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18 Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Minnesota

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Minnesota is undeniably a great state to visit, blessed with breathtaking scenery, lively cities, and charming towns. The historical landmarks in Minnesota are among the state’s best things to see and explore!

To visit Minnesota landmarks is a testament to your adventurous spirit. It also makes the historical connection between Midwestern exploration and memorable travel experiences.

Indulge in a travel experience with incredible scenery and a unique Minnesotan ambiance surrounding you. If you want to start a fantastic journey, use this list of historic landmarks in Minnesota as a guide on which destinations you should visit the most.

Famous Landmarks in Minnesota to Visit

Let’s visit some of the top landmarks to visit and see in the North Star state.

1. Fort Snelling

Historic Fort Snelling

Address: 200 Tower Ave, St. Paul, MN 55111, United States

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Leavenworth began constructing Historic Fort Snelling in 1820 alongside the Mississippi River. It was originally named Fort St. Anthony.

The name was later changed to reflect Colonel Snelling’s contribution. Today, this historic fort is considered a state park.

Originally designed as a garrison fort to guard against potential invasions from British Canada following the War of 1812, Fort Snelling became the headquarters for supplying and staging operations against the local Native Americans.

Unfortunately, the local Native Americans relied on the river for food, trade, and transportation. This immediately caused friction between the fort and indigenous peoples.

The fort made it easier for the US to protect its interests in the fur trade that was thriving in the region. It would also serve as a marshaling point for Minnesota’s volunteer regiments during the Civil War. During the Second World War, the fort was the center for the Military Intelligence Service Language School, where army personnel learned Japanese.

The shop at this historic state park is open year-round, where you can get souvenirs or purchase snacks and beverages, books about early Minnesotan and American history, and other history-themed gifts after visiting the grounds.

In summer, you can watch fantastic reenactments showcasing Union Army soldiers conducting close-order drills with musket and cannon fire.

See Related: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin: What’s the Difference?

2. Landmark Center

St. Paul Landmark Center
EWY Media – stock.adobe.com

Address: 75 W 5th St, St. Paul, MN 55102, United States

Landmark Center was built in 1902, and the building was originally designed for use as the Upper Midwest Post office and a Federal Court House. In the 1970s, it was tagged for demolition and meant to be replaced by new development.

Luckily, local citizens fought the order and restored the structure to its former grandeur. The Minnesota landmark is among the best reasons to plan a visit to the state.

It’s home to three of the best museums in Minnesota: Ramsey County Historical Society Gallery, the Schubert Club Museum, and the Woodturners Gallery of Wood Art. Landmark Center also acts as a cultural center where people get together to enjoy exhibitions, music, public forums, theater, and dance.

It’s also a popular venue for hosting unique and private events. It can act like a visitor center for those not from the area, hosting unique events that attract people from around Saint Paul and beyond.

Landmark Center offers meeting halls and banquet facilities. Catering is available, and there are commercial air services close by. Overall, it’s an artistic community space, where the historical setting adds to the important connection of bringing residents of Saint Paul together.

See Related: Best Weekend Vacations in Minnesota

3. James J. Hill House

James J. Hill house mansion in Saint Paul Minnesota
CURTIS / Adobe Stock

Address: 240 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN 55102, United States

The James J. Hill House was once Minnesota’s most expensive and most prominent home. Built by the railroad magnate James J. Hill, it was a sign of success in business and family life.

The home is located on St. Paul’s historic Summit Avenue, home to the city’s most significant stretch of Victorian-era residences. It was finished in 1891 with 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, and an 88-foot high reception hall, all in 36,500 square feet spanning five floors.

There are mechanical systems for heating, plumbing, gas, lighting, communication, ventilation, and security. It’s also decorated with carved mahogany and oak woodwork that exemplifies the Gilded Age.

The James J. Hill House had a two-story skylit art gallery where Hill kept his magnificent art collection. He was mainly attracted to the mid-19th century Barbizon School landscape painters, including Jules Dupré and Théodore Rousseau.

The house was designed with retractable iron grilles on all doors and windows to secure art and other valuables. Five years after the death of Mrs. Hill, the mansion was purchased from the estate by her family members, who then donated it to the Catholic church in 1925.

It was used as a school, office building, and church residence. In 1961, it gained recognition as a National Historic Landmark; in 1978, it was acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society for Preservation. It can be fun to walk around the home and view the symbols of personal taste and grandiosity that capture the essence of the Gilded Age in America.

