Snow and cold temps should never discourage people from visiting Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The area, including Minneapolis, St. Paul and suburbs, offers visitors at least a dozen indoor attractions worthy of a wintertime trip.
While outdoor activities are abundant, such as snowshoe hiking and Roseville’s outdoor ice skating oval, we tend to enjoy the indoors when the temperature drops below freezing. From an indoor golf course/adventureland designed for adults to cultural attractions, including the Walker Art Center and American Swedish Heritage Institute, we offer a look at a 12-pack of fun in the Twin Cities.
Mill City Museum
Minneapolis was once considered the “Mill Capital of the World.” Mills lined the Mississippi River. Those days ended, but the history lives on at the Mill City Museum. The museum is housed in the ruins of the Washburn Mill. Built in 1874, the mill was the largest flour mill in the world during its heyday. It produced about 12 million loaves of bread daily.
The building suffered three major explosions and fires through 1999. The first explosion killed 18 people and leveled the building. It was rebuilt in 1880. The mill closed in 1965. A fire in 1999 was believed to be arson-related.
Today, the museum offers a look at the city’s milling history through interactive exhibits and tours. Pillsbury and Gold Medal are the dominant companies covered at the museum.
US Bank Stadium
The Minnesota Vikings call US Bank Stadium home. The football stadium – home to Super Bowl LII (52) in 2018 – opened with the 2016 season. It’s created a great home field advantage for the Vikings. Stadium tours are offered throughout the year and give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the National Football League team’s operations. Unique artwork is highlighted during the tour, including player-created art and a portrait of the late singer Prince, created using his songs’ lyrics.
American Swedish Heritage Institute
The American Swedish Heritage Institute occupies the former Turnblad mansion. Swan Turnblad once published the country’s largest Swedish-language newspaper. The family lived there for about 20 years before donating the mansion to the Swedish Institute, which later turned it into a museum.
Walking through the building is a wonderful experience. The wood is dark, highlighted by a two-floor fireplace in the center of the mansion. Rooms are decorated as they would have appeared when the Turnblads lived there. It offers a look into the Midwest’s Swedish history.
Walker Art Center
Minneapolis is home to a fantastic contemporary art museum. The Walker Art Center offers visitors some great visual art through paintings, exhibitions, and sculptures.
Lisa and I are fans of pop and contemporary art, so this museum is right up our alley. The pop artists featured include Andy Warhol. Say what you want about the man, but anyone who can paint a soup can and have people line up to see it is OK in my book. Warhol – whose museum in Pittsburgh we’ve visited – has a couple of paintings on display, including pictures of Jackie Kennedy.
The Walker started in the home of TB Walker in the late 1800s. It became a public museum in 1927. However, it took off during the 1930s, when it became a public art center as part of a nationwide project to create art centers by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. It opened as a public art center in 1940.
The Walker ranks as one of the top modern art centers in the United States, along the lines of the Guggenheim and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Can Can Wonderland
Heading to St. Paul, we look at Can Can Wonderland, an indoor golf course that must be seen to be believed. Designed by local artists, people tend to describe their experiences here as “Dave and Busters on hyper drive.” A large indoor miniature golf course features one of the world’s longest holes (the 18th).
The boardwalk arcade features pinball machines lined against the walls, waiting for someone to play their favorite version from childhood. Grab a meal and some adult beverages while you’re here.
Science Museum of Minnesota
Adults and children enjoy visiting the Science Museum of Minnesota. Visitors enjoy checking out interactive displays ranging from space travel, the human body, race history and culture, as well as Native American history.
Visitors can view films, as well as take part in classes and visit special exhibits.
St. Paul Landmark Center
A short stroll from the science museum stands the Landmark Center. Built in 1902, the Romanesque-style building has served as a federal courthouse, post office and state offices. Today, it serves as an arts and cultural center. Public tours are offered.
Longtime US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun had an office at the Landmark, when he served as a law clerk to a federal judge during the 1930s.
Cathedral of St. Paul
We’ve long wanted to visit the Cathedral of St. Paul. The cornerstone for the cathedral was laid in 1907 and hosted its first mass in 1915. The cathedral seats 3,000 people.
The cathedral offers visitors a look at saints from around the world in its Shrines of Nations. About a half-dozen saints are honored, each representing an area of the world, such as Italy, Germany and Ireland. The 12 Stations of the Cross are displayed on plaques throughout the church. Historical figures are also displayed at the cathedral.
Como Park Conservatory
Como Park combines two of our favorites – a zoo and a conservatory/botanical garden. The conservatory and zoo don’t charge admission.
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is beautifully designed. A domed center with gardens and conference rooms extending outward, it’s divided into 13 gardens and exhibits. As you enter through the main door, you immediately see the palm dome. The palm trees nearly reach the roof. A blue sky creates a beautiful backdrop to the view.
Tucked in-between Minneapolis and St. Paul is Roseville. The suburb’s tourism tag is “Perfectly Positioned.”
The city is home to the Rosedale Center, an indoor mall. Home to stores such as Macy’s, Build-A-Bear and Herberger’s, the center offers a variety of retail, entertainment and dining options.
New to the Rosedale Center is Extreme Sandbox Mini, an indoor construction zone. Visitors can buy time to play on small excavators, moving mulch and trying to knock balls off orange cones. Extreme Sandbox Mini challenges your skills. You must be at least 10 years old to play on the equipment.
Extreme Sandbox Mini includes simulators for practicing working on heavy equipment. They even have a sandbox for children too young to ride the big toys.
Extreme Sandbox Mini is an expansion of the outdoor playground in Hastings, Minnesota. The outdoor location offers packages where people can work full-sized vehicles, including an excavator and bulldozer. The Hastings location is open seasonally.
Mall of America
Who hasn’t heard of the Mall of America? The largest indoor mall in the United States sits on a former outdoor football and baseball stadium. Metropolitan Stadium is remembered with home plate memorialized at the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park.
The Mall of America entices visitors to stay indoors for a whole vacation, with so many retail, entertainment and dining options. And there is plenty to keep everyone’s attention, from anchor stores Macy’s and Nordstrom’s to sports stores such as the Vikings Locker Room and L.L. Bean Outfitters.
Beyond Nickelodeon, MOA offers entertainment options including Flyover America, a flight simulator that takes riders across the United States with beautiful aerial views of some of the best attractions in the country, such as Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. Other attractions range from underwater creatures at Sealife Minnesota Aquarium to the Crayola Experience, home to hundreds of colors and merchandise.
Satisfying a person’s taste buds is easy with a slew of restaurants to choose from, including gourmet-style burgers at Burger Burger, sushi, Mexican, and our family’s favorite Bubba Gump’s. The food court offers fasts food selections, including A&W and Dairy Queen. Full-service restaurants are abundant, ranging from CRAVE to Twin City Grill.
Hotels are available at the Mall, with Radisson Blu attached via a skywalk. Other hotels within walking distance, shuttle service or short drive include JW Marriott Minneapolis, Country Inn and Suites and Hyatt Regency.
The Twin Cities appear to have something for everyone. With activities that can be enjoyed any time of the year makes the Twin Cities a location for all seasons.