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11 Best Museums in Rochester, Minnesota

11 Best Museums in Rochester, Minnesota

Stopping over in Rochester, Minnesota, or getting away for a bit? Check out these best museums in Rochester to unlock your sense of wonder and culture.

Rochester, MN was established in the 1850s at the base of an unusually fertile valley. Early settlers were drawn to Rochester by its fertile land for farming.

Given the significant history of Rochester, MN, there are plenty of museums for everyone’s interest.

Rochester Skyline

Whether you enjoy learning about different cultures or want to know more about the region, there is something for you.

Check out our Rochester travel guide from our YouTube channel highlighting the many things to see and do in Rochester, including its vast parks, museums and history.

Rochester, Minnesota | Things to Do & Attractions [4K HD]
Watch this video on YouTube.

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List of the best museums in Rochester, Minnesota

Let’s get into our favorite art, history and science museums in Rochester, Minnesota.

Charles E. Gagnon Museum & Sculpture Garden

Address: 2500 4th St SW, Rochester, MN 55902, United States

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

The Charles E. Gagnon Museum & Sculpture Garden, located on 4th St SW in Rochester, MN, is a beautiful place to visit.

A Minnesotan artist named Charles E. Gagnon created a bronze sculpture that can now be seen worldwide. Visitors can see his studio, personal library, and original works at the Charles E. Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Any visitor, both local and foreign, is welcome to schedule a tour and learn about the past of this incredible artist’s sculpture.

In an international community scene, the Charles E. Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden has been a place of elegance, harmony, and exploration since its creation. Visitors are welcomed as extended family by the museum team, which includes interns and volunteers.

It aims to keep Gagnon’s art alive by sharing it with others worldwide and encouraging the spread of world peace. A fantastic location that raises people’s spirits.

It is a beautiful place to experience Gagnon’s symbolic, or “realistic,” bronze sculptures, which uplift the human spirit.

The Charles E. Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden is Rochester’s crown jewel, where visitors can learn about a famous Minnesota sculptor’s realistic bronze sculpture.

When sculptor Charles E. Gagnon died in 2012, the home and studios of Charles were turned into a museum to celebrate the sculptor’s fifty-year artistic legacy.

See Related: Best Hotels in Rochester, Minnesota

Mayowood Mansion

Mayowood Mansion Architecture
Jonathunder, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 1924, the Mayo Clinic was founded by Dr. Charles Mayo and is located in Rochester, MN.

Dr. Charles Mayo arranged with his brother, William Worrall Mayo, to have the family house constructed for himself and his family in Rochester. Today, it is used as a museum to describe the history of the Mayo Clinic and is considered one of the best things to do in Minnesota.

The Mayowood Mansion has been described as unique example of architecture with both Neoclassical Revival and Georgian Revival Architecture.

Moreover, it was built on a grand scale and includes many luxurious details such as elaborate chimneys with carved caps, carved limestone gutters, ornamental corbels with the Mayos’ monogram of MD intertwined, and a copper-clad roof.

It has been said that this was Dr. Charles Mayo’s attempt to build the best house possible so that he could extend the Mayo Clinic’s reputation for excellence to architecture.

A short walk away from Mayowood is known as Dr. W.W. Mayo Cottage, which was another family home of the Mayos’ and rumored to be where the original idea of the Mayo Clinic was discussed.

The museums offers interactive exhibits with information on how to maintain your health, treatments for diseases, medical breakthroughs, and more.

The museum also has a children’s wing which includes a cafeteria and you can tour the estate’s gardens, so it can also be a great location for a family outing in both the winter and summer months!

The home is open on a daily basis between 8 and 11 in the morning for an hour-long tour. Kids between the ages of two and twelve are $17 each, along with adults, whereas children aged two years old can visit for $5 each.

See Related: Best Breweries in Rochester, MN

History Center of Olmsted County

History Center of Olmsted County Landscape
Myotus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address: 1195 W Circle Dr, Rochester, MN 55902, United States

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

In Rochester, Minnesota, the History Center of Olmsted County is a fantastic museum to visit. It was established in 1926 as a local history museum on a 54-acre site with a gallery, archives, and library.

