height restrictions.

Ski Season

Learning how to ski or snowboard can give kids more ways to enjoy winter — and several metro parks offer equipment rentals and lessons. For cross-country skiing, Minneapolis' Theodore Wirth Regional Park has 14 miles of trails and snow-making capabilities to extend the season. loppet.org
In St. Paul, the Como Park Ski Center supports a 5K cross-country loop and "Mount Como," which has multiple towropes, a 100-foot vertical drop, and a Friday night special of a lift ticket and rental for $20. skimtcomo.com.
The Three Rivers Park District offers an expansive cross-country trail network throughout, as well as two downhill sites, Hyland Hills in Bloomington and Elm Creek in Maple Grove, which have several bunny hill options, some with "magic carpets" for an easier ride back up. threeriversparks.org

Dogged adventure

Gliding at high speed through the deep snow, pulled by a powerful team of dogs that clearly delight in their job — dogsledding offers a wintertime thrill unlike any other. In Minnesota, we're lucky to have many options to get a taste of this northern sport, including Points Unknown near Grand Marais, where a "Taste of the North Woods Dog Sledding Experience" ($165 for kids 5-12, $209 for adults, kids must ride with a participating adult) includes feeding post-sledding treats to the beautiful Hedlund Huskies and petting them, a major highlight for any young animal lover. points-unknown.com

Llama llove

Visiting a llama farm — and taking one of the sunny, gentle creatures for a walk, brushing them and giving them an all-important hug — is a surefire way to brighten anyone's day, any time of year. Carlson's Llovable Llamas in Waconia books visits through the winter months and their animals are so docile, even a toddler can walk them on a lead ($16 per person, babies under 1 are free). carlsonsllovablellamas.com

Super Snowmobiling

For kids who really like to cruise, snowmobiling is a fun option — and many Minnesota resorts offer rentals and guided trips. Age limits vary, but many allow minors to drive as long as they are accompanied on the snowmobile with an adult. For smaller kids itching to get behind the wheel, there's a rental mini-snowmobile (for kids less than 90 pounds) and specially designed "Kitty Cat Snowmobile Track" at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd ($20 for 20 minutes). craguns.com