USA - Minneapolis/St. Paul

SIGHTSEEING Twin Citians delight in celebrating their past, from their cities’ beginnings on the banks of the Mississippi 300 years ago up through recent history. But sightseers don’t have to choose between yesterday and today for outings. In the morning you can return to 1829 at Historic Fort Snelling, and in the afternoon jet into the future of science and technology at the Science Museum of Minnesota. It’s history that prevails at Minnehaha Falls. (The “laughing waters” of the falls were immortalized by Longfellow in his poem Song of Hiawatha.) Take a lunch and have a picnic under the statue of Minnehaha and the brave Hiawatha.

Summit Avenue, in St. Paul, is one of the largest Victorian-era neighborhoods left intact in the U.S. and the longest-preserved residential street without shops or businesses. The governor’s mansion, the house where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived and the James J. Hill house are among the homes on this street. The Summit Hill Association can provide additional information about the area (phone 612-222-1222).

The Walker Art Center is renowned for its permanent collections (such as 100 years of sculpture) and exhibitions of contemporary art. Nine galleries offer rotating exhibitions. Handicapped accessible. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 am-5 pm, Thursday 10 am-8 pm, Sunday 11 am-5 pm. One-hour tours. Admission: US$4 adults, US$3 seniors and college and high school students with ID. Thursdays free. Vineland Place, Minneapolis, phone 612-375-7636.

The Minnesota Zoo. More than 2,000 animals in a 500-acre/203-hectare zoological garden. Both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a tropical coral reef, komodo dragons and Siberian tigers. Be sure to take the monorail for an above-the-trees view of the animals. The new Discovery Bay features dolphin shows and a shark exhibit. You can picnic here in summer or enjoy the cross-country ski trails in winter. Open daily 9 am, closing varies with the season. US$8 adults, US$5 seniors, US$4 children ages 3-12. About 20 minutes south of the airport at 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, phone 612-432-9000 or 800-366-7811.

A dizzying 75 rides (including five roller coasters and four water rides) spill and spin at Valleyfair Family Amusement Park. Spectacular entertainment, food and attractions, including the huge sensation, The Wild Thing, one of the world’s largest roller coasters. Its season runs mid May-Labor Day, starting daily at 10 am, with varying closing times. US$24.95 adults, US$6.95 seniors age 60 and older and children 48 in/122 cm or shorter. Free for children age 3 and younger. One admission charge includes the water park, all rides, shows and attractions. 1 Valleyfair Dr., Shakopee, phone 612-445-7600 or 800-386-7433. For many visitors, the Nicollet Mall-Loring Greenway through downtown to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an easy walk, past numerous shops, Orchestra Hall, Loring Park and the Walker Art Center.

Metro Connections guides award-winning sightseeing tours. Holiday lights tours, theme parties. Tour times vary with the seasons. US$20 adults, US$18 seniors, US$12 children ages 14 and under. 1219 Marquette Ave., Suite 110, Minneapolis, phone 612-333-8687 or 800-747-8687. In 1915, Archbishop John Ireland dedicated the Cathedral of St. Paul, modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome, as a monument to the people of St. Paul. The church is open daily 7:30 am-5 pm, guided tours Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1 pm. Free. 239 Selby Ave., St. Paul, phone 612-228-1766. James J. Hill House, built by railroad baron James J. Hill in 1891, once reigned as the biggest mansion in the Midwest. Cut-glass chandeliers, tile fireplaces. Wednesday-Saturday 10 am-3:30 pm. Reservations preferred. US$5 adults, US$4 seniors, US$3 children ages 5-15, free for children under age 5. 240 Summit Ave., St. Paul. Phone 612-297-2555. Ask about walking tours of the Summit Avenue neighborhood.

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden covers more than 7 acres/3 hectares next to the Walker Art Center. More than 40 sculptures by leading artists in media ranging from wood to granite. Check out Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry. Daily 6 am-midnight. Free. Vineland Place, Minneapolis, phone 612-375-7693. Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Famous free zoo and sunny, Victorian floral conservatory. Cross-country ski trails, paddleboats, bike and canoe rentals. The conservatory is a terrific midwinter getaway. Hours vary with the season—call first. Conservatory admission: US$1 adults, US$0.50 seniors, children free. Midway Parkway and Kaufman Drive, St. Paul. Conservatory, phone 612-487-8200; zoo, phone 612-488-5571.

Knott’s Camp Snoopy, considered the largest indoor theme entertainment park in the U.S., covers 7 acres/3 hectares at the Mall of America. It’s totally enclosed and open year round. Roller coaster. Pay per attraction. Day passes available—some hotels will sell these passes at discounts. Mall of America, Bloomington, phone 612-883-8600.

The Mississippi Mile is the oldest and prettiest part of Minneapolis, a stretch of reclaimed river bank between Plymouth Avenue and I-35W. The Mile encompasses Nicollet Island, the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, the site where the Mississippi spills over St. Anthony Falls and an interesting system of locks and dams, as well as a visitors center and observation deck. The area around St. Anthony Falls is designated as a National Historic District and is part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Information from the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, phone 612-627-5433. Guided tours available. Maps for self-guided tours available from the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau, phone 612-661-4700.