Burton Eaton and several other founding members founded the Olmsted County Historical Society in 1926 to document and preserve the county’s history.

In 1940, the museum was established in the basement of the Rochester Public Library.

The Olmsted County Historical Society renamed itself the History Center of Olmsted County in 2006. (HCOC). The museum has an excellent staff that assists local and foreign visitors by offering a fun tour and sharing information about the museum’s history and context.

Every year, the History Center of Olmsted County hosts workshops, educational and outreach activities, museum displays, special events, and more with the help of its dedicated volunteers.

Two historic buildings and two historic farmsteads are still owned and operated by the History Center. The History Center also provides Mayowood Mansion hour long tours on a seasonal basis.

The History Center of Olmsted County has Native-American and Scandinavian heritage characteristics and backgrounds to present in any guest group of 45 or more that they can accommodate while visiting the museum.

See Related: Best Things to do in Saint Paul, Minnesota

Rochester Art Center

Rochester Art Center Exterior
guifengh / Shutterstock.com

Address: 30 Civic Center Dr SE, Rochester, MN 55904, United States

Rating: 4.2 out of 5

The Rochester Art Center is a stunning modern art center in downtown Rochester, Minnesota. It is located on Civic Center Dr SE. Exhibitions of local, national, and foreign art, as well as tours, classes, and workshops, are available at the Center.

The Rochester Art Center was established in 1946 as a dream of Newton Holland, the first president of the board of directors.

Its humble beginnings were in the unused upstairs rooms of the Rochester public library until moving to a small abandoned church on the corner by the West Center Street and through the Third Avenue Northwest in 1948.

Rochester Art Center, which opened its doors seventy years ago, continues to provide patrons with opportunities to learn about, perform, and appreciate the arts.

The Center encourages all inhabitants to learn and appreciate the arts through innovative experiences with modern art. The Center’s world-class exhibitions and activities provide a creative, interactive, and diverse experience that promotes inquiry, imagination, and critical thinking.

The Rochester Art Center’s exhibitions and programs represent the complex relationship between art and society.

Visitors will connect with the Zumbro River, Mayo Park, and downtown Rochester via the building’s spectacular entrance.

The architecture is simple and clean, and it works in harmony with nature, connecting the indoors to the outdoors and creating an aura that glows with light from the inside.

Check out how to plan your trip to the art center with other activities in our full guide on the best things to do in Rochester, Minnesota.

See Related: Best Things to do in Lake City, Minnesota

Heritage House Victorian Museum

Heritage House Victorian Museum Architecture
Jonathunder, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Heritage House Victorian Museum is an 1899 Victorian house that offers visitors a glimpse at life in the late 1800s. It also offers pictures of the rich history of Rochester, Minnesota.

The museums has an informative talk with locals telling about the museums, walking tours, and more workshops.

The Eliza and Timothy Whiting House was built in 1875 as a Victorian Museum for them. In 1883, the home was spared by a tornado. It was subsequently threatened one hundred years later. They were moved to Central Park in 1972.

From June through August, docent leads tours of the house. The home may be cooled. Victorian antiques and furniture was used to decorate the chamber.

It is only 2 blocks from Rochester’s downtown area.

See Related: Best Minnesota Foods to Try

The Plummer Building

Plummer Building in Rochester, Minnesota

Today, the Plummer Building, which opened in 1928, is a notable landmark for Mayo Clinic. Dr. Henry S. Plummer Dr., who designed it and developed the system and processes used at Mayo Clinic today, named it for himself.

The Plummer Building Rochester Minnesota is a landmark building designed by Dr. Henry S. Plummer for Mayo Clinic.

The tenants of the building are Mayo Clinic and Alcoa Technical Center.

The structure is included in the National Register of Historic Places and is considered an essential landmark of Minnesota.

Essential information about the building:

  • It was designed by Dr. Henry S. Plummer for Mayo Clinic
  • Dr. Plummer designed and developed the systems used at Mayo Clinic today
  • Named after himself by Dr. Henry S. Plummer who designed it. He also developed the systems and process used at Mayo Clinic today.
  • Now it is the home of both Mayo Clinic and Alcoa Technical Center
  • The structure is protected under National Register of Historic Places.