See Related: Best Parks in St. Paul, Minnesota

4. Mill City Museum

Mill City Museum Building
Jeff Bukowski / Shutterstock.com

Address: 704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401, United States

The Mill City Museum is an eight-story architectural showpiece built on the Washburn A. Mill ruins. The National Historic Landmark dates back to the early 19th century, and at the time of its completion, it became the largest mill in the world.

It was designed by the celebrated Austrian engineer William de la Barre in the 1800s and now houses a wonderful museum. Take part in the walking tours where you can retrace past footsteps as you hear stories about the daily workings of the mill. Experience the sights and sounds of one of Minneapolis’s most scenic and oldest parts in a refurbished design protecting history while providing important modernization.

Mill City Museum also offers the beautiful Minneapolis Riverfront Walking Tour, where you learn about the city’s ever-brightening future and the dramatic past it strives to overcome along the banks of the Mississippi River.

A tour can take you through the St. Anthony District, once the milling center of the world and now a thriving residential neighborhood undergoing recreational and cultural growth.

Stopping at the Stone Arch Bridge for a great view of St. Anthony Falls is incredible.

You may be able to hear the rushing water as you stand on a National Civil Engineering Landmark. You will also get a better idea of all the famous landmarks surrounding the riverfront.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Rochester, Minnesota

5. Purple Rain House

Front of the Purple Rain House in Minneapolis

Address: 3420 Snelling Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406, United States

The Purple Rain House is a 1,348-square-foot home with two bathrooms and three bedrooms built in 1913 and was used in the filming of the 1984 movie “Purple Rain,” starring Prince as the main character “Kid.” Prince later purchased this two-story house in 2016, shortly before his death by accidental overdose. He owned several properties in Minnesota and was among the largest landowners in the city by the time of his death.

The Purple Rain house is a popular pilgrimage point for Prince fans to remember him and take photos. The house is in a residential neighborhood, so be considerate of the neighbors when you visit.

The visit takes an hour at most, so add a few activities to your itinerary to keep you going if you’re making a full-day trip. If you’re looking for inspiration, take the Twin Cities Highlights Tour and get to learn about the city of Minnesota. This tour has a guide, which takes approximately three hours to complete.

If you have a car, The Purple Rain House is only about a 15-minute drive from the famous Mall of America.

See Related: The Ultimate Guide to Minneapolis Nightlife

6. Minnesota State Capitol

Minnesota State Capitol Building at Night
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard., St. Paul, MN 55155, United States

The Minnesota State Capitol was established in 1905 in a settlement previously called Pig’s Eye Landing. Pig’s Eye’s name was only changed after a Catholic missionary built a chapel dedicated to St. Paul.

It also took a lot of petty deliberation before the name was changed. The capital and its surroundings are stunning places to visit in Minnesota, with plenty of natural beauty.

St. Paul was made the new Minnesota Territory’s capital, and when Minnesota joined the Union in 1858, St. Paul became the state’s capital.

In 1849, the Minnesota Territory legislature team held meetings in St. Paul in a log hotel. Five years later, the first capitol building was finished but burned down during a legislative session in 1881.

Finished in 1883, the 2nd capitol building had ventilation issues and was relatively small for the rapidly growing state. The bill for the current state capitol was passed in 1893 by a commission. In 1895, a competition for the best architectural design was held, drawing in over 40 architects.

The contract was won by a very influential local 35-year-old architect called Cass Gilbert, and construction began in 1896. Free guided tours of the Minnesota State Capitol are aimed at enlightening you about the architecture, capitol history, art, and state government. You can find many works of art, sculptures, and artifacts sacred to Minnesota, in addition to murals and paintings from the original 1905 design.

See Related: Best Minneapolis Walking Tours for History Buffs

7. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Address: 725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403, United States

At its opening in 1988, the world-famous Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was the only park of its kind in the US. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board made it in partnership with the Walker Art Center, which is right next door.

The parkland has been transformed from the marshland expanse and former seasonal camp for Ojibwe and Dakota Natives it used to be. Later in the 1800s, it was used as an army parade ground with an armory on-site.

In the 1900s, the Park Board established formal gardens and fields for numerous sports. To help make the marshland more sustainable by absorbing excess stormwater, the Park Board had a fresh meadow made with engineered soils and native plants.

