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The 10 Best Museums in Minneapolis & St. Paul for Cultural Gems

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Minnesota‘s reputation for winter sports, lakeside fun, a bevy of breweries, and an awesome state fair are well earned. But what if you aren’t looking to go cross-country skiing or taste-test craft beer?

Good news! The Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), are brimming with cultural treasures waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a passionate art fan, a history enthusiast, or someone searching for an inspiring educational experience, these museums promise to satiate cultural cravings.

Home to a rich tapestry of artistry and heritage that spans the globe and traverses centuries, many of the best museums in this metropolis are world-class institutions that rival the best museums and galleries in cities like New York and LA or even London, Paris, and Rome.

As a born and raised Minnesotan and member of two amazing art museums (Minneapolis Institute of Art and Walker Art Center), I figured it was high time to craft a piece dedicated to what makes the museum scene so special in the Twin Cities.

Each institution tells a unique story, from the contemporary masterpieces housed within the sleek walls of the Walker Art Center to the giant astronaut at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Prepare to be captivated by exceptional creativity, ingenuity, and spirit displays. Join us on this curated journey as we unveil these cities’ top cultural activities and attractions!

Top 5 Museums in Minneapolis and Saint Paul for…

Culture & Art History Contemporary Art Kids History Science
Minneapolis Institute of Art Walker Arts Center Science Museum of Minnesota Mill City Museum The Bakken Museum
2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404 725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403 120 W Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55102 704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401 3537 Zenith Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55416

Best Museums in Minneapolis & St. Paul

1. Walker Art Center & Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Front of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Things to Know

  • Address: 725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403
  • Official Website: walkerart.org
  • Type of Museum: Center for the arts and neighboring sculpture park.
  • Hours of Operation: (WAC) Wednesday to Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM. Closed: Monday and Tuesday.

Nestled in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center stands as a landmark of the city’s culture, seamlessly blending contemporary and modern art. The neighboring sculpture garden is part of the experience and an iconic photo op.

Conceived as a multidimensional art space, it houses an outstanding permanent collection full of paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings. Its galleries resonate with works from avant-garde to minimalist, and the venue is a linchpin for local, national, and international artists. The museum merges the visual arts with live performances, making it unique in Minnesota’s museum landscape.

Next door, you’ll find the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a beloved urban oasis, home to the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture. With the Walker, it’s a symbiotic space marrying the sleek interior of a contemporary museum to the raw delight of sculptures you can admire up close.

The Walker offers a suite of artistic encounters through its performances and film screenings – check the calendar of events to see what’s happening during your visit. Be it contemporary art, thought-provoking dance, edgy theater, or an indie film showing, the Walker is sure to have it.

See Related: Day Trips from Minneapolis & St. Paul

2. Bell Museum

Bell Museum, St. Paul, Minnesota building exterior
Bell Museum / Facebook

Things to Know

  • Address: 2088 Larpenteur Ave W, St. Paul, MN 55113
  • Official Website: bellmuseum.umn.edu
  • Type of Museum: Natural history and science museum with a planetarium.
  • Hours of Operation: Wednesday to Sunday: 10 AM – 4 PM. Closed: Monday and Tuesday.

The Bell Museum is Minnesota’s gateway to the cosmos and the natural world and is a haven for young minds and adult connoisseurs of science alike. Hosted within the Saint Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, it’s the official state museum of natural history and architecture.

Renowned for offering immersive explorations of science and nature, the museum is home to the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium. Here, visitors can embark on stellar journeys reaching the farthest confines of the universe or plunge into the intricacies of the human brain.

Its expansive exhibits explore Earth’s biodiversity, featuring Minnesota’s landscapes, from the prairies to the iconic lakes. The museum boasts meticulously crafted dioramas, providing realistic glimpses into wildlife habitats.

3. Weisman Art Museum

Weisman Museum Art, Minneapolis
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Things to Know

  • Address: 333 E River Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55455
  • Official Website: wam.umn.edu
  • Type of Museum: Art museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Wednesday: 10 AM – 8 PM, Saturday and Sunday: 11 AM – 5 PM. Closed: Monday and Tuesday.

The weird and wonderful Weisman Art Museum is a modern art Mecca on Minneapolis’s University of Minnesota campus on the banks of the Mississippi River. Known for its striking stainless steel and brick facade, this art museum is a prime specimen of Frank Gehry’s deconstructivist architectural style.

