Planning a Minnesota mini-break? Whether you’re into art, history, culture, or science, you’ll find something that grabs you when you explore all the must-visit museums in Minneapolis, MN.
The largest city in Minnesota, the City of Lakes boasts a thriving arts and cultural scene – and it’s all reflected in the rich and diverse Minneapolis museum community. With over 55 museums to choose from, curious minds will find a smorgasbord of offerings to sample from. There’s something for every taste, with collections ranging from masterpiece paintings to historic sites to enthralling interactive exhibits.
Stroll through the eerie ruins of what was once the largest mill in the world at Mill City Museum. Get a charge with hands-on exhibits and learn about the fascinating history of electricity at the Bakken Museum. Immerse yourself in breathtaking works of art from around the world at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Ready to mine the historical and cultural riches of Minneapolis? Discover its unique art, history, and culture with this complete Minneapolis museum guide!
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Minneapolis Institute of Art
If “lots” is never too much for you when it comes to art exhibits, you’ll want to make plenty of room on your vacation for the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
One of the country’s largest art museums, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is home to a vast collection of over 90,000 works of art spanning more than 5,000 years of history. No need to be an art aficionado to be captivated by this collection!
Spend time at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and you’ll be transported around the world and through centuries of human history. Immerse yourself in a treasure trove of works created in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, and South America.
Browse a wide range of diverse permanent and special exhibits showcasing everything from ancient artifacts to the masterworks of Monet and Van Gogh to cutting-edge technology. If you plan to view the entire museum, give yourself plenty of time, at least a couple of hours.
The art museum also offers art classes and workshops for both kids and adults – so go ahead and scratch that creative itch.
Want a breather? Take a break at the MIA’s restaurant or café, or browse the gift shop for a perfect memento of your visit.
Mill City Museum
If you want to get an inside look at the driving force that shaped Minneapolis, carve out time for the Mill City Museum. Nestled on the Mississippi Riverfront in Minneapolis’s historic Mill District, the museum was built on the historic remains of a legendary mega-mill.
Constructed in 1874, the Washburn “A” Mill was then the biggest flour mill in the world. Sadly, it all went up in smoke four years later when a single spark ignited what came to be known as the “Great Mill Disaster.”
Today, this National Historic Landmark is the site of the fascinating Mill City Museum. Step inside and steep yourself in the colorful history of the Midwest flour milling industry.
Stroll the boards of the original mill packing floor, and discover an amazing collection of artifacts and exhibits highlighting the mill’s golden years. Get a close-up look at the site’s vintage machinery, and dive into a hands-on experience in the interactive gallery.
Don’t miss the Flour Tower, where a multimedia elevator ride takes you on a virtual journey floor-by-floor through the stages of the mill’s evolution from the late 1800s to the 20th century.
Top off your trip as you step out on the observation deck, and take in spectacular views of the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls, the source of raw power that kept this dynamo churning.
Walker Art Center
If you’re an art lover with a taste for the contemporary, you’ll find plenty to please your palate at the Walker Art Center. Set adjacent to the amazing Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in the Lowry Hill neighborhood, this venue is one of the state’s biggest museums devoted to art and a gem of American Modernism.
Originally established in the late 1800s, today, the Walker Art Center is housed in a striking, sleek building where you’ll discover a treasure trove of over 13,000 works of art. Take time to explore an enthralling collection of 20th- and 21st-century paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, and installations.
Browse a permanent collection that features works by famous artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Edward Hopper. Discover a variety of temporary exhibits highlighting both established and emerging international artists.
Ready to tee-up? Hit the mini-golf course on the rooftop. The Walker Art Center also features dance, music, live theater, and film screenings; check out their events schedule for more info.
American Swedish Institute
Swedes have a deep and rich history in Minneapolis—and that legacy is on full display at the American Swedish Institute.
Drawn by the wide open spaces of the Midwest, about 300,000 Swedes settled in Minneapolis between 1845 and 1930. Today, Minnesota’s biggest city is still home to a thriving Swedish community.
The American Swedish Institute is two buildings: the historic 1908 Turnblad Mansion and the contemporary Nelson Cultural Center. Together they offer an intriguing array of art, artifacts, and special events that showcase Swedish culture and history.
