Hit the Town With Family This Winter

by | Dec 2023

Visiting an art museum.

Illustration: Jamie Klang

Think out of the (gift) box when planning holiday experiences.

When visitors come to town over the holidays, hosts can be hard-pressed when it comes to planning “things to do.” And a similar situation can be had when adult children return home for the holidays. While the excitement of having full beds and occupied seats around the dining table rarely takes a dip, there can be times when a little infusion of excitement and fun out of the house is needed.

There are many opportunities throughout the Metro to take a little holiday time field trip. Let’s take a look at a few places to go and things to do that can put a whole lot of merry and happy in your holiday season.

Exercising a bit of creativity is good for everyone’s soul. Visit the easily accessible art exhibits at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, 2240 N. Shore Drive, Wayzata; 952.473.7361; minnetonkaarts.org

Check out the public open skating schedule at the Plymouth Ice Center in preparation to carve ice with fellow skaters. 3650 Plymouth Blvd., Plymouth; 763.509.5260; plymouthmn.gov

Don’t leave out your furry guests. If you’re not the only one suffering from cabin fever, bring your four-legged friend to an indoor dog park like Brew Park Plymouth, 2605 Fernbrook Lane. N. Suite J, Plymouth; 763.337.4433; brewparkplymouth.com

Jack Russell Terrier Dog Lying On Grass Biting Red Toy


Embrace the Bold North with downhill and Nordic skiing, tubing and more thanks to incredible programming at the Three Rivers Park District, locations vary; 763.559.9000; threeriversparks.org.

Tip: Be sure to check trail and hill accessibility and conditions and equipment rental.

Who doesn’t love a great holiday light show, especially from the warmth and comfort of your car? Check out the Valleyfair (drive-thru) Light Show, 1 Valley Fair Drive, Shakopee; 952.445.7600; valleyfair.com.

Snowshoe through 11 miles of trails along more than 1,200 acres of woodland, prairie and open fields at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska; 612.624.2200; arb.umn.edu.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum outdoor trails.

Photo: Aldo Abelleira

Tip: Be sure to check about trail accessibility and equipment rental.

More to the Story

One might assume that family bonding happens early in a child’s life, and no more effort is required after a certain point. All relationships, including those between child and parent, need continued engagement.

“Relationships require ongoing work, maintenance and nurturing,” says Tai J. Mendenhall, Ph.D., LMFT. “… the reality is that most relationships that fail do so because of neglect. We’re ‘too busy’ with other things to authentically nurture our relationships. We begin to take each other for granted.”

In some households, family members stop engaging beyond routine interactions, which can include the ubiquitous queries of: How was your day? When will you be home? And the like. There’s a risk that this can happen between family households. “We don’t call each other just to check in, say ‘Hi’ or just share something great that happened at our child’s school or in our work,” says Mendenhall, a professor at the University of Minnesota and medical family therapist with MHealth Fairview. “We experience visits as a chore and distraction from the things that we really want to do.”

Mendenhall reminds that family bonding should continue to be tended to maintain healthy connections. “Early attachment processes between infants/children and their caretakers (parents, grandparents, etc.) continue throughout the life course,” he says. “Relationships change and evolve, of course, as parents and children go from parent/child relationships to more adult/adult relationships, and this takes effort. Spend time together. Call each other. Have family Zoom calls every Sunday night for 30 minutes. Help each other with something around one of your respective homes. Don’t take each other for granted.”

“Cultivating and maintaining connections across generations is key in continuing family legacies, stories and related narratives,” Mendenhall continues to say. “Closeness, support and sense of belonging are basic human needs—and most of us receive (and offer) these things within family contexts.”

It Takes Two

The holidays can bring stress to families when they gather, and this can include when adult children are welcomed back into the household for a visit.

Mendenhall reminds parents that their children are now adults. “The manners in which they do any variety of things may be different than the ways that you would do things (e.g., cook, hang a towel in the bathroom, drive), but your job as a parent is no longer to guide, teach, discipline, etc., like it was when they were young,” he says. “Pick your battles, and remember that the visit is temporary. Enjoy time together—visiting, sharing, playing games, seeing shows, exchanging gifts, etc.. And don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Adult children also have some things to bear in mind. “Remember that your parents are still your parents, and that you are staying in their home,” Mendenhall says. “Respect that. Don’t change the thermostat without asking them if it’s OK first. Clean up after yourself. Engage with them in authentic conversations—not while you scroll through social media and watch TV.” And he reiterates the importance of picking battles, recognizing the visit won’t last forever, enjoying that time together and employing the age-old adage—Don’t sweat the small stuff.


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