One way to enjoy a fun-filled day is to explore some of the best museums in Minnesota. Each of these museums makes it easy and fun to learn about a variety of subjects. No matter what you are interested in, you’ll find at least one museum that piques your curiosity. Here are the 11 best museums in Minnesota that you’ll want to make it a point to visit.
1. American Swedish Institute
First on the list of best museums in Minnesota is the American Swedish Institute. The Institute boasts a café and cultural center where you can get an idea of how the people of Sweden live.
The museum itself is housed in the Turnblad Mansion, which locals also know as the city’s “castle.” The building dates back to the early 1900s, as construction took place from 1904 to 1908.
The Turnblad Mansion is historically significant because it is among the few remaining buildings constructed during a period of time locals referred to as the Golden Mile, a.k.a. Park Avenue. At the time it was first called the Golden Mile, Park Avenue was at peak popularity.
Not surprisingly, the Turnblad Mansion is located in a neighborhood that was among the most historic in Minnesota.
2. Paisley Park
Fans of Prince are clamoring to visit Paisley Park. It serves as a museum chronicling his life and his work. Visitors to this unique museum get to see the studio where Prince recorded some of his most iconic songs. The museum’s guided tour gives you the opportunity to see many of Prince’s personal artifacts.
3. Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
If you are a fan of Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’ll want to visit her self-named museum, which was originally the home she grew up in.
Among the items, you’ll see in the museum are Laura’s collection of Kelton dolls. In and around the grounds of the museums you can view the church that Laura and her family attended services at. You’ll also be able to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Monument.
In addition to these sites, the museum runs events such as a Laura Ingalls Wilder look-alike contest and even the yearly Wilder Pageant. These performances are narrated from Laura’s point of view.
4. Science Museum of Minnesota
Next on the list of best museums in Minnesota is the Science Museum of Minnesota which is more than just a place to view exhibits. Many of them are interactive and are fun no matter what your age is. One of the unique experiences at this museum is watching a movie in its Omnitheater. With a digital laser dome, you’ll enjoy watching on the 90-foot screen. It’s also worth noting that this is one of the few museums anywhere that has its own mini-golf course. Luxury golf courses are one of the things Minnesota is known for.
But the science museum takes its unique entertainment options a step further by running a summer day camp. They even offer financing for families who may not have the means to pay.
A recent addition to the facility is the previously separate Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. It has some unique exhibits, with one example being a phrenological machine. This machine uses the bumps on a person’s head to determine what their personality is. It dates back to the beginning of the 1900s, where it and other machines were displayed at various state fairs.
5. House of Balls
One of the most unusual museums on our list of best museums in Minnesota is the House of Balls. It was started by a local artist who specializes in creating sculptures. Anytime he is in the building, visitors are welcome to come in.
If he is not in the building, visitors can still see select sculptures in the museum’s window. All it takes is the push of a button to watch them become animated. You even have the option of recording a message on the museum’s intercom, which other visitors can then listen to.
Some of the more unusual items you will find in this museum are the innards of a typewriter, false teeth, bowling balls, and headstones.
6. State School Orphanage Museum
From 1866 to 1945 many of Minnesota’s most neglected children were sent to the State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children. After the school closed, the State School Orphanage Museum opened in its place.
Tours of the museum feature the cottages where its students lived, along with the classrooms they were taught in, and the cemetery that served as the final resting spot for children who passed away there. Far from the typical museum, it was opened in honor of the memories of these children.
7. Ed’s Museum
Natives of Minnesota are familiar with a Wykoff local legend named Edwin Kruger. He was best known for his food store, Jack Sprat. However, Ed had a habit of keeping belongings long after he didn’t need them anymore. This is a habit that he developed after his wife passed away in 1940.
Upon his 1989 death, he willed Jack Sprat Food Store to the community at large. His will stated that the store must be turned into a museum. The unusual items in the museum include old editions of TV Guide, oatmeal tins, years of his accumulated junk mail, and even player piano rolls.
While the first floor of the museum is filled with these items, the second floor was an imagined clean and organized version of Ed’s house. But it also serves as a place where Ed chose to keep his deceased cat.
8. Minnesota Marine Art Museum
If marine life and art are two of your interests, you’ll want to make it a point to visit the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. The museums’ tagline is “Great Art Inspired By Water.” This theme is the subject of many pieces of artwork that you will find here. One of the newest exhibits even focuses on the North Shore of Lake Superior.
In the past, the museum has run Spark. This was a culture-based program designed for those who suffer from memory loss, as well as the people that care for them. The program brought those with memory loss together to interact and socialize in a safe and supportive environment. While this program is not currently running, it is expected to resume in the future.
But the museum also boasts a sprawling garden, referred to as the museum’s seventh gallery. The American Prairie Style garden was designed with museum visitors in mind. It spans 3.5 acres and features over 60,000 trees, plants, grasses, and shrubs.
9. Minnesota Transportation Museum
Any train buff will be able to appreciate the Minnesota Transportation Museum. Not only will you see old-fashioned freight trains and various pieces of equipment, but you will also see steam and diesel locomotives.
While you are visiting, be sure to take a ride on one of the many themed train tours, including the 90-minute Fall Colors Ride, the Pumpkin Express Train, and (seasonally,) the Pizza Train. This is your best choice if you will be visiting with children. The Pumpkin Express Train Ride includes food, as well as entertainment in the forms of games and music.
You will also want to take a ride on the Marine Train. During the ride, you will learn all about the history of local railways and coach trains, among other lessons.
10. Greyhound Bus Museum
You won’t soon forget your experience at the Greyhound Bus Museum. The museum tour takes you into a tunnel where you will experience the sounds that automobiles made in 1914. It also includes a view of the Hupmobile, a model of car that was never made available for purchase. Along with viewing the Hupmobile, you will get to see 12 other busses dating back to the 1930s.
During the tour, you will also learn about the role that Greyhound buses played in World War II. It chronicles the rise of Greyhound, which started with a two-mile route and grew into what it is today. The tour also includes audio, artifacts, and pictures that detail exactly how Greyhound found success. You will top the tour off by watching the museums’ movie, “The Greyhound Story.”
11. Lake Superior Railroad Museum
Last but not least on the list of best museums in Minnesota is home to one of the country’s largest railroad museums. No matter when you visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum you’ll see some interesting exhibits.
To get the most out of your experience, try to visit between June and October. This is the time of the year when you can take a train ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. For an unforgettable view of Lake Superior, be sure to also ride the Lakefront Line.
More Than a Museum
These 11 are among the best museums in Minnesota. They break the mold of the typical museum and allow you to have interactive experiences that you may never have thought you would.
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.