The Turnblad Mansion itself is a treat for the eyes, with its beautiful hand-carved woodwork and elegant fireplaces. Explore the remarkable sustainable craftsmanship of the Nelson Cultural Center, featuring everything from a green roof to a geothermal heating and cooling system. Take a stroll through green spaces that reflect Sweden’s rich design history, including the imaginary gardens of Pippi Longstocking!
When you’re ready for a break, saunter to the on-site gift shop to browse a charming selection of Nordic gifts. Then snag a spot in the Fika café and dig into some delicious Nordic cuisine. (And, yes, Swedish meatballs are indeed on the menu!)
Weisman Art Museum
If you pay a visit to a building designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, you know you’re in for a special experience. And that’s just what you’ll get at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, MN.
The Weisman Art Museum is an excellent spot for fans of design. Built in 1992, the building is an architectural marvel that looks like a cross between a spaceship and a stainless steel castle. The museum towers over the banks of the Mississippi River on the University of Minnesota campus, offering breathtaking views of the river gorge; be sure to pack a camera!
Cross the threshold, and you’ll be equally awed by what’s on view inside the Weisman Art Museum. One of the finest art museums in Minnesota, it houses a vast and diverse collection of over 25,000 pieces of postwar art.
Take a stroll through the art galleries, and you’ll discover everything from traditional Asian furnishings to colorful oversized murals to stunning ceramics. Give yourself plenty of time to take in the museum’s stunning painting collection, featuring works by legendary names like de Kooning, Rothko, Warhol, and Lichtenstein.
The Museum of Russian Art
If you’re fascinated by the rare and remarkable, give yourself a treat and head over to The Museum of Russian Art. This is the only major cultural institution in North America that’s entirely devoted to Russian art & culture. Only a tiny percentage of Russian-created art makes its way out of the country, meaning that Minneapolis’s Museum of Russian Art is home to a very precious commodity.
Cross the threshold of this wonderful museum, and you’ll be awed by the towering ceilings of this former Spanish Colonial church—and by the art they shelter.
Take in a stunning collection of art that features 10,000 objects ranging from traditional icons to avant-garde paintings and sculptures. The timeline spans the Russian Empire and Soviet Union eras, including an impressive sampling of Russian Impressionist works.
Check out a roster of live events, and take a guided tour for a deeper appreciation of this unique collection. Browse the gift shop for a great selection of books, along with Russian-made crafts ranging from elaborate Christmas ornaments to exquisite nesting dolls.
The Bakken Museum
Ready for a deep dive into the worlds of innovation, science, and technology? Then put The Bakken Museum on your family-friendly, must-visit museum list.
The building itself is an attention-grabber, with its intriguing blend of European Gothic and English Tudor architectural styles. Founded by Earl Bakken, the creator of the first “wearable” pacemaker, The Bakken Museum showcases the wonders of scientific discovery and invention.
The Bakken Museum features loads of family-friendly activities, and fans of interactive museums will find their happy place here. Dive into an immersive film experience in Frankenstein’s Laboratory. Then browse an intriguing exhibit devoted to author Mary Shelley, and get the inside scoop on the real creator of the Frankenstein legend.
Get in on the action at Ben Franklin’s Electricity Party, where you can witness the groundbreaking experiments Franklin carried out in the pre-electric 1700s. (The results were shocking!) The kids in your crew will have a blast with hands-on activities that show them how electricity works. And gadget nerds will want to check out an amazing collection of vintage electrical devices, radios, and telegraphs.
Step outside for a breath of fresh air, and savor the natural beauty of the Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden, the Dakota Native Plants Garden, and the Green Energy Art Garden.
Foshay Museum and Observation Deck
Up for a lofty experience? DC has its Washington Monument, Paris has its Eiffel Tower, and Minneapolis has the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck.
Built in 1929 and named after its colorful creator Wilbur Foshay, this beloved Minneapolis icon captures the young city’s burgeoning energy at the high point of the roaring twenties. Rising nearly 450 feet over the skyline in Downtown Minneapolis, this iconic building was the tallest structure in the Midwest for nearly 50 years. Today, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The tower itself has been transformed into the swank Foshay Hotel, but the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck are filled with entertaining exhibits and great viewing opportunities.
