10 things to do with your kids on MEA weekend

Two campers
Fall camping trips in Minnesota's Boundary Waters mean no bugs, no permit fee and cold nights. Bring a warm sleeping bag and layers of clothing to stay comfortable.
File | Courtesy Annemarie Rodriguez

Most school children in Minnesota have this coming Thursday and Friday off, a break that happens every year to coincide with a teachers' convention in St. Paul.

These four days are often called "MEA Weekend." The weekend is not just a chance for some teachers to brush up on skills. Many families have also come to depend on the break as a last chance to get away before the winter.

As Minnesotans prepare for the annual four-day MEA break, MPR News host Tom Weber asked Stephanie Ash, who edits Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine and the Juice Box blog, and elementary school teacher Tim Kennedy, who writes MinnyApple.com, for their tips and took calls and online suggestions from you.

Family outings:

1) Take in a game, visit a college

Fall is a great time to visit colleges since they are in session and can give your prospective higher ed learner a glimpse into campus life and learning.

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The Gopher women's soccer team is strong this year and play Michigan State Thursday. The Gopher women's volleyball team is also impressive this year and they play Saturday.

2) Head to the Science Museum

Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery launches Thursday at the science museum. If you go, catch the Humpback whale movie currently showing in the Omni Theatre.

3) Head to Brainerd

Water parks like Arrowood Lodge, Three Bear Waterpark are good bad weather backup options once you are there.

4) Head to Lanesboro

Great biking in the driftless area. The Root River Trail goes right through town. Unwind with a show at the Commonweal Theater.

5) Go to Chicago

Catch the train from Winona or St. Paul to downtown Chicago. See a show, eat some great food, walk the shore of Lake Michigan and explore a great museum or two.

6) Go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Bring a warm sleeping bag and plenty of layers for cold nights. Crisp bug-free days and abundant wildlife define the BWCA experience this time of year.

Less adventurous travelers should consider renting a camper cabin or yurt at a state park.

7) Head to Grand Marais

Moose Madness festival in Grand Marias, lookout for Murray the Moose photo bombing your selfies.

8) Go to the Badlands

Use the long weekend to make the 500-mile trek from the Twin Cities to visit the rugged Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

9) Read, or celebrate reading

The Twin Cities Book Festival takes over the State Fair Grounds with lots to do for all ages, and it is free.

10) Get lost

Take a stroll in the towering corn maze at the Twin Cities Harvest Festival

For parents who can't get off work:

Hire a well-trained middle-schooler or high schooler to watch your kids. They are off of school and could probably use the money.

There are also camps but they require some flexibility. The camps typically run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Here are two ideas:

Science Museum day camps
Minnesota Zoo, Zoo Camps