Growing up, I never thought of myself as a history buff, but after museums like these (and others) you’ll change your mind as well.
Minnesota Historical Society: http://www.mnhs.org This is a great starting point for looking into the history of Minnesota. We have a membership that allows free admittance into the multitude of historic places. This also includes a “Time Traveler’s club” that grants discount or free reciprocity to other state’s exhibits as well. This has been well worth our family’s money as it paid for itself in two visits. (Also look into an educator’s discount if you are a homeschooling family, or wait for the Groupon sale as it they grant significant savings.) Here are a few of our favorites.
Split Rock Lighthouse, northeast of Duluth area. We have been touring around the entire east coast of Maine viewing several lighthouses, but they are nothing compared to this one. This MN lighthouse has been the only one where we have been able to go up inside, have wonderful explanations, as well as have various angles for beautiful photos. I took this for granted until now.
Minnesota History Center, St. Paul. This museum is hands-on and very kid friendly. You see what it was like being a paratrooper in WWII as the plane was being shot down. You hear storm testimonials while being inside an old house during a simulated tornado. Kids play at a soda shop, in a grain elevator, and test their speed at an assembly plant. This was the tip of the iceberg as it was an entire day experience. As a funny side note, I teased my mother that she can consider herself old if I ever saw her picture in a history exhibit. Come to find out, we actually found my grandmother’s photo in a display along with some friends of the family. We never knew.
Forest History Center, Grand Rapids. This is a guided living history exhibit depicting a logging camp during the 1800’s. Once again, the tour was well done. We also participated in a wild edibles class that brought us around to various wild plants on site. Yes, we were able to sample too. As a side note: A fire tower exists on the property as well. We also learned about the system of fire towers to prevent widespread fire devastation. We also climbed to the top and enjoyed gorgeous panoramic views of the area. This is a must especially during the fall color season.
Northwest Fur Trading Company, Pine City. This is a guided exhibit with several “touchable” areas that depict the life of fur traders. Learn about the portages, trading, weights of their packs, and life among the native people. If you want a larger, more extensive fur trading experience, take the trek up to the Grand Portage National Monument, Grand Portage on the northern tip of the Northshore area.
Oliver Kelley Farm, Anoka. This is the most hands-on, family orientated, participation friendly place I have ever visited. This real life, working 1800’s farm welcomes visitors to learn and participate alongside costumed interpreters. We have pushed calves, watered horses, pulled weeds, fed animals, gather ingredients in the cellar, worked in the field, fed sorghum into the press, etc. You can watch in your ‘high-heels’ or get your hands dirty and learn so much more.
Fort Snelling, St. Paul. The fort also has interpreters in era themed dress explaining and demonstrating the various functions inside the fort. You see troops drilling, cannon firing, and various other activities that happened inside the walls. This place also joins up with an extensive paved biking trail that journeys along the river.
(We have visited The Lindbergh’s summer home, Hill House, Ramsey House for their Victorian Christmas, Mill City Museum, Mille Lacs Indian Museum and was never disappointed. But knowing as a traveler, you only have a limited time, I highlighted my favorites of the group.)