A few years ago on our family vacation, we visited an aquarium, a theme park, and a city full of shows and rides and novelty entertainment. After our stay, I asked the family what their favorite part of vacation was and all three of my children answered….mini golf.
What? Mini golf? So this year, I decided to build our vacation on that and research the best mini golf courses near us in the midwest. What I found is that some of our options fell into a circuit, and this structured our itinerary for the midwest mini golf vacation!
We love clever titles so this vacation was dubbed our PPGA tour or Putt Putt Golf Adventure. My son was quick to point out that putt putt golf and mini golf are by definition two different things. Miniature golf is a version of regular golf and then putt putt golf is a version of miniature golf. Putt putt golf is easier with a fixed par of two for each hole and each player completes their turn before the next one starts. Like regular golf, mini golf has each player completing his/her first stroke and then play continues with the farthest ball from the hole. Mini golf typically has more obstacles on the course.
Because we have a family of working adults, we fit our PPGA tour into three days to avoid too many days away from work. That is a pretty great schedule if you’re primarily focused on these courses, but there will be hours of driving between so it’s good to take advantage of some of the other sights and stops along the way. We added an escape room and House on the Rock and could have benefitted by addiing an extra day!
Our Midwest Mini Golf Vacation Stops
Near and in St. Paul, Minnesota
Several of our players voted this as their favorite spot! Big Stone also features rock sculptures and art, and the course wove through a grove of trees that provided shade. This course was beautiful and challenging and full of bumpy greens with interesting obstacles. We all enjoyed the giant misters located halfway through the course. Although the course may be tricky for younger players, there are plenty of fun places to rest and an area with chickens and goats.
Cost: Adults $12, Children 10 and under $10. Be prepared to pay cash or check because they do not accept credit cards.
May be difficult for younger players. We had to wait about 20 minutes to play when we arrived in the middle of a hot holiday afternoon. It took us an hour to complete 10 holes because of the crowd so we didn’t get to play holes 11-14. Credit cards are not accepted. Awesome, beautiful course that ranked as a family favorite. Plus farm animals are cute!
More than just a miniature golf course, Can Can Wonderland is a fun hangout for families especially of tweens, teens and young adults. I have to say that us old folks also had a blast with the throwback pinball machines and arcade games like Ms. PacMan, Pong and Frogger. Ice cream and pizza were served on location and our adults enjoyed the pay-by-ounce self serve drinks on tap. We reserved our tee time and then played games and ate during our 1 ½ hour wait time for mini golf. The course, which is colorful and busy, was created from designs contributed in a local contest. This course includes many moving features like lilly pads and a ferris wheel. On Hole 18, you can either putt into the cup or set your ball on a tee and bat for a home run!
Cost: There is a cover charge of $10 per person. For mini golf: Adults (Age 12 +) are $15. Children under 12, Seniors over 62 and military are $13. Can Can is cashless and only accepts cards.
Pricey is all you want is golf. But a lot of fun for the money, and a great place to keep the family entertained and fed for hours.
Conveniently located for us since we were looping along the western side of Madison, this place is a mini golf paradise for all ages! Big beautiful features and obstacles for their three 18 hole miniature golf courses. Of course, we played all three! Our high hopes for a cooler indoor course were dashed, and we were completely disappointed by the lack of air conditioning and elbow room on this indoor Madison course. As we got hotter, we were also a little steamed by the required slides that moved you from some holes to the next. All in all, this course seems a little squished and maybe we just arrived on a day with air conditioning troubles. Younger kids would have enjoyed the slides.
Next we moved outdoors to the Wisconsin course, which was much better. After we finished that course, we ate on sight. They have a wonderful menu and beyond burgers, curly fries and ice cream, my daughter enjoyed a goat cheese salad and I had fish tacos. We finished with the California course. Even though I performed terribly, this may have been my favorite course of the trip. Wisconsin and California, the two outdoor courses, are colorful, artistic in sort of a cartoon way, and sufficiently challenging. There were more water features, narrow passageways and slides (these ones were welcomed because they were optional). These courses had more varying heights than others and plenty of bright and cheery gigantic animals.
