Minnesota (MN)

Top 15 Things to Do in Saint Paul, MN

If you know anything about the state of Minnesota, then you’ll know that Saint Paul is its capital. This means you’ll find the Minnesota State Capitol building in this great city!

But beyond that, what else is there in Saint Paul? Is it somewhere worthwhile to visit? We definitely think so!

This is an area rich with culture and attractions, so if you’re planning on taking a vacation soon, then there are plenty of Saint Paul activities waiting for you.

Read on for the top 15 things to do in Saint Paul, MN!

1. Visit the Science Museum of Minnesota

Saint Paul is most well-known for its Science Museum of Minnesota, so you need to put this museum on your itinerary!

This museum spans 8.5 acres and has tons of exhibits that’ll fascinate your entire family, no matter what age you are. It sits on the riverfront, which gives you an amazing view. There are amazing dinosaur exhibits that’ll get your imagination going, as well as an impressive omni-theater where you can watch educational films and have an immersive experience.

Photo Credit: Jpellgen / Flickr

Other exhibits include the Human Body Gallery, Mississippi River Gallery, Collectors’ Corner, Experiment Gallery, Sportsology, and Wonder Years.

2. Go to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

It’s always a fantastic idea to go to a zoo, as it offers you an up-close look at exotic animals you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Not to mention, it’ll give you some fresh air and ample opportunities to stroll around and take in the sights.

The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is worth visiting in Saint Paul since there are many spectacular animals to see.

Photo Credit: Yuan2003 / Flickr

Not only that, but there are several gardens across this 384-acre space. You can visit a Japanese garden, lily pond, orchid house, and most famously, the Sunken Garden. This garden has stunning floral shows that make for great pictures.

There are also many art installations around the park, as well as attractions like a carousel and children’s gallery.

The best thing is, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is free! In fact, it’s one of the last zoos to have free admission, so show your support by giving them a small donation when you visit.

3. Stroll Along Summit Avenue

Do you adore Victorian-era architecture? Then you need to head on over to Summit Avenue. This is a street in Saint Paul that has the most Victorian buildings in the entire nation!

Here, you’ll find 373 original historic mansions, which is pretty impressive when you consider there were 440 to begin with. While you walk along the street, you’ll also pass by the Cathedral of St. Paul, which is another place you should visit (more on this later). At the end of the street, you’ll also see the James J. Hill House (more on this later too).

Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell / Flickr

Of course, this is free to do, so if you ever find yourself with some spare time and the weather’s good, we’d suggest strolling down Summit Avenue to see some outstanding architecture.

4. Visit the Cathedral of St. Paul

The Cathedral of St. Paul is located at Saint Paul’s highest point downtown. This in itself makes it a worthwhile visit since you’ll get a fantastic view of the city.

Photo Credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock

As for the cathedral itself, it’s actually a smaller version of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. When you see it, you’ll instantly be awestruck, as it’s built in the Classical Renaissance style. They first started construction in 1906 but the cathedral didn’t get completely finished until the 1940s.

You can always just walk by to gaze at the structure, but there are also regular concerts in this cathedral you can attend.

5. Tour the James J. Hill House

The James J. Hill House was built by the man who founded the Great Northern Railroad and is right by the Cathedral of St. Paul. So if you’re in the area, consider stopping by!

Photo Credit: Teemu008 / Flickr

The house is more like a mansion, and it’s striking with its red sandstone facade. It’s built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which sets it apart from all other architecture in the area. This mansion was completed in 1891 and was the largest home in the entire state (it spans 36,000 square feet!).

Inside, the James J. Hill House has a 2-story art gallery, a 100-foot reception hall, and 13 bathrooms! Needless to say, it’s an estate fit for kings.

You can choose to have a guided tour or you can go through on your own.

6. Visit the Minnesota History Center

Have you always wanted to learn more about the state of Minnesota? Then you can by visiting the Minnesota History Center!

Here, there are both permanent and temporary exhibits that give you a glimpse of what the state’s experienced. There are many authentic historical objects in the Minnesota History Center, as well as hands-on experiences that’ll create lasting memories for your family.

Photo Credit: Jpellgen / Flickr

There’s even an outdoor area where you can walk through a beautiful garden in the hillside. There are lots of flowers and plants that attract birds, bees, butterflies, and bats!

7. See the State Capitol

Considering that Saint Paul is the state capital, it makes sense to go see the State Capitol!

This building was originally built in 1905 but has since been restored to perfection. When you come across it, there’s no doubting that you’ve arrived at the State Capitol, seeing as there’s a marble dome and a gold sculpture at the base of it. The marble dome is actually the second-largest in the world, so make sure you get a good look at it!

Photo Credit: Jpellgen / Flickr

You can either book a guided tour or take a self-guided one. Admission is free, but if you go on a guided tour, you should donate $5 as a token of appreciation.

8. Go See the Landmark Center

When passing through Saint Paul, it’s hard to miss the Landmark Center. It’s a huge castle-like building that has a clock at the top and several mint green roofs.

Photo Credit: Teresa Boardman / Flickr

Construction on Landmark Center first began in 1892 and was completed 10 years later in 1902. Originally, it was the Federal Court House and post office in the Upper Midwest. Today, it serves as a space for several retail businesses, such as restaurants, performance spaces, and art galleries.

You can also take guided tours here to learn more about the building and its significance.

9. Spend Some Time at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

If you want to spend some time in the great outdoors, then head over to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. This area entails the upper 72 miles of the river and you’ll get lots of spectacular views!

Photo Credit: Ken Lund / Flickr

Take a walk through the numerous trails to view not just diverse plants, but also lots of wildlife. Visitors have spotted animals such as deer, beavers, and river otters.

For bird-watchers, you’ll see fowl such as ducks, geese, herons, owls, sandpipers, hawks, osprey, and eagles. And for those who want to go fishing, you’ll find hundreds of fish species, including herring, perch, trout, sturgeon, and bass.

If you need more information, there are a few visitor centers all throughout the park.

10. Visit the Minnesota Children’s Museum

If you’re bringing your kids on this trip to Saint Paul, then make sure you go to the Minnesota Children’s Museum. This is the perfect place to duck into when it’s raining outside!

Photo Credit: Minnesota Children’s Museum

Across 3 floors, your children will get to experience interactive exhibits that’ll make learning tons of fun. They can go through areas like Storyland and Shipwreck Adventures.

During the pandemic, the museum is also allowing you to rent out 1 or 2 exhibits so your kids and their friends can play safely without worrying about others out of their bubble playing near them. This also gives them exclusive access to certain areas before the museum opens!

11. Walk Around Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling is a limestone fort that was first built in the 19th century. It’s located near the airport, so it’s a good destination to start or end your trip in Saint Paul with, especially if you’re driving on your own.

Photo Credit: Cocoabiscuit / Flickr

Fort Snelling (as well as some other buildings in the area) has been restored in recent years to give you a better look at what it used to look like as a military outpost. In addition, there have been many excavations here since 1957, which have uncovered many things that provide better insight into life at the fort.

12. Go to Harriet Island

Harriet Island is an excellent place to go if you’re looking for something free to do and the weather’s nice. Along this award-winning park, you’ll get outstanding views of the downtown skyline, so be sure to snap lots of pictures!

Photo Credit: Teresa Boardman / Flickr

Harriet Island allows you to hike along the Mississippi River, which also gives you fantastic views. In addition, there are plenty of places to have picnics when you want to take a break.

13. Check Out the Saint Paul Farmers’ Market

You’ll find the Saint Paul Farmers’ Market open every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm near CHS Field in Lower town (from November until April, it’s only open on Saturdays). So we highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Saint Paul for the weekend!

Photo Credit: Saint Paul Farmers’ Market

This farmers’ market has been going on for over 150 years, so it’s rich in history. You’ll enjoy delicious and locally-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as baked goods, meat, cheese, plants, and flowers for sale. It’s an excellent chance to see what the local farmers have to offer!

14. Spend an Afternoon at Phalen Park Beach

Phalen Park Beach isn’t actually by the coast, considering the state is pretty much landlocked. Instead, this park (and beach) is located at Lake Phalen, which is still picturesque! It’s actually one of the largest lakes in Saint Paul.

Spend a relaxing afternoon just lounging on the beach. Or you can rent a canoe or kayak to explore the waters. There are also sailing, rowing, and paddling lessons here, so consider taking these up if your family’s interested.

Within Phalen Region Park, there’s also the Great River Water Park. This is also a fantastic way to spend an afternoon!

Do note that Phalen Park Beach is closed in the winter and/or during prolonged cold weather. So plan accordingly!

15. Go Down Gateway Trail

Are you a nature enthusiast? Then you don’t want to miss out on Gateway Trail.

This trail spans 18 miles and starts in Saint Paul. It’ll take you through cities like Maplewood and Oakdale, and it ends 4 miles northwest of Stillwater.

Photo Credit: Gateway Trail

On Gateway Trail, you can hike, bike, in-line skate, and even go horseback riding. There are also many events on the trail throughout the year, so make sure you check the schedule before you head over.

FAQs for Things to Do in Saint Paul, MN

Do you have some questions about Saint Paul, MN? Then keep reading for our FAQs. We just might answer some of your burning questions!

What Is Saint Paul, MN Known For?

Saint Paul, MN is known for its Science Museum of Minnesota. It’s got a huge theater and tons of dinosaur exhibits that the entire family will love.

What Are Some Free Things to Do in Saint Paul, MN ?

You might be surprised to learn that Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is completely free to visit! Other free activities to do in Saint Paul, MN include Harriet Island, Saint Paul Farmers’ Market, and various other festivals that go on during the year.

What Are Popular Outdoor Activities in Saint Paul, MN?

You can visit Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Gateway Trail, and Summit Avenue. You should also go down to Phalen Park Beach for a relaxing time.

Have Fun Visiting Saint Paul, MN

Now that you have 15 things to do in Saint Paul, MN, this should solidify your choice to go vacation in this great state. From the various museums and amazing historical architecture to the farmers’ market and zoo, there are many things that can keep your family occupied and entertained!

Are you interested in visiting Minnesota and exploring more of what it has to offer? Then keep reading our site!

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