90 Fun & Interesting Facts About Minnesota, USA

The state of Minnesota is known for its forests and lakes, hockey, major companies and, most recently, a murder that sparked nation-wide protests.

Below you’ll learn a whole lot more about the “North Star State” with these fascinating and fun facts about Minnesota!

General Minnesota Facts

  • Minnesota is a state located in the upper part of the Midwestern United States, also called the North Central region. It is also part of the Great Lakes region.
  • It is the northernmost of the Lower 48 States and the only contiguous state with a piece of land north of the 49th parallel, called the Northwest Angle, which is physically cut off from the rest of the US.
  • It is said that Minnesota is shaped like an anvil.
  • Minnesota spans 86,936 mi² (225,163 km²), making it the 12th largest state of America, right between Michigan and Utah in terms of size.
  • If Minnesota were a country, it would be similar in size to Laos, or twice as large as Honduras.
  • The population of Minnesota is over 5.7 million, making it the 22nd most populous state, between Colorado and South Carolina in terms of population.
  • Minnesota’s capital city is Saint Paul, which has a population of 311,000.
  • Together with Minneapolis, the state’s largest city (population 430,000), they form the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area, often called the “Twin Cities”.
The Mississippi River flowing beside Saint Paul
Saint Paul on the Mississippi, with the State Capitol visible on the left
  • With 3.7 million people, it is the 16th largest metropolis in the US, between the Seattle and San Diego Greater Areas.
  • Even though the state is known for its Germanic and Scandinavian heritage, Minnesota has the largest Somali population outside of Africa, as well as one of the largest Hmong populations in the US.
  • The state has eleven Native American nations: the Upper Sioux, Leech Lake, Prairie Island, Lower Sioux, Shakopee, Mille Lacs, Bois Forte, Grand Portage, Red Lake, Fond du Lac, and White Earth. Today they make up only 1% of the state’s population.
  • The state name Minnesota comes from a Sioux word which means “sky-tinted water” or “cloudy water”.
  • The name Minneapolis comes from mníȟaȟa, meaning waterfall in the Dakota language, and polis, meaning city in Greek. It was founded at Saint Anthony Falls, the highest waterfall on the Mississippi River, which became a source of power for the city’s flour mills.
A bridge leading to the buildings of downtown Minneapolis
Downtown Minneapolis
  • “L’Étoile du Nord” is the state motto of Minnesota. It means “star of the north” in French.
  • Minnesota has earned many nicknames over its history. In addition to being known as the “Gopher State”, Minnesota is also called the “North Star State” and the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”.
  • Minnesota has also been dubbed “The State of Hockey”. It has produced some of the best American hockey players in history.
  • Minnesota has also been called “the most hipster state”, but Washington may have a thing or two to say about that.
  • Tourism slogans for Minnesota have included “Explore Minnesota”, “Land of Sky-Blue Water”, and “Find Your True North.”
  • Residents of Minnesota are known as Minnesotans.
The flag of Minnesota
The state flag of Minnesota
  • The flag of Minnesota shows a version of the state seal on a blue background. The seal shows a white settler ploughing a field and a Native American passing by on a horse. It has been criticized as racist, and a new design is underway.
  • MN is the abbreviation of Minnesota, not to be confused with Maine (ME).

