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11 Best Museums in Rochester, Minnesota

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

Rochester 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

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. Visit our favorite art, history, and science museums in Rochester.

Best Museums in Rochester, Minnesota

Charles E. Gagnon Museum & Sculpture Garden

Charles E. Gagnon Museum & Sculpture Garden
Source: Tripadvisor

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

The Charles E. Gagnon Museum & Sculpture Garden 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 here. Any local and foreign visitor is welcome to schedule a tour and learn about the past of this incredible artist’s sculpture.

In the international community scene, the 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. It is 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 and must-visit during your time in Rochester.

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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 construct the family house 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 a unique example of architecture with Neoclassical and Georgian Revival Architecture.

Moreover, it was built on a grand scale. It 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 from Mayowood is known as Dr. W.W. Mayo Cottage, another family home of the Mayos’ and rumored to be where the original idea of the Mayo Clinic was discussed.

The museum offers interactive exhibits on maintaining your health, disease treatments, 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 the winter and summer months!

The home is open daily 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 can visit for $5 each.

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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

The History Center of Olmsted County is a fantastic museum that 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 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, you can attend workshops, educational and outreach activities, museum displays, special events, and more with the help of its dedicated volunteers. This established cultural institution still owns and operates two historic buildings and two historic farmsteads and provides Mayowood Mansion hour-long tours on a seasonal basis.

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Rochester Art Center

Rochester Art Center Exterior
guifengh /

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

The Rochester Art Center is a stunning modern art museum in downtown Rochester featuring exhibitions of local, national, and foreign art. You can also attend free tours, classes, and workshops here.

The Rochester Art Center was established in 1946 as the 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 it moved to a small abandoned church in 1948.

This art museum encourages all inhabitants to learn and appreciate the arts through innovative experiences with modern art through world-class exhibits and activities that provide a creative, interactive, diverse experience promoting inquiry, imagination, and critical thinking.

Programs here 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 here with other Rochester activities in our full guide on the best things to do in Rochester, Minnesota.

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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. The museums have informative talks with locals 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, the docent leads tours of the house. The home may be cooled. Victorian antiques and furniture were used to decorate the chamber. It is only two blocks from Rochester’s downtown area, which features some great restaurants for fine or casual dining.

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The Plummer Building

Plummer Building in Rochester, Minnesota

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

  • Dr. Henry S. Plummer designed it for the Mayo Clinic
  • Dr. Plummer designed and developed the systems used at Mayo Clinic today
  • Named after himself, Dr. Henry S. Plummer designed it. He also developed the systems and processes used at Mayo Clinic today.
  • Now, it is the home of both the Mayo Clinic and Alcoa Technical Center
  • The structure is protected under the 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 academic administration and support services. The historic 3rd floor of the building has the offices of Dr. Charles Mayo and Dr. Will Mayo.

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Minnesota Veterans and Emergency Services Museum

Minnesota Veterans and Emergency Services Museum
Source: Facebook

Address: PO Box 6632 Rochester MN 55901

Veterans and Emergency Services Museum in Rochester 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 covering Minnesota heroes’ contributions in the state and worldwide are included, as well as exhibits that display military and emergency equipment, vehicles, and clothing.

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Spark Children's Museum exhibit
Spark / Facebook

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

Spark is a fantastic children’s museum in Rochester that is a collaborative, engaging environment where guests may discover technology, science, engineering, math, and the arts, as well as cultural connections.

It’s a great place for kids to let their imaginations run wild. This 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 museum’s mission is to provide children with an outlet to enhance their development and channel their energies. 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. The museum 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 has materials discovery that allows students to use all of their senses to investigate the material world, including instruments, natural artifacts, raw materials, and construction materials.

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 Spark’s STEAM.

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James Krom Natural Images

James Krom Natural Images museum entrance
James Krom Natural Images / Facebook

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

James Krom Natural Images is a fantastic art gallery near the Mayo Clinic. 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 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.

You’ll find museum-quality paintings, bronze sculptures, woodturning, and jewelry here. All pieces are unique, so if you’re a serious art collector, you’ll want to spend some time here.

Over 65 artists from the US, with a focus on the upper Midwest, are featured. Visitors can see paintings, sculptures, and jewelry that showcase the region’s natural beauty.

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Plummer House

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

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

The Plummer House is a fantastic museum to visit as 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 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 owns and maintains 11 acres. The farm has 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 museum building is now over 300 feet long and five stories tall.

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Quarry Hill Nature Center

Quarry Hill Nature Center Trail Covered in Snow

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

Quarry Hill Nature Center is a lovely nature preserve with hiking trails, a man-made cave, and a nature building with classes and live animals. It was founded in 1972 with the support of philanthropic organizations.

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

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

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

Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, skiing, or snowshoeing on Quarry Hill Nature Center’s 320-acre property with five miles of trails. It’s a great way to explore the beautiful and diverse landscape.

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Minnesota Children’s Museum

Rochester, Minnesota Skyline

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

The Rochester Children’s Museum, a non-profit, is a thriving place dedicated to learning and experiences while encouraging kids to learn by playing. Over 550,000 people visit each year.

On December 12, 1981, the first museum opened in a converted warehouse on 1st Street North. Local children and their families soon became fans of this outstanding experience for hands-on, playful learning.

The museum has kid-powered play areas that offer open-ended, self-directed experiences to children and adults through interactive displays and programs. This is a great place to visit in Minnesota and explore that the whole family can enjoy.

The primary goal is to encourage children to allocate more time to play, an activity adults should also engage in. In a happier, healthier, and more creative world, all families thrive under the glowing beacon of play.

Play stimulates children’s brain development and cultivates critical skills necessary for their success. Children deserve the liberty, space, and time to engage in play.

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