Go Deep: MN's Most Unique Tourist Spots

Destinations for those looking for the weirder, lesser-known side of the Twin Cities

Photo By Todd Buchanan

There are many places in the Twin Cities out-of-towners need to visit: The Mall of America, our sports venues, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Nicollet Mall. But if you’ve lived in the metro for a few years, you’ve probably visited most of these spots. Here are the weirder, not-as-well-known Twin Cities destinations:

Wabasha Street Caves

For those who are claustrophobic and can’t bring themselves to enter a cave—even one that has a hall big enough for swing dance every Thursday evening (6 p.m.) with live music by local bands—Grumpy Steve’s Coffee is a few yards from the front entrance to the Wabasha Street Caves. Tours are given Thursday, Saturdays, and Sundays. Learn more.

The Birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Originally, I’d hoped to visit all of the Minnesota houses in which Fitzgerald lived. But the Fitzgeralds moved a lot. (I counted nine different places of residents just within the Twin Cities.) Not wanting to crisscross St. Paul and then drive out to White Bear Lake, I saw only his birthplace, the three-story apartment on Laurel Avenue that is now a National Literacy Landmark. Since the Fitzgeralds moved out, the three-story apartment was split into three separate apartments that people now call home. (So, I decided not to spend too much time loitering in front of their yard and gawking at the building.) Learn more.

The Center for Lost Objects

This unique shop is worth the visit, but before you go, make sure no one in your group is afraid of dolls, because there are dolls and doll heads on almost every surface. Once you get past them—and their blank, starring eyes—there are many unique and random items to explore, such as old fur, colorful Christmas lights, and furniture. My favorite find was a box of small, plastic animal toys from the 1960s. Learn more.

Weisman Art Museum

This art museum is housed in a silver, futuristic building on the U of M campus that looks more like a work of art than a museum. One of two featured exhibits is centered around Minnesota icon Prince, the other around ink paintings by Jizi, a Chinese painter. The paintings were done on long scrolls (one covering three walls of a room) and large canvases. The interior architecture and use of space captivated me just as much, if not more, than the actual art. Pro tip: If you like hedgehog-themed everything, checkout the gift shop. (No, there aren’t real hedgehogs, unfortunately.) Learn more.

Mary Tyler Moore’s House

OK, so the Mary Tyler Moore Show only used exterior shots of the house, but it’s still cool to see one of Minnesota’s claims to fame. Before you go, know that the house is privately owned, so you can’t get out of the car and explore the property. Look, don’t touch. Learn more.

Wild Rumpus

While parking can be a bit challenging, visiting the shop is worth it: The store doubles as a zoo with a tarantula, a rat, weasels, a chinchilla, and birds (all in cages, don’t panic). There’s also a cat that can often be found sleeping on an oversize chair in the back. For those who want to look for books as well as animals, genres primarily range from toddlers to teens—with a crazy number of categories. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, the staff knows almost all-things children’s books. Learn more.

Schubert Club Museum

The museum combines the history of music and modern art, where visitors can see a variety of old pianos and keyboards, peruse composers’ correspondences, and listen to music from phonographs. Amongs the old writings and instruments are modern-looking sculptures made of a variety of musical instruments that explore space and movement. Learn more.

Beltrami Park/Maple Hill Cemetery

According to the Star Tribune, Maple Hill Cemetery is Minneapolis’ first established cemetery (1857). In the early 1900s, the cemetery fell into disrepair, so many of the bodies and tombstones were moved to Lakewood Cemetery. Maple Hill Cemetery was cleaned up and became a park in 1935, yet, according to the Minnesota Historical Society, bodies remain buried in the cemetery/park today. Once the snow melts, a few gravestones can be seen throughout the area. Learn more.

 Orfield Laboratories

This company was established to test, among other things, the sound and lighting of various instruments and products. In order to test the sound of objects without background noises affecting the results, the labs installed a room with two layers of steel and insulation to eliminate exterior noise. The room is so quiet it won the Guinness World Record for the quietest place on earth in 2005 and 2013. (According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the background noise in the room is measured in negative decibels.) Those who want some peace and quiet can enter the room and see how long they can last in the silence. Learn more.