St. Paul is home to historic neighborhoods and stunning architecture, among many other things to see and learn about. For those looking to get out and explore the St. Paul area, going on-foot is the perfect way to do it – here are three walking tours that are sure to impress.
The famous Summit Avenue neighborhood, named one of America’s “Great Streets”, provides a look into some of the most spectacular homes in the entire state of Minnesota. Wander along luscious, tree-lined Summit Avenue and see extravagant Gilded-Age mansions. This 4.5 mile-long stretch still holds 373 of its original 440 grand mansions built from 1855 through the 1920s by the most wealthy individuals of the time. Many mining, railroad, trading and other tycoons built their homes here, and the governor’s mansion resides here as well.
The Cathedral of Saint Paul and James J. Hill House are the two biggest must-see places on Summit Avenue, designed by the prolific architect, Cass Gilbert who designed many of the area’s homes. You may be surprised to learn that many of the mansion’s designs were done by just a couple architects. Gilbert and his associates were responsible for dozens of houses that line the avenue, and would go on to design other influential buildings, such as the US Supreme Court Building, University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Capitol Building.
The historic Capitol Mall is home to the St. Pauls’ most beautiful government buildings and public spaces. Built by famed architect Cass Gilbert, the Renaissance-style Capitol Building is the main attraction of this area, with its impressive marble dome, the second largest in the world. Take a walking tour along the mall and you’ll also see amazing sculptures, gardens and plaques that memorialize significant events and honor individuals and groups of Minnesotans that are worthy of remembrance.
The Capitol Building is open for individual visits and organized tours, which includes a stair climb onto the roof below the quadriga. When entering the building by the south door, you’ll get a great view looking up into the central dome. Take-in the various portraits of state governors, paintings of famous battles and flags on display that were captured by Minnesota’s regiments during the American Civil War. Other highlights of the mall include the Vietnam War Memorial, Liberty Bell Replica and Women’s Suffrage Memorial.
Developed by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and the Minnesota Historical Society, the State Fair History Walking Tour is a two-mile, 12-stop excursion through some of the fair’s most historically significant spots. From the famous Skyline to the Grandstand to Swine Barn and much more, the State Fair Walking Tour is sure to feed any local historian’s appetite.
As you get to each stop, have your walking tour card punched. After punching all your boxes, pick up your prize at either the Minnesota Historical Society booth or the Education Building, once the tour has concluded.