Minnesota is a midwestern state famed for its natural beauty. The state neighbours Canada and is home to the largest of the American Great Lakes, Lake Superior. Minnesota was named after the Dakota Indian words for “cloudy water” or “sky-blue water”.
The state has its fair share of famous ties, mainly through the arts. Musicians Prince and Bob Dylan, author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and actress Judy Garland all called Minnesota their home.
Nature is the true celebrity of this state, which has 11,842 lakes stretching over 10 acres or more, giving it the nickname of the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. The largest of the lakes, Lake Superior, is the largest freshwater lake in the world. However, it is not just lakes that give the state its watery heritage, as its rivers and streams cover 69,200 miles (111,136km). Therefore, water sports are popular within the state, with many families owning boats to take to the lakes and rivers.
St Paul is the state capitol, while Minneapolis is the largest city. Within its cities, there is plenty to keep visitors occupied. In Bloomington is the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the US, covering 78 football fields worth of space.
Minnesota also has significant ties to medicine, with the first open-heart surgery performed at its university. The Mayo Clinic, a key centre for medical research and discoveries, is in Rochester. There are so many intriguing, awe-inspiring and beautiful landmarks in Minnesota for everyone to enjoy. Here are 20 incredible natural and historical landmarks not to be missed when visiting this Midwest wonder.
- Minnesota Landmarks
- Historical Landmarks in Minnesota
- 1- Fort Snelling
- 2- Split Rock Lighthouse
- 3- F.Scott Fitzgerald House
- 4- Cathedral of St Paul
- 5- Minnesota State Capitol Building
- 6- Frederick R Weisman Art Museum
- 7- Lowry Avenue Bridge
- 8- Marjorie McNeely Conservatory
- 9- Vision of Peace
- 10- Mill City Museum
- 11- James J Hill House
- 12- The Clemens Gardens
- 13- International Wolf Center
- Natural Landmarks in Minnesota
- Historical Landmarks in Minnesota
Historical Landmarks in Minnesota
1- Fort Snelling
Designed by Colonel Josiah Snelling, Fort Snelling overlooks both the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
The fort was built by the United States Army and completed in 1819.
Fort Snelling was a key training post for soldiers and recruits during the American Civil War.
The fort was also used and fought in during both the Indian Wars and the Spanish-American war.
Fort Snelling played an essential role during WWII, where it was used as a Military Intelligence Service Language School to train army personnel in Japanese.
Today the fort is open as an educational establishment run by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Fort Snelling is at 200 Tower Avenue, St Paul, MN 55111.
2- Split Rock Lighthouse
Split Rock Lighthouse was constructed in 1905 when a freak storm destroyed several boats, wrecked many ships, and crew members died.
The lighthouse rises for 54 feet(16.46m) above its 130 ft(40m) cliff base.
Following many years of active service, the authorities turned the lighthouse into a historical sight in 1982.
Today the lighthouse and surrounding area cover 80 acres of parkland and visitor centre, and the lighthouse is no longer currently in use.
The beacon is still active during certain special occasions.
Split Rock Lighthouse is at 3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors, MN 55616.
3- F.Scott Fitzgerald House
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in the 599 Summit Avenue house.
Following his posting to Alabama during WWI, Fitzgerald returned to St Paul and moved back in with his parents.
The house on Summit Avenue proved to be important to Fitzgerald’s writing career as he penned This Side of Paradise from the third floor.
Following the book’s publication in 1920 to critical acclaim and having won the hand of his sweetheart Zelda Sayre, Fitzgerald moved away.
Today, the house is a birthplace museum to the great American author and his first novel.
F. Scott Fitzgerald House is at 599 Summit Ave, Saint Paul.
4- Cathedral of St Paul
Sitting on a hill above the eponymous city, the Cathedral of St Paul is one of the most impressive USA cathedrals.
French Architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, famed for the French Beaux-Arts style, designed the cathedral, and construction began in 1906.
The cathedral’s interior is open, allowing worshippers and visitors an opportunity to see the pulpit and altar clearly and free from obstruction.
The cathedral is famed for its distinctive copper dome, 24 intricate stained glass windows, and marble statues of the four evangelists.
The Cathedral of St Paul is at 239 Selby Avenue, St Paul, MN 55102.
5- Minnesota State Capitol Building
The Minnesota State Capitol Building is a must-visit historical landmark when in the state.
Cass Gilbert designed the current building, with work beginning in 1896, and the Capitol opened in 1905.
The building features the second largest self-supported marble dome in the world.
Its interior is adorned with ornate artworks and murals dating back to the buildings inception in 1905.
Visit the Capitol on a dry day to get a chance to visit the Quadriga, numerous golden horses pulling chariots that adorn the rooftop.
