Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Free family fun at Zootopia on the RiverFront in Wabasha October 12, 2017

My first view of Zootopia on the RiverFront from the hill overlooking this play area along the Mississippi River in Wabasha.


ON AN EARLY OCTOBER Sunday in Wabasha, brilliant sunshine angled sharp shadows across the beaten grass of a riverside attraction teeming with kids and watchful adults.






The lion tunnel proved especially popular.


Here, while a young boy carried his tacklebox and fishing pole along a busy Mississippi River walkway, kids tossed rings, rolled balls, scrambled through a tunnel, zipped down a slide and more in a magical land. Here adults encouraged and interacted with the little ones and clicked endless photos.





My son-in-law, Marc, takes Izzy’s photo as she walks through the tiger tunnel while her mom (my daughter Amber) watches.


Walking on the colorful walrus crafted from tires…


My husband and I joined in on the SeptOberfest kids’ activities along with our 18-month-old granddaughter and her parents.


You can zip down this elephant slide into Zootopia on the RiverFront.



I discovered the play area after sighting an elephant slide behind Hill’s Hardware Hank. I walked the half-block to check it out and found the city of Zootopia. The good folks of Wabasha crafted a temporary themed play area after the movie of the mammal metropolis. What a delight for not only grandmas like me, but also for all those kids and other adults.







Wabasha has always impressed me as a small town that knows how to bring visitors into the community. The addition of Zootopia on the RiverFront to this year’s nearly two-month long SeptOberfest just notched up my respect for the tourism, business and other leaders in this southeastern Minnesota town of some 2,500. These folks are smart enough to realize that bringing families into town equals an immediate financial return plus an investment in future returns. The kids’ activities are free. But the local economy benefits from monies dropped in restaurants, gas stations, and ice cream and other shops.


Randy waits for Izzy to emerge from the lion tunnel.


Running in the kick ball croquet area.


Even the big kids/aka grandpas can have fun.


Watching my 1 ½-year-old granddaughter crawl multiple times through the lion tunnel, place rings on elephant trunks, roll a ball in the kick ball croquet area and more simply made me happy. Even at her young age, Izzy could participate in most of the activities.



This Zootopia rated as just plain good old family fun—Wabasha style.


In the foreground, on the hillside, giraffes (and zebras) overlook Zootopia.


FYI: Zootopia on the RiverFront continues through October 21. Click here for more details.

Check back for two more posts on kids’ SeptOberfest activities in Wabasha.

This community is also home to the National Eagle Center, another family friendly place to visit.


24 Responses to “Free family fun at Zootopia on the RiverFront in Wabasha”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Love this– good fun for everyone . How can Izzy be 18 months already? Not possible!

  2. Go Grandma Says:

    That looks so fun! Love all of those river towns.

  3. Jena Says:

    Loved the photos- what a beautiful day to enjoy the delightful Zootopia!

  4. I was waiting for an Izzy sighting and there she is – how much fun 🙂 Mr. Craves would be right in there playing like a big kid – ha! I miss those days when my nephews were little and these types of things were the best idea of fun ever. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    What a lot of fun. Some creative minds put together a great activity park. I LOVE corn stalk stacks. My sister Juli’s husband lovingly finds stalks and fashions them for a driveway display in front of their home every autumn. She does the decorating. These stalk stacks remind me, in some small way, of the labors our ancestors had in the harvest process.

  6. Carrie Cronin Says:

    I live in Lake City & work in Wabasha. LOVE LOVE LOVE Septoberfest time of year here! The shops, fun activities for the kids, and the different businesses that get in the mix. Here is a link to the Wabasha Chamber SeptOberfest activities. https://www.wabashamn.org/septoberfest/ P.S. Not sure how I found your blog, but really enjoy! Thanks

    • Welcome to the comments section with your enthusiastic endorsement of SeptOberfest. I am simply amazed at all Wabasha does to bring folks into town not only now, but throughout the year. Feel free to share the link to this post with your Wabasha and other contacts.

      And thank you, Carrie, for appreciating Minnesota Prairie Roots.

  7. Don Says:

    What a great idea “Zootopia”! Small communities generally come up with some of the most imaginative ideas. The young and the classics (older generations) look like they were all having a good time on a beautiful autumn day. A few years ago my wife and I traveled through Wabasha and stopped at the National Eagle Center (I have and use a coffee mug to prove it)what a great and friendly community. Looks like Randy was busy making Sasquatch tracks!

  8. Valerie Says:

    Looks like a great place to play outdoors in the fall season, for the young and old(er).

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Oh my goodness how creative! I need a tabby cat like that for my yard

  10. How FUN & creative.
    Those tires! That cat!
    Izzy is SOooo adorable.
    Ps. I love the idea of this rather than observing animals in cages, darling. xx

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