The Weisman Art Museum boasts an impressive collection that spotlights American Modernism with various contemporary pieces. As you wander, you’ll discover the vast, thought-provoking ceramics, paintings, and sculptures collection.

The Weisman features rotating exhibits and local artists, embedding Minnesota’s unique cultural vibe within its walls. Education isn’t sidelined either—the public can engage with the arts through the museum’s dynamic programs.

4. Science Museum of Minnesota

Entrance to the Science Museum of Minnesota
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Things to Know

  • Address: 120 W Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55102
  • Official Website: new.smm.org
  • Type of Museum: Science museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Tuesday to Thursday: 10 AM – 5 PM, Friday and Saturday: 10 AM – 8 PM, Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM. Closed: Monday.

Overlooking the Mississippi River on the edge of downtown St. Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota stands as a beacon for the curious and those who crave the thrill of discovery. They also have a tip-top gift shop.

This is one of the best science museums in the country and a favorite for kids. It’s an interactive playground where science comes to life through hands-on exhibits and immersive experiences. Visitors might find themselves face to face with towering dinosaurs, exploring the human body, or pondering over the complexities of the cosmos.

The museum’s commitment to education is substantial. Most Minnesotan kids visit this place at least once in their lives on school trips.

The museum also runs a regular series of talks, presentations, and seminars covering all sorts of topics – check their calendar for more information. The museum’s location in downtown St. Paul adds to its allure, granting visitors a picturesque view of the mighty Mississippi and making it a memorable stop on any Twin Cities itinerary.

See Related: Best Hotels in Minneapolis | Top Places to Stay

5. Minnesota Transportation Museum

Front and entrance of Minnesota Transportation Museum
McGhiever / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Things to Know

  • Address: 193 Pennsylvania Ave E, St. Paul, MN 55130
  • Official Website: transportationmuseum.org
  • Type of Museum: Transportation and history museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Wednesday and Saturday: 10 AM – 4 PM. Closed: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

The Minnesota Transportation Museum in St. Paul holds a special place in the hearts of locals – myself included. Sitting at the crossroads of Minnesota’s rich railroad heritage, the museum is housed in a restored roundhouse, an authentic piece of railroading history!

The museum provides a hands-on experience that transports visitors back to a time when the locomotive reigned supreme. An impressive array of artifacts illustrate the impact of railway systems on the growth and development of Minnesota.

Rail enthusiasts can explore over 50 historic train cars, providing an evocative glimpse into the bygone era of steam engines and luxury passenger cars. These trains ain’t just for looking either; the museum offers train rides that serve as living history lessons.

Every chug and whistle underscore the narrative of Minnesota’s storied relationship with railway transportation. For those interested in the more technical aspects of railroading, including the mechanical and engineering feats, the museum provides an up-close look at the machines that fed American industry.

6. Mill City Museum

Mill City Museum Building
Jeff Bukowski / Shutterstock.com

Things to Know

  • Address: 704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401
  • Official Website: mnhs.org/millcity
  • Type of Museum: History museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Thursday and Friday: 10 AM – 4 PM, Saturday and Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM, Closed: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

You might not think a museum about milling and grain would be all that great, but the Mill City Museum is frankly epic. This edifice, once the world’s largest flour mill, is a testament to Minneapolis’ rich industrial past.

The old Washburn A Mill has a range of interactive exhibits that guide visitors through the rise of Minneapolis’ milling industry. The Mill illustrates how the Mississippi River played a crucial role in making Minneapolis the milling capital of the world for half a century.

Visitors can absorb the culture and history that flow through the old architectural veins of the Mill City Museum. There’s also an observation deck offering panoramic views of the Minneapolis riverfront, with highlights such as Mill Ruins Park and Stone Arch Bridge.

Speaking of which, if you have time for a brief walking tour through Minneapolis, do yourself a solid and check out Mill Ruins Park and Stone Arch Bridge. The former almost gives off European castle ruin vibes, and the city views from Stone Arch Bridge are spectacular.

7. The Museum of Russian Art

Inside The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Things to Know

  • Address: 5500 Stevens Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55419
  • Official Website: tmora.org
  • Type of Museum: Art museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday: 10 AM – 5 PM, Saturday: 10 AM – 4 PM, Sunday: 1-5 PM.