Minnesota State Capitol Building is at 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, St Paul, MN 55155.
For more landmarks in the Americas see:
6- Frederick R Weisman Art Museum
Whilst the museum houses many famous works within its walls, it is the walls themselves that draw visitors to its doors.
Frank Gehry designed the museum within the grounds of the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus.
With the appearance of crumpled aluminium, Gehry created a museum that itself is a stunning work of art and architecture.
Within the museum are works of art from Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley and many others.
The museum has a collection of over 20,000 pieces which now includes Native American pottery.
Frederick R Weisman Art Museum is at 333 E River Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55455.
7- Lowry Avenue Bridge
8- Marjorie McNeely Conservatory
Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is a glass-domed Victorian-style garden conservatory.
Frederick Nussbaumer dreamed up the design and the surrounding gardens, and the conservatory was finished in 1915.
Nussbaumer got his inspiration following a visit to Kew Gardens in London and modelled his design on their famous palm house.
Within the conservatory are palm trees, a wing featuring a sunken garden, and another that is used primarily for wedding ceremonies.
Five times a year, a seasonal flower show is put on in the sunken garden.
The most recent addition to the conservatory came in 1996 when a bonsai tree collection was added.
Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is at 1325 Aida Place, St Paul, MN 55103.
9- Vision of Peace
Vision of Peace is a three-story high memorial dedicated to the Indian God of Peace.
Carl Milles, a Swedish sculptor, sculpted the statue in memory of those who died at war during the 20th century.
The statue is carved from Mexican white onyx and sits atop a revolving base.
The statue depicts five Native Americans sitting around a fire holding sacred pipes.
Out of the smoke rises the God of Peace. Miles imagined that the god was speaking to “all the world”.
The statue was unveiled in 1936, and it features the names of those who died in the Korean War, WWI, WWII and the Vietnam war.
Vision of Peace is at City Hall, St Paul, MN 55101.
10- Mill City Museum
What was once a busy and active mill, the Washburn A Mill, is now a museum.
Built on the ruins of the mill, the Mill City Museum incorporates Minneapolis’ mill heritage alongside art and architecture.
Thomas Meyer transformed the ruins of the mill into this architectural landmark that rises for eight stories.
The design of the building aimed to incorporate the ruins of the old mill with more modern elements.
Visible today are the engine house, wheat house and milling machinery.
Mill City Museum is at 704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2163.
11- James J Hill House
Railroad magnate James J Hill oversaw the design of his mansion in St Paul.
Peabody, Stearns and Furber, a Boston architect firm, began building the mansion with Hill’s constant supervision.
Hill proved demanding to work for, and the architects were soon sacked, with an interior design firm tasked to finish the job.
Despite some friction during its build, the mansion became the largest and most expensive home in Minnesota in 1891.
It consists of 13 bathrooms, a two-story skylit art gallery and many elaborate carvings from oak and mahogany.
The Minnesota Historical Society acquired the house in the 1970s and it’s now open to the public to experience what life was like when the house was in its heyday.
James J Hill House is at 240 Summit Avenue, St Paul, MN 55102.
12- The Clemens Gardens
The Clemens Gardens takes its name from Bill and Virginia Clemens, who purchased a plot of land intending to turn it into a garden.
These days, the garden is cared for by the City of St Cloud Parks Department.
One highlight of the gardens is the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden, which Bill founded as a dedication to his wife, who had multiple sclerosis.
The garden has roses, which were her favourite flowers.
Within the rose garden is a statue of both Bill and Virginia.
The Clemens Garden consists of six individual gardens connected with red brick pathways dotted with benches, peaceful fountains and, of course, beautiful and vibrant flowers.
The Clemens Gardens is at 1515 Riverside Dr SE, St Cloud, MN 56304.
13- International Wolf Center
The International Wolf Center has its origins as early as the 1930s when studies were carried out in Minnesota on the grey wolf.
The centre opened in 1993 and is home to a variety of wolf species.
The centre features spacious enclosures and den sites for the wolves to roam freely.
Due to persecution from humans and the destruction of habitats, wolves are a rarity in the wild today.
However, many programs across the world are aiming to reintroduce them back into their native habitats.
The International Wolf Center aims to ensure the survival of wolf populations across the world through their education programs which teach about wolves, their role within the wild, and how humans have impacted their past and can help their future.
The centre has provided a natural sanctuary for these majestic creatures through education and conservation work and is working hard to re-educate and challenge misconceptions around wolves.
International Wolf Center is at 1396 Highway 169, Ely, MN 55731-8129.
Natural Landmarks in Minnesota
14- Pipestone National Monument
Pipestone National Monument is an integral part of Native Indian culture. For centuries, Native Indians quarried the red pipestone to carve into pipes used for prayers.
