After the War of 1812, the United States gained control of the Upper Mississippi River Valley by establishing a chain of forts and Indian agencies extending from Lake Michigan to the Missouri River. In 1819, the 5th Regiment of Infantry established a fort at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Fort Snelling (today called Historic Fort Snelling) was completed in 1825 and named after its builder, Colonel Josiah Snelling.
The soldiers stationed at Fort Snelling made roads, built a gristmill and sawmill, and cleared hundreds of acres for crops. For 30 years, the fort was the center of the region, and was a meeting place for local American Indians of the Ojibwe and Dakota tribes, and a trading center for trappers working the area.
By 1851, the frontier had moved westward, diminishing the importance of Fort Snelling, which was demoted to a supply depot. In 1858, the year Minnesota became a state, Fort Snelling was sold to a land developer and was to be platted as a town site. However, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, Fort Snelling was reactivated and became a training center for Union troops.
After the American Civil War, Fort Snelling became the headquarters of the Department of Dakota that stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Troops from the fort served in the Indian campaigns and in the Spanish-American War of 1898.
During the Second World War, over 300,000 soldiers were trained at Fort Snelling in duties that included the operation of railroads and translating Japanese.
After the war, the fort finally closed. In 1960, Fort Snelling was designated the state's first National Historic Landmark, and the old fort was rebuilt with public and private funds. Nowadays, visitors gain an understanding of early military, civilian, and American Indian life in the region. The Fort Snelling History Center offers films and exhibits about the fort's past, as well as the history of the Upper Mississippi River Valley.
The city of Fairmont is the county seat of Martin County and was built around a chain of five lakes: George Lake, Lake Sisseton, Budd Lake, Hall Lake, and Amber Lake. All except Amber Lake are connected by channels and are used extensively for recreational boating and fishing. Fairmont is also home to an extensive park and trail system which consists of miles of scenic recreation trails; paved trails, off-road trails, paths through the wooded areas of numerous parks and walkways along the lakes.
With a population of over 24,000 people Owatonna lies over the Straight River, the word Owatonna in Sioux means straight. The city is about 65 miles south of Minneapolis and was founded in 1854, soon becoming a regular stopping place for stagecoaches and, later, railroad lines. According to local legend, the Straight River had curative powers and was able to restore the daughter of an Indian chief to health; a statue of the princess dating from the 1930s stands in the cities Mineral Springs Park.
Minneapolis is the largest city in the state of Minnesota; its name is a combination of mni, the Dakota word for water, and polis, the Greek word for city. Residents of the city are known as Minneapolitans.
The town is named after Albert Miller Lea who was a topographer with the United States Dragoons. Albert surveyed southern Minnesota and northern Iowa during 1835, including the current city of Albert Lea.
The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum was established in 1934 as a teaching museum for the University of Minnesota. It was named after a prominent Minneapolis businessman and philanthropist whose donations of funds and other support made establishment of the museum possible.
The museum's permanent collection includes more than 17,000 works of art, with a focus on American modernism, ceramics, Mimbres pottery, and Korean furniture. The collection also features works from such early twentieth-century American artists as Georgia O'Keeffe and Marsden Hartley. Many of the museum's pieces can be viewed in a changing schedule of exhibits.
Since 1993, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum has been housed in a stainless steel building of jutting angles designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry.
Built in 1915, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, formerly called the Como Park Conservatory, is the largest glass-dome garden in the Upper Midwest. It features rooms and gardens which highlight different varieties of trees and plants.
The Palm Room is under the conservatory's tallest dome and contains more than 150 species of palm trees. The Fern Room showcases dozens of varieties of ferns in a hot and humid atmosphere. The Bonsai Gallery features many fine examples of the ancient Japanese art of miniaturizing trees. The Sunken Garden contains an amazing variety of colorful flowers and hosts five seasonal flower shows. The Japanese Garden celebrates the sister-city relationship between Saint Paul and Nagasaki. The North Garden contains plants and trees that humans use for food, pharmaceuticals, and building materials. And the Enchanted Garden is a butterfly garden where hundreds of butterflies flit among the flowers and plants.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was established in 1988 as a joint project between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Walker Art Center. The garden features over 40 sculptures, including the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry (pictured here), set among 11 acres (four hectares) of footpaths, plazas, and landscaping.
Located within the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the Cowles Conservatory features palm trees and other tropical plants, bringing a touch of the tropics to the frozen Minnesota winters.
In the 1990s, the Minnesota Historical Society completely renovated the then-abandoned Washburn A Mill that was at one time the largest and most technologically advanced flour mill in the world. The result of the renovation, the Mill City Museum, tells the story of flour milling and its impact on the growth of Minneapolis.
From about 1880, and for the next 50 years, Minneapolis was the world's largest producer of milled flour, and was known as the "Flour Capital of the World" or "Mill City." Grain from the grain belt in the northern Great Plains and Canada arrived by rail to the Washburn A Mill, which ground enough flour to make 12,000,000 loaves of bread per day.
After the First World War, flour milling began a gradual decline, and the Washburn A Mill was finally forced to close in 1965.
Nowadays, visitors to the Mill City Museum can take a tour of the Washburn A Mill to learn about its history and architecture, as well as the impact flour milling had on Minneapolis. There are even samples of freshly baked bread in the Baking Lab.
Orchestra Hall opened in 1974 as the home of the Minnesota Orchestra. Since its opening, Orchestra Hall has hosted more than 4,000 concerts for over 10,000,000 concert goers. Performances include both classical and pops concerts.
