After we loaded the minivan with our suitcase, favorite snack bag and activity bag, we headed toward the “State of 10,000 Lakes” aka Minnesota. Our plan was to visit the Mall of America and St. Paul Children’s Museum. The 5 hour ride was peaceful due to each child having their snack bag and activity bag.
We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in Edina. Residence Inn hotels was designed as extended stay places for business travelers though they are perfect for families. Each unit typically comes with a separate bedroom, fully equipped kitchen, and full service breakfast. During the week, these hotels offer evening snacks and beverages.
Our breakfast at the hotel was good with a variety of breads, scrambled eggs, sausage, waffle station, yogurt and cereal.
Connected to the hotel is The Edinborough Park. This building includes a beautifully landscaped huge indoor play ground with a swimming pool, running track and fitness area and amphitheater. A full schedule of free cultural arts programs with music, dance, theater and visual arts are posted in the park.
Both kids thought the hotel was awesome with the indoor play area and the room had a microwave for making popcorn at night. According to the kids, the only downside was no donoughts at breakfast. My only downside was no hot tub.
A short walk from the hotel is Centennial Lakes. This park is also beautifully landscaped with 10-acre lake surrounded by 1.5 miles of walkway. There are formal and informal seating areas, swinging benches and fountains.
During the summer, people can rent paddleboats, fish, cheer on remote-controlled sailboat races, explore a maze, and try a putting course or croquet and lawn bowling court. The park also has a large amphitheater for hosting cultural events, meetings or social events.
In winter, the lake becomes a large ice skating rink. Dogs are welcome on the trail though we found this problematic as Ally Cat had to stop and say, “Hi” to every dog. Our short walk turned into an entire afternoon.
The second day we went to Mall of America. We only had time for the Nickelodeon Universe. Whenever Andy participates in an activity that is “unlimited”, we are the first people to arrive and the last to leave. As such, we never made it to Underwater Adventure. By the time evening arrived, we were and hungry and exhausted. While the park is more for the 10 & under crowd, older kids will find a few fun things.
Teenager’s favorite was the log ride since you get wet and the Ghostly Walker which is best described as a multi-layered tight walk.
Ally Cat loved the “Wonder Pets FlyBoat” because it gently bounced the kids up and down. The Character Meet and Greet with Dora, Diego and SpongeBob was a big hit.
On our third day, we drove to the St. Paul Children’s Museum. This museum is brightly colored and huge with 5 floors filled with different activities.
Ally Cat’s favorite room is “Our World.” It is best described as a kid size town with post office, grocery store, restaurant, etc.
The Teenager’s favorite was the anthill in “Earth World.” The room was built to look and feel like a real anthill with different tunnels, paths, and walkway and ant costumes. The only downside was story time, both kids thought the narrow room made for overcrowding and difficulties in seeing and hearing the book being read.
How I Did It For Free:
Gas: Each morning I spent 10 minutes playing Sony Rewards to earn points. These points could be converted to a variety of prizes and gift cards. I accumulated enough points for $200 in gas gift cards.
Hotel: Chase Bank offered the Marriott Reward Credit Card with a bonus of one free night plus 50,000 membership reward points. I used the free night for the first day; the next two nights were covered by 30,000 of the 50,000 membership reward points. (Marriott brand hotels vary in points required per night.) I still have 20,000 points left from the credit card reward program for another 1-2 nights at a Marriott Hotel.
Mall of America, Nickelodeon Universe: I recently completed a study with 20/20 Research for $125 visa gift card as compensation. This was enough to cover our admission to the park.
St Paul’s Children Museum: Each year for Christmas, my parents gift us a Preferred Membership to Children’s Museum. With a Preferred Family Membership, you receive 2 national museum memberships (Association of Children’s Museum and Association of Science-Technology Centers) which allow free admission to member museums across the country and Canada.
Food: The full service breakfast at the hotel kept us full until mid-afternoon. The first day we ate at Chili’s using gift cards I earned from the My Coke Rewards Program and free meal certificates the kids earned from school. The second day we ate at Noodles and Company using the money I made from completing a mystery shop. The third day we ate at a fast food chain which was part of a mystery shop that I was completing at the same time The best part of this meal was we ate for free plus I earned compensation for completing my mystery shop.