Landmark architectural structures provide unique space for Saint Paul's arts institutions. The state Capitol was designed by
Historic Fort Snelling has been restored to its original state; costumed guides tell about the fort's early history as the first non-Native American settlement in the Saint Paul area. The Alexander Ramsey House was the home of Minnesota's first territorial governor; tours of the home are available year round. Reflecting the opulence of Saint Paul's most famous nineteenth-century railroad baron, the 32-room James J. Hill House was at one time the largest home in the Midwest. A 5-mile stretch of Summit Avenue is lined with Victorian homes. A few blocks away, at 481 Laurel, is writer F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthplace (not open to the public).
Como Park, Zoo, and Conservatory features a children's zoo, a large cats house, an aquatic house, and a new visitor's center. Town Square Park in Saint Paul Center, the largest indoor public park in the world, cultivates more than 1,000 plants and trees. The Children's Museum features hands-on exhibits.
Like Minneapolis, Saint Paul enjoys a national reputation in the performing arts. The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is the home of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Opera Company. The Landmark Center is a Romanesque Revival building whose south tower is modeled after Boston's Trinity Church. The Schubert Piano Club and Keyboard Instruments Museum is located in the center. The American Museum of Art recently opened its Riverfront Gallery on Kellogg Boulevard; the museum houses contemporary and Asian art as well as sculpture, paintings, photography, and drawings.
The Science Museum of Minnesota features the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery, Omnitheater and a 3D cinema representing the latest in high-tech entertainment. At the Mississipi River Gallery, visitors can unlock the secrets of locks and dams, explore an authentic Mississippi River towboat, and view the river from the museum's balcony. At the Human Body Gallery, visitors can view their own cells through a microscope; in the Experiment Gallery, visitors can make a tornado and create waves in the wave tank. The Minnesota History Center presents interpretations of the state's history through exhibits and material objects.
Saint Paul's theater companies include the Park Square Theater, which concentrates on classic plays; the Great North American History Theater, which presents local historical drama; and Penumbra Theater, a professional African American theater company.
Arts and Culture Information: Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, 2324 University Ave. W., Saint Paul, MN 55114; telephone (651)645-0402
The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is the largest winter celebration in the nation. This annual festival, held the last weekend in January through the first weekend in February, features parades, ice and snow sculpture, fine arts performances, a ball, unusual winter sporting events, and a re-enactment of the legend of King Boreas. Saint Paul hosts the largest celebration of St. Patrick's Day outside of New York City. The Festival of Nations in late April celebrates the food and cultures of more than 50 countries. Grand Old Day on an early June Sunday begins with a parade on a one-mile stretch of Grand Avenue and includes entertainment, food, and crafts; the celebration is the largest one-day street fair in the Midwest. Taste of Minnesota on the Fourth of July weekend is held on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall and concludes with a fireworks display on Independence Day. The Minnesota State Fair, one of the largest state fairs in the country, runs for 10 days ending on Labor Day at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
The Twin Cities are home to five professional sports teams. The Minnesota Vikings compete in the National Football Conference in the Central Division. The Minnesota Twins are in the Central Division of baseball's American League. The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the National Basketball Association. The baseball and football teams play home games in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. The Timberwolves compete at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. The Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League play in the new 650,000 square foot Xcel Energy Center. Women's National Basketball Association team the Minnesota Lynx came to the Twin Cities in 2000.
University of Minnesota teams compete in the Big Ten in football, baseball, hockey, and basketball. Thoroughbred horses run at Canterbury Downs Racetrack in Shakopee in a mid-May to mid-August season.
The Rice & Arlington Sports Dome hosts softball, soccer, and baseball leagues. In addition, the dome is used for private lessons, clinics, parties, and batting practice. The playing area of the dome features a full-size softball field with a 330-foot, straight-away center and two soccer fields that are 50 yards wide by 60 yards long. The soccer fields can also be played on lengthwise, creating a field 100 yards long by 60 yards wide.
Outdoor sports in the Saint Paul area include fishing, swimming, boating, and water skiing in the summer and ice fishing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and hockey in the winter. The Twin Cities Marathon is an annual event that attracts as many as 10,000 runners and is usually held the first or second Sunday in October.
Saint Paul boasts the world's longest public skyway system; it consists of 5 miles of second-level walkways that link downtown hotels, restaurants, stores, and businesses. The Saint Paul World Trade Center is four square blocks of more than 100 retail and dining establishments; at the center is the Town Square Park, which is an enclosed, year-round park. The Farmers Market is an old-world open market selling home-grown foods and crafts on weekends. Historic Grand Avenue is lined with private homes, retail shops, boutiques, and antique stores. A local shopping square is housed in a turn-of-the-century railroad building. There are antique stores as well as specialty stores promoting Minnesota goods located throughout the Twin Cities.
Saint Paul restaurants stress American home cooking and Midwest cuisine; ethnic choices range from Afghan and Vietnamese menus to continental and French restaurants. Fresh fish, prime rib, and 16-ounce steaks are local favorites. Dinner cruises on the Mississippi River are offered. The quaint river town of Stillwater, 25 miles east of Saint Paul, also offers dining and shopping opportunities.
Visitor Information: Saint Paul Convention and Visitors Bureau, 175 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 502, Saint Paul, MN 55102; telephone (651)265-4900; toll-free (800)627-6101. Explore Minnesota Tourism, 100 Metro Square, 121 7th Place East, Saint Paul, MN 55101-2112; telephone (651)296-5029; toll-free (800)657-3700