We didn’t have far to go and we made frequent stops- the best way to road trip with a three-year-old and a fifteen-month-old. Last year, we camped overnight in Taylors Falls and spent two days exploring the area. Taylors Falls is a convenient, beautiful destination for a weekend camping trip from the Twin Cities, and the city makes a great central base. The town and surrounding areas have lots of entertainment options for kids and adults – a water park, alpine slide, hiking trails, river tours, canoe and kayak rentals, rock climbing, and lots more! This year we skipped the camping and settled for a day trip instead. Conveniently located not far from the Twin Cities, Taylors Falls and surrounding area make a perfect day trip destination. We took back roads, made a pit stop in Stillwater, popped on over to Wisconsin and returned home by six. Perfect for fall, the road trip meanders alongside the St. Croix with fall foliage patch-worked overhead while signs for apple orchards, pumpkin patches, honey, maple syrup, and vineyards dot the landscape.
First Stop: Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater, MN. With an abundance of amazing playgrounds in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit this park, but it does give kids a chance to get out of the car and run around and play on some unique playground equipment and a fun (for my climber) sand and rock cliffs area. When planning your trip, bear in mind Stillwater is crowded on the weekends. We snagged the last parking spot and had a pleasant experience at the crowded park, but parking issues and an overly crowded park would not make the stop pleasant. Stillwater is a destination in itself and offers lots of other spots for a pit stop. You can wander the streets for some window-shopping or walk along the river. Check out Candyland for sea salt caramel popcorn, Nelson’s for mega servings of ice cream, or have a picnic near the water.
Second Stop: Fawn-Doe-Rosa in St. Croix Falls, WI. This is our second visit and I’m sure we’ll be back again. Where else can your toddler sit down next to and pet a deer as well as feed goats, sheep, horses, cows, rabbits, chickens, pigs, and more?! It’s a unique place and a great choice if you want to give your city dwelling kids a dose of wildlife. Our baby loved holding her hand out with food and laughed when the animal lips tickled her fingers. “Keep your fingers flat,” I repeated incessantly, fearful the animals might accidentally nip little fingers, but the animals were very gentle and carefully extracted food from little fingers. There’s also a picnic area, pony rides, and a shop full of goodies.
Taylors Falls Drive-In is a fun stop for a meal or putt-putt golf. We packed sandwiches and snacks and so took off straight to our third stop.
Third Stop: Franconia Sculpture Garden in Franconia, MN. I love this place and it’s free, which makes me love it even more! With over 100 sculptures, many hands-on and kid-friendly, this is a perfect alterna-playground for kids (and adults) and a great place for a stroll- it’s massive! The three-year-old loves to climb and said her favorite part of the trip was the “black ladder”- climbing the roof of a half-house. Who knew climbing a roof would beat petting a deer? In the end, my children had a fun day of experiences, memories, exercise and nature.