St. Paul: Things To Do

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1. Science Museum of Minnesota

Walk under and around an 82-foot dinosaur in Paleontology Hall. Touch a tornado in Experiment Gallery. Learn about life in other parts of the world in Anthropology Hall. Watch a movie on the Omnitheater’s huge domed screen. This major science and education center coaxes children and adults into hands-on participation thanks to interactive exhibits in science and natural history. Best of all, the museum makes everything fun! www.smm.org

 

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2. Minnesota History Center

Minnesota’s answer to the Smithsonian Institution, this center is dedicated to preserving the history of the state. Focusing on everything from logging to native rock singer Prince, exhibits are lively and engaging. A historical building in and of itself, the center devotes over 400,000 square feet of space to display, archive, and research. Classes and presentations are offered in 3M Auditorium, and the center features two museum stores, one specifically intended for children. www.mnhs.org

 

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3. Alexander Ramsey House

One of the nation’s most well-preserved Victorian homes, this house was completed in 1872 and served as the residence of the first governor of Minnesota. The home features marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, carved walnut woodwork, and lots of original furnishings. Volunteers take on the roles of Ramsey household members and converse with visitors about life in the 1870’s. Reservations are recommended for tours. www.mnhs.org

 

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4. Rice Park

Rice Park, the heart of St. Paul’s downtown, is the perfect urban square. Some of the city’s most notable architectural landmarks, such as the St. Paul Hotel, Ordway Music Theater, St. Paul Public Library, and the Landmark Center, surround the city-owned park. The public space hosts a variety of musical, artistic, and theatrical festivities throughout the year. www.stpaul.gov

 

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5. Cathedral of St. Paul

Modeled after Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica, the Cathedral of St. Paul is literally a high point in the city’s architecture. Such was the intention of Archbishop John Ireland, who insisted that its peak reach higher than that of the neighboring state capitol building. Exquisite decorative work graces the interior: stained glass windows, native travertine walls, large Italian-style mosaics, and a 60-foot carved granite relief of Christ with His apostles. Six chapels make up the Shrine of Nations and honor the ethnic peoples who settled Minnesota. www.cathedralsaintpaul.org

 

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6. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

This Victorian-style park complex offers a wide range of attractions, including a zoo, conservatory, 18-hole golf course, and concert pavilion. Paddleboats, a small amusement park, a turn-of-the-century carousel, and an outdoor pool are also ripe for fun. Nature lovers can visit biking and walking paths and picnic areas or observe animals in their natural surroundings in the cageless zoo. Sparky the Seal, an old favorite, performs several shows daily. The park’s conservatory is popular year-round as well. www.comozooconservatory.org

 

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7. Minnesota Zoo

Five trails wind through 500 wooded acres. Habitat trails allow visitors to view animals in their natural surroundings. A range of wildlife from birds and bats to snakes and lizards to monkeys and bears are featured. More wildlife includes moose, tigers, camels, and lynx, all housed in natural surroundings. There is a large amphitheater where playful dolphins entertain the crowds, an underwater coral reef, an IMAX theater, and a Zoo lab where children can touch all sorts of creeping, crawling critters. The zoo also boasts an excellent gift shop, bookstore, and concession stand. Cross-country ski trails are open in the winter. www.mnzoo.org

 

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8. Wabasha Street Caves – Down in History Tours

These tours are part of a wide variety of guided options that detail intriguing aspects of the city’s past. Some are walking tours; others are narrated motor coach tours. Among the historical terrain covered is the Twin Cities’ gangster past during the 1920s and 1930s. You’ll find out about Ma Barker and her gang and learn about the Mill City Mob. Visitors can also tour the Wabasha Caves, carved from sandstone and a former hideout. Some caves were even converted into a nightclub. Other tours are available seasonally; call for information. www.wabashastreetcaves.com

 

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9. Schubert Club Musical Instrument Museum

Schubert Club Musical Instrument Museum dates from the 1880s and seeks to preserve interest in music in general and classical music in particular. The collection includes well over 100 instruments and devices, ranging from harpsichords and clavichords to phonographs and radios. Holdings also include original letters and autographs from famous 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century composers. The museum hosts special exhibits each year as well. www.schubert.org

 

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10. Padelford Packet Boat Company

If you can’t imagine anything better than sightseeing along the river, make sure to consider these cruises. Departing from Harriet Island in St. Paul and Boom Island in Minneapolis, they feature large riverboats and plenty of beautiful scenery, including fall foliage, fireworks, birdwatching, and sunsets. Other options include dinner, brunch, and half-day lunch and lock cruises. Call to see what else is on offer. www.riverrides.com