The weather outside is frightful, and because this is January in Minnesota, it’s probably going to stay that way for a while. Cabin fever is all too real, and if you’ve got kids at home, you’re likely feeling its effects doubly (or triply). But there’s no need for you and your family to simply sit around waiting for spring. There are plenty of ways to have fun indoors throughout the winter, and we’ve put together a list of some of the lake area’s best—places where your kids can exercise their bodies and brains, and moms and dads can make it through the season with your sanity intact.
Mini Hops Gymnastics
Kids of all ages can find something to do at Mini Hops Gymnastics. “We have programming for ages as young as 12 months to as old as 18 years, and in addition to classes, there are camps, special events and open gym,” says Jessica Chavez, marketing and communications director. From structured classes on the fundamentals of gymnastics to free-play sessions in which kids can run, jump and tumble as they please, Mini Hops offers a wide range of activities. Its 40,000-square-foot space means there’s plenty of room.
Even if your little one isn’t destined to be the next Simone Biles, there is much they can learn from gymnastics. “What we really focus on, no matter what [families] are here for, is that kids are learning life lessons through the physical sport of gymnastics,” says Chavez. “They’re definitely getting a lot of energy out. They’re getting to play and have a good time, but they’re also inherently learning some key components to becoming a functioning, contributing adult in society—how to listen, how to work together, how to wait your turn.”
Open gym punch cards go on sale this month, and registration for classes is always open. For more details, call or visit Mini Hops’ website.
Mini Hops Gymnastics, 2600 Campus Drive, Plymouth;
9 a.m.–9 p.m. Monday–Thursday, 9 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday; open only for birthday parties on Sundays.
Big Thrill Factory
A locally owned leader in the “eatertainment” industry, Big Thrill Factory, as its name suggests, specializes in fun and thrills for both kids and adults alike. “Eat, Play, Celebrate” is the organization’s motto, and it certainly fulfills it. The menu is sure to please the whole family—pizza, sliders, sandwiches and wings, and a range of beer and wine selections for mom and dad. There is no excuse for boredom at Big Thrill Factory either—the Minnetonka location has arcade games, bowling, laser tag, bumper cars, trampolines, climbing walls and go karts, so you don’t even have to brace for the cold to have fun. And if it’s a celebration you’re after, Big Thrill Factory is the perfect place to have it. Private rooms and meeting spaces make events of all sizes easy. Whether it’s a group of 10 or 100, their event planning staff will ensure your time there is both fun and memorable.
Throughout the winter, Big Thrill Factory will offer weekly specials with discounts on arcade games, laser tag and bowling. Happy hour is every Sunday through Friday. Enjoy discounted appetizers and a dollar off all beers while gearing up to take on the family in bumper cars—or just sit back and relax while the kids run off all their energy.
Big Thrill Factory, 17585 Highway 7, Minnetonka; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Sunday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.–11 p.m. Saturday.
No matter how cold it gets outside, it’s always perfectly pleasant at InnerActive Playground. Owners Stacy and Ted Anderson are parents of two boys, so they recognize the importance of ensuring children have a safe and fun place to let loose, even when the weather isn’t cooperating. Their indoor play center makes for a clean, comfortable and climate-controlled environment—a perfect place to bring the kids not only so they can release some pent-up energy, but also so they can exercise their imagination and creativity.
InnerActive Playground is open every day of the year and offers both play passes and memberships for families with children ages 1 to 17. There are separate play areas for toddlers and older kids, in addition to a basketball court, soccer field, climbing wall and kangaroo jumper pillow. The space is also available for private birthday parties and field trips—just call ahead to reserve it.
InnerActive Playground, 131 Cheshire Lane Suite 100, Minnetonka; 7:30 a.m.–9 p.m. daily.
Williston Tree House and Splash Pad
Inside Minnetonka’s Williston Fitness Center is a play area exclusively for kids ages 12 and under. The facility’s tree house and splash pad mean running, climbing and swimming don’t have to be relegated to the warm months, and the affordable admission fee (free for Williston members and $6 for non-members) means the fun won’t break the bank, either. Between the tree house’s ropes, slides, bridges and monkey rings and the splash pad’s wading pool, fountains and frog-shaped water slide, the activities at Williston are sure to tire out even the most energetic little ones.
Williston Fitness Center, 14509 Minnetonka Drive, Minnetonka; 6 a.m.–11 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Sunday.
Ridgedale Center Play Area
If you’ve got cooped up toddlers at home, a trip to the mall might just be in order. Ridgedale Center boasts a fun and inviting play area specifically for tiny tots. Located in the mall’s lower level, the space is home to a plethora of toys, jungle gyms, tunnels and the like. With comfortable seating options for parents and coffee not too far away, you’ll be able to sit back and relax while your kids tire themselves out, and best of all, you won’t have to spend a single cent (unless you opt for a shopping spree afterwards, that is).
Ridgedale Center, 12401 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. daily.