11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St Paul
St Paul and Minneapolis jointly form the Twin Cities, but St Paul is the state capital and very different in character from Minneapolis. St Paul is spaciously laid out, built on terraces above the Mississippi, with more of an old frontier town atmosphere. This can be seen most clearly along Summit Avenue.
St Paul, the older of the two cities, originated as a military post established at the junction of the Minnesota River with the Mississippi in 1807 that later became Fort Snelling. From 1823 it became a port of call for river boats. In 1840 fur traders and trappers established a settlement nearby, originally called Pig's Eye after the leader of the group, a Frenchman, but renamed St Paul in the following year. When Minnesota was incorporated as a town, St Paul was declared state capital.
See also: Where to Stay in Saint Paul
1 Summit Avenue
The Cathedral of St Paul, a scale version of St Peter's in Rome, dominates the eastern part of Downtown. Here Summit Avenue begins, the largest and longest collection of Victorian buildings in the United States. Close to the cathedral stands James J. Hill House, built by the founder of the Great Northern Railroad. Summit Avenue runs 3 3/4 mi. down to the Mississippi; from that end of the street there is an impressive view of the river valley ravine.
2 Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
Como Park Conservatory in St Paul was built in 1915. One of the main features is the glass domed Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, containing the Ordway Gardens and the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden and the Bonsai Collection. The Zoo has natural habitats for large cats, polar bears, sea lions, diving birds, apes, African antelopes, giraffes and others.
Address: 1225 Estabrook Drive
3 Minnesota History Center
The Minnesota History Center focuses on the history and features of the state. Permanent and changing exhibits cover topics from the Civil War to the historical effects of climate. In addition, the center also offers lectures, workshops, activities for families, and hosts various events. Also on site is a library and work space.
Address: 345 West Kellogg Boulevard
4 Cathedral of St Paul
The Classical Renaissance style Cathedral of St Paul began in 1906, with the first services held in 1915. It is the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul, so named by the Vatican in 2009, and a pilgrimage site. The cathedral can seat 3000 people. Of special note is the Shrine of the Nations surrounding the sanctuary, symbolizing the contributions of immigrants in the history of the cathedral.
Address: 239 Selby Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55102, United States
5 Science Museum of Minnesota
The Science Museum of Minnesota offers hands-on exhibits that allow visitors to touch a tornado, walk under a dinosaur, board a Mississippi River towboat, learn about the human body, and participate in the Experiment Gallery. The museum is aimed at stimulating young minds and offers educational exhibits on a variety of topics. Temporary exhibit galleries keep things interesting.
Address: 120 West Kellogg Boulevard, St Paul, MN 55102-1208, United States
6 State Capitol
The marble dome of the State Capitol (1905) is a prominent feature of the district northwest of Downtown Minneapolis. The building was constructed in 1905 and is an architectural highlight of St Paul. The original furnishings can be found in the restored Senate, House, Supreme Court and Rathskeller cafe. Guided tours are available but visitors are also able to take a self guided tour.
Address: 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
7 James J Hill House
James J Hill was the founder of the Great Northern Railroad. His home was a symbol of his success. Completed in 1891, the red sandstone Richardsonian Romanesque style mansion was the largest home in the state when it was originally built, measuring 36,000 square feet. Today visitors can take a guided tour of the house or wander through the first floor art gallery which displays works of Minnesota artists. A number of events are held at the property each year, from concerts to an Easter egg hunt on the grounds.
Address: 240 Summit Avenue, St Paul, MN 55102-2121, United States
8 Landmark Center
The Landmark Center is housed in the finely restored old Federal Courts Building of 1902, which now contains restaurants, galleries, function rooms and museums. The building generally serves as a cultural center but visitors can appreciate the building by taking a guided tour. Several different tours are offered.
Address: 75 West 5th Street
9 Fort Snelling
Near the airport is Fort Snelling, which recalls the frontier days of around 1820. This is a restored limestone fort which was the northernmost military outpost of the United States in the early 19th century. There are 17 buildings on the grounds, which include the commandant's house, barracks, a sutler's house, and a hospital. On display are art, artifacts, maps, and illustrations pertaining to history of the 1800s and 1900s.
Address: Junction of Highway 5 and 55
10 Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life
The Gibbs Museum a prosperous farm of the late 1800s. The owners were Jane and Heman Gibbs. She was missionary who worked with the Dakota prior to marrying. Together they built the farmhouse and the original white barn. Also on site is an 1880s schoolhouse and a traditional Dakota tioti or tepee.
11 Alexander Ramsey House
Alexander Ramsey was the first governor of the Minnesota Territory. The Victorian home was built in 1872 of native limestone and contains portraits, furnishings and personal belongings of the Ramsey family. The home is extremely well preserved and offers insight into the lifestyle of the governor during this time period. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: 265 South Exchange Street, St Paul, MN 55102-2416, United States
Where to Stay in Saint Paul for Sightseeing
We recommend these centrally located hotels in downtown Saint Paul with easy access to the city's top attractions:
- The Saint Paul Hotel: luxury historic hotel, landmark building, elegant decor, valet parking, 24-hour rooftop fitness center.
- Hyatt Place St. Paul / Downtown: mid-range pricing, contemporary decor, floor-to-ceiling windows, well-equipped fitness center.
- Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown St. Paul: affordable rates, walk to Mississippi River, spacious rooms, indoor pool.
- Hotel 340: budget-friendly hotel, beautiful old building, kitchenettes, breakfast included.