This is my third post about our family's visit to Minnesota and Wisconsin. I recommend starting with the first and second posts. Because I am an educational travel blogger, I received media rates, complimentary admission tickets, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone; I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on these reviews. Everything I am sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend.
Family Fun in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Part 3: Minneapolis
Sunday, July 31 was a great day. Everything we did was just a few blocks from our hotel, the heat and humidity were less oppressive than the previous day, and all of our activities were interesting and fun. We started at Mill City Museum. I LOVED it.
Mill City Museum is located in the ruins of the Washburn A Mill. When it opened in 1880, Washburn A was the world's largest and most technologically-advanced flour mill. It used a revolutionary new process for milling that made wheat flour widely available for the first time. This led to Minneapolis becoming the flour milling capital of the world. At its height, Minneapolis was home to 25 flour mills and this museum tells their story.
We started in the museum courtyard. It's very interesting to look amongst the ruins and see the mill's machinery. Plus, there is a neat view of the Mississippi River. An audio track plays thoughts and insights about the river by Dakota people.
The Water Lab was great fun. There were three large water tables with different challenges relating to the role of water in milling. Of course, we had to try each challenge. They were harder than they seemed! While young children could use these exhibits for fun water play, they were just as appropriate for older children and adults. The walls surrounding the tables had lots of information and other activities.
Next, we did the Flour Tower. Visitors sit in stadium seats in a giant elevator, which takes you up and down through eight different levels of the building (though not in order). At each floor, there are scenes showing what the mill would have looked like in action. The tour, which is more accurately described as a show, is an amazing combination of artifacts overlaid with historic film. Lights, sound, and other special effects make it feel as if you are really there. It was awesome.
No photography was allowed during the show, but this is what it looked like when we were getting our pre-show instructions.
The show ends at the top of the building, where you can see intact machinery....
... and go out onto the observation deck. It offers fantastic views of the river and of the courtyard below.
We went back downstairs to watch the Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat movie. Don't skip it - it's an excellent and funny overview about Mill City.
I loved the Baking Lab at Mill City Museum. Here, they show different types of flour and how they're used, plus give baking demonstrations and samples. It smelled amazing in there. There were also some baking-themed puzzles, which is what Trevor and I are doing here.
I loved this exhibit about immigrants to Minneapolis. Using first person stories, people talked about the grains they'd used in their homelands and their challenges in adapting to the unfamiliar wheat flour of their adopted land.
This demonstration about the Washburn A explosion of 1878 was fascinating. I had no idea flour dust was so incredibly explosive.
The Mill City Museum is one of the most enjoyable museums I've ever visited. It's completely unique and totally entertaining and educational. Definitely go!
Our next activity was a walk across Stone Arch Bridge (photographed here from Mill City Museum).
A National Civil Engineering Landmark, Stone Arch Bridge is a former railroad bridge across the Mississippi and now a pedestrian bridge with an amazing view of St. Anthony Falls. It is the second oldest bridge on the entire Mississippi and the only arched stone bridge. The walking and biking paths were well-used on this beautiful summer day.
After our walk, it was time for a ranger-led tour of St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. The talk was fascinating and we learned so much.
The ranger welcomed all of us on the tour to do the Junior Ranger program. When he clarified that there was no age limit (usually it's 12 and under), I jumped into line with the kids and six other adults.
In researching Minneapolis, I kept hearing about an amazing new restaurant called Owamni. It won the James Beard award for Best New Restaurant of 2022 and I was determined to eat there. One problem: there were no reservations available for the entire time we'd be in town; in fact, they were booked solid through September. There was one possibility though: they open up the patio for walk-ins when the weather permits.
We arrived early enough to get a jump on the crowd waiting for a chance of getting in. Fortunately, it worked. We got a table on the patio and the chance to try their unique food. What makes it so special? It's an Indigenous restaurant that serves only the foods of North America. No ingredients introduced by colonists (wheat, cane sugar, dairy, beef, chicken, pork, etc) are used.
We started with the Summer Berry Salad. It has fresh berries, herbs, watercress, rosehip berry dressing, sunflower brittle, and nixtamal.
The dish the front is True Wild Rice, served with currants and root vegetables. The one in the back is Yellow Corn Mush with maple, hazelnuts, and berries.
This is Cedar Braised Bison, made with chili and maple vinegar, served on a Native corn tortilla with berries and greens.
This is the Choginyapi Corn Sandwich, with elk, sweet potato, and pepitas.
This Three Sisters Corn Sandwich has a black bean puree, pickled squash, and corn.
So how was it? Unbelievable. The food was amazing. Really, really special and completely unlike anything I've had before. I will remember my meal at Owamni for a long time. It was the perfect way to end a fun day in Minneapolis.
Cindy deRosier has a masters in Education and taught for 11 years. She uses that experience to blog about kids crafts and family-friendly educational travel. She is the Editor of Fun Family Crafts, a website with over 12,000 kid-friendly craft tutorials. Cindy is the co-author of "What Would Jesus Patent?" and does freelance writing and designing.