Since its opening, it has been visited by millions of people. This garden has over 40 outdoor sculptures made by artists from different countries and several generations, including the popular Geometric Mouse – Scale A by Claes Oldenburg.

Many works were explicitly made for this beautiful park, such as the centerpiece, the instantly recognizable Spoonbridge and Cherry, and others significant enough for people to gather under, converse, relax, and be inspired.

See Related: Best Scenic Drives in Minnesota

8. Washburn Park Water Tower

Washburn Park Water Tower

Address: 401 Prospect Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55419, United States

The Washburn Park Water Tower was constructed from 1931-1932 to replace the old one. It was designed by Harry Wild Jones and constructed by William S. Hewitt.

The sculptures of the eight knights standing armed guard were made by John K. Daniels, a local designer who also did work on the Washburn Flour Mills Utility Building.

The military imagery doesn’t end there. The cylindrical tower resembles interlocked Roman shields known as “scutum,” and the dome resembles the central plate of the larger collection of interlocked shields.

Made of reinforced concrete, a new technology at the time of construction, the Washburn Park Water Tower stands at 110 feet and can hold up to 1.35 million gallons of water. It was the primary water source for the neighboring residents up to the 1990s.

The tower was named a National Historic Landmark in 1983. It is no longer used as the primary supply for the people of the Tangletown neighborhood, but it still helps to boost the water pressure.

The tower also plays another role in an unofficial capacity as a helpful landmark for planes landing at MSP and St. Paul Downtown Airport.

See Related: Minneapolis Murals You Need to Visit

9. Music Wall

Minneapolis Music Wall
IVY PHOTOS / Shutterstock.com

Address: 94 S 10th St, Minneapolis, MN 55403, United States

The Schmitt Music Company commissioned the Music Wall in 1972 on a building located at 94 S 10th St, Minneapolis, MN 55403, at the S Marquette Avenue and S 10th Street intersection after the adjacent property was demolished and turned into a parking lot.

The 5-story tall Schmitt Musical mural was painted on what used to be the Schmitt Music Company headquarters. The company later moved on, and the building is now the offices of The Creative Partners Group (CPG).

In the 1970s, most cities in America began to beautify older buildings in the older downtowns. Robert P. Schmitt decided to do the same and settled on musical notes. The company’s advertising art director, Jill Sprangers, was tasked with actualizing the idea and settled on a measure from a piece of music.

She had to choose a piece that would look great on the wall and fit the building’s history well. She settled on the “Gaspard de la Nuit,” which is pleasing to the eye and quite a challenging solo.

The Music Wall had to be prepared before the notes were painted. This took the filling up of 32 windows, two coats of primer, and paint before the musical notes themselves.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Minneapolis & St. Paul

10. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Scenery

Address: 120 W Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55102, United States

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is a 72-mile-long stretch along the Mississippi River. The river separates Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the recreation area helps to protect the land on both sides of its banks. Its only waterfall is St. Anthony Falls, which plunges down a narrow gorge north of the Twin Cities.

The river offers the best and quietest stretches for fishing, boating, and canoeing. You can also hike in this area, go birdwatching, or cycle. It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the beauty of this majestic river.

There is a visitor center where guests can get info on the area and tutorials. For example, if you want to fish but haven’t gone fishing and are worried you may embers yourself, there’s the “Fish with a Ranger” program. It’s a great introduction to the resources of the area, the natural beauty, and the best methods for fishing, among several other programs offered.

Things to see include the Coldwater Spring that was added to the park to help restore the landscape. This took the demolition of 12 old buildings and seeding an acre of wetlands and 12 acres of prairie.

The Mississippi Gateway Regional Park is also along the river and has picturesque scenery. The park has over 2 miles of trails and lots of wildlife.

You can also visit the Hidden Falls Regional Park below Dam 1 and Lock. It’s excellent for fishing, picnicking, walking, and birdwatching.

It’s a small seasonal waterfall hidden off the main trails and perfect for feeling like a local with insider knowledge. The Mississippi River begins in the historic Lake Itasca located within Itasca State Park in Bemidji and winds through the state, eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico.

See Related: Best Lakes in Minnesota (Ranked!)

11. Walker Art Center

Front of the Walker Art Center

Address: 725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403, United States

Walker Art Center was designed to catalyze the audiences’ active engagement with art and as a space to encourage artists’ creative expression. The center undertakes programs focusing on questions important to communities, individuals, and their cultures.