Interesting Facts About Minnesota

  • Minnesota is the only state that is the source of three major rivers: the Mississippi, Red River of the North, and the St. Louis River.
  • In fact, Minnesota is the only state that water only flows out from, and not into. It has been called the “Center of the water universe of North America.” Its waters flow to the Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Arctic Ocean.
Fog above the water on the Minnesota River
The Minnesota River, one of thousands of waterways in the state
  • Besides its major rivers, Minnesota has some 6564 streams. In total, they could circle the Earth two and half times.
  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota’s northland is considered one of the top canoeing destinations in the country and is one of the country’s most protected areas.
  • A recent study found that Minnesota has more exercise facilities per capita than any other state, but it didn’t look at how many people actually use them.
  • Minnesota has the 4th highest life expectancy in the United States, after Hawaii, California, and New York.
  • Minnesota’s only national park, Voyageurs National Park, protects four lakes on the Canada-US border. Its name refers to the early French fur traders that developed routes into the area.
  • Besides Alaska, Minnesota has more wolves than any other state.
A sunset above waterways at Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park
  • There are no less than 8 state parks on the shore of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake.
  • Minnesota’s first state park, Ithasca, is located at the source of the Mississippi River. It was created in 1891.
  • Split Rock Lighthouse, one of them, on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, is considered one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the United States. It even appeared in the 2013 movie The Great Gatsby.
Split Rock Lighthouse beyond a forest of leafless trees
Split Rock Lighthouse
  • The westernmost point of the Great Lakes is shared by Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. The Port of Duluth is the world’s most inland port accessible by ocean ships and the largest port on the Great Lakes.
  • The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway in Minneapolis is one of the largest continuous systems of parkways in the United States, connecting many major parks and lakes around the city.
  • The state’s lowest point is 601 ft (183 m) at Lake Superior, while the highest point is 2,301 ft (710 m) at Eagle Mountain.
A red amusement park ride inside Bloomington's Mall of America
A ride inside the Mall of America (“Mall of America” by Moeview is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)
  • Metropolitan Stadium, or “The Met”, once stood where the Mall of America now is. A home plate still stands at its original spot in the mall, as with a stadium seat that marks the landing spot of the longest home run hit ever made in the stadium.
  • The mall also contains a memorial for the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington DC.
  • Minnesota is a dream destination for shopaholics – there’s zero tax on the sale of footwear and clothing.
  • The Minnesota State Fair at Falcon Heights is the largest state fair in the US by average daily attendance (only the State Fair of Texas has a larger total attendance, because it runs longer). It is nicknamed “The Great Minnesota Get-Together.”
  • Minnesota also has one of the largest amusement parks in the Midwest, located in Skakopee, Minneapolis: Valleyfair. It features over 75 attractions and rides, including 8 roller coasters.
  • The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is considered one of the best contemporary art galleries in the United States.
A lit up Ferris wheel at the Minnesota State Fair
Minnesota State Fair
  • St. Paul was once known as Pig’s Eye, after the French-Canadian whiskey trader Pierre Parrant, nicknamed Pig’s Eye, who played a role the founding of the settlement.
  • Minnesota has 24 Fortune 500 companies, one of the highest numbers of any US state.
  • These include the likes of Target, Land O’Lakes, 3M, Best Buy, and General Mills.
  • Another major Minnesota company is Green Giant, formerly the Minnesota Valley Canning Company.
  • Northwest Airlines was once headquartered in Minnesota, before it merged with Delta Airlines.
  • The Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical center worth $15 billion, is headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota.
A mosaic of the logos of some companies that started in Minnesota
Famous companies from Minnesota
  • Rochester is also home to a major IBM facility where several important computers and supercomputers have been developed.
  • The state contains the largest copper nickel deposits in the world and provides over 80% of the nation’s iron ore. Minnesotans have a saying that half their iron is at the bottom of the ocean (due to all the WWII planes and ships built with it).
  • Minnesota is famous for many inventions which are used daily, including grocery bags with handles, scotch tape, in-the-ear hearing aids, water skis, and pop-up toasters.
  • Speaking of inventions, the rest of the US can thank Minnesota for the following foods: bundt cake, corn dogs (though many others claim to have invented them), wild rice soup, hotdish (a kind of casserole that often includes tater tots), spam, Ojibwe fry bread, and Cheerios.
  • The last surviving member of the Union Army was Minnesota’s Henry Woolsen. He died at age 106 in Duluth, Minnesota.
Some slices of spam
Spam was invented in Minnesota during the Great Depression
  • The beloved singer-songwriter and activist Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota.
  • Another legendary musician was born in Minneapolis in 1958. His name was Prince Rogers Nelson, otherwise known as Prince.
  • Minnesotan bands include Soul Asylum, The Replacements, Babes in Toyland, The Jets, Hüsker Dü, and Atmosphere.
  • Charles Shulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic, was born in Minneapolis.
  • Famous actors/actresses July Garland (Wizard of Oz), Vince Vaughn, Jessica Lange, and Rachael Leigh Cook, as well as WWF wrestler-cum-politician Jesse Ventura, are all from Minnesota.
A mosaic of famous people from Minnesota
Famous Minnesotans July Garland, Bob Dylan, Charles Shulz, Vince Vaughn, Jessican Lange, and Prince (clockwise from top-left)
  • The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was born in Saint Paul and grew up in Minnesota.
  • Minnesota has been a popular filming location for many movies, including Grumpy Old Men (1993), Purple Rain (1984), Jingle All The Way (1996), and the Mighty Ducks franchise.
  • Minnesota has some old laws that will make you scratch your head. For instance, it’s against the law to cross the state line with a chicken or duck on your head.
  • If you live in Brainerd and happen to be a man, you apparently must grow a beard by law.
  • If you’re driving down Lake Street in Minneapolis, just know it’s illegal if your car is red in color.

Historical Facts About Minnesota

  • Minnesota has some of the Earth’s oldest rocks, dating to 3.6 billion years ago.
  • The region that’s now known as Minnesota was carved out by glaciers in the last ice age.
Rock walls at Pipestone National Monument
Indigenous people used the rock at Pipestone for making their pipes.
  • According to archaeologists, the first humans in the Minnesota region arrived at least 9,000 years ago, the date of the Browns Valley Man found in the state’s west.
  • The two main Native American groups that lived in Minnesota before the Europeans arrived were the Dakota and Ojibwe. The latter are otherwise known as Ojibway, Ojibwa, or Chippewa.
  • In 1660, the first European settlers Pierre Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart arrived in the region of Minnesota.
  • French explorer Daniel Greysolon claimed the Minnesota region in 1679 on behalf of France.
A view of Lake Pepin in Minnesota from afar
Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River
  • In 1721, the state’s first church was built at Fort Beauharnois on Lake Pepin.
  • In 1762, the western part of the state became part of the Spanish-owned Louisiana Territory.
  • After the American Revolution in 1783, the US