A glance at Minneapolis will tell you all you need to know about the diversity of this marvelous melting pot. It should come as no surprise that Minnesota is inclined towards diverse cultural institutions, from the Somali Museum of Minnesota to the Hmong Museum and even the American Swedish Institute.

The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) in Southwest Minneapolis is a unique window into the history and culture of Russia. This museum hosts a wealth of expertly curated exhibits of Russian art and is the only one of its kind in North America!

Cultural events and educational programs punctuate the museum’s calendar, fostering a deeper understanding of Russia’s contributions to the arts. TMORA’s thoughtful layout across multiple levels offers an intimate space, providing a tranquil sanctuary for art appreciation.

The walls are lined with folk, traditional, and contemporary art pieces, with exhibitions spanning Imperial to Soviet eras and beyond. Art connoisseurs and amateurs can marvel at the collection, from intricate paintings and captivating sculptures to artifacts that paint a detailed picture of Russia’s artistic evolution.

8. The Bakken Museum

Exterior of Bakken Museum in in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Bakken Museum / Facebook

Things to Know

  • Address: 3537 Zenith Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55416
  • Official Website: thebakken.org
  • Type of Museum: Science and technology museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Tuesday to Sunday: 10 AM – 4 PM, Closed: Monday.

The Bakken Museum is a niche haven for science and tech enthusiasts, located by the scenic Lake Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. The museum’s exterior is as intriguing as its contents, resembling an estate plucked from the pages of a Gothic novel.

This museum is named after Earl Bakken, a pioneer in medical technology and founder of Medtronic. The museum showcases Bakken’s legacy, merging the history of medical devices with interactive exhibits that spark curiosity in the minds of all ages.

Accessible education is a primary focus, with the museum offering a wealth of learning opportunities through its innovative displays. Visitors can play music on the “Bakkenspiel,” get creative at the Animation Station and engage with exhibits like Personal Prostheses 2.0.

9. Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Things to Know

  • Address: 2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404
  • Official Website: new.artsmia.org
  • Type of Museum: Art museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM, Thursday: 10 AM – 9 PM. Closed: Mondays.

The well-known Minneapolis Institute of Art, fondly called “Mia,” is a world-class destination for art enthusiasts. Mia boasts a vast and diverse collection, with over 90,000 works spanning 5,000 years of world history.

This treasure trove of art resides in a palatial mansion in the heart of Minneapolis. The museum’s bold architectural presence matches its curatorial efforts and fantastic collections.

This prestigious institution is a hub for stunning visual pieces and a beacon of cultural education. Arts, furniture, and priceless artifacts from Asia and Africa can be admired here, alongside an extensive catalog of American art, European paintings, textiles, photography, prints, and drawings.

As fine as any art gallery anywhere, Mia reaches beyond the traditional museum experience, offering visitors immersive encounters with past and present art museums. It stands out as one of Minneapolis’s premier art destinations and a vital part of the global cultural landscape.

10. Twin City Model Railroad Museum

Exhibit at Twin City Model Railroad Museum in Minnesota
Twin City Model Railroad Museum / Facebook

Things to Know

  • Address: 668 Transfer Rd Suite 8, St. Paul, MN 55114
  • Official Website: tcmrm.org
  • Type of Museum: Toy, transportation, and history museum.
  • Hours of Operation: Monday and Friday: 10 AM – 3 PM, Saturday: 10 AM – 2 PM & 3-7 PM, Sunday: 12-5 PM. Closed: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Kids and model rail enthusiasts take note; this one’s for you. Located in the Hamline-Midway area of St. Paul, the Twin City Model Railroad Museum offers a fascinating look into the realm of model trains and a unique look at Minnesota’s railroad history.

This museum provides a rich, tactile experience with interactive exhibits designed to engage all ages. The museum’s O-Scale exhibit traces the evolution of railroading in the Twin Cities. Then, you can explore numerous scales and intricate models that emulate the bygone eras of train travel.

Seasonal offerings, like the captivating Night Trains event from October to February, illuminate the exhibits in a new light, further enhancing the museum’s unique atmosphere. Accessibility is a core value here, allowing everyone to enjoy their visit. Admission is generally set at $10 for adults, with children under four admitted free of charge, making it a fun, family-friendly destination.

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