Known for its accoustics, the ceiling of Orchestra Hall is made up of more than 100 cubes which deflect sound. Vibrations in the hall's wooden floors and stage also enhance the quality of the sound.
Orchestra Hall overlooks Peavey Plaza, a city-owned park that features waterfalls and a reflecting pool. The Minnesota Orchestra's summer music festival takes place in the plaza. And in the winter, the plaza is transformed into an outdoor skating rink.
Two Harbors Lighthouse was constructed in 1892 as a beacon to guide ships carrying iron ore and grain out of nearby Duluth. The red brick lighthouse is 78 feet (28 meters) tall and includes a lighthouse keeper's home. It was automated in the 1960s, and the original fourth-order Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern airport-style beacon. The Fresnel lens is now on display at the Inland Seas Maritime Museum in Vermilion, Ohio.
Two Harbors Lighthouse was operated by the U.S. Coast Guard until the late 1980s. In 1998 it was transferred to the Lake County Historical Society, which runs the Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast on the premises. Proceeds from the bed and breakfast go toward preserving the historical lighthouse, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In front of the beautiful 1902 building that houses the Landmark Center (which in itself is lovely and on the National Register of Historic Places for a good reason), is Rice Park, the cutest park in the world, I'd have to say.
St. Paul was the birthplace of Charles M. Schulz. If you don't know who that is, you've lived a sad life. Schulz was the creator of the Peanuts comic strip and, in honor of him, 3 separate sculptures are scattered throughout the park. Lucy leans on Schroeder's piano while he plays, Charlie Brown sits under a tree with Snoopy on his lap, and Linus and Sally just stand around enjoying each other's company and yours.
The statues are large but not so huge that children can't approach them, climb on them, and have fun with them. They're for adults too, though, because the sweetness and charm that filled Schulz's characters really shine through in these sculptures and remind us not only why everyone loves them so much but how lucky we all were to have Schulz in our lives.
Summit Avenue is an amazing street and a perfect place for a good walk. This long street on a hill overlooking the city of St. Paul starts not far from the beautiful St. Paul Cathedral and goes for a few miles. What makes this a special place is that every house along the street is gorgeous. These homes are huge, historic, and beautifully designed. There are several different architectural styles along the street but they are all spectacular in their own way.
Adding to the interest, authors Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived on this street (in the less spectacular but still beautiful section) just a couple blocks from one another.
If you have the time, walk the street enjoying all it has to offer. If you don't have the time, then at least drive by and marvel at this architectural motherlode.
The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is an awfully long name for something so simple and so beautiful. Basically, on the edge of town there is a river and all along that river they have hiking trails. Simple enough.
What that short description doesn't reveal is how beautiful this place can be, especially early in the morning. You're in the center of a bustling metropolis and yet, you'd never know it.
The visitors center is the starting point, especially if you've never been before. Here you can get maps and wildlife information, use the bathrooms and get an overview of the area. From the view up there, you are bound to get anxious to get going down to the trail but if you stay, have a seat, and get comfortable, even though you're indoors, you'll have an amazing experience with nature. One entire wall of the center is made of tinted glass and there are couches along there. Sit down and you're just a couple feet away from several bird feeders. The tinted glass allows you to be out of sight for the birds. They come in droves - robins, cardinals, goldfinch, red-winged blackbirds, bluebirds, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and more. There's also squirrels, badgers, beavers...if you sit there long enough, you'll be amazed at what might show up for a bite to eat.
This visitors center is also terrific in that it allows the disabled, who might not normally be able to make it down the steps and incline to the river trail, the chance to see nature close up.
There's also a ranger to answer questions for you.
Down on the trail itself you are alone with wildflowers, trees, birds, and a number of other animals - deer, raccoons, frogs, rabbits, turtles, butterflies, fox...the list is long and exciting.
There are a number of different trail options depending on how long you want to spend but after a few minutes here you may find yourself having trouble ever thinking about leaving.
The center and trails are free and so is the parking. The center is open 9-5 every day but Mondays most of the year. In the colder months, check with the center for their hours. Pets are allowed if they are on a leash.
Not far from downtown Minneapolis is 15 acres of wildflowers. Part of a city park, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Bird Sanctuary is the oldest park in the country devoted to wildflowers. It has several different types of terrain (prairie, forest, wetlands, etc) and a visitors center set up inside a cozy cabin that doesn't look at all out of place in the midst of all the trees and flowers.
The main draw here is the wildflowers but there are some birds (nowhere close to the amount one can find at the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge but, then again, the MVNWR doesn't have as many wildflowers) and some other animals, like frogs, for example. The wildlfowers are terrific though and definitely worth the visit. Depending on what time of year you visit, they have something for you. The flowers in the forest and wetlands bloom first, later the prairies are alive with color so there is always something there to enjoy. The garden is free (except for the parking) and easy to find off Highways 494 and 100.
There is metered parking and some areas, like the forest and wetlands are technically accessible to the disabled but they don't make it very easy. Study a map beforehand if you can. The garden has two gates and if you drop people off at the back gate, they should be able to go in and get around fairly easily, however, whoever drives has to go uphill to the front gate where the parking lot is and then walk back down to the back gate. There is no parking by the back gate. The savannah/prairie area is close to the parking lot and easier to access.
The garden is open 7:30am to just before sunset from April 1st to October 15th.