Minnesota became a state in 1858; the 32nd state in the union. People first came to Minnesota during the last ice age. They probably followed herds of large game into this area.
Minnesota’s First Inhabitants
Some of those early Minnesota people carved pictures of humans, animals and weapons into rocks. Some of these carvings, called “petroglyphs,” are thousands of years old – and many are still visible today in Minnesota’s state parks, such as Jeffers Petroglyphs near Comfrey. Ancient burial mounds and unearthed objects like spear points are evidence that people lived here ages ago.
The Dakota and Ojibwe (also called Chippewa or Anishinabe) Indians lived in Minnesota when the first Europeans arrived. Many Dakota, Ojibwe and other American Indians still live here today.
In the late 1600s, French explorers led an expedition into Minnesota, and were soon followed by fur traders for French, and then British, companies, who come for beaver pelts to make hats in Europe.
In 1825, Fort Snelling became the first permanent European-American settlement. This site is now open to the public for tours. The early settlers in the territory were primarily Americans from the East Coast. By the 1860s, large numbers of immigrants, especially Germans and Scandinavians, came to Minnesota.
More information about Minnesota history can be found on the Minnesota Historical Society website.
Length: Slightly over 400 miles
Width: 200-350 miles
Land area: 79,626 square miles
Water area: 7,326 square miles
Mean Elevation: 1,200 feet above sea level
Highest point: 2,301 feet at Eagle Mountain
Lowest point: 602 feet at Lake Superior shore
Location: upper Midwest, north central United States. Minnesota is bordered by Canada on the north; Iowa on the south; Lake Superior and Wisconsin on the east; and North and South Dakota on the west.
Longitude: 89° 34'W to 97° 12'W
Latitude: 43° 34'N to 49° 23'N
- 11,842 lakes (more than 10 acres)
- 69,200 miles of rivers and streams
- 680 miles of the Mississippi River’s 2,552 total miles flow through Minnesota.
- Minnesota borders Lake Superior, which is the world’s largest freshwater lake. Lake Superior is at the end of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which brings boats from around the world to the port of Duluth.
- Minnesota’s rivers and streams flow in three directions: north to Hudson Bay in Canada, east to the Atlantic Ocean and south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Capital: St. Paul
Total population: 5.4 million
13.5% of Minnesotans are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian or another non-white ethnicity.
Five largest cities
- Minneapolis (largest city in Minnesota): 392,880
St. Paul (capital of Minnesota): 290,770
Minneapolis and St. Paul together are known as the “Twin Cities”
- Rochester (home of Mayo Clinic): 108,992
- Duluth (major shipping port on Lake Superior): 86,211
- Bloomington (home of Mall of America): 86,033
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 estimates)
Part of Minnesota’s appeal is that it offers four distinct seasons, each with its own particular pleasures:
Spring (April-May) features warming days, with high temperatures in theTwin Cities progressing from 50 degrees in early April to the low 70s by the end of May. Trees leaf out in bright greens, robins and other migrating birds return, and tulips and daffodils poke up from the earth.
Summer (June-August) brings daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s (and occasionally, in the 90s). The easygoing days of summer enjoy daylight late into the evening, with abundant sunshine to brighten outdoor fun.
Fall (September-November) brings cooling temperatures, and with them, the bright colors of trees and shrubs as they change from their lush summer green. This time of transition starts with daytime highs in the 70s, dropping to highs in the 30s by the end of November.
Winter (December-March) here has earned a reputation for its occasional weather extremes, but the average winter day is quite comfortable for outdoor activities like skiing or snowmobiling. For instance, the average
high daytime temperature in the Twin Cities in January, the coldest month, is in the low 20s.
What to pack?
Minnesota weather can be quite changeable, so it’s important to bring layers of clothes for varying temperatures. Check weather forecasts before your departure. In the summer, bring lightweight clothing with a light jacket or sweater for the evening and a rain jacket just in case. Spring and fall, bring layers that can be added, depending on the temperature, and a lightweight coat or jacket. For winter trips, pack warm clothes, including sweaters, fleece or a blazer. You’ll need a heavy coat, boots, a warm hat, and lined gloves or mittens.
Arriving by Air
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is a major hub of the upper Midwest. Minnesota is only about an hour away by air from most Midwest cities, and a two- or three-hour flight from the east and west coasts. The Twin Cities can be reached from several countries on direct international flights.
The airport is conveniently located on the south side of the metropolitan area, off Interstate 494, 12 miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis, 10 miles southwest of downtown St. Paul, and just minutes from Mall of America in Bloomington. Nine other cities are also served by commercial air service: Bemidji, Brainerd, Chisholm-Hibbing, Duluth, Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks-East Grand Forks, International Falls, Rochester and Thief River Falls.
For a full list of Minnesota airports, visit airnav.com.
Minnesota by Train
The “Empire Builder” Amtrak route crosses the state between the southeast and northwest borders, with stops in Winona, Red Wing, St. Paul (at the new Union Depot downtown), St. Cloud, Staples, Detroit Lakes and Fargo-Moorhead. This route runs between Chicago and Seattle or Portland.
Traveling by Bus
Megabus provides express bus service to Minneapolis from several Midwest cities. The Greyhound and Jefferson inter-city bus lines provide service to many Minnesota cities. The Metro Transit system operates a full schedule of buses throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, plus a light rail line linking downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul to the airport and Mall of America. For schedule and route information, call 612-373-3333 or see www.metrotransit.org.
Other Minnesota cities with bus service include Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester.
Information on specific entry points
Entry from Canada, Europe and Japan via air: Customs declaration forms are distributed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Air Charter Terminal in a variety of languages.
Entry from Canada via ground transportation: Customs checks are carried out at checkpoints in Baudette, Crane Lake, Grand Portage, International Falls, Lancaster, Noyes, Pine Creek, Roseau and Warroad. (Checkpoints are marked with a crossed flag symbol on the official Minnesota highway map.)
Spending While You're Here
You are strongly advised to exchange currency for U.S. dollars at your first convenience. Most Minnesota businesses do not accept foreign currency.
You can exchange foreign currencies at most large banks, tourist centers and at agencies in the terminals of major airports. But you'll receive the best rate using an automated teller machine (ATM). You can find ATM in most public places, though some banking networks charge fees of $1-$3 per transaction.
Another way to optimize the exchange rate is to make purchases with a credit card. Major credit cards are widely accepted across the U.S. In fact, some businesses, such as hotels, require a credit card to confirm a reservation. Keep some U.S. currency or traveler's checks on hand for use in an emergency.
Minnesota Sales Tax
In most of Minnesota, the sales tax is 6.875 percent on all products except purchases of unprepared food, clothing, shoes or medicine, which are not taxed. In some cities, the sales tax is slightly higher.
Classroom project help
Or request mailed copies through our travel counselors (see "Ask the Experts" below)