The Native Indians believe that the smoke from the pipe will carry prayers to the Great Spirit.
The tribes that use this stone are the Dakota and Lakota. The land which the quarry sits is considered neutral territory allowing all tribes to quarry stone.
For many years the land belonged to the US government following the sale of the claim to the land.
Today the land is protected, and only those with Native American ancestry are allowed to quarry at the site.
Pipestone National Monument is at Sweet Township, Pipestone County.
15- Devil’s Kettle Falls
Devil’s Kettle Falls is an incredible natural landmark in Minnesota.
Aside from its natural beauty, the falls have baffled geologists and hikers alike for their unusual formation.
Lake Superior feeds that falls from its northern shores, and the water forks atop a rocky outcrop, with one side of the falls cascading over the rocks before continuing to flow.
The other side of the falls enters a deep hole, with no one entirely sure where it goes.
Aside from the mystery, Devil’s Kettle Falls makes for a pleasant hike through the Judge C.R. Magney State Park, with the falls nestled in a white pine tree-covered cove.
Devil’s Kettle Falls is at Superior Hiking Trail, Grand Marais, MN 55604.
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16- Headwaters of the Mississippi River
The Mississippi River begins in Itasca State Park in Minnesota and winds across that state for 694 miles (1117km) before leaving the state.
The headwaters have become a popular location for state residents and tourists alike as they head to the park to see where this famous river begins.
Many visitors enjoy water sports in the calm waters of the first half-mile (0.8km) of the river, whilst those in the headwaters themselves can paddle and wade across the stream as it reaches a depth of a mere 18 inches (46m).
Marking the spot is a post that dates back to the 1930s and has long been a popular location for visitors to have their photographs taken.
Headwaters of the Mississippi River is at 36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN 56470.
17- Peacebunny Island
One of Minnesota’s more unusual natural landmarks is Peacebunny Island.
Caleb Smith, a teenager, purchased the island and several other small islands in the Mississippi River following living on a houseboat by the island in 2018.
Caleb filled the island with bunnies who are trained on the island as comfort animals.
The animals live nearby in Savage before being taken daily to the island by youth guardians who are learning how to care for the environment and care for the bunnies.
Caleb trains the bunnies alongside a team of volunteers to turn rescued domestic rabbits into comfort animals used to comfort seniors, those in hospices, and at sites of trauma.
The island is fantastic during warm weather, where visitors can watch the bunnies roam freely in their downtime.
The island also offers picturesque views of the Mississippi River, making it excellent for an afternoon relax and picnic.
Peacebunny Island is at Peacebunny Island, Newport, Minnesota, MN 55055.
18- Niagara Cave
Joe Flynn, Al Cremer and Leo Tekippe discovered Niagara Cave in 1924, and it has been open to the public since 1934.
The cave stretches for 1 mile (1.61km) underground at a depth of almost 200ft (61m).
Visitors can see fossils of more than 450 million years old and learn about how the cave was geologically formed over centuries.
Within the cave is an underground stream and waterfall, making it a popular setting for weddings.
Niagara Cave is at 29842 Co Hwy 30, Harmony, MN, 55939.
19- Eagle Mountain
Eagle Mountain is the state’s highest peak at 2301ft (701m), a State Historic Site and a must-visit natural landmark of Minnesota.
Reaching the summit offers a pleasant climb taking around 2.5 hours up a 3.5 mile (5.6km) trail.
When hiking the trail to reach the summit, make time to stop by Whale Lake, which is situated about halfway up the mountain trail.
Eagle Mountain is at West Cook, MN 55604.
20- Artists Point
Artists Point is a true beauty spot in Minnesota because of its large number of jagged rocks on the shores of Lake Superior.
Artists Point takes its name from the numerous artists who set up their easels on the rocks to paint the scenery.
Artists point was formed billions of years ago from grey basalt and are unusually formed in hexagonal shapes, making for an attractive shoreline.
You can reach the point by a narrow concrete walkway that passes small rock pools.
Further past the point is a lighthouse.
Artists Point is at Grand Marais, MN 55604.
21- Palisade Head
Another must-visit rock formation on the shores of Lake Superior is Palisade Head.
Palisade Head offers incredible views over Lake Superior from a height of 932ft (284m).
The edge of the cliff is sheer, with jutting rocks sticking out, making it highly popular with rock climbers who abseil down its face to experience the challenge and exhilaration of climbing back up.
The top of Palisade Head and the surrounding area is covered in a forest filled with white spruce and paper birch.
The head is also a must-visit location for bird watchers as Peregrine falcons make their nests here.
Palisade Head is at Beaver Bay Township, MN 55614.