They do this by taking diverse and multidisciplinary approaches to collect, interpret, and present art. They also take a heavy focus on performing, visual and multi-media arts. This means your experience during your visit to the Minnesota landmark will differ from how others engage with Minnesota’s history.

The Walker Art Center was started as a personal art gallery in 1879 at the home of Thomas Barlow Walker, a local lumber baron. It hosts over 13,000 modern and contemporary art pieces, including paintings, fashion items, prints, pottery, and more. You can enjoy several free online programs, including art-making workshops with local artists and exhibition tours.

Contemporary art displayed in the museum demonstrates the different definitions of artistic perspective. It is not about capturing a single image. Instead, it’s about the connection you make or the relationship you develop with a static work or one focused on movement.

See Related: Best Tours in Minnesota

12. Landmark Plaza

St. Paul Landmark Plaza

Address: 379 St Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55102, United States

Visiting the park is easily among the best things to enjoy in Minnesota. The Landmark Plaza’s construction began in 1892 and was completed in 1902.

It was initially established as a local government project to reconnect the city with the Mississippi River. It’s close to the Landmark Center and beautifies downtown Saint Paul with its scene-setting trees and green lawns.

It’s a trendy place to visit, offering a seasonal ice rink, bronze statues of beloved Peanuts characters, and some nice shady spots for picnics. It also hosts festivals, concerts, and other outdoor events popular with the St Paul crowd. The creative lighting design breathes life into the posts and surroundings, creating a beautiful and inviting space beside one of the United State’s most famous rivers.

The Wells Fargo WinterSkate outdoor ice rink that pops up in winter is free. Next to the ice rink is a warming facility for when the cold becomes a bit much, but it’s also where you can get your skate rentals.

The plaza is magical any time of year, but in winter, the park glows with light shining against the snow. Transportation is readily available around the park should you want to check out other attractions in Minneapolis.

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13. Mary Tyler Moore Statue

Mary Tyler Moore Statue

Address: 700 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55402, United States

The bronze Mary Tyler Moore Statue is an iconic moment in American pop-culture history frozen in time. The figure stands close to where the original hat-toss was filmed. For those unfamiliar with her namesake TV show, Mary Tyler would toss her blue hat at the end of each opening sequence as she twirled excitedly and expressed her independence.

TV Land commissioned the statue to commemorate the star who brought joy to so many with her acting in the beloved TV series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Mary Tyler Moore’s career-oriented character was a huge inspiration for women, especially when many were not taken seriously in the professional world.

Other places nearby associated with Mary Tyler Moore include the Mary Tyler Moore House (2104 Kenwood Pkwy) and RSM Plaza (801 Nicollet Mall), whose exterior shots were used in the show as the office where she worked. There’s also Riverside Plaza (1600 6th St. S) which was used for shots of where Mary lived in seasons six and seven of the show.

See Related: Best GoPro Accessories for Travel

14. Split Rock Lighthouse

Aerial view of Split Rock Lighthouse
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN 55616, United States

Split Rock Lighthouse rises above the Great Lakes on the rugged shores of Lake Superior. It is an undeniable historic Minnesota landmark. Constructed in 1910, it has guided ships safely through treacherous waters for over 100 years and played a crucial part in preventing numerous shipwrecks.

Today, you can visit the well-preserved historic site, a state park named Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, by diving deep into the maritime history in the exhibits and guided tours within the state park.

You don’t need to like history to enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding cliffs. Split Rock Lighthouse is a cinematic and serene place perfect for local history lovers and nature enthusiasts who dabble in photography.

Hike scenic trails, have a picnic among the breathtaking vistas, or even participate in special events like the annual “Beacon Lighting” ceremony that commemorates the sinking of the freighter SS Admit Fitzgerald. Split Rock Lighthouse is one of Minnesota’s most exciting landmarks as you examine the history, nature, and local maritime heritage.

See Related: Largest Lakes In The World Are Each Natural Wonders

15. Frederick R Weisman Art Museum

Weisman Museum Art, Minneapolis
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: 333 E River Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55455, United States

The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum perches on a cliff overlooking the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Established in 1993, Frank Gehry designed the museum turning the home for art into an artistic masterpiece and attracting visitors with its striking contours.

