Minnesota is a state that places a lot of emphasis on culture, arts, history… everything that has made this state so fascinating, and, in the humble opinion of this writer, one of the coolest states in the union. If you want to see for yourself, take a tour of one of Minnesota’s many museums. There is everything you could hope for on display, and you’ll be amazed by what they have to offer. Here are a few of Minnesota’s best museum tours.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 3rd Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
The finest art collection in the state (if not the Midwest) is available for your viewing pleasure every day. If you’d like a little context for ancient Chinese jade carvings, Victorian portraits or tribal African weaponry, take one of the excellent one-hour tours offered daily. You’ll be wowed by the history, the art and artists and the stories behind these breathtaking works of art. Best part? The tours are free. Culture doesn’t have to be expensive.
Alexander Ramsey House
265 Exchange St. S.
St. Paul, MN 55102
The home of Minnesota’s first territorial governor is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved mansions in the state. St. Paul is known for its historic beauty, and this tour will not only take you through Ramsey’s Victorian mansion, filled with family items and original home furnishings, but around the neighborhood to see many of the others, some dating back to the frontier days. The entire area is one, giant museum. Tours cost $7 per person. After you’re done, stop by Forepaugh’s, a restaurant housed in another fantastic mansion built in 1870, for some excellent food and drink.
200 Tower Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55111
This expansive, perfectly preserved fort (and arguably the birthplace of Minnesota as we know it today) could be called a living museum. There are actors dressed in mid-19th century garb ready to take you back to the first days of the state. The harsh, uninhabited frontier is the place, and it truly comes to life through reenactments and demonstrations. You can see everything from the blacksmith hard at work to children’s games from the time, school, food and drink and so much more. To truly leave modern times behind, take a tour of Fort Snelling.
Mill City Museum
704 S. 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
The ruins are astonishing to behold. The scope of the mill still visible though the building itself has been mostly reduced to rubble. In a stroke of aesthetic genius, the museum is built within the ruins, giving visitors a panoramic view of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. For the full history, and lots of juicy details, take one of the many tours that cover not only the mill itself, but the industry and history, Main Street and the riverfront. Get a better understanding of the hard work of Minnesota’s ancestors who built the mill, as well as the rest of Minneapolis.
Soudan Underground Mine
1302 McKinley Park Road
Soudan, MN 55782
Though far from the Twin Cities, the tours of Minnesota’s first iron ore mine (built in 1882) is a must-see. You can get the full underground mine tour, and see what it was really like in the day of a miner. Or, if you’re more interested in the physics aspect of the mine, you can follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest physicists who have visited the mine. Perfectly preserved, and an incredibly fascinating and important piece of Minnesota’s history, the Soudan Mine is worth the drive.
Related: Best Museums For Dates In Minnesota
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.