For residents and visitors of the Twin Cities, it can be hard to see outside the blinders that are the metro’s first place parks, award-winning eateries and breweries, and traveling Broadway shows. But there’s life outside the confines of Minneapolis and St. Paul, specifically in their neighbors to the south, and they’re worthy of your attention.
For those of us who are used to the hustle and bustle of living in the “big city,” a more relaxed vibe and take-things-as-they-come attitude can be found in the prairies of southern Minnesota. If you find yourself amongst these rolling hills and wind-swept grasslands, set aside some time for these southern treasures.
National Eagle Center
This raptor-friendly haven on the banks of the Mississippi River in Wabasha was recently named the No. 1 “Family Attraction Worth Traveling For in Minnesota in 2016” by FlipKey.com. Open year round, experience spectacular views of eagles soaring through the sky and nesting in the treetops. Speaking of their nests, American bald eagles build the largest tree nests of any bird. These mansions in the sky have been known to measure up to 13 feet deep by eight feet wide, and weigh as much as one ton. That’s half the weight of an average American car. Through interactive exhibits and programs conducted by naturalist interpreters featuring live eagles, visitors can get an inside peek at the daily lives of our nation’s proud symbol of freedom.
To learn even more about these majestic birds of prey, head here to see how Scott Mehus, the center’s education director, keeps a close watch on Minnesota’s eagle population.
Pipestone National Monument
The red pipestone quarries are deeply entrenched in American Indian history. For generations they have been visited to acquire the red pipestone used to craft pipebowls. These sacred pipes created smoke that was used as a vessel to transport one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. Apart from the quarries, visitors will also find a three quarter-mile walking trail juxtaposed to the babbling Pipestone Creek, majestic Winnewissa Falls and beautiful tall grass prairie. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera for some excellent bird watching opportunities.
Minnesota Marine Art Museum
It’s only fitting one of the most picturesque cities in Minnesota has a collection of art to match. Nestled between towering bluffs and the Mississippi River, Winona is home to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM). An ambitious roster of 1,147 pieces of art are highlighted by works from some of the most influential and masterful artists of our time including: J.M.W. Turner, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Gaugin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and more.
Learn more on how the MMAM is constantly working to expand their collection of high-quality art, and how they’re using it to benefit the public through public programming.