Themed Tours at the Minnesota State Capitol

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Minnesota’s history, then the State Capitol is the place to be. Built in 1905 after nearly 12 years of planning and construction, the building was considered one of the most beautiful public buildings in the country. Cass Gilbert, a 35-year-old local architect, designed the building that cost roughly $4.5 million to construct (equivalent to about $90 million today). Once completed, it became the third building to serve as Minnesota’s seat of government and featured an extraordinary dome, golden horses (the Quadriga), marble columns, and other stunning features that helped it land a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Because of the bounty of history and thought that was put into this building, it can be easy to miss things. Taking a themed tour is a perfect solution, as it gives you the opportunity to see a more specified side of the Capitol. Throughout September and October, the Minnesota Historical Society is offering a number of these tours. See which one(s) interest you the most.

Photo courtesy of
Minnesota Historical Society

Capitol Art and Artists Tour: Sept. 21, 7 p.m.
View the works and hear the stories of artists like Kenyon Cox, Edwin Blashfield, John LaFarge, and Elmer Garnsey. Learn about America’s muralist movement (1890s-1910), when symbolism and allegory were used in artwork in public buildings. See how the architecture, murals, sculptures, and decoration come together to create a cohesive design. Tickets: $9 adults, $8 seniors and college students, $6 children ages 6-17, $2 discount for MHS members.

Capitol Civil War Tour: Sept. 29, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.
This tour focuses on Minnesota’s role in the Civil War. Find out why the Capitol contains artifacts, paintings, and memorials, learn about current efforts to conserve battle flags and see statues of famous state officers. During the tour, a visitor will be dressed as a new recruit, wearing an outfit typical of a Union soldier. Tickets: $9 adults, $8 seniors and college students, $6 children ages 6-17, $2 discount for MHS members.

Shadows and Spirits of the State Capitol: Oct. 18-20 & 25-27, 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Get in the Halloween spirit as you move through the eerily lit rotunda, hallways, and chambers—lighting similar to what existed when the building first opened. Hear stories of the Capitol’s early history from historical “spirits,” including a night watchman, Civil War veteran, woman suffragist, dome foreman, and artist who decorated the Supreme Court Chamber. Tours leave every 30 minutes. Tickets: $12 adults, $11 seniors and college students, $9 children ages 6-17, $2 discount for MHS members.

If these tours only inspire you to learn more, the Capitol offers free (with a suggested $5 donation) guided tours year-round. And if self-guided tours are more your style, pick up a $2 brochure at the Capitol information desk and embark on the Capitol Mall Walking Tour or the State Capitol Art Treasures Hunt. General tours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sundays 1-3 p.m.; self-guided tours: Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m.

Minnesota State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul

Note: Reservations are required for themed tours, so make sure to plan ahead!