Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

By: Amanda Fretheim Gates, Minnesota Monthly

Minnesota Museums Month: Animals, Flowers, Farms

When it comes to the 600 museums in Minnesota, we're not just counting art museums, science centers, and historic societies. Animals, flowers, and farms count too! So, if you're looking to celebrate Minnesota Museums Month along with the rest of us, but want to explore something a little different, here are a few sites that may not first come to mind:

Gardens
May is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers more than 1,000 acres of woods, prairies, and gardens to stroll through. Take the three-mile tram ride or enjoy any number of family friendly events. Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis encompasses the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, the oldest public wildflower garden in the nation. This month catch sight of wild ginger, trillium, and bluebells. Up in the Brainerd area, the Northland Arboretum shares more than 500 acres for visitors to explore by foot or bike (come back in winter for cross-country skiing!).

Animals
For a look at the animals found within the Great Lakes Basin, Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth displays freshwater species like sturgeon, trout, and muskies; the newest exhibit, Aquatic Invaders, features the creatures, like lamprey and zebra mussels, that wreak havoc on the freshwater system. While you're up north, don't miss the Lake Superior Zoo, set at the base of Spirit Mountain and featuring African lions, Siberian Tigers, cougars, and Kodiak bear. We're fortunate to have two awesome zoos in the metro area, too. At Como Zoo & Conservatory, not only do you get to see polar bears, giraffe, and gorillas, but you can stroll through amazing gardens as well. The Minnesota Zoo offers large-scale habitats housing everything from grizzly bears and penguins to tigers and moose. Kids will love the Woodland Adventure play area and the Family Farm. For those who love winged animals in particular, the Gabbert Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota houses hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons that are sick and injured and then nursed back to health and released back into the wild.

Farms
We're a strong farming community in Minnesota, and some of our sites are even historic in nature and open to visitors. Up in Minnesota's Iron Range, the Eli Wirtanen Farm houses 16 historic buildings, including the horse barn, pig pen, and bathhouse. Just 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities, Dakota City Heritage Village sits on five acres; costumed guides provide demonstrations throughout the 22-building site. Transport back to the 1860s at Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River. Churn your own butter, work the fields, make straw hats, and meet oxen and horses.