Built along the confluence of the Mississippi, the Minnesota, and the St. Croix rivers, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul offer twice the fun, twice the options, and twice the opportunity for adventure. Whether you're searching for educational attractions for a student trip or you're celebrating a graduation and looking to blow off steam, the Twin Cities have you covered.
1. Cathedral of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Mary
The two Roman Catholic churches listed above are, together, co-cathedrals in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. While the Cathedral of St. Paul is typically listed alone, the Basilica of St. Mary is not to be ignored. Together, they create a magnificent structure worthy of worship and that is only too evident in a visit to one or both of these phenomenal complexes. The Cathedral of St. Paul is iconic for its fabulous spire topped dome, stately structure and vast history which one can explore through self-guided or guided tours or by attending mass. The Basilica of St. Mary, likewise, has a different but complementary architecture that captures the eye and the heart; it too is open for the curious to learn about its history and what makes this minor basilica unique.
2. Minnesota State Capitol
Housing the Minnesota Senate, the House of Representatives, and the offices of the Governor and the Attorney General, the Minnesota State Capitol is a vastly significant educational resource - and it's free! The capitol building is open for groups to wander on self-guided adventures or on in-depth guided tours. Built in 1905, the state capitol of Minnesota is a beautiful Italian Renaissance structure holding the history, civil leadership and state government of Minnesota. On a tour, you can explore the lovely rotunda encircled with wonderfully wrought statues, explore the grounds on which you'll discover memorials to those who fell in military service, and you'll also find exhibits illuminating the history of Minnesota and its government.
3. The Bakken
To look at it, you'd never guess that this elegant estate holds a unique, one of a kind museum focused on electricity and magnetism. Since 1975, The Bakken has been teaching visitors about the nature of science, the history of electricity, and its potential in society. But not only is it a fabulous hands-on, interactive science museum, The Bakken is also located within a historic landmark house, built in the late 1920s in a stately English Tudor and European Gothic style. Exhibits explore Ben Franklin's experiments, allow visitors to play with a century old electricity machine, explore the spectacular gardens on the grounds, and much more!
4. Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
Como Park is where you can find it all: education, exploration, fun, and of course, animals. Discover animals from all corners of the world, their exhibits and the walkways lovingly draped with lush gardens and flora of exotic origin, and have endless fun with family and friends at an undeniably beautiful attraction. Young kids will enjoy the historic Cafesjian's Carousel built in 1914 by German immigrants in Philadelphia, or the amusement park rides of Como Town. Young adults are sure to enjoy exploring the zoo animals or the guided tours which take you deeper into the lives of the animals and conservation practices the zoo upholds. Your students can see everything from cougars and American bison to Saki monkeys, reindeer, polar bears, orangutans, and zebras.
5. American Swedish Institute
Housed in the spectacular and historic Swan Turnblad House circa 1910, the American Swedish Institute serves as a museum and cultural center preserving the heritage of Swedish immigrants and the history of Swedish culture in America. Seeming to be out of a fairy tale, the Swan Turnblad House is a magnificent Chateauesque building created for Swedish immigrants Swan and Christina Turnblad. In 1929, the home was repurposed into the American Institute for Swedish Arts, Literature and Science which was later shortened to the American Swedish Institute. Today you can find historic artifacts from the early 20th century, art collections and folklore presentations on Nordic and Swedish subjects, works by prominent Swedish individuals, and much more.
6. Science Museum of Minnesota
This St. Paul based science museum houses everything from dinosaur bones to Future Earth, an exhibit predicting what the planet will look like in 2050. Discover creatures of the deep and deep space in the multi-sensory Omnitheater, learn about the inner workings of the human body and the history of Native American culture, test hypotheses on your own or with a friend in the Experiment Gallery, and travel in time to the land of dinosaurs in the Dinosaur & Fossils wing. Special exhibits range in topics from the forensic science of Sherlock Holmes to Cryogenics, future technology predictions, and more. Your students and group mates are bound to have a fantastic time exploring this wonderful museum.
7. Orchestra Hall
The home of the Minnesota Orchestra, Orchestra Hall is a Minneapolis legacy and the premiere destination for culture. The Grammy award-winning orchestra continues to wow audiences, bringing in thousands of concert-goers to Orchestra Hall every year. The stunning building is only second to the sounds of beauty which emanate from the stage as the orchestra performs fabulous pieces such as Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's symphonies and piano concertos, and so much more. Vocal performances, choirs, and illustrious performers like famed pianist George Winston and others make visiting Orchestra Hall even more rewarding!
8. Museum of Russian Art
Interesting, unique, and magnificently curated, Minneapolis' Museum of Russian Art conserves and educates on the dynamic and oftentimes underrated artistic expression of Russia. As a universal language, everyone can explore the history and voice of the Russian people through art. Find over a thousand years of history and evolving identities within these galleries from Nordic Christmas figurines to Russian tea samovars, photographs of Russia during WWI, and portraits of Imperial Russian royalty among others. Docent-led tours are available every Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Stop by the Izba, the museum store, on your way out and pick up an authentic Russian made souvenir or home good.
9. Mill City Museum
Created by the Minnesota Historical Society, the Mill City Museum collects and preserves the history of the city's origins, particularly in the areas of flour milling and those which utilized water power from the Saint Anthony Falls. The museum is located in the ruins of the old Washburn "A" Mill next to Mill Ruins Park which works to showcase the importance of the industry in early Minneapolis history. Exhibits focus on flour milling with antique machinery, as well as a water and a baking lab. You can see the Flour Tower, a centerpiece in the museum, up which visitors can take an elevator lift and visit different floors. Interactive, unique, and educational, the Mill City Museum is a wonderful place to visit.
10. Minnehaha Park
A city park within Minneapolis, Minnehaha Park contains the stunning powerful Minnehaha Falls as well as the lovely Minnehaha Creek which runs through the lush Minnesota forest. At once relaxing and inspiring, Minnehaha Park is a welcome reprieve from the bustle of the city just beyond the trees' edge. There are several historic sites preserved in the park's boundaries including a Victorian train depot and a replica of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Minnehaha Park is a popular destination for photographers, hikers, and outdoor lovers as well as anyone who enjoys adventure!