Minnesota landmarks are celebrated for their design and an extensive collection of American art, including works by artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley. The historic landmark serves as a platform for art education, exhibitions, and public programs to enrich the local community with a variety of cultural experiences.

The Weisman Art Museum has become part of Minneapolis’s history and offers excellent views of Downtown Minneapolis for an added layer of beauty outside the museum walls.

You can explore the exceptional art collection, attend lectures on art history or creation, and participate in workshops focused on your creative spirit. Soak up the stunning views of the river and enjoy a space where art connoisseurs and those seeking inspiration can meet. Watch the full ViaTravelers YouTube video tour of the museum to learn more.

16. Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone Cliffs in Pipestone National Monument
johnsroad7 / Adobe Stock

Address: 36 Reservation Ave, Pipestone, MN 56164, United States

Pipestone National Monument, located in the southwestern corner of Minnesota in Pipestone County, resembles the countless clay stones that can be found scattered throughout the natural world.

What sets this particular monument apart is its historical significance to the indigenous Sioux people, who utilized these stones to craft intricate religious symbols. Over time, this remarkable practice transformed Pipestone into one of the most prominent natural landmarks in the country.

So notable was this monument that it earned a place on the esteemed National Historic Places Register, solidifying its importance and ensuring its preservation for future generations. Once you toured and learned about the history of Pipestone National Monument, numerous surrounding parks await your exploration.

These parks offer an ideal setting for immersing oneself in the serene beauty of nature, allowing visitors to indulge in leisurely walks amidst the stunning scenery. Pipestone National Monument stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous Sioux people and serves as a cherished symbol of their deep connection to the land.

17. Stone Arch Bridge

Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: 100 Portland Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401, United States

The Stone Arch Bridge, a significant corridor connecting different regions, was a crucial pathway for trains to traverse the mighty Mississippi River. This iconic structure embodied advancements in industrialization and engineering and stood as a symbol of human ingenuity.

Constructed in 1883, the Stone Arch Bridge is the sole stone crosswalk spanning the entire length of this majestic river. Its historical significance is further reinforced by its status as the second most historic bridge in the United States, cementing its position as a cherished piece of Minneapolis history and one of the most famous landmarks in the state.

Visitors can traverse this remarkable bridge on foot or by bicycle, basking in the breathtaking beauty of their surroundings while experiencing the grandeur of this architectural marvel in the Twin Cities.

18. Glensheen Mansion

The famous Glensheen Mansion and its summer garden display.
Craig Hinton / Shutterstock.com

Address: 3300 London Rd, Duluth, MN 55804, United States

The Congdon Estate, famously known as Glensheen Mansion, served as the residence of the Congdon Family in the past. With its Jacobean architecture, the mansion appeals to both art and history fans. Since its opening to the public in the 1970s, it has received recognition for its heritage value, earning a spot on the National Heritage Register in 1991.

The estate’s history is not all that draws visitors, as the tragic murder of Elisabeth Congdon in 1975 is also of significant interest. Those who visit can explore the mansion and its grounds, where they will discover information about the residence’s past and events.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are there any hidden gem landmarks in Minnesota?

Minnesota landmarks offer a treasure trove of historical wonders and boast multiple hidden gem landmarks waiting to be explored. From the mysterious Jeffers Petroglyphs to the Hjemkomst Center, these lesser-known sites offer a unique blend of history and culture. Discover the rich tapestry of Minnesota’s past by combining these lesser-explored historical landmarks with the best things to do in Minnesota.

What historic sites can be found in Minnesota?

The Minnesota Historical Society demonstrates the North Star State as a land steeped in history, home to numerous captivating landmarks. From the awe-inspiring shores of Lake Superior to the Snake River Fur Post, where the state’s past comes alive, Minnesota offers an array of iconic sites. Find the state’s rich heritage and diverse stories when adding them to your itinerary, and consider a more luxurious stay at the Four Seasons, Minneapolis.

Are there any guided tours available for Minnesota landmarks?

National historic landmarks across Minnesota offer guided tours. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through the fascinating history of sites like the majestic Pipestone National Monument and the intriguing Grand Portage National Monument.

A guide is an invaluable addition to your experience because of the stories and context they can provide you at every step of your tour. Whether it’s along Lake Superior or on a walking tour of Saint Paul, expert-led tours are an enriching Minnesota experience. Look for more opportunities to find your guides to enhance your trip.

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