No dry discourse or “hands off” signage here; the MINNESOTA HISTORY CENTER does a phenomenal job of appealing to all ages through its highly interactive and entertaining exhibits. You will have no problem at all finding plenty to intrigue your kids — and while they are being amused, you’ll probably find yourself being playful right alongside them. Here are the top things our family feels you won’t want to miss when you visit the Minnesota History Center:
The permanent and rotating exhibits at the Minnesota History Center were designed with the whole family in mind. Kids can get even more than just hands-on! Here’s a peek at what they can play with while they’re learning:
MINNESOTA’S GREATEST GENERATION explores the experiences of those who lived through such defining eras as the Great Depression and World War 2. These would be relatives your children perhaps did not get a chance to meet, people us moms and dads may fondly remember as grandparents who are no longer with us. At the Minnesota History Center, kids travel back to the 1930s and ’40s, playing at being soda jerks at an old-school drugstore, watching movie clips at the theater, packing war materials on an assembly line and for those up to it (mature theme – use discretion) even experiencing an intense simulated flight on D-Day.
The GRAINLAND exhibit allows kids to scramble up and around a replica grain elevator. There’s an educational angle to it — signage posted within the tangle of tubes teaches kids the farm-to-table story — but mostly this is a welcome chance for kids to work their wiggles out within the museum. When we recently visited, the top 15 minutes of every hour are reserved just for families to play; other times you may find school groups have the right of way.
The THEN NOW WOW exhibit playfully captures those “WOW” moments in Minnesota history — from the pioneer hardships to explosive discoveries on the Iron Range. My kids have enjoyed hunkering down in the prairie sod house during a storm, bartering with the agent on duty at the fur post and riding a streetcar through bygone St Paul.
WEATHER PERMITTING, the exhibit, walks you safely through a tornado that hit the Twin Cities suburban community of Fridley in 1965 (again: can evoke some jitters in younger kids when the lights go out and the sirens start in, but it’s a mild thrill for the older ones.)
Exciting temporary exhibits
March is the last month to play detective at the Minnesota History Center: My family recently visited Sherlock Holmes: The Exhibition at the Minnesota History Center with a pack of tweens and teens who both enjoy solving puzzles and watching the British drama series Sherlock. We recommend kids be at least 8 to deftly navigate the mystery as there is a lot of signage, historical detail and instructions. If you don’t proceed in a chronological order, you can end up quickly confused – admittedly, I turned to my own teens for help more than once. (They were gracious aid to Mom.) Included with museum admission of $8-$12/pp. Exhibit through April 2, 2023.
Past exhibits we enjoyed
OPEN HOUSE: IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK (2006-2019)
Open House was a fun, interactive peek-at, walk-through of an actual re-created St Paul home occupied by immigrant families of various nationalities over the years. Our tips to having a good time in the house were to make sure to sit on the bed in the bedroom (brace yourself), play lawn games in the backyard, and peer into the dimly-lit attic and basement. The exhibit closed after 13 years entertaining families at the Minnesota History Center. We leave the information about the exhibit here to recall how our own children grew up exploring this exhibit and to demonstrate the dedication the Minnesota History Center has to reaching out to youth.
Special events at Minnesota History Center
Summer outdoor concerts
The Minnesota History Center’s free outdoor music program has been tweaked a number of times over the years. Tuesday has been the traditional night for live music during the summer. Make sure to check the calendar for exact dates to enjoy a multicultural mix of performers entertaining with outdoor concerts. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and pack picnic dinner – or purchase one from the onsite Minnesota Cafe. In the past, it has been possible to come early for admission-free exploration of the History Center’s galleries, but the Free Tuesday Nights promotion is not currently available.
Membership to the Minnesota History Center
The slightly larger than average families that make up the FFTC team have found that purchasing a Minnesota Historical Society membership (still $79/year covers two adults and all kids in the family) means that the pass has been paid back after just one visit to the Minnesota History Center – and there are many other terrific sites in and around the Twin Cities to explore.
More information about the Minnesota History Center
345 W Kellogg Blvd, St Paul MN
Seniors/vets/college students: $10
Children 5-14: $8
Under 5 & members: Free
More information about the Minnesota History Center from Family Fun Twin Cities.