In the cold reaches of the Upper Midwest, where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet, you’ll find the city of St. Paul. Since this humble midwestern burg and capital of Minnesota is continuous with Minneapolis, the largest city in the state, people often refer to the region as the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. This being the case, when looking for the best things to do in and around the city of Saint Paul, visitors automatically get a twofer that also includes everything Minneapolis has to offer.
Thanks to this diversity, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has a ton of fun attractions and activities for travelers to choose from. Whether you’re driving over from one of the neighboring Dakotas or flying in from as far off as New York and Seattle, we hope the following guide helps double your fun!
What is the Capital of Minnesota?
Survey says: If you did indeed guess that Saint Paul is the capital city of the state of Minnesota, head on out to the nearest dollar store and get yourself some gold star stickers. But please, only take one. You might earn the others in time. Just keep reading our guides!
In addition to its status as the state capital, St. Paul, Minnesota, is also the seat of Ramsey County. Take that, Minneapolis!
The U.S. took control of Minnesota and the surrounding area following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. When the Minnesota Territory was formed in the middle of the 19th century, St. Paul was selected as its capital.
While the territorial legislature did intend to relocate the capital of Minnesota, legend has it that a dissenting state legislator stole the document finalizing this move and disappeared to prevent it from happening. Patriot or spoiled sport? You decide.
7 Reasons to Visit Saint Paul, Minnesota
1. Minnesota State Capitol Tours
If you’re already at the birthday party, you might as well have some cake. Or hit the piñata. You get the gist.
Whenever your adventures take you to the state capital, visiting the state capitol building seems like a natural choice, if not compulsory. The building itself was designed by Cass Gilbert in 1896. Just like a lot of state capitols, the one located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, offers tours that let you explore the building’s architecture, art collections, and senate governmental offices. For more information, be sure to visit the mn.gov website.
2. Minnesota History Center
As headquarters of the Minnesota Historical Society, the Minnesota History Center is more or less a museum featuring a full range of attractions showcasing state history.
From exhibits dedicated to the plight of the Native American Sioux who once called the territory of Minnesota home to pertinent examinations of extraordinary African American women who helped shape the 32nd U.S. state, the Center will leave you feeling fit to receive an honorary History degree from the University of Minnesota.
3. Valley Fair Amusement Park
Are you into rollercoasters and waterslides? Of course, you aren’t. Sorry, we even wasted your time.
In all seriousness, Valley Fair Amusement Park isn’t just some two-bit carnival run out of a defunct mall parking lot. This is the Twin Cities go-to hot spot for thrills and spills we’re talking about. Only those who want to be forever remembered as “Parent of the Year” need apply. Even if you don’t have kids, the park is so awesome that you might still be considered for this accolade.
4. Minnesota Zoos
It’s not often that you find zoos competing for your attention within a limited square mile area. But that’s what you get when you double down for Twin City excitement! While the Como Park Zoo & Observatory is located near the heart of the populous city, you’ll find the official Minnesota Zoo just a short drive south of the Mississippi River. Since two zoos might be too much, be sure to check out both online first to decide which suits your preferences best before heading out.
5. Science Museum of Minnesota
From dinosaurs to interactive experiments, Minnesota’s science museum has exactly what you’d expect from a center dedicated to rigorous learning and serious knowledge: Fun! In addition to enjoying the museum’s exhibits and attractions, consider checking out its domed Omnitheater, which plays shows similar to the IMAX experience.
6. Enjoy the Outdoors
As you may or may not know, Minnesota’s nickname is “The land of 10,000 lakes” because there are, quite literally, over 10k lakes in the state. This being the case, you can bet your boots that the state has many outdoor areas that emphasize aquatic forms of recreation. And, of course, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area is no exception. Here are a few parks locals swear by:
- Fort Snelling State Park
- Afton State Park
- William O’Brien State Park
- Mississippi National River Recreation Area
- Hidden Falls Regional Park
7. Xcel Energy Center
Suppose you’re visiting the Twin Cities during the hockey season. In that case, you might consider dropping in on the skating grounds of the state’s NHL team, the Minnesota Wild. Even if you’re not up for a “wild” time, you should check out the Xcel Center’s roster to see what else they have to offer. The multi-purpose arena hosts a variety of fun events and a ton of concerts.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Twin Cities Metro Area? Give us the double lowdown on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!