Art-About Tours offers art, history, museum, studio, antique and architectural tours, led by both docents and historians. Tours are tailored to customers’ desires. A typical tour for two to three people lasts from three hours to a whole day and includes lunch. Typically US$75-$125 per person. 210 N. 2nd St., Minneapolis, phone 612-332-0676.

The Summit Brewery is a small microbrewery, complete with copper kettles made in 1938 and imported from Europe. A wonderful local libation called Summit Pale Ale is still brewed there. Tours Saturday at 1 pm. Free, but reservations required. 2264 University Ave., St. Paul, phone 612-645-5029. Governor’s Residence. Official home of the state’s governor (although he doesn’t actually live there). Within the grounds is the Minnesota Garden Memorial. Free tours of the house and garden are given on selected Thursdays May-October. Reservations required. Make sure to call at least two weeks ahead of the dates you are requesting because it takes about a week for them to confirm. 1006 Summit Ave., St. Paul, phone 612-297-8177.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts. A huge, comprehensive fine-arts museum, considered the Twin Cities’ premier arts space after the Walker. MIA contains an encyclopedic collection (more than 80,000 objects) of paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and photography, with some objects dating back to 25,000 BC. Also houses the private collection of James J. Hill, the St. Paul railroad baron. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 am-5 pm, Thursday 10 am-9 pm, Sunday noon-5 pm. Free. 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, phone 612-870-3131.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Native woods and prairies on some 900 acres/365 hectares of rolling hills. Formal display gardens and a variety of plant collections. Open all year. Grounds open 8 am-sunset. Hours for building and services vary by season. Extended hours and tours offered May-October. US$5 adults, children age 18 and under are free. About 25 minutes from the airport. 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chanhassen, phone 612-443-2460. At Lowertown St. Paul, restoration of many of St. Paul’s oldest buildings continues in a thriving urban village. Galleries, artist studios, coffeehouses and Mears Park are all part of the Lowertown area. Walk this during the day. About six blocks from the river. Phone 612-227-9131.

The RiverCity Trolley takes visitors on a route of one hour’s duration that includes the Mississippi Mile, with views of the river and St. Anthony Falls. Available to individuals May-October, with chartered tours available year round. Phone 612-204-0000. Raptor Center, University of Minnesota. Knowledgeable volunteers guide tours of this hospital for birds. A bird show follows. Tours are offered Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10 am and 2 pm. US$3.50 adults, US$2 seniors, college students and children through grade 12. (Self-guided tours are free.) You must reserve in advance for guided tours. Center is open Monday-Friday 9 am-4 pm, Saturday 11 am-4 pm. 1920 Fitch Ave., St. Paul, phone 612-624-4745. Alexander Ramsey House. A Victorian home built in 1872 by Alexander Ramsey, who served as the first and second territorial governor in Minnesota, then became a U.S. senator and secretary of war. Reservations recommended for the one-hour guided tour offered May-December: Tuesday-Saturday 10 am-3 pm, Sunday 1-4 pm. US$4 adults, US$3 seniors, US$2 children. 265 S. Exchange St., St. Paul, phone 612-296-8760.

Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. A contemporary fine-arts museum on the University of Minnesota campus, it’s housed in a building that looks as if it’s been wrapped in aluminum foil (it was designed by Frank Gehry). Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 am-5 pm, Thursday 10 am-8 pm, Saturday and Sunday 11 am-5 pm. Free. 333 East River Rd., Minneapolis, phone 612-625-9494.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. One of four urban refuges in the nation, it sustains 50 species of mammals, about 35 species of reptiles and amphibians and around 260 species of birds. The visitors center has numerous exhibits and presentations all year long. Information, maps and calendar of events available at visitors center. Open daily 9 am-5 pm, except Mondays. Closed on federal holidays. Free. About 10 minutes south of the airport. Take the 34th Street Exit from I-494. 3815 E. 80th St., Bloomington. Visitors Center: phone 612-335-2323 or 612-854-5900 (recording). Gray Line Tours. Tours of the Twin Cities lasting either three or six hours are offered from the first week of May through the first week of October. Pickup at the Mall of America and some downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul hotels. Tours begin at 9:30 am. US$18-$28 adults, US$10-$16 children. 121160 Holy Oak Ave., Lakeville, phone 612-469-5020.

Foshay Tower Observation Deck. The deck on the 32nd floor of the tower provides the best view of the Twin Cities since the closing of the observation deck in the IDS Tower (taller and newer). Closed in winter. Beginning in April, weather permitting, the Foshay Tower opens Monday-Friday noon-4 pm, Saturday 11 am-3 pm. US$3 adults, US$2 seniors and children under age 17. 821 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis, phone 612-341-2522.

