Finally… family vacation! It’s been a while since we took the kids on a vacation. Our last one was a year ago in April-May when we visited Europe. Kids have been behaving pretty good lately, so this time, it will be about them. They like rides, games, knights, fairy tales, and swimming. The destination should have all of those requirements. Minnesota was chosen. It’s only 3 and a half hour away, has Valleyfair, and the Renaissance Festival is scheduled when we’re there. Kids made a list ahead of time of things they wanted to do in MN, and sure enough the list contains ‘amusement park’, ‘rides’, ‘cotton candies’, ‘fun swimming pool’, ‘festivals’, ‘horses’, ‘pizza’, ‘zoo’, ‘games’, and ‘movies’.

Finding a hotel. It’s not an easy one because we wanted to make sure the hotel has a swimming pool, not too far from the fun places, has spacey rooms, but not too expensive. Since the Renaissance Festival takes place in Shakopee, MN, we focused our search around this area. And what do you know… Shakopee has Valleyfair! Found a decent hotel in Eden Prairie (just 15 minutes drive to the Valleyfair and probably 20 minutes to the Renaissance Festival) and it has its own pool… yiipee!

Day 1, Friday Sep 18: Up and at ‘Em!

After a long drive (for the kids) last night from Ames, IA to Eden Prairie, MN, today we visited the Valleyfair. Got there a little too early *gee… I wonder why* It’s a nice size for an amusement park, not so small yet not too big. They have a good number of rides for our kids (ages 5 and 3) to participate. Unfortunately, the 80++ bucks we pay for all of us isn’t enough to ride all the rides. There are some cool rides that required extra payment inside.

Good thing is, there are free shows scheduled throughout the day for us to see, like the ‘Extreme Canines Stunt Dog Show’, ‘Movie Magic: Lights, Camera, Action and You!’ (for this one, Davi got to be on stage and volunteered as the SuperGirl), ‘Rhythms of the World’, etc. KidWorks -a special area for kids under 5 years old- has a performance every couple of hours where they play music and dance. Just check the information board or get a brochure which is available all over the park.

When it comes to rides, I’m kind of picky. I can do coasters, but spinning motion makes me dizzy. Davi’s case is similar, she was not very happy after The Wave (a water flume ride), while Dante went for a second ride with dad. A visit to an amusement park won’t be the same if you don’t try the games, right? Kids tried 4 of them and they came back with three stuffed animals. Not so bad, eh?

Left the park around 3:30-4:00 pm with painful feet and bodyache. Stopped at this horse track for a couple of hours before we head back to the hotel. Bid a little… won a little.

Day 2, Saturday Sep 19: When Grownups Play ‘Make Believe’

Renaissance Festival or Renaissance Faire or the Faire. Always wanted to go to one. What’s it like? Curious, I checked this out. It actually warns me: “If you’ve never been to a Faire, then it’s hard to convey a sense of it. Most people when they go for the first time are overcome by the sheer number of things to see”. And they’re right. After we bought the admission tickets for $8 per person and paid $10 per car to park in a woodsy area of Shakopee, we found ourselves walking towards what appear to be a castle from the front (it’s just a prop). As we entered the gate, I was overcome by the sights of people dresses in costumes: bodises, corsets, chemises, dresses, gowns, crowns, and swords. Wow… these people are really serious about their make believe game.

As we engaged with the activities, I noticed they’re calling the visitor by ‘my lady‘ or ‘my lord‘ and introduced themselves as Lady this or Sir that. They also talk to you in Elizabethan. Done with kids activities, we went exploring the place a little further. Hm… a show. Gypsy-like men with percussion, belly dancing, fire-eater, that was cool. But what’s with this Xena-like mass yelling every now and then?

Food was OK, a bit pricey, though. Love the pickles. The Fairy Godmother and Mother Goose were fun, and the games were interesting. Make sure you bring enough small bills to pay for the rides, games, and activities, nothing is free here.

MN Renaissance Faire ~ Aug 2006

More pics here>

Day 3, Saturday Sep 20: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Obviously, the kids felt a day in Valleyfair isn’t enough. On our way home, we visited a cute little neighborhood in St. Paul to see the Como Park and Zoo. No charge for the zoo, but they’d appreciate donations. The size isn’t too big, which is perfect to us to walk around without having to kill our feet. With a very close distance, we went to the really nice park. Como Park has some neat features; although nothing compared to Valleyfair, I’m sure we’ll come to this park again when we’re visiting the Twin Cities.