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.
In 1905, the Minnesota State Capitol building opened to the public; more than a century later, it continues to welcome more than 120,000 visitors each year to the home of the state government’s three branches. Designed in the Beaux-Arts style by acclaimed architect Cass Gilbert, the building lays claim to world’s second-largest self-supporting marble dome, a title the dome maintains by working a second job as the back-up roof of the Metrodome. Within the white Georgia marble and Saint Cloud–granite exterior of the edifice, 67 senators and 134 representatives wrangle with politics while striding through stately corridors and chambers decorated by murals, sculptures, and paintings carefully selected by Gilbert to complement the building’s elegant style. Hand-painted arabesques and local flora swirl overhead on the vaulted ceilings, and the brushstrokes of John LaFarge depict legal concepts above the bench of Minnesota’s supreme court. Visitors can drop into the rathskeller café, which evokes a German eating hall with restored murals, for a bite to eat and a toast to the health of the state’s royal family.
Epic Vow Wedding Photography owner Nicole Daniels carefully pairs members of her shutter squad with engaged couples for wedding shoots befitting each client’s personal style. Photographers snap an average of 100 high-quality digital images during four-hour nuptials and anywhere from 200 to 400 pictures at ceremonies exceeding five hours. Nicole digitally edits the strongest shots herself, ensuring that any facial blemishes, lipstick smudges, or ghostly apparitions are eradicated from final prints. Along with a trio of packages, Nicole preserves colorized and black and white photographs by mounting images on hardboard masonite or canvas, assembling shots in a softbound or wave-accordion album, or creating metallic prints.
Kelley Frame and Fine Art Galleries nestles magnum opuses of all sizes inside high-quality frames assembled in-shop by skilled craftsmen. Diploma-framing packages ($59.95) protect and artfully display hard-earned clown college degrees by securing the certificate into a black frame, stabilizing it with an acid-free paper mat, and protecting its privacy with one-way glass. Posters, portraits, or photographs with sizes going up to 30"x40" ($49.95–$99.95) find comfortable homes behind glass in a 1 1/4" frame, available in a choice of finishes, including black, mocha walnut, mahogany, clear pine, and invisible oak. Spiff up blank walls with framed military medals, wedding pictures, collectibles, or team jerseys. Special conservation and preservation services, meanwhile, assist connoisseurs looking to shield precious pieces from the dangers of acid, light, or superpower-inducing gamma rays.
Twin City Model Railroad Museum totes visitors through time with meticulously detailed model panoramas of Twin Cities railroads from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The museum itself dates back to 1934, when a group of modelers formed the St. Paul Craftsman Club. Today, thanks to countless volunteer hours, as well as scientific advances that have produced microscopic train conductors, the museum has grown into a world-class facility that chugs along with stunning displays and special exhibits. Inside, visitors marvel as the Empire Builder zips above St. Anthony Falls on the Stony Arch Bridge and as freight trains haul cargo to and from industries. Train enthusiasts can also take tours of the O-Scale exhibit, beginning in a reproduction of the St. Anthony Falls milling district and ending in the Minnesota Transfer Railways switching yard.
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.