Historic Fort Snelling. Built more than 150 years ago on a bluff over the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Restored to its original appearance and staffed by costumed guides. Open daily May-October: Sundays 11:30 am-5 pm, Monday-Saturday 9:30 am-5 pm. US$5 adults, US$4 seniors, US$3 children ages 6-15. Free admission to the history center, exhibits and museum shops. Highways 5 and 55, St. Paul, phone 612-726-1171.

The Minnesota Museum of American Art hosts ongoing shows of past and contemporary U.S. artworks. Tuesday-Saturday 11 am-4 pm, Thursday till 7:30 pm, Sunday 1-5 pm. Most programs are free. In the Landmark Center at 5th and Market, St. Paul, phone 612-292-4355. Minnehaha Falls and Park. The falls inspired Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha and composer Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Popular area for hikers and picnickers. No fees. Open until sundown, but it’s safest to leave before then. 50th and Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis. Four large Mississippi riverboats depart from two landings at the Paddleford Packet Boat Company. The tour from Boom Island in Minneapolis goes to the lock and dam at St. Anthony Falls. The tour from Harriet Island in St. Paul goes to Fort Snelling. Public excursions at noon and 2 pm daily from both landings, Memorial Day-Labor Day. Trips last 90 minutes. US$9 adults, US$5.50 children age 14 and younger. Private charters May-October. Harriet Island, St. Paul, phone 612-227-1100.

Minnesota State Capitol. Designed by Cass Gilbert, architect of the U.S. Supreme Court Building and the George Washington Bridge. The capitol features one of the largest self-supporting domes in the world. A 45-minute guided tour on the hour. Monday-Friday 9 am-4 pm, Saturday 10 am-3 pm, Sunday 1-3 pm. Free. Aurora and Cedar Streets, St. Paul, phone 612-297-3521.

The Science Museum of Minnesota permits active participation by children and adults in engaging exhibits of science and natural history. Hands-on physics experiments in the Experiment Gallery, dinosaur and fossil exhibits, Minnesota landscape exhibit and tornado exhibit, among others. The 3M Omnitheater is a thrilling movie-going experience. Monday-Saturday 9:30 am-9 pm, Sunday 10 am-9 pm. Exhibit and Omnitheater admission: US$8 adults, US$6 seniors (age 65 and over) and children (ages 4-12). Omnitheater only: US$7 adults, US$5 seniors and children. Exhibits only: US$5 adults, US$4 seniors and children. Corner of Wabasha and Exchange Streets, St. Paul, phone 612-221-9488.

The Minneapolis Planetarium offers tours of the night skies and intriguing investigations of the latest discoveries in space. Show times depend on the season. US$4 adults, US$2.50 children age 12 and under. 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, phone 612-630-6150. The Minnesota Zephyr Limited, a restored and decorated train, evokes the gilded past with five dining cars—one designated for smoking and another with clear domes for viewing the scenery. Reservations required. Semiformal attire, includes five-course dinner. The three-hour, round-trip tours board at the Stillwater Depot Logging and Railroad Museum and travel north to White Bear Lake. Tours are conducted year round, leaving Friday and Saturday at 6:30 pm, Sunday at 11:30 am. US$58.50 per person not including sales tax, gratuity or beverages. 601 N. Main St., Stillwater, phone 612-430-3000. Minnesota Children’s Museum. Exhibits and shows with hands-on experiences in the arts, sciences and humanities for children ages 6 months to about 12 years. Tuesday-Sunday 9 am-5 pm. US$5.95 for people ages 3-60, US$3.95 toddlers and senior citizens. Corner of 7th and Wabasha, St. Paul, phone 612-225-6000.

UnderWater World. Huge aquarium at the Mall of America (Bloomington) which includes sharks and stingrays along with many other lake-and-sea creatures. The four tanks represent a Minnesota lake, the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico and a Caribbean coral reef. Monday-Thursday 10 am-8 pm, Friday 10 am-9 pm, Saturday 9 am-9 pm, Sunday 10 am-7 pm. US$9.95 adults, US$7.95 seniors, US$5.95 children ages 3-12, free for children under age 3. I-494 and Highway 77. Phone 612-883-0202.

Minnesota History Center. A center dedicated to exhibiting and preserving the history of Minnesota. Hear vintage Betty Crocker broadcasts or view Prince’s costume from Purple Rain. The center also houses a library for researching geneology. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday and Saturday 10 am-5 pm, Thursday 10 am-9 pm, Sunday noon-5 pm. Open Mondays July-August. The library is closed on Sunday. Free. 345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul, phone 612-296-6126 or 800-657-3773.

The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. Sometimes called “The Quackery Hall of Fame,” this museum has the largest collection of quack medical devices in the world. The approximately 250 devices range from a phrenology machine from the 1920s to the more recent Crystaldyne Pain Reliever from the 1990s. If you aren’t familiar with Minneapolis, you might want to call for directions. Free. Tuesday-Thursday 5-9 pm, Friday and Saturday noon-9 pm, Sunday noon-5 pm. 201 S. Main St., Minneapolis, phone 612-379-4046.