Browse the museum, and you’ll get the remarkable inside story of the building’s history and its eccentric namesake. Quirky but canny, Wilbur Foshay amassed an empire by buying up utility companies across the country. His lifelong dream had been to build a Minneapolis “monument” that would rival Washington’s – and that’s what he did in creating the Foshay Tower.
Step out to the 31st-floor observation deck, and you’ll experience Foshay’s dream in all its splendor: breathtaking 360-degree views that take in Twin City Saint Paul and stretch out 30 miles to the horizon on a clear day.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Minneapolis boasts numerous museums, but none quite like the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden ranks at the top of the list. It’s a remarkable hybrid of the city’s two most cherished features: its gorgeous greenspaces and its vibrant cultural life. It’s also home to the eye-popping structure known as “The Spoonbridge and Cherry,” one of the most famous landmarks in the state.
Nestled in parkland that was developed in the early 1900s, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is set against the striking backdrop of the city skyline. This unique outdoor sculpture garden is packed with visual delights. Stroll this beautiful 11-acre venue and savor over 50 works of modern and contemporary art from the Walker Art Center’s world-class collection.
Want to optimize your bucolic browsing? Take a guided tour or download the Garden’s self-guided tour app to get great insights into contemporary art, the works on display, and the artists who created them.
Mill Ruins Park
If you want to get a close-up look at what made Minneapolis an industrial powerhouse, pull on your walking shoes and head on over to Mill Ruins Park. Set in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is the centerpiece of the city’s Mill District rejuvenation and one of the must-see Minneapolis tourist attractions.
In its glory days during the 19th century, Mill Ruins Park was home to mills, canals, and the biggest water-powered facility in the world. Those bountiful resources put Minneapolis on the map as the globe’s leading producer of flour—and made it the birthplace of corporate giants like General Mills and Pillsbury, which are still going strong today.
Explore the eerie remains of abandoned flour mills and industrial buildings. Stroll along the site’s historic stone piers, and keep your camera handy to snap some awesome pics of the stunning 1883 Stone Arch Bridge, a National Historic Engineering Landmark.
Take time to check out interpretive signs posted along the walkways for fascinating insights into a crown jewel of the city’s dynamic past.
Minnesota African American Heritage Museum & Gallery
Immerse yourself in a setting that explores Black history and highlights the experiences of African Americans in Minnesota at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum & Gallery (MAAHMG). Step inside, and you’ll discover a treasury of exhibits, events, and programs that showcase the history, art, and culture of Minnesota’s vibrant African American community.
Learn about the challenges and achievements of African Americans who left the South to find a new life in Minnesota during the “Great Migration.” Soak up the fascinating stories of early African American settlers and pioneers in the 1800s. Get unique insights into the Black Liberation Movement in Minnesota, and track the lives of abolitionists, labor, and civil rights leaders who were at its forefront.
Want to keep it real? Check out community events like open mic night. Drop in to listen and learn as community members share their stories.
Hennepin History Museum
Want to get a unique take on Minnesota’s past? Check out the Hennepin History Museum for an intriguing look into the past through a local lens. Set in the Fair Oaks Historic District in the Whittier neighborhood, the Hennepin History Museum is a sure-fire hit with history buffs. Home to a wide array of exhibitions, collections, and public events, this historic venue pays tribute to Hennepin County’s rich past.
Dating back to 1919, the Hennepin History Museum is set in the historic Christian Mansion, the home of local philanthropist George H. Christian. George had made a fortune in the milling industry and amassed some formidable collections along the way. He had a hankering to share these historical Hennepin treasures with the world—and so he did!
Explore intriguing exhibits on little-known (some might say quirky) subjects like crop art, a made-in-Minnesota specialty that features works of art made entirely from seeds and plants. Browse rooms brimming with period furniture, vintage toys and dolls, and decorative arts.
Drop in for special events like Fireside Chats on local history and “Third Friday” events that showcase special items from the collection—served up with beer and wine!