A plethora of options to do with kids.
Rochester has long been known as a great place to raise a family. What makes it great? For one, there is a lot to do in the area. I researched community offerings and composed an overview of some of the best activities for you and your kiddos this winter. And luckily, there’s something for children of all ages.
Quarry Hill Nature Center is a go-to place in spring, summer and fall, and winter is no different. Layer on your gear and head to the nature center. Then it’s a tough choice—do you prefer cross country skiing or snowshoeing? Get your equipment and head out on Quarry Hill’s more than 8 miles of groomed trails with varying levels of difficulty from beginner to expert.
If raucous fun is more your game, grab your sleds and head to Rochester’s famous Judd Park for sledding, or get in the car and head to Stewartville for snow tubing at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch. For tubing, register online in advance and share the hill with up to 80 fellow snow lovers. Tubers of all ages are welcome and tubing time runs two hours. Pack your own snacks and cocoa (hot water and cups are provided) and sit in the warm chalet bragging about your tubing exploits.
Head to Welch Village or Coffee Mill for downhill skiing. No doubt familiar faces will emerge under the ski hats on the slopes, and you can enjoy some chalet time together. Rochester’s Michelle Baskett takes her kids Olivia, 12, and Donovan, 10, skiing a few times per season at Welch Village, and has for the past four years. She says teaching them to ski was tough “but it was worth it!” Her favorite outing was a quiet weekday when the fam had the slopes largely to themselves.
STAYING INDOORS ON WINTERY DAYS
Is there anything more classic than bowling as a family to escape the weather? Bowlocity is our city’s can’t-miss place for indoor fun, and it has built a strong reputation among families as being a memorable destination. Bowlocity Entertainment Center’s owners renovated what was once Recreation Lanes and unveiled a fun haven with a 45-game arcade and a two-story, state-of-the-art laser tag arena.
Renee Kuehl, Rochester mom and stepmom to five youth, says Bowlocity is the ideal setting for her family during the winter months. “All of our kids ages 5 to 17 love to bowl, plus the oldest kids enjoy laser tag, while the youngest plays in the arcade. Followed by pizza for dinner, this is the perfect afternoon or evening out for a crew like ours!”
Perhaps you’d like to physically challenge those kiddos, and if that’s the case, head to the Recreation Center for skating, swimming or gym time. You can also try the latest craze, pickleball, on the Rec Center’s indoor courts. Or go downtown to the Rochester Area Family YMCA with a day pass (for non-members) and enjoy the Y’s water park.
Story time at ABC Toy Zone is a favorite for younger children and takes place on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Listen to classic tales such as “Baby Beluga,” “Wheels on the Bus” and the age-old favorite “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” and then amble around ABC and get inspired by what is no doubt among the city’s best toy selection.
Monkey Junction and Pipsqueaks are indoor play options for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and have all the makings of big fun with a wide variety of playthings for the kids. At Monkey Junction, try to attend story hour. It comes with a free snack, and who can pass up that when toting around those always-hungry munchkins?
GOT THE VAN GOGH FEELING?
Maybe infusing your family with a love for the arts is your goal and if so, again—Rochester has you covered. You’ve got ample choices, including the Rochester Art Center, Rochester Civic Theatre and Honors Choirs of Southeast Minnesota as options to ponder.
If you’re concerned your kids are too squirrely for staying still in theater seats, you can also introduce the young’uns to art in more casual settings at both Forager Brewery and Dunn Brothers on Elton Hills Drive. Indulge in cups of cocoa for the kids and java for you and browse the art on the walls. Bring chat packs, journals or coloring books to inspire conversation and creativity.
For a totally unique offering, take a soap making class at Simple Soaps for Simple Folks in nearby Dover. Owner and soap maker Shanna McCann often has families attend her popular classes. She welcomes kids ages 6 and older who are accompanied by an adult for these sessions. You bring your own soap mold and learn how to make McCann’s goat milk soaps from start to finish (save milking the goats, obviously).
“Families like the educational part of learning about the differences between handmade and commercial soaps, as well as the visual of seeing the soap made right in front of them,” McCann says. Register online at igoatsoap.com.
Rochester Community Education offers many fun activities for kids and their parents. Learn to swim with a water readiness class, or take a space vacation at the planetarium. Or hey, enjoy a music class with your infant or toddler. If creativity is more your game, there’s a creating creativity class; and if activity is your niche, you can dance, skate, play basketball or go rock climbing. You can also create a canvas painting, build a bird feeder or plan a Valentine’s Day celebration. School-age kiddos can learn chess, French and Spanish. Register online for these options and more at rochesterce.org/register
Renee Berg is a local freelance writer who has amassed 15 years of experience raising kids in Rochester.