Great Minnesota Autism Adventures

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Minnesota is a great place to live, especially if you have a young child with autism. As a family, we love to plan adventures and discover new places. If you are looking for fun, check out our kid-focused and sensory-friendly list of favorites.

Indoor Playtime
During the winter months we like to hang out at the Williston Treehouse in Minnetonka. Our kids enjoy climbing, sliding and swinging through the “trees.” As parents, we appreciate the enclosed space, the convenient tables and chairs set up for snack time, and the inexpensive price tag, even if you are not a member.

Williston Fitness Center also has a zero depth swimming pool that is perfect for young families. There is a small frog waterslide, a few fountains, and a pelican that predictably pours water, but no surprises. Williston can get a bit loud during busy times, so if high volume is a challenge, call the front desk to ask when playtime is more mellow.

If your kids like bouncy houses, Jumps and Downs in Shakopee is another great destination. It is big enough to hold about five inflatables, but small enough that parents can always find their children. My husband and I have just as much fun as our kids because parents are encouraged to join their kids and jump!

A Day at the Beach
Why didn’t this exist when I was a kid? The Three Rivers Park District has a Swimming Pond that is man-made. For kids that are unsure about the water, this place makes swimming outdoors more predictable. There are no fish and no seaweed. Just like the beach, the cool, refreshing water is surrounded by sand and gets deeper the further out you go, up to six feet. Unlike the beach, the water is clean and filtered. There is a place to change your clothes, use the bathroom and buy refreshments. And the large shady beach umbrellas offer welcome breaks from the warm summer sun.

The Triple Play
The City of St. Louis Park has three of my favorite destinations. I like to start my day at the Westwood Hills Nature Center. There are short walking trails through the woods or a longer trail that loops around the lake. My kids search for wildlife in the marsh and look for turtles as we wander over the bridges. The interpretive center is a great place to learn and play with animal themed toys, books and exhibits that inspire even the youngest naturalist. The beautiful landscape, outdoor playground, and red-tailed hawk have made this place a family favorite.

Second is the Oak Hill Splash Pad.  If your kids like running through water and splashing in puddles, then you have found the sprinkler jackpot. The Splash Pad is located in a quiet neighborhood and surrounded by a latched fence. If you have time, stay for the afternoon. There are basketball courts, playground equipment and plenty of tables to enjoy a picnic lunch.

Finally, if you have not seen it already, the marble maze on the ceiling of Creative Kidstuff is amazing.  If you are near the West End, stop by to turn the crank a few times. Kids enjoy moving marbles up a conveyor belt and onto a wire track. Along the ceiling, a chain-reaction of chimes, wheels and gadgets fill the store with music. When I visit, the employees recognize me and say hello. I shop here a lot. Partly because of the maze, and partly because this retailer partners with St. David’s Center (and CEA, too!) to provide excellent service to kids living with autism, helping them to grow and thrive.

What works for your family?  Leave a comment and inspire the next great Minnesota adventure!

Author: Katie

Katie lives in Minnetonka with her husband and two boys. In 2010, doctors and educators diagnosed her three-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then she has been learning about autism, building community, and navigating the system.

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