Minneapolis may be best known for the Mall of America, the enormous 4.2 million square-foot mall complete with an indoor amusement park; even though it's actually in nearby Bloomington. Minneapolis does have many other attractions, though, including art museums, a zoo, sculpture gardens and a science museum. The Malcolm E. Willey House is another celebrated Minneapolis attraction. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in the early 1930s, this house is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to being the home of the Minnesota Vikings, the Metrodome has served as the recreation room for the State of Minnesota hosting amateur events, cultural events and family focused activities. Visitors to the Minneapolis are sure to find something fun to do while around the Twin Cities area.
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American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tel. 612.871.4907
Founded in 1929, Minneapolis' American Swedish Institute is a tribute to Swedish-American history and culture in the Midwest. The Institute, located in historic newspaper publisher Swan Turnblad's mansion, was completed in 1908 and is the Twin Cities' only castle. Inside the 33-room mansion, the museum is home to a large collection of Swedish artifacts including glass, arts and textiles, as well as the permanent "Swedish Life in the Twin Cities" exhibit, which houses historic photographs, journal entries and audio recordings. Guided tours are available for visitors and the illustrated family guide is narrated by Tomte, a 427 year-old elf who lives in the mansion's attic. At the end of the tour, the museum's gift shop boasts impressive handmade Swedish crafts and home decorations. Minneapolis' American Swedish Institute is dedicated to preserving Swedish heritage in the Twin Cities and creating a rich community among the Twin Cities' broad range of ethnic groups.
Bell Museum of Natural History
10 Church Street S.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tel. 612.624.7083
The James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History, established in 1872, is dedicated to preserving and researching Minnesota's rich variety of wildlife. Located on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota, the museum displays an exceptional 4-million specimen including a wide range of mammals, birds, fish, plants, mollusks and insects. Two floors of lifelike dioramas of Minnesota's wildlife habitats and rainforest canvas aerial walkway are just some of the interactive exhibits at the Bell Museum. The children's favorite Touch-and-See Room, a predecessor of the Smithsonian's Discover Room, allows visitors to take exhibits out from behind the glass and try on a pair of antlers, touch animal furs, or play with a live turtle. The museum also offers monthly family activities for parents and children to explore nature together. Minneapolis' Bell Museum of Natural History is a fun, family-friendly and interactive collection of animal and plant life from around the globe.
(12 Locations) 7171 France Avenue South, Edina MN; Tel. 952.831.3601
Why list a grocery store chain in an online city guide? Anyone who asks hasn't been to Byerly's. Imagine a world with the best possible food shopping experience. Push a smooth cart through ridiculously wide earth-toned carpeted aisles lit by throngs of crystal chandeliers. Hungry folk can enjoy hearty meals in the attached diner, read the in-house publication and enjoy regional signature specialties like Byerly's Wild Rice soup, also available in the freezer section. The always-pleasant experience will keep you going back despite the higher prices. It's just so civilized.
Metro Transit line 28E.
Cathedral of St. Paul
239 Selby Ave., St. Paul, Minnesota; Tel. 651.228.1766
Inspired by French Renaissance architecture, the dome of the ornate Cathedral of St. Paul is a highlight of the downtown St. Paul skyline, sitting atop Summit Hill overlooking the state's capital. The Cathedral, which started holding services in 1915, is the co-cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, along with Minneapolis' Basilica of St. Mary. The Cathedral, as well as hosting religious services, is part of the National Historic Register and is beautifully decorated. The 96-foot dome is lined with gold leaf, columns and walls of Botticino marble accent the interior and 24 stained-glass windows depicting angelic choirs. There are also six chapels dedicated to the patron saints of major groups settling in the Twin Cities metro area—Italians, French Canadians, Irish, Germans, Slavs and Christian missionaries. The Cathedral of St. Paul is the center of the Catholic Church in St. Paul and is a spiritual home for Catholics as well as a historical landmark amid the hustle and bustle of Downtown.
The Children's Theatre Company
2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55404; Tel. 612.874.0400
The Children's Theatre Company has been putting on shows for almost four decades, entertaining kids and the adults who accompany them with mostly adaptations of classic children's literature that draw an audience of 350,000 per year. The sets, the costumes and the performances are top-notch and clearly in view of each of the 746 seats. The Children's Theatre shares the same lobby as the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Metro Transit lines 9 right down third Avenue, 17, 18 to Nicollet and 24th Street, walk east three blocks.