Many patients have gifted art, antiques and sculptures to the Mayo Clinic over the years and the Plummer Building showcases these items throughout the building.

While patient health care is managed at the Mayo and Gondo buildings these buildings contain all kinds of academic administration and support services. The historic 3rd floor of the building has the offices of Dr. Charles Mayo and Dr. Will Mayo.

See Related: 9 Reasons Why You Need to See the Duluth Fall Colors

Minnesota Veterans and Emergency Services Museum

Address: PO Box 6632 Rochester MN 55901

Rating: 4.3 out of 5

Veterans and Emergency Services Museum in Rochester that honors the brave men and women who served their nation while serving in the military and in emergencies.

The Minnesota Veterans and Emergency Services Museum (MVESM) is committed to providing visitors with meaningful experiences that promote understanding and appreciation of Minnesotans who serve.

The Military Museum of Minnesota houses an unusual collection of interactive and creative exhibits and displays. Tickets are $15 online using a credit card, or $20 at the door.

Exhibits that cover Minnesota heroes’ contributions both in the state and across the world are included, as well as exhibits that display military and emergency equipment, vehicles, and clothing.

See Related: Best Things to do in Victoria, Minnesota

Spark

Address: 1201 12th St SW Suite 632, Rochester, MN 55902, United States

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

There is a fantastic children’s museum in Rochester, MN called Spark. The museum of Spark is a collaborative, engaging environment where guests may discover about technology, science, engineering, math, and the arts as well as cultural connection.

It’s a great place for kids to let their imaginations run wild. Spark is a hands-on, inquiry-based learning and play program that allows people of all ages to learn about the world, each other, and their local environments.

The mission of the museum is to provide children with an outlet that will enhance their development and channel their energies. The various sorts of play represented by the institution include creative or dramatic play, rough-and-tumble play, object play, building play, and games. It’s inquisitive; curiosity begins with a question-driven exploration of places, concepts, and materials.

Spark’s exhibits are based on the best available research about children’s learning and development.

Spark aims to design play opportunities that enhance skills for life-long learning while at the same time supporting creativity, imagination, experimentation, divergent thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, curiosity and wonder.

Spark have materials discovery allows students to use all of their senses to investigate the material world, including instruments, natural artifacts, raw materials, and construction materials.

The museum also has a dialogue, which is exchanging thoughts, information, and memories between people as they talk, listen, and gesture.

Exploring and learning the environment and how it works, educating life decisions, and using the arts to expand cross-disciplinary possibilities are all part of the STEAM that Spark offers.

See Related: Best Museums in Minnesota

James Krom Natural Images

Address: 101 1st Ave SW, Rochester, MN 55902, United States

Rating: 4.9 out of 5

James Krom Natural Images is a fantastic art gallery located next to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. This is a great place to visit if you are looking for one of the better local museums in Rochester, MN.

It’s a museum/gallery with a diverse collection of original artwork centered on the theme of nature. James Krom Natural Images is an art gallery that focuses on capturing the majesty of nature through works by national and Upper Midwest artists.

The gallery is built with intimate rooms and vignettes to encourage art lovers to unwind and enjoy tranquil works of art made with masterful skill.

Natural Images by James Krom is a museum/art gallery dedicated to exploring nature through museum-quality paintings, bronze sculptures, woodturning, and jewelry. All of the pieces are unique.

Over 65 artists from throughout the United States are featured, with an emphasis on the upper Midwest.

Visitors are welcomed to explore the region’s and country’s unique natural beauty through paintings, sculptures, and jewelry.

The 100+ artists represented by James Krom Natural Images share their visions of the landscape as well as the wild animals that live there. The end result allows museum guests to feel more linked to nature.

James Krom Natural Images has an outstanding gallery and art collection. For serious collectors, art with an emphasis on nature is seen in wood carvings, wood turnings, bronze sculptures, jewelry, and landscapes.

