In 1879, a lumber baron named Thomas Barlow Walker built an extra room onto his house. He mounted his 20 favorite paintings on the room's walls and opened it to the public. This private collection transformed into a public gallery with the founding of Walker Art Center in 1927. Over the following decades, the center's staff amassed a collection focused on modern art, gathering works from Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, and Alberto Giacometti. Today, this permanent collection has expanded to encompass more than 11,000 modern and contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photographs, more than 800 film pieces, and more than 1,200 artists' books.
In the whimsical multistory geometric helix of the Barnes building, seven cube-shaped galleries radiate from a central core on terrazzo floors and under lofted ceilings. Docents lead group tours through the galleries to see rotating exhibitions or play hide-and-seek with Jackson Pollock. Current exhibits have explored the contemporary still photography of Cindy Sherman, American avant-garde film from 1960 to 1973, and prints, paintings, and sculptures produced after 1989. Inside the museum's social spaces, docents also host artist talks, film screenings, and open houses.
Designed as a contemporary twist on old European opera houses, the center's McGuire Theater draws visitors into its intimate space for live dance, theater, and music performances as well as performance art. Museum exhibits and events also spill outside to a central square and the four quadrants, bordered by granite and evergreen hedges, of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. As visitors walk across its lawns, they can glimpse iconic modern sculptures, cross a 375-foot steel-and-wood footbridge, or watch staff teach plants to paint in the Cowles Conservatory.
Dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the state?s storied past, the Minnesota Historical Society dutifully curates 26 historic sites and museums that help visitors delve into days of yore?from the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids to the Jeffers Petroglyphs in Comfrey and Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore.
Explore the Minnesota History Center?s collection of artifacts, local artworks, and hands-on exhibits at the History Center in St. Paul, from Civil War battle flags to Prince's suit from Purple Rain. Temporary exhibits include American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, on display through March 16, and Toys of the '50s, '60s and '70s, opening May 24. Mill City Museum in Minneapolis chronicles the linked histories of the flour industry, Minneapolis, and the Mississippi River, sending visitors through history as they traverse each floor on an eight-story elevator ride that depicts a working day at the mill. As a bonus, baking-lab demonstrations produce balmy bread samples and historically accurate stomach rumbles.
Several years ago, Ken Smith and Chase Williams were typical door-to-door salesmen. In need of a gimmick to boost sales and a quicker mode of transport, the duo tried riding Segways and immediately fell in love. Eventually, they turned their love for the two-wheeled transporter into their current venture, All American Segway. Their company provides all manner of Segway engagement, including guided Segway tours that offer rolling educations in local history and wildlife. Customers can also discover the revolutionary devices on their own by renting out Segways for recreational use, private parties, or as a friend for a lonely office chair or shopping cart.
Over the past five-plus decades, Vista Fleet has entertained some six million passengers from all around the world. Today, the family-owned company sets sail on a pair of luxurious vessels: the Vista Star and the Vista Queen. After their early-morning Pilates classes, the two ships carry passengers across Lake Superior during sightseeing tours, dinner parties, and twilight cruises. All the while, Vista Fleet's staff members liven up the journeys with a mix of entertaining facts and games. They also point out iconic landmarks passing by, such as the Aerial Lift Bridge and the historic Canal Park.
With more than 10,000 creatures, 30 display tanks, and a 300-foot ocean tunnel, Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium gives visitors an up-close look at the sea's intriguing inhabitants. Sand tiger sharks feed on crustaceans and squid, one of the world's largest collection of jellyfish floats under multicolored disco lights, and the popular day octopus emits clouds of black ink to prevent visitors from glimpsing its unfinished autobiography. An interactive quiz trail helps deepen visitors' knowledge of the sea creatures, many of which are on the endangered list and have been rescued or were born and bred as part of Sea Life's conservation projects.
Outdoor enthusiasts Dan and Sandra Meer equip adventurers with canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards to explore a 60-mile stretch of the Mississippi River whose picturesque shores have been designated wild and scenic by the Department of Natural Resources. “One group we sent out on just a two- or three-hour trip counted 12 eagles,” Dan says, marveling at the myriad wild turkeys, muskrats, and deer that often congregate along the protected waterway to gossip about bald eagles’ unconvincing hair plugs. Gleaming schools of small-mouth bass lure fishermen to the rippling waters, and plentiful sandbars and shallow depths also beckon younger explorers. “We want to get kids involved,” says Dan—himself a former Boy Scout and now the father of two more Scouts. “Get them away from their screens.”
He and his wife entice those youths, and older adventurers as well, with day trips in canoes and kayaks whose hulls are made in nearby Wenonah. For overnight jaunts down the river, the couple rents both vessels and camping gear, and at their store—housed in an old creamery building on the riverbank—they sell new and used canoes and kayaks to dedicated paddlers who know the river so well they can fall asleep while swimming across it.