1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, Minnesota; Tel. 651.487.8200
For over a hundred years, St. Paul's Como Park, Zoo and adjacent Marjorie McNeely Conservatory have been delighting visitors around the Minneapolis metro area. The zoo and conservatory are free, although a nominal donation is suggested, and the park offers many options for a day of family fun. Take a walk around the Big Cats Building, talk to monkeys in the Primate House and make sure to watch one of Sparky the sea lion's shows during summer months. After a picnic lunch, take a dip in the pool or take fun photos at one of the many sculptures of animals before ending with the obligatory ride on Cafesjian's Carousel, built in 1914. The zoo has also recently dedicated itself to going green and includes recycled wood interior walls and revised recycling and conservation measures. The zoo's nearby McNeely conservatory boasts an impressive half-acre display of plants from around the world, most notably, a bonsai gallery and fern room. St. Paul's Como Park, Zoo and Conservatory offer a variety of delightful events and displays in a family friendly, environmentally conscious setting.
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
University of Minnesota
333 East River Rd., Minneapolis MN; Tel. 612.625.9494
Frank Gehry, the infamous architect behind the Bilbao Guggenheim and Experience Music Project in Seattle, also designed the Weisman Art Museum, which is equally astounding. The facility is constructed of brick that calls attention to the surrounding University of Minnesota campus buildings, and of billowing waves of curvaceous steel, which calls attention to itself. The brushed gloss of the metallic western façade throws the most stunning reflections of the sky, particularly at sunset, which can be downright Technicolor. All 11,000 square feet are free to the public every day.
Metro Transit Lines 16A, 16C and 2 lead to the Weisman Art Museum, the museum stop is in front of Coffman Union, followed by a short walk to the Museum.
Historic Fort Snelling
200 Tower Avenue Fort Snelling History Center, St. Paul, Minnesota; Tel. 612.726.1171
Fort Snelling, a 19th century St. Paul military outpost, has been restored and transformed into an authentic historical reenactment, complete with costumed tour guides. The original Fort, located at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, was built at an ideal location, before the building of major highways and industrialization of the Twin Cities. At the fort, take a trip back in time to 1827 and imagine you have just stepped off a Mississippi steamboat—the guides and environment are in line with those of the time, and there are cannons firing, fifes playing, and a town is set up complete with blacksmith and town store. Nearby Fort Snelling cemetery honors those soldiers who died while stationed at the Fort and an assortment of veteran's memorials also line the site paying respects to soldiers who died in 20th century wars. Fort Snelling is a must-see for visitors to the Minneapolis area and is a window into the historical, military, and cultural traditions of the 19th century Midwest.
History Center Museum
345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul, Minnesota; Tel. 651.259.3000
The Minnesota History Center Museum is a must-see for both first time visitors to the Minneapolis area and those curious about the state's past. Located in Minneapolis' sister city of St. Paul, the museum includes historical artifacts, curators dressed as historical figures and audiovisual presentations designed to make the museum experience both fun and educational. Open seven days a week, the History Center Museum showcases Minnesota's history in a wide range of interactive exhibits including a replica grain elevator and Weather Permitting, an exhibit dedicated to Minnesota's unique climate. The Minnesota Historical Center Library, located inside the building, is the world's largest collection of Minnesota materials and includes searchable databases for family history research. With specially designed field trips and a variety of hands-on programs, St. Paul's History Center Museum is a window to Minnesota's rich past.
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
900 South 5th Street, Minneapolis MN 55415; Tel. 612.332.0386
Seasonal teams share their home at the Metrodome, which hosts the Minnesota Vikings, the ballpark of the Minnesota Twins, and the University of Minnesota Gopher football team. Open year-round, other events include monster truck racing and the occasional arena rock concert.
Metro Transit lines 16, 3, 50, 7, 19, 20, 94B, 94C, 94D, 14, 5, 22, 14.
James J. Hill House
240 Summit Ave., St. Paul, Minnesota; Tel. 651.297.2555
The St. Paul mansion of 19th century railroad guru James J. Hill is a 36,000 square-foot masterpiece, signifying the wealth of America's Gilded Age. Completed in 1891, the mansion boasts an impressive 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, 16 crystal chandeliers, a two-story art gallery complete with skylight and elaborately hand-carved mahogany woodwork. The James J. Hill House is open daily, offering a variety of tours, educational programs, lectures, concerts and art exhibitions. After Hill's death in 1916, the house was presented to the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Paul, serving as a school and office building before being acquired by the state Historical Society in 1978, which elevated it to an official state historic site. Guided tours are offered every 30 minutes at the James J. Hill House, and the house stands as a testament to what Hill said was the secret of his great success: "work, hard work, intelligent work...and then more work."