See Related: Best Small Towns in Minnesota

Plummer House

Plummer House
Jonathunder, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address: 1091 Plummer Ln SW, Rochester, MN 55902, United States

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

In Rochester, Minnesota, the Plummer House is a fantastic museum to visit.

This English Tudor mansion, which stood on a 65-acre estate with a greenhouse, water tower, garage, and gazebo, was the former home of Dr. Henry Stanley Plummer and Daisy Berkman Plummer.

This house, perched on a hill overlooking southwest Rochester, reflects Dr. Plummer’s distinct personality and that of his beloved wife, Daisy.

Dr. Plummer, dubbed “the diversified genius,” and Daisy, dubbed ” a patron of the arts,” established a house that was always welcoming to friends and family. The Plummer House of the Arts preserves this memory today.

Daisy Plummer and her husband, Henry S. Plummer, began construction on “Quarry Hill,” later known as the Plummer House, in 1917. In 1924, the home, greenhouse, water tower, garage, and gazebo were all part of the 65-acre estate.

The Rochester Park and Recreation Department now own and maintains 11 acres.

On the farm, there are two caves, one leading into the house and the other under the water tower.

Plummer has 49 rooms, ten bathrooms, nine bedrooms, and five fireplaces.

The building, which is now a museum, is over 300 feet long and five stories tall.

See Related: Best Minnesota State and National Parks

Quarry Hill Nature Center

Quarry Hill Nature Center Trail Covered in Snow

Address: 701 Silver Creek Rd NE, Rochester, MN 55906, United States

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Quarry Hill Nature Center is a lovely nature preserve in Rochester, Minnesota, located on Silver Creek Rd NE.

It is a large park with hiking trails, a man-made cave, and a nature center that has classes, and live animals can be found there. Quarry Hill Nature Center was founded in 1972 with the support of philanthropic organizations.

The Quarry Hill Nature Center uses natural science discovery programs to promote imagination, exploration, and investigative skills, as well as an appreciation for nature.

The collaboration between Rochester Park Department and the Rochester Public School District to open the Nature Center happens in 1973.

In September 1990, work of creating the center was completed on a significant addition to the existing nature center, effectively tripling the main floor area and enabling Quarry Hill to meet the general public and school’s increasing needs.

Science enrichment for schools, workshops for preschoolers through adults, community naturalist activities, birthday parties, and summer nature camps are available at the Quarry Hill Nature Center.

Professional teachers and naturalists lead all of these courses and activities, guiding participants in exploring the natural world.

Hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing through the meadows, flood plain, and upland forests on the Quarry Hill Nature Center’s 5 miles of trails covering 320 acres will enable visitors to appreciate the beauty and biodiversity of southeastern Minnesota.

See Related: Best State Parks in Minnesota

Minnesota Children’s Museum

Rochester, Minnesota Skyline

Address: 1643 North Broadway Street A, Rochester, MN 55901, United States

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Rochester Children’s Museum, which is on North Broadway Street A in Rochester, Minnesota, is a successful children’s museum dedicated to learning and experiences.

The Minnesota Children’s Museum encourages kids to learn by playing. Over 550,000 people visit the museum each year as a non-profit entity.

On December 12, 1981, the first Children’s Museum opened in a converted warehouse on 1st Street North.

Local children and their families soon became fans of the creative space for hands-on, playful learning.

The museum has kid-powered play areas where families can have a good time together as the kids take over.

The Minnesota Children’s Museum offers open-ended, self-directed experiences to children and adults through interactive displays and programs. It is a great place to visit in Minnesota and explore, a destination open for all ages to enjoy.

The museum’s objective is for children to spend more time playing. Adults also do so. In a happier, healthier, and more creative world, all families flourish thanks to the incandescent light of play.

The Minnesota Children’s Museum is very sure of that. Because it stimulates the growth of children’s brains and fosters essential skills they’ll need to succeed, young ones deserve the freedom, space, and time to play.

The museum also serves as an example of how providing equal access to pleasurable learning benefits their healthy development.

What are your favorite museums in Rochester, Minnesota?

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