Arts & Culture in Colorful Northwest Minnesota

By Minnesota Heartland

"Sunny" fish sculpture

Can you find all 30 "Sunny" fish sculptures throughout Detroit Lakes?

Northwest Minnesota is known for its legendary natural beauty, but the region's arts, history and culture can be equally stunning. Add depth and enjoyment to your next northwest Minnesota vacation at these colorful cultural destinations.

The Northernmost Point in the lower 48

The Northwest Angle is the northernmost point in the contiguous United States / Lake of the Woods Tourism

Beautiful and thought-provoking sculptures can offer a look into history or just a great place for a selfie—either way, you'll find plenty in northwest Minnesota.

In Lake of the Woods, snag a picture with the giant marker at the northernmost point in the lower 48 states. Warroad’s Allison Park is a gathering space with Northborn animal statues. In the far northwest corner of the state, Thief River Falls—the self-appointed “Most Norwegian City in America”—you’ll find Norwegian Trolls throughout the city celebrating this strong Norwegian heritage.

The Circle of Times in front of Walker City Hall consists of 14 bronze statues, which share the history and stories of Leech Lake. Detroit Lakes touts 30 individually-designed “Sunny” fish. These 4-foot high pan fish are sure to delight.

A historic post office at Peder Engelstad Village

This historic post office is one of 19 buildings you can tour at Peder Engelstad Pioneer Village

Art galleries, museums and historic sites are great places and spaces to explore. In Walker, the Cass County Historical Museum and Pioneer School lets you step back in time. Immerse yourself in the exhibits while sitting in a one room schoolhouse or while browsing through displays. In Thief River Falls, a former railroad depot on the National Register of Historic Places is now the beautiful City Hall. And just south of Thief, visit the Peder Engelstad Pioneer Village to tour 19 historic buildings of this once-bustling village.

Fort St. Charles exterior

Fort St. Charles is a former trapper's camp on Magnuson Island in northwest Minnesota

The Heritage Center in Warroad features Ojibwa artifacts from the Warroad area, the local commercial fishing industry, the Northwest Angle, early pioneers, military, the fur trade and sports. Similarly, on the south side of the lake in Baudette, artifacts from commercial and sport fishing, ice fishing, farming, the great fire, bars, one room schools and the old pharmaceutical company are showcased at the Lake of the Woods Historical Museum. And while you're in the area, visit Fort St. Charles, a trapper’s camp on Magnuson Island once inhabited by voyageurs. Walk inside the camp, get views of the lake from the observation tower, and imagine what it was like trading with Native Americans in this wilderness setting.

While several arts activities are cancelled this year, expect them to return in the future. Experience it all, from Laotian dancing and Pow Wows to live theater, concerts and festivals throughout the region. Know that the communities miss hosting them as much as visitors miss attending them. We’re hopeful that 2021 will see a return to these favorite activities.

Minnesota Heartland is a regional association that works in partnership with Explore Minnesota to promote the 33 counties in Northwest and Central Minnesota.