3000 Calhoun Blvd., Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tel. 612.230.6400
Minneapolis' 401-acre Lake Calhoun is an ideal venue for fishing, wind surfing, swimming, sailing, canoeing, walking, jogging, biking and rollerblading while visiting the Twin Cities. Lake Calhoun is part of a chain of lakes including Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet, connected by a 12-mile stretch of pathways. Drawing over 5 million visitors a year, the Chain of Lakes is Minnesota's most popular attraction next to the Mall of America. The three-mile trail around Lake Calhoun is perfect for a beautiful Sunday afternoon bike or walk, and with three beaches along the route, a perfect place to stop for some summer sun. In the chilling winter months, ice-fishing houses pepper the frozen lake. Visitors and residents enjoy the natural beauty, paved trails and gorgeous beaches of Lake Calhoun, one of Minnesota's impressive 10,000 plus.
Mall of America
60 East Broadway Bloomington, MN 55425; Tel. 952.883.8800
Less than two miles from the Minneapolis St. Paul airport, the 4.2 million square-foot mall is a must-see for anyone with a long layover. Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Sears are among the 520 stores, smartly built in the shape of a square so you'll never feel lost. The center of the mall houses Nickelodeon Universe, a 7-acre amusement park beneath 1.2 miles of skylights with more than 30 remarkable rides and attractions. Kids and adults alike will discover the joy of the 4-story sculptures in the Lego Imagination Center. And if you've had too much mall, feel free to escape to one of the 14 movie theater screens or the largest aquarium in the state without ever leaving the building.
Bus transportation from the Airport: To connect with a bus at the airport, exit Door 5 on the lower level and follow the signage to the bus stop.
Bus transportation from Downtown Minneapolis:Bus #180 is the Express Bus that runs from downtown Minneapolis directly to Mall of America. You can connect with the bus on Nicollet Mall between 3rd and 12th Streets.
Bus transportation from Downtown St. Paul:Bus #54, which has limited stops (one of which is to the airport) runs every 30 minutes, 7 days a week. You can connect with this bus on 6th Street between Jackson and Kellogg Boulevards.
Malcolm E. Willey House
255 Bedford Street SE 55414, Prospect Park MN
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this residence was recently listed as one of 10 most endangered sites in the state by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Fortunately, in May of 2002, a private owner saved the Malcolm E. Willey house from deterioration and vowed to restore the property to its original condition. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this small L-shaped dwelling is one of 10 Frank Lloyd Wright houses standing in Minnesota. Built in 1933-34, the one-story Willey house is an excellent example of Wright's prowess in creating magnificence out of simplicity.
Metro Transit lines 8C, 16 to University & Emerald, walk south 2 blocks to Franklin, take a right and walk west one block to Bedford, make a left on Bedford.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Ave., Minneapolis MN 55404; Tel. 612.870.3200
The 1915 Beaux-Arts marble building is free and open to the public daily, although some exhibitions may charge a nominal admission fee. Three floors represent a permanent collection of art and traditions from the past 5,000 years. An affiliation with the British Museum brings temporary exhibits like the Masterworks of Ancient Art from Egypt. The permanent collection includes photography, tapestries, ceramics and glass. Check for current exhibitions.
Metro Transit line 9 which runs along Third Avenue (recommended), or the 17, 18 to Nicollet and 24th Street, then walk east three blocks.
The Minnesota Zoo
12000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley MN; Zoo-To-Do Hotline 952.431.9500; Tel. 800.366.7811
The second biggest zoo in the United States, the Minnesota Zoo is home to more than 2,300 animals from five continents, and is breeding ground and habitat to 15 endangered species. The 500-acre zoo has everything from a rainforest, to dolphins, to a petting zoo, to wild horses. A 25-minute monorail tour departs on scheduled times. And those preferring nurture to nature can grab one of the 600 seats in the 3-D IMAX Theater on-site.
Metro Transit lines from the Mall of America, transfer to bus 440 to take you to the Zoo entrance on McAndrews road, then walk 3/4 mile through the parking lot to the zoo.
The Museum of Russian Art
00 Stevens Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tel 612.821.9045
The Museum of Russian art, founded in 2002, seeks to preserve Russian realist paintings and artwork as a record of artists active during the Soviet era. The only non-profit North American museum dedicated to the preservation of Russian art, TMORA includes works from the late 19th century's Czarist period up to the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991. The museum displays exhibits on its three floors and routinely features seminars and lectures by Russian art experts. Founder Raymond E. Johnson began researching Russian art in the mid-1980s and hosted the first known Russian painting exhibit in America in 1991. Now, along with his wife Susan, Johnson has the largest privately owned collection of Russian art outside of Russia itself. The museum occupies what was once the Mayflower Congregational Church, but has undergone renovation to include Baroque stone carvings and ornate stained-glass windows. Minneapolis' Museum of Russian art displays the finest of Russian art from the Soviet Era in a beautifully reconstructed museum setting.
Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, Minnesota
Downtown Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall, an eleven-block stretch of Nicollet Avenue, is widely considered to be the heart of downtown, with a multitude of upscale shopping and dining options. The wide sidewalks of Nicollet Mall encourage patrons to walk or ride their bikes down the two-lane, bus and taxi only street. The area includes Orchestra Hall, department stores Macy's and Neiman Marcus, restaurants and nightclubs, as well as a variety of sculptures and street performers. A statue depicting Mary Tyler Moore's famous theme-song hat toss stands on the corner of 7th and Nicollet Mall. In the winter months, pedestrians will be grateful for the heated skyways that connect many of the buildings on Nicollet Ave., glass tunnels several stories above ground that allow onlookers to explore without being exposed to the elements. Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall is in the middle of the action of Downtown, offering some of the city's best shopping, food and nightlife.
1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tel. 612.371.5656
Orchestra Hall, a Minnesota architectural landmark, is home to the Minnesota Orchestra as well as concerts and other special events throughout the year. Located in Downtown Minneapolis on Nicollet Mall, the building stands out immediately with its clean glass and steel exterior, designed to defy conventions of traditional old-world orchestra halls. Attendees are not required to dress up for orchestra concerts and an aim of the building is to deformalize the concert experience to make it accessible for all. Since opening in 1974, the hall has hosted over 10,000 concerts and drawn more than 10-million visitors. The auditorium's ceiling, made up of over 100 cubes in a "falling rock" pattern as well as wood floors and stage create an incredible acoustic sound for listeners. Lovers of classical, pops, orchestra and holiday music enjoy Orchestra Hall's ideal location in Downtown Minneapolis combined with its aesthetic beauty and casual atmosphere.
Science Museum of Minnesota
120 West Kellogg Blvd, St Paul MN 55102; Tel. 651.221.9444
No fewer than eight acres make up the Science Museum of Minnesota's indoor area. Permanent attractions include the Human Body Gallery that shows how every one of your cells works, an extensive Dinosaur and Fossils Gallery and a 3-D multimedia laser theater. Add to that the large hands-on technology demonstrations and it's a day fit for any parent and child. Check for updates on the continually changing exhibits.
Metro Transit lines 94B, 94C, 94D to Cedar and 4th Street, short walk to Kellogg Blvd. Within St. Paul get off Washington St. or Market Street, 64, 69, 70, 63, 21.
Valleyfair Amusement Park
1 Valleyfair Drive, Shakopee, Minnesota; Tel. 1.800.FUN.RIDE
The largest in the upper Midwest, Shakopee's Valleyfair Amusement Park includes over 75 rides and attractions on its 90-acre location, just 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis. The park has seven roller coasters including the Wild Thing, which boasts the longest low-gravity stretch of any coaster in the world. Various other thrill rides, children's rides, an IMAX theatre and Whitewater Country water park can be found at Valleyfair. For guests looking for an extra thrill, adjacent Challenge Park offers the bungee-like Ripcord as well as family-friendly mini-golf, bumper boats and go-karts. Live shows by magicians, jugglers, dancers, bands and acrobats are also included in the admission price, so between rides, sit down and catch some entertainment while eating funnel cake or cheese fries. The park is open all summer and weekends through the fall, ending with October's spooky Halloween-themed nights, complete with ghouls, goblins and mazes. The Minneapolis area's Valleyfair theme park has all the fixins for a perfect summer day with a variety of water, children's and thrill rides as well as live entertainment.
Walker Art Center & Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
725 Vineland Place # 1, Minneapolis MN 55403; Tel. 612 375.7622
If the heart of Minneapolis is the Walker Art Center, then the Spoonbridge and Cherry is the jewel on the city's lapel. Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen created this 52-foot long spoon and a 9-foot cherry, with the backdrop of the city behind it as part of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Arguably the largest outdoor display of modern art, the Garden includes works by Henry Moore, Jenny Holzer, Isamu Noguchi and many others. The Garden's also located in front of the Walker Art Center, which curates world-class modern art like they do on the coasts, and hosts a permanent collection that touts Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol. The museum shop is famous for its "Closed Mondays" mugs and t-shirts, and the lofty entrance foyer is shared with the Guthrie Theater. From the Sculpture Garden, be sure to walk the mammoth powder blue and white pedestrian bridge across multiple lanes of highway to Loring Park while reading quotes from artists and writers in sandblasted lettering along the way. A cultural experience not to be missed.
Metro Transit lines 4, 6, 12, 28.
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