Back to the City for Back to School!

Whether your family’s summer was full of baseball games, fishing at the lake, or just hanging out with friends, I hope it was like ours: a grand reprieve from the structure and routine of the school schedule. I know—summer’s not officially over until the Fall Equinox in late September, but that’s just a technicality! Ask any kid and they’ll tell you summer winds down on Labor Day Weekend.

In some ways September is more a New Year’s event than January, especially for families with school-age kids. It’s a fresh start with new teachers, a new set of classmates, and a whole new set of goals and challenges. Labor Day weekend offers a perfect opportunity to say farewell to summer while kick-starting the school year. Instead of another trip to the lake or another relaxing picnic gathering, families can embrace the upcoming school year with an urban weekend that jumpstarts the brains after a long lazy summer, and fills the closets with back-to-school gear.

Midwesterners have an easy choice for a Labor Day urban getaway: Minneapolis is easy to get to and easy to negotiate, with great vacation rentals and more than enough culture to engage the whole family. Whether your family gravitates towards art, science, or theater, you can find it on Labor Day Weekend, plus fill in the gaps with great shopping.

Spend an afternoon meandering the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for a look at how people have expressed themselves across the globe and through time, from African masks to Japanese scrolls. Then go big and head over to one of my favorite spots, the Walker Sculpture Garden, where the Standing Frame sculpture frames the city scenes and Prophecy of the Ancients frames the sky. The sculptures in this garden aim to change your perspective on the world, and one way or another they do succeed.

Across the river in St. Paul, the experiment gallery in the Science Museum of Minnesota is a favorite destination for kids of all ages, followed by a visit through the dinosaur and fossil exhibit. The best reason to go to this science museum over Labor Day?  It’s the last chance to walk like an Egyptian through the King Tut exhibit – it closes right after Labor Day.

If your family is more into Shakespeare than mummies, here is a good option: take in a performance of Hamlet, a modern take on the classic story, at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. After which you might ask… “To shop, or not to shop?” and the answer will definitely be “Shop!” Without a doubt, you’ll want to give yourselves a full day for the Mall of America, where you can break up the shopping with adrenaline-charged roller coaster rides and flight simulator experiences, or head for a quieter diversion in the aquarium.  Whichever activities you choose to fill the urban getaway, it’ll add up to a great transition back to the new school routine, and maybe will even become a family tradition.

Suzanne Johnson lives, writes and plays in the Cascade mountains of Oregon with her family of adventure-prone boys. More of her writing can be found a SuzanneMyhreJohnson.com.

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