Cost: Prices are based on how many holes you play. 18 holes is $10 for adults and $8 for children. 36 holes is $12 for adults and $10 for children. 54 holes is $14 for adults and $12 for children. See the website for senior and pee wee prices as well.
This place offers the most bang for your buck. An exceptional place for a lot of fun mini golfing! The outdoor courses are great, but avoid the indoor course on a hot day.
- Adventure Golf at Lost Island Theme Park in Waterloo.
Unlike Can Can Wonderland, this mini golf course is accessible separate from the location’s other attractions. As native Iowans, we were disappointed that one of our state’s ranked miniature golf locations seemed so blasé compared to the others we had visited. Adventure Golf has two 18 hole courses. We played only one, choosing the course described as more difficult because it had more obstacles. The first several holes were par 2 with only one obstacle and fairly straight greens. Later we had more interesting greens with more height variation, but nothing as interesting as our other mini golf stops.
Cost: $7.75 for 18 holes and $12 for 36. Ages 8 and under are $5. A great addition and great value for a day at Lost Island Theme Park. Not worth traveling more than 50 miles if you are just playing mini golf.
Great for locals or those traveling through to other locations because the golfing can be purchased apart from other Lost Isalnd Theme Park attractions. A fun addition to a day spent at the Lost Island Waterpark.
Other attractions along the way.
Visiting St. Paul https://www.visitsaintpaul.com/things-to-do/
- Trapped Puzzle Rooms with two locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We had to hurry away from our golfing at Big Stone Mini Golf so that we could make our reservation at Trapped. We successfully completed our experience which was called The Heist and located the hidden artwork. It was a fun brain game for our brainy kids. I would recommend Trapped Puzzle Rooms as a fun, novel experience for visitors, but we felt that we had visited escape rooms with better designs in Dubuque and Coralville, Iowa.
- One of our earlier visits took us to the Mall of America. A great place for shopping, the mall also houses an amusement park in the center. One of our best family photos is from this location, and you can tell Nickelodean Universe was a big hit with my youngest. The Mall of America also has an aquarium and a simulated flight over America that both look intriguing.
- We’ve also enjoyed the Minneapolis Institute of Art while visiting our daughter.
- Wisconsin Dells. The dells are right along this tour if you want to stay and play in waterparks. The Dells are a memorable family vacation in and of itself for families. We had hoped to add the black-light course of Wild Abyss Indoor Mini Golf to our PPGA tour, but this course requires a stay at Wilderness Resort. During a July weekend that would have meant a two-night stay for us and didn’t fit into our busy schedule.
- Mt. Horeb Wisconsin. Instead of staying at the crowded Wisconsin Dells resorts, we found a charming bed and breakfast (who knew these still existed?) Sunniva Inn listed on the Air bnb site. We loved the wonderful beds, showers and breakfast! This place has wonderful hosts and each room has a door you can lock from the outside as well as inside. Mt. Horeb, known as the Troll Capital of the World, looks like it has adorable shops including Telsaan Tea that we would like to go back and visit. Mt. Horeb was a 24 minute drive from Vitense Golfland in Madison, and a 34 minute drive to our next stop, House on the Rock in Spring Green.
- House on the Rock in Spring Green. Some of our group enjoyed this bizarre museum/ architectural amusement and others hated it enough to speed through and wait for the rest of the group at the end. This place is like nothing else you’ve ever visited. The tours are divided and purchased in three sections. The main attraction of Section 1 is the Original House and the Infinity Room which juts out from the house like a walkway overlooking the trees. Section 2 features gobs of collections of the most unrelated items including butterflies, ship models, scrimshaw, and mechanical musical contraptions and ends with a carousel with 269 handcrafted animals. We didn’t tour Section 3 which has more galleries of dolls, circus displays, and another automated orchestra.
- Wisconsin has many parks with hiking, waterfalls and caves.
Visiting Dubuque, Iowa. We didn’t stop this time, but can recommend these.
- Lost Island Theme Park. I floated the lazy river, Shawn walked and watched bags, and the kids enjoyed the nine water slides. They had a blast!
The Best Miniature Golf Course in Each State
Putt Your Way Through Iowa’s Best Mini Golf Courses
18 Mini Golf Courses You Should Go Out of Your Way to Play