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

Memorial Day Activities in the Twin Cities

From historical reenactments to a hip-hop music festival, there's something for everyone this Memorial Day weekend in the Twin Cities.

A Day Trip to Red Wing

Located right on the Mississippi River, Red Wing offers a historic downtown district and spectacular views

It's Farmers Market Season

No matter where you live in Minnesota, fresh produce, flowers and homemade goodies await

Origami in the Garden

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's latest exhibit puts the art of folding paper on full display with a garden and metal twist

New Ways to Explore 3 Classic MN Destinations

From Fort Snelling to the North Shore, check out this summer's technological updates to historic and wild Minnesota places

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

What to Wear + Where to Go: Music Festivals

Your style guide for Minnesota music festivals

Mesabi Trail Offers New Views in Northern Minnesota

The Mesabi Trail, a 120-mile paved cycling and hiking trail that spans the Mesabi Iron Range, recently opened a new connection in Virginia, MN that crosses the state's tallest bridge and offers amazing views of former minelands.

Glensheen Mansion Bonfire Nights

Enjoy this summer tradition from one of the most iconic estates in the state

Twin Cities Festival Spring Babies

If April showers bring May flowers, spring babies bring fun for the whole family

Record Store Day: Where to Find Rare Releases in MN

On April 21, rock out at mini-music festivals around the state, dig into gourmet donuts, and collect the rare vinyls available one time a year

Catch the Lyrids Meteor Shower

The meteor shower peaks April 21 and 22, just in time for Earth Day

A Day Trip to Excelsior

Just 20 miles west of the Twin Cities, this waterfront town is complete with charming shops and lakeside dining

Night Art Gallery Is Your Sober Night Out

The Lindstrom art gallery entertains with hors d'oeuvres, tons of art available for purchase, and non-alcholic drinks
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags