Minnesota

The North Star State


Located in the Midwest of the United States, Minnesotan culture is largely influenced by its German and Scandinavian populations, but also recent immigrants from Mexico, Laos, Vietnam and Somalia. This mix of traditional and new cultures makes Minnesota a fascinating place to live, work and visit.

A place known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” has many outdoor activities for visitors at places like Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters. Even the long, cold winters can’t keep Minnesotans inside. Other popular activities include snowmobiling (the snowmobile was invented here), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, fishing and mountain biking. For cultural activities, visit the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis for attractions like the Minnesota History Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Minnesota Fringe Festival. International visitors will find art, culture and recreational activities throughout the Minnesota Cultural Compass guide below, or by visiting www.exploreminnesota.com.

Jump to: Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions | Arts & Culture | Sports & Recreation | Outdoor Activities | Food | Local Festivals | Housing Resources | Transportation | Health & Safety | Help Your Community

Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions

Mall of America

Mall of America. Photo by Jeremy Noble.

Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S. 

The Cathedral of St. Paul is a historical landmark and popular attraction in the Twin Cities area. There is a free daily tour from Monday to Friday at 1pm.  

Learn about a native Minnesotan animal at the International Wolf Center in Ely. The center educates the public about wolves through exhibits, events and a wolf enclosure that is home to several live wolves.  

The Mall of America is the biggest shopping center in the United States and one of the most visited attractions in the world. The mall has 520 stores, 40 restaurants, the country’s largest indoor theme park and other attractions.

The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul features a museum with interactive exhibits, tours, workshops and special events about Minnesota’s history. The museum is free to the public on Tuesday evenings.

The National Eagle Center in Wabasha allows visitors to see many types of eagles, including bald eagles, up close. The center also hosts tours to see eagles in the wild.

The North West Company Fur Post is a recreated fur post and Native American camp from 1804. Visitors can see what life was like for the Ojibwe people and for fur traders in the area by taking a guided tour, watching live demonstrations and exploring interactive exhibits at the visitors’ center.  

Browse a map of historical sites and museums in Minnesota from the Minnesota Historical Society.

Tour Companies

Tourism Websites

Arts & Culture

The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture. 

Art & Cultural Museums

Performing Arts

Sports & Recreation

Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.

Professional Sports

Minnesota has many top-tier professional sports teams, including: 

For tickets to professional sports games in Minnesota, check the team websites above. Tickets may also be available on the following websites:

League Sports

Other professional and minor league teams in Minnesota include:

College Sports

Browse a full list of college sports programs in Minnesota.

Outdoor Activities

Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Photo by Chad Fennell.

The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a popular area for canoeing, kayaking and camping. Find information on equipment rentals and guided tours from local outfitters in Grand Marais, Ely, Babbitt and Tofte.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park has both Historic Forestville, a village that has been restored to its 19th century appearance, and Mystery Cave, the longest cave in Minnesota. There are multiple tour options at Mystery Cave and visitors can also go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking in the park.

Grand Portage National Monument on Lake Superior tells the story of the Anishinaabeg Ojibwe Indians and the fur trade that once occurred in the region of the state. A museum and historic area contains artifacts, outdoor exhibits, historic buildings and other objects related to the Grand Portage area. Guided tours and outdoor activities, like hiking, picnicking, camping and canoeing/kayaking, are available in the area. Visitors may also want to go to Grand Portage State Park, located about 14 miles east of the monument.

Skiing and snowboarding is a popular activity in Minnesota and there are many places to try it out for the first time or for experienced skiers and riders. Check out this list of ski areas in Minnesota to find a local resort.

Spirit Mountain is known for its skiing and snowboarding, but it also has an outdoor adventure park and camping facilities. An alpine roller coaster, snow tubing, mini golf, zip line and mountain biking trails are available, depending on the season.

Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota provides opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, camping and hiking. Some areas of the park are only accessible by boat, while others can be reached by car, depending on the season.

Food

One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States. 

Many Minnesotans are of Scandinavian and German descent and this cultural heritage has influenced Minnesota cuisine, such as sauerkraut, sausages, krumkake, lefse and lutefisk. Other foods that were once included in Native American diets and continue to be eaten today include walleye (the state fish), trout, wild berries, bison and frybread

More recently, Mexican, Somali, Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai immigrants have come to Minnesota. Minneapolis has the country’s largest population of Hmong immigrants and visitors can find many Lao, Vietnamese and Thai foods in the area.

Farmers’ Markets 

Find a local farmers’ market in Minnesota for fresh fruit, vegetables and locally made items, including winter farmers’ markets, from the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association.

Food Festivals

Local Festivals

St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Castle

St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Castle. Photo by Kendrick Erickson.

For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival in January/February is an annual community event with many outdoor and indoor events to celebrate the winter months in Minnesota, including ice skating, ice carvings, art shows, live music, dancing, parades, dogsled races and more.

Eelpout Festival is a unique festival that celebrates the eelpout, a type of bottom-dwelling fish. Each February, thousands of people go to the small town of Walker for activities like live music, food, a fishing contest, games, a Polar Plunge and many other events.

Minnesota Fringe Festival is a performing arts festival that focuses on modern and cutting edge artists. Held in the Twin Cities each August, the festival includes dance, theater, plays, music and spoken word performances.

Moondance Jam is a classic rock festival held in July on Leech Lake near Walker, MN. Past performers have included Blondie, Cheap Trick, the Beach Boys, KISS and Pat Benatar.

The Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights is the second largest event of its kind in the country, attracting over 1.5 million people during the 12-day event in late August/early September. The fair has livestock shows, cooking contests, carnival rides, food, live music, entertainment, and many activities and events for families and adults. 

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival in April features films from independent filmmakers in the United States and around the world. The festival often features local films in its Minnesota-Made series, as well as many Scandinavian films due to the state’s cultural heritage.

Housing Resources

Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.

It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.

General Housing Information

Minnesota Housing Resources

Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Minnesota participants include:

Transportation

Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.

Public Transit Systems

Metro Transit serves the Minneapolis and St. Paul area with bus and light rail service.

To find public transit systems in other communities in Minnesota, visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in Minnesota communities.

Bus

Bus companies with routes in Minnesota and surrounding areas include Greyhound and Megabus

Train

Amtrak stops in Winona, Red Wing, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Staples and Detroit Lakes on the Empire Builder route. The train also connects to Greyhound bus stations where international visitors can travel on to locations across the United States.

Health & Safety

Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.

Public Transit Systems

Metro Transit serves the Minneapolis and St. Paul area with bus and light rail service.

To find public transit systems in other communities in Minnesota, visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in Minnesota communities.

Bus

Bus companies with routes in Minnesota and surrounding areas include Greyhound and Megabus

Train

Amtrak stops in Winona, Red Wing, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Staples and Detroit Lakes on the Empire Builder route. The train also connects to Greyhound bus stations where international visitors can travel on to locations across the United States.

Help Your Community

Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.

Volunteermatch.orgIdealist.org and Serve.gov are three general volunteer websites that match local organizations with volunteers in their communities.

Food banks in Minnesota need groups and individual volunteers to help with tasks like sorting through donations, packing donations and other important activities. Volunteers can often donate as little as a few hours of time or commit to more regular volunteering opportunities.

HandsOn Twin Cities helps to connect volunteers with over 300 non-profits in the Twin Cities region. Visit the website and search by interest, location and time commitment.

Tree Trust works to preserve the environment in local communities across Minnesota. Volunteers can help with activities like planting trees, working in the office and distributing trees to the community.

Twin Cities in Motion organizes the Twin Cities Marathon and asks for both group and individual volunteers to help throughout the year and during the marathon. Volunteers can work with other members of the community to help set up events, assist runners and other fun tasks.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation