I have to admit that I’ve heard about the Mill City Museum in downtown Minneapolis countless times, and I started to wonder what we were missing out on. Was it a kid friendly museum? Was it worth a visit the next time we found ourselves downtown Minneapolis? Well, now I know! Yes, the kids will love the Mill City Museum! Yes, it is worth a visit anytime of year!
I didn’t know what to expect for our visit, so I thought I would share our photos and tips so your family can start planning their first visit to the Mill City Museum.
What is the Mill City Museum?
The Mill City Museum is a history museum where your family will learn about the flour industry, the city of Minneapolis, and the Mississippi River that is right outside the museum’s doors. The museum is actually built in the ruins of a flour mill. This mill was once the world’s largest flour mill, and the flagship mill of Washburn-Crosby Co. which later became General Mills. How’s that for impressive?
A portion of the Mill City Museum is open to the public for free. The free section is the Mill Commons area, which is on level 3 (street level). The Mill Commons has rotating exhibits, the museum store, a cafe, and the ticket counter. Also on level 3 is the Rail Corridor and the Train Shed. These free exhibits explain how the wheat was brought in and how the flour was shipped out on trains.
The museum gallery is on the first floor (river level) and requires a paid admission. There are entrances to the museum on level 3 and level 1.
The Mill City Museum Experience
We purchased our tickets upon arrival (look for a $2 coupon in many visitor info booklets) and were told the movie was starting in three minutes, and were also given stickers to wear showing our reserved time to go on the Flour Tower. What, what, and what? We didn’t want to miss the start of the movie (it’s shown at the top and bottom of every hour) so we rushed off, but I had no idea what the Flour Tower was. All I could think of was Disney’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and that we could be in trouble here.
Well we found the movie theater just in time, and the movie “Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat” lived up to it’s name. We learned about the history of the city, how the Mississippi River was used to run the mills, and about the flour mills themselves. The movie really held everyone’s attention, was funny, and is probably something that every Minnesotan should view.
After the 19 minute movie, we were let loose into the museum gallery. This is where the fun was for the kids, although I kept my eye on the clock noting about 45 minutes until the potential disaster of the Flour Tower.
In the gallery, my kids took off for the Water Lab. No surprise there, this water exhibit was modeled after the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls, and taught how the power of water can be used to run the mills.
Did my kids not see the giant stack of pancakes and Bisquick box in the center of the gallery? Yes they did, as soon as their hands were dry. The stack of pancakes was actually a table and seating area where you could design your own cereal box. In nearby display cases were Wheaties boxes with the Minnesota Twins on the cover, antique Pillsbury Doughboys, and a giant tube of Grands Cinnamon Rolls.
Twenty minutes until the Flour Tower, and I was getting a little curious about this ride. But wait, I smelled brownies. The museum gallery has a baking lab! Jackpot!
We entered the baking lab and wow, it smelled so good! There were fresh baked brownies out for sampling, and they didn’t last long. The baking lab was also serving up some artisan bread with dill, and there was a batch of croutons in the oven. There were also exhibits in the lab and it was the perfect spot for a break.
Well the clock was still ticking, and it was now time to make our way to Flour Tower. It was now or never! We walked through the doors and there were some photos on the wall to browse through, no big deal, we could handle this. Then a tour guide walked in and said we could now take a seat in the freight elevator. What?
There was bench seating, and room for about 40 people in the freight elevator. It was starting to look like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to me! I told the kids to hang on, and the doors closed!
We were in for quite a ride….and a story. The elevator traveled up and down and told the history of the mill through displays on eight floors. What a way to learn! The displays incorporated stories told by former mill workers, videos of historic events, working factory machines, and there’s even an explosion. No photos were allowed, so your family will have to go check it out for themselves.
The ride ends with a visit to the ninth floor observation deck. The views from up here are incredible! There are viewing areas both inside and out. From outdoors you can see the historic Gold Medal Flour sign, the Mississippi River, St. Anthony Falls, and the Stone Arch Bridge.
Once we got back to the third floor, it was time to visit the gift shop. Doesn’t every museum trip have to include that? This gift shop was different though, it was a full kitchen store! This was my kind of place!
Important Info for Your Visit to the Mill City Museum
Ticket prices for the museum are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, active military, veterans, and college students, $6 for kids ages 5-17, and free for kids age 4 and under, and for Minnesota Historical Society members.
The museum is open year round, but closed on major holidays and every Monday. Hours are 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Tuesday-Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. on Sundays.
The museum hosts special events throughout the year. Events include a summer concert series, Oktoberfest, riverfront walking tours, and a Christmas performance.
The museum is located downtown Minneapolis on S 2nd Street, near Guthrie Theatre and four blocks from US Bank Stadium. They do not have their own parking, but metered street parking and ramps are close by.
For more information about the Mill City Museum, visit their website here.
Planning a trip to the Twin Cities area? Here’s more information:
- Five Adventures in St. Paul, MN for the Whole Family
- Five Family Adventures in Stillwater, MN
- Mall of America – 9 First Experiences for the Whole Family
Vicki started That Was a First to inspire families to turn their typical family vacation into a bucket list adventure, by providing in depth information and travel tips for destinations across the country.