5 Unusual Minnesota Attractions

We all love Mall of America and Minnehaha Falls, but these five out-of-the-ordinary state attractions provide relief from the norm

A guide giving a tour to people at the Soudan Mine.
Soudan Underground Mine

photo by MNDNR Staff

Everyone knows the usual suspects when it comes to entertainment in Minnesota. But believe it or not, there are things to do outside of people watching at the Mall of America, debating the meaning a certain painting is trying to convey at the Walker Art Center, or guzzling down brew at the 30,000 breweries pouring their latest concoctions. Don’t believe me? Check out five not-so-ordinary attractions in the state.

Anechoic Chamber

There’s no doubt we’ve all sat through some pretty awkward situations where you could hear a pin drop—I’m looking at you, job interviews from my past, poorly timed jokes, and watching a nervous Leonardo Dicaprio draw Kate Winslet like one of his French girls with my mom, grandma, and aunt. But have you ever been in a place so quiet you can hear your own heart beat? That’s exactly what you’ll get at Orfield Laboratories’ Anechoic Chamber. Recognized as “The Quietest Place on Earth” by Guinness World Records, the reticent room registers at a silent -9.4 dBA (decibels A-weighted)—perfect infant hearing is 0 dBA. I can already hear my tinnitus driving me insane.

Largest Ball of Twine

If the giant Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji had a giant cat, this would be its giant toy. Weighing in at 9 tons—large adult male African elephants only tip the scale at 7 tons—and 12 feet in diameter, this sphere of string in Darwin, Minnesota, is the world’s largest twine ball rolled by one man. (There’s a larger ball in Cawker City, Kansas, but that one is added to by visitors.) Started by Francis A. Johnson in his basement in 1950, the ball took nearly 30 years to become the size it is today, and it might have been even bigger if Johnson hadn’t passed away.

Salt Lake

And no, we’re not talking Utah. We’re talking about its lesser-known cousin on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota in Lac Qui Parle County. Right around 300 acres in size, Salt Lake is the state’s only alkaline wetland, is roughly one-third as salty as the ocean, and is a paradise for our feathered friends as more than 150 species of birds have been spotted on the lake’s salty shores. Because of this biodiversity, avid bird watchers flock (pun intended) to the lake every spring for the Salt Lake Birding Weekend to spot species such as trumpeter swans, Say’s Phoebes, cattle egrets, and more.

Drive a Tank

History buff? “Call of Duty” fan? Power hungry? Whatever your fancy, you can bring it to life at this adrenaline-packed attraction. Drive a Tank puts you in the driver seat of these high-powered military vehicles—sans boot camp. Choose from a number of packages with optional upgrades such as machine gun firing, car crushes, and driving through a mobile home. Destruction is just a drive to Kasota away.

Soudan Underground Mine

The forests of Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is where you’ll find this underground adventure. Visitors will dive a half mile under the Earth’s surface via cage before traveling another ¾ mile on rails to reach the last mined location before the mine was closed in 1962. One interesting fact to note: The Soudan Mine houses one of the state’s largest bat hibernacula—upward of 15,000 bats shack up here for the winter. 

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