Edit ModuleShow Tags

Minnesota Capitol Tour: Insightful, Informative, Inspiring


Published:

No matter where you live, you should visit your state Capitol at least once in your lifetime. Consider it your “civic duty.”

I first visited the Minnesota state Capitol on a social studies field trip. What I mainly remember of that tour was how awesome it was to get to see those majestic gold horses (the Quadriga) way up on the roof. I also remember lots and lots of stairs. (Then again, my legs were much shorter back then.)

I toured the Capitol again as a fledgling newspaper reporter, to interview a senator about a local issue. I don’t remember the issue anymore. I didn’t wander around the building that day; just went directly to his office. I was a little intimidated by the importance of the place. I was in awe of the fact that this is where our state Legislature meets; this is where cases are heard in the state Supreme Court.

I went back two more times—both outside on the lawn—for rallies.

On a recent weekday morning, three friends and I went on the free Capitol tour and this was the first time I was able to fully appreciate the building for the beautiful architecture, as a historical time capsule, a reflection of our state’s rich heritage.

Capitol RotundaOur knowledgeable and friendly tour guide was eager to share information during the 45-minute tour. I learned that Minnesota became a state in 1858, and the reason there’s a portrait of President Lincoln in the House of Representatives chamber is because Lincoln was the first president Minnesotans helped elect after our state was admitted into the Union.

I learned that the gilded ears of corn and acorns adorning the walls of the elegant Governor’s reception room represent our agricultural and timber industries; paintings throughout the massive building depict Minnesota’s involvement in the U.S. Dakota War, Civil War, Spanish-American War (among many other landmark historical events prior to the late 1800s); and how the founding of our state was so positively influenced by early French explorers (we’re the only state to have a French motto: “L’etoile du Nord” — “The Star of the North”).

I learned about Cass Gilbert, the talented 35-year-old architect who designed the impressive American Renaissance-style Capitol back in 1895—with its white Georgia marble and St. Cloud granite exterior, extravagant six-foot crystal chandelier, golden Quadriga statue representing nature, civilization, and prosperity, grand Italian marble columns, vaulted ceilings, and expansive three-layered free-standing dome (one of the world’s largest)—who later went on to become a sort of celebrity architect who designed the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. and the famous Woolworth skyscraper in New York. (At the time, the tallest building in New York.)

I learned why there are ropes around the center star in the Capitol Rotunda (it doubles as a glass ceiling, and those working in the basement are distracted by the constant footsteps above). I learned that the Capitol went from an estimated $2 million in 1895 to $4.5 million 10 years later, when it was finished in 1905. (What would that be today with inflation? $100 million?)

What I learned most, though, is that you need to visit the Capitol as an adult to really appreciate it. If you toured the Capitol "back in the day" as part of a school field trip (or never!), I strongly encourage a trip. 
 

The Minnesota House of Representatives


The Minnesota Historical Society regularly hosts State Capitol tours, including general tours (free, with a suggested $5 donation), $9 theme tours (Civil War, Women’s History, Art and Artists, Architecture, a three-hour Voice of the People: Your Role in Minnesota Government tour), and a spooky $12 Halloween tour (Shadows and Spirits). The self-guided Capitol Mall Walking Tour and Art Treasures in the Capitol scavenger hunt (great for families with younger kids)  are $2/person.

General tours are offered year-round Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the hour, and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

This Saturday, April 14, learn about the process, material, and people behind the Capitol at the Capitol Construction Tour from 1-2:30 p.m. Reservations are $9/person ($8/seniors). Pre-payment is required at 651-296-2881 or statecapitol@mnhs.org

*Tip: Bring quarters. You may need them for metered parking.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

Plan a Trip to Roanoke, Virginia

This East Coast visit comes with history, a burgeoning craft beer scene, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachian Trail, and more

Cannon Falls Wine & Art Fest

Taste Minnesota wines and ciders, browse through local art vendors, and eat delicious food at Cannon Falls Wine & Art Fest, July 21-22

Day Trip to Taylors Falls

A Taylors Falls day trip made up of beautiful river views and a classic malt shop.

Record Store on Wheels

Like a food truck, but for music—and debuting this Sunday at Open Streets Minneapolis

Green Thumb Gardens

The 2018 Hennepin County Master Gardener Learning Garden Tour flaunts its foliage July 14

Best Caves of Minnesota

Explore Minnesota’s man-made and natural curiosities this summer

Amble Over to Afton

While you’re in Afton for Selma’s, stay a while and check out the state parks, historic buildings, quaint downtown, and more

Take a Trip for (Frozen) Treats

Grab a scoop from the state’s oldest ice cream shop in Afton: Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour

Journeys: A Minnesotan’s Happy Place

Time wasted at the lake is time well spent

Journeys: The Start of Adventure

To prep for wilderness canoe trips, Les Voyageurs brings campers out on the Mississippi River

Top 5 Instagram Spots Along the Mississippi River

Bluffs, hiking trails, and waterfalls make for beautiful summer photos

Summer Sunburn Solutions

Six ways to beat the burn

Brews and Views at the Hopped Up Caribou Festival

There's no better place to tie the knot than at a craft beer festival, and if you're not into that, you can cliff climb, too

A Day Trip to Hudson

St. Croix River views, hiking trails at Willow River State Park, and quaint downtown eats await in Hudson
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags