F. Scott Fitzgerald Home - Twin Cities Historical Walking Tours
F. Scott Fitzgerald House | St. Paul, Minn.Registered National Historic Landmark – one of my favorite historical walking tours in the Twin Cities

Walking tours are my favorite way to explore a new travel destination. So thought I’d explore my own backyard as a tourist. To learn more about Twin Cities history, here is a local’s guide to the Top 10 walking tours and urban hikes of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A special thank you to the Minnesota Historical Society for hosting me on these Twin Cities walking tours and urban hikes.

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Cathedral of Saint Paul in St. Paul Twin Cities Minnesota
Cathedral of Saint Paul | St. Paul, Minn. – not officially on one of the Minnesota Historical Society top 10 walking tours. However, it is located in or near the Hill District, Summit Ave., James J. Hill walking tours.

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Top Minneapolis – Twin Cities history walking tours

Reviews of the best history walking tours and urban hikes in Minneapolis:

  • Disasters of the riverfront walking tour
  • Riverfront walking tour of the Mississippi
  • Historic St. Anthony Main Street walking tour
  • Washburn A. Mill walking tour
  • West Bank of Minneapolis walking tour
  • Women’s work in living history walking tour

Disasters of the riverfront walking tour in Minneapolis


Mill City Museum was built on the ruins of the Washburn A Mill – my favorite walking tour in Minneapolis focused on the Mississippi riverfront disasters. See related post: Top 12 breathtaking views in Minnesota.

Disasters of the Mississippi Riverfront was my most memorable and top Minneapolis walking tour with the Minnesota Historical Society. I found all the setbacks and disasters along the Mississippi River intriguing, inspiring, and disturbing at the same time. Explosions. Fires. Floods. Tunnel collapses. Bridge collapses. Yet, Minneapolis survived them all. If you love history, then I highly recommend this urban hike and historical tour in the Twin Cities.


Plaque at one of the entrances of the Mill City Museum in memory of lives lost
during the Washburn A Flour Mill explosion in 1879

And who knew that flour dust was more combustible than gun powder. I had a vague recollection about the flour milling history in Minneapolis. But had no idea that Minneapolis served as the flour milling capital of the world for 50 years (that’s where Minneapolis gets its nickname: Mill City).

I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden Memorial in Minneapolis


I35W Bridge Memorial and Remembrance Garden Walking Tour, Minneapolis, Minnesota
I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden Memorial | Minneapolis, Minn.

Even though I lived here in the Twin Cities when the I-35W bridge collapsed tragically killing 13 people and injuring 145 others on Aug. 1, 2007, I was not aware of its Remembrance Garden until I took a walking tour. The I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden is located near the rebuilt bridge on West River Parkway in Minneapolis.

This location isn’t officially on the Minnesota Historical Society top walking tours; however, the I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden is within walking distance of several of the history tours in Minneapolis. Check out my related post, Riverfront disasters walking tour: I-35W Bridge Remembrance Garden, to learn more.


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Minneapolis riverfront walking tour of the Mississippi River

Atmospheric vibes of the Mississippi River from the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

One of the best walking tours in the Twin Cities is the Mississippi riverfront walking tour in Minneapolis. While this history tour reinforced some of the key messages of the Disasters of the Riverfront walking tour, it was not redundant. This urban hike is also one of the best hiking trails in the Twin Cities.


waterfall on Mississippi River with blue sky and clouds
St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River, Minneapolis, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour. See my related post: Kid-friendly and easy waterfall hikes in Minnesota

On the Minneapolis riverfront walking tour, I learned St. Anthony Falls is the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River – the longest river in the U.S.

We strolled around the historic Minneapolis neighborhood and learned about the early industries of the area, which generated more flour, lumber, furniture, blankets and artificial limbs than anywhere else. Artificial limbs were necessary as Minneapolis was home to some of the most dangerous industries at that time like logging.

Top scenic photo-op stop on a Twin Cities walking tour: Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis

Today, the Minneapolis riverwalk is a lively recreational area with bike trails and a pedestrian bridge (Stone Arch Bridge with James J. Hill ties), trendy condominiums, a cultural center with the Guthrie Theater and MacPhail Center for Music nearby.


View of U.S. Bank Stadium from Guthrie Theater Amber Box, Minneapolis, Minnesota
View of U.S. Bank Stadium (home of the Minnesota Vikings) from the Guthrie Theater Amber Box (free to the public). See my related post: Best scenic views in Minnesota

Guthrie Center Endless Bridge and Amber Box, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Endless Bridge (on the left) and the Amber Box (top center) | Guthrie Theater

What’s great about walking tours is that the local guides will share some insider tips. For example, that’s where I learned about one of my favorite Minneapolis photo op tip. No filter required when you visit the Amber Box and Endless Bridge at the Guthrie Theater – and it’s free.

How do I get to the Amber Box and the Endless Bridge for the best views in the Twin Cities?

You can find the Amber Box on the 9th floor of The Guthrie Theater, providing a ~360-degree view of Minneapolis. Insider tip: While looking out the Amber Box, close your eyes for a few seconds to experience an entirely different color!

The Endless Bridge, located on the 4th floor of the Guthrie Theater, is a cantilever that extends 178 feet from the building where you can walk outside to a viewing area and enjoy the beautiful Minneapolis skyline, Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, and more.

One of the most scenic views in Minneapolis: Exit through the blue glass doors on the 4th floor of the Guthrie Theater for views from the Endless Bridge.

Access to these viewpoints in the Guthrie Theater is free while open. I highly recommend enjoying a live production at The Guthrie Theater. One of our favorites is The Christmas Carol during the holiday season. See my related post on the top holiday events in the Twin Cities.


Guthrie Theatre Endless Bridge Exterior, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Exterior of the Guthrie Theater Endless Bridge from the ground view

After entering the Guthrie Theater, take the escalator up to the fourth floor and walk up the ramp to the Endless Bridge. Then take the elevator up to the ninth floor to access the Amber Box.


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Historic St. Anthony Main Street walking tour in Minneapolis

You can take a path right up to St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis – the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River.

I absolutely loved this neighborhood – the historic St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis. It’s also featured as one of the top hikes in the Twin Cities. Located right on the Mississippi River, this Minnesota Historical Society walking tour takes you so close to St. Anthony Falls that you can actually feel the spray on your face. At least we did the day we took the tour on a windy day.

On this top Minneapolis walking tour, you’ll learn about the Pillsbury Flour Mill’s history, how St. Anthony got its name, and how it was absorbed into the city of Minneapolis. You’ll also stroll by several historic buildings that now house cute shops, trendy restaurants with sidewalk seating as well as bike and walking paths.


Historic St. Anthony Main Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota Historical Society
The historic St. Anthony Main Street in Minneapolis
Interior of a restaurant with a lit sign on a brick wall and a cozy bar seating area
I enjoyed a lovely weekend brunch at Aster Cafe – located in the historic St. Anthony neighborhood – the birthplace of Minneapolis. One of the city’s prettiest streets overlooks the Mississippi River. You’ll capture scenic views of the skyline on a cobblestone street. In the warmer months, you can enjoy outdoor seating on their patio.

While not on the historic St. Anthony Main Street in Minneapolis walking tour itself, our guide did let us know about the oldest Minneapolis church in continuous service – Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church – which was nearby.  


Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church is the oldest Minneapolis church in continuous service.

Washburn A Mill walking tour in Minneapolis, Minnesota


Courtyard of Washburn A. Mill, Mill City Museum, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour, Minneapolis
Inside the courtyard of the Mill City Museum looking up at the Washburn Mill A ruins

One of the best walking tours in Minneapolis highlights the history of the Washburn A Mill factory. When my son was in elementary school, I remember signing a lot of field trip permission slips over the years for him to visit Mill City Museum. This top museum in Minneapolis is built on the ruins of the historic Washburn A Mill factory. If I had any idea how cool Mill City Museum was, I would have signed up as a chaperone each time.


Mill City Museum Bisquick Display Washburn A. Mill, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour, Minneapolis
Mill City Museum Bisquick Display

Not only do you get to learn about the history of the Flour Milling Capital of the World and about Washburn A Mill and Gold Medal Flour (that should sound familiar even if you don’t know any flour history), you get an in-depth look into the nooks and crannies of the museum. The Mill City Museum is another one of my favorite walking tours in Minneapolis that I highly recommend.


Flour Tower, Washburn A. Mill, Mill City Museum, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour, Minneapolis

Bonus: Take the Flower Tower ride at Mill City Museum

After the walking tour of the Mill City Museuem, you can watch a film on the history of Minneapolis and go on the Flower Tower ride. It’s one of the best things to do with kids in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Don’t worry. It’s not like Disney’s Tower of Terror thrill ride. But you do get to ride up and down eight floors and learn more about Minneapolis’ legacy.


Rooftop observatory deck at top of Flour Tower Mill City Museum view of Minneapolis
You can take in stunning views of Minneapolis skyline, St. Anthony Falls, Mississippi River, and the Stone Arch Bridge from the rooftop observatory at Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

And if that wasn’t enough, I was this many years old when I learned that there’s a rooftop observation deck at the Mill City Museum. Just check out this view of the Minneapolis skyline (that’s across the river). Absolutely stunning! One of my favorite views of Minneapolis.


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West Bank walking tour in Minneapolis


Street art mural - Minneapolis West Bank Walking Tour with Minnesota Historical Society
Street art mural – Minneapolis West Bank Walking Tour with Minnesota Historical Society

Another top walking tour and urban hike in Minneapolis is on what’s known as the West Bank. What a cool and eclectic neighborhood with a mashup of many different cultures that’s been home to immigrants from all over the world for more than 150 years. On the Minneapolis West Bank walking tour, you’ll learn about its culture from theatre to its famed folk and blues scenes of the 1960s and 1970s and how grassroot efforts by residents successfully thwarted urban renewal plans to destroy their cherished neighborhood.

We also stopped into local businesses such as a really cool bookstore, a bike shop and a couple of neighborhood bars, and heard from a couple of locals.


books

Women’s work living history walking tour in Minneapolis


Women at Work Minnesota Historical Society living history walking tour in Minneapolis - Eva McDonald Valesh (aka Eva Gay)
Women at Work Minnesota Historical Society living history walking tour in Minneapolis – Eva McDonald Valesh (aka Eva Gay)

Loved this living history walking tour with the Minnesota Historical Society where our costumed guide shared stories about labor activist and investigative reporter Eva McDonald Valesh (aka Eva Gay). She was way before her time – going undercover in Minneapolis factories and writing expose pieces about the horrible working conditions for women, which appeared in the Saint Paul Daily Globe in 1888 and 1889.

It’s said that her articles prompted the first women’s strike in Minneapolis where they protested about their treatment (low wages, unsanitary environment, etc.).



You can find a transcript of Eva Gay’s first-in-a-series of articles describing the working conditions for women in local factories on the Minnesota Historical Society website.



St. Paul – Twin Cities walking tours

Reviews of the best walking tours and urban hikes in St. Paul, Minnesota:


Summit Ave walking tour in St. Paul, Minnesota

F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour, Summit Ave, St. Paul, Minnesota
A Twin Cities favorite: F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour, Summit Ave, St. Paul, Minnesota

Summit Ave. in St. Paul Minnesota – beautiful in every season

Just go. Any time of year. You will be mesmerized by one beautiful historic home after another along Summit Ave., the iconic and historic street in St. Paul. Summit Ave features the most Victorian homes along a five-mile stretch. See my related post: Local’s guide to the prettiest street in the Twin Cities, Minnesota: Summit Ave.


Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour
Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Top Walking Tour

Victorian home on Summit Ave
Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Top Walking Tour

Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour
Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Top Walking Tour

Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour
Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Top Walking Tour



F. Scott Fitzgerald walking tour in St. Paul, Minnesota


Victorian home in St. Paul, Minn on Summit Ave
Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Top Walking Tour

Loved this walking tour where we explored St. Paul, Minnesota native F. Scott Fitzgerald’s old stomping grounds in the beautiful and historic Hill District / Summit Ave neighborhood. Pictured above is located at 513 Summit Ave. Formerly known as Mrs. Porterfield’s Boarding House, F. Scott Fitzgerald visited friends here often.

Birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald Birthplace
Birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald – a stop along one of the best walking tours in St. Paul and the Twin Cities, Minnesota

Our tour began where the Fitzgeralds lived at one point, The Commodore. While our walking tour did not take us inside to experience the cool art deco bar, my husband and I stopped in afterwards. Lots of mirrors and jazz music. I do believe, however, the Commodore Bar and Restaurant in St. Paul is now only open for events.

Other photo stops on this top St. Paul walking tour included where Fitzgerald wrote his first novel, This Side of Paradise. It was an overnight success selling out in three days. I was surprised to learn that his more-known classic, The Great Gatsby, was not well-received or well-liked initially. The Great Gatsby only became critically acclaimed after Fitzgerald’s death.  

Hill District Walking Tour St Paul Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour
Summit Avenue Home, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Top Walking Tour


Hill District walking tour in St. Paul, Minnesota


One of the best walking tours in the Twin Cities: Hill District, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour

I’ve driven through and past the Hill District In St. Paul, Minnesota over the years, so was so happy I finally took this historic urban hike in the Twin Cities. I actually got out of my vehicle to walk through the historical Hill neighborhood and admire all the beautiful homes and buildings. Loved this walking tour hosted by the Minnesota Historical Society.


W. A. Frost and Company offers the best patio dining in St. Paul, Minnesota; Hill District, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour
W. A. Frost and Company offers the best patio dining in St. Paul, Minnesota; Hill District, St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour

Nina's Coffee Cafe | St. Paul, Minnesota | Hill District Walking Tour with Minnesota Historical Society
Nina’s Coffee Cafe | St. Paul, Minnesota | Hill District Walking Tour with Minnesota Historical Society

We walked along old streetcar lines (the first ones were horse-drawn) on the St. Paul Hill District walking tour. We learned about the rise and fall, and the rise again, of St. Paul – from a rural summer retreat for the wealthy, to its not-so-glamorous days. And then this walking tour took us on St. Paul’s journey to restore its status as an upscale historical neighborhood.


Commodore | St. Paul, Minn. | Minnesota Historical Society Hill District Walking Tour and F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in this residential hotel with their daughter, Scottie.

Stories and the homes of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (St. Paul native) made its way into the narrative and photo op stops as well (see the F. Scott Fitzgerald walking tour section above).  

Points of interest on one of St. Paul’s best walking tours: Saint Paul Cathedral and Shrine of the Nations

Interior of St. Paul Cathedral Minnesota
Cathedral of Saint Paul | St. Paul. Minn.

Although not part of the Hill District walking tour, we walked near the Cathedral of Saint Paul, where I later returned to take a self-guided tour of this beautiful church in the Twin Cities. See my related post: Guide to the Saint Paul Cathedral and the Shrine of the Nations.



James J. Hill House nooks and crannies walking tour in St. Paul, Minnesota


James J. Hill House Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour in St. Paul, Minnesota
St. Paul’s own Downton Abbey: James J. Hill House Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour in St. Paul, Minn.

Tour the James J. Hill House, Minnesota’s own Downton Abbey, in St. Paul. This 36,000+ square-foot home of James J. Hill took three years and 300 workers to build. Completed in 1891, the home was named a National Historic Landmark in 1961. 

James J. Hill was a railroad magnate back in the day. The Minnesota Historical Society now operates the home and the three acres it sits on. 


James J Hill House Staircase St Paul Minnesota - Minnesota Historical Society Museum
Beautiful grand staircase at James J. Hill House Minnesota Historical Society Walking Tour in St. Paul, Minnesota

This particular walking tour of the James J. Hill House with the Minnesota Historical Society gives visitors behind-the-scenes access to a back staircase, dust chutes, secret panels, a silver safe, gatehouse, the huge attic with its original theatre stage, and more. 

Check out my walking tour experience post, Behind the scenes of the James J. Hill House – St. Paul’s own Downton Abbey.


Minnesota Historical Society walking tours

Most of the Minnesota Historical Society walking tours I took and described in this post were seasonal. However, you can find all upcoming tours and more detailed information about the history of Minneapolis and St. Paul on their website.

While the Minnesota Historical Society generously hosted me on all 10 of these walking tours in Minneapolis and St. Paul, all opinions are my own.


Pin it for later: Top 10 walking tours of the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul



Top 10 Minneapolis and St. Paul Historical Walking Tours
Top 10 Minneapolis and St. Paul Historical Walking Tours

Top 10 Minneapolis and St. Paul Historical Walking Tours \ Minnesota Historical Society
Top 10 Minneapolis and St. Paul Historical Walking Tours \ Minnesota Historical Society


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Author

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

72 comments

    1. Thank you! Makes me so happy you’re inspired to check out the walking tours and learn more about Twin Cities history and architecture.

  1. Wow that is a huge list. Never did I know all this cool stuff was in my own state. That is usually how it goes, right.

    Thanks for sharing so I can start my Minnesota bucket list.

    1. You would love it! I’ve actually gone back on my own to take my time to look at them (hopefully not looking like a stalker). A former coworker lived in this area and he said Summit Ave home admirers come with the territory so the homeowners expect it. Planning to take a stroll down Summit Ave in the next week or two now that our colors are changing in the Twin Cities.

  2. I enjoy walking tours because you get a good feel of a city or neighborhood while being active and in the outdoors. I would like the F. Scott Fitzgerald tour and the museum and rooftop views the most. I can never turn down a good city view.

    1. I agree…I love walking tours to gain that local’s perspective. I absolutely loved my 10 history walking tours with the Minnesota Historical Society this summer.

    1. There really is a lot of fascinating things to discover in the Twin Cities. I definitely enjoyed my summer staycation exploring Minneapolis and St. Paul.

  3. What fun! I love a good walking tour. I find it so interesting to learn about a city while walking around it – much more meaningful than reading a few signs here and there. When my daughter was young, we did one on a field trip and it is still one of my favorite field trip memories.

  4. I’ve never been to the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, but now that I’ve read your post, I need to change that asap! I’m pinning this to my travel wishlist board for future reference. Thanks!

  5. First of all – great Architecture pictures! Second, I want to go and see everything related to F. Scott Fitzgerald. This Side of Paradise is one of my favorites. So cool that you got to see where he lived and wrote. Would love to go to that bar that you mentioned as well.

    1. Thank you. As a writer, avid reader and an English major I particularly enjoyed the F. Scott Fitzgerald tour. I haven’t read This Side of Paradise yet…in my #tbr stack so plan to read it soon.

    1. Yes, I do know you would love those homes. Reflecting back I did do a lot over my summer staycation. So much fun exploring my own backyard.

  6. I love walking tours, history, architecture! This is right up my ally. I need to check it out when I’m in the area. So cool you have found so much over the summer in your own backyard.

    1. I think your family would definitely love them. Most are seasonal, but they do offer some year-round (like the Washburn A Mill tour in the Mill City Museum and the James J. Hill House…found both of them fascinating).

    1. I loved taking these walking tours and they offered several more but my schedule didn’t allow me so will definitely check them out next summer.

  7. Karen, you are really making me lean closer and closer to making Minnesota happen on our road trip the end of this month with all of your recent posts 😊 Your photos are beautiful and there looks like so much to do!

    1. Ohhhhh…I hope you do get the opportunity. Even if it’s only across the border as the fall colors should be peaking then…it’s really beautiful along the southeast corner of the state with the cliffs along the Mississippi River.

  8. First, I love your photos! Like you, I also think that walking tours are the best way to see a city. I’ve never been to Minneapolis or St. Paul, but maybe one day we will explore there.

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you get the opportunity to visit the Twin Cities and take the Minneapolis and St. Paul walking tours.

  9. Great list of walking tours for Minneapolis and St. Paul. We love exploring new places with walking tours. There is always so much to see.

  10. I really enjoyed this list of the top 10 walking tours in the Twin Cities! Walking tours are my favorite way to really get to know a city, and those homes you shared are absolutely breathtaking! So much history!

    1. Thank you! I especially loved the Summit Ave walking tour to learn more about the historic homes. And walking tours are a great introduction to a new place.

    1. I think you would love these top walking tours in the Twin Cities. It is a great way to learn about the history of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

  11. I love walking tours when I am visiting new locations. Thank you for the suggestions for the top 10 walking tours in the Twin Cities. I would like to go on the Minneapolis riverfront walking tour.

  12. I found this article interesting and I’d love to go on the St Paul historical walking tour, that would be amazing to see the historic houses. And, participating in the walking tours in the Twin Cities Minneapolis, it’s a good way to see the cities.

    1. Thank you so kindly! I know you would love all the history and architecture on these walking tours in the Twin Cities. I learned so much about Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

  13. I love playing tourist in my own backyard! It’s inexpensive and easy. I’m interested in all of the tours with the historic buildings and homes, and the cathedral! It might save me a trip to Europe.

    1. I love playing tourist in my own backyard also. These walking tours in the Twin Cities did offer great architecture and history.

    1. I agree! Walking tours are perfect for learning about the history, culture, hidden gems, and best places to eat. Highly recommend all 10 of these walking tours in the Twin Cities.

    1. Thank you! I had lived in the Twin Cities nearly 30 years when I took these 10 history walking tours. I learned so much about Minneapolis and St. Paul.

    1. Thank you so kindly! I highly recommend these Twin Cities history walking tours in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I learned so much!

  14. Wow – so much to do and see in Minneapolis and St. Paul! I have never been to Minnesota, but this article has definitely piqued by interest. I love walking tours and would like to check out Summit Ave and look at all the beautiful, historic homes. Saint Paul Cathedral is absolutely stunning.

    1. I’m so happy to hear that! The Twin Cities does offer a lot of cool and historical things to do like these walking tours.

  15. I’d want to do all of these walks in the Twin Cities! Walking tours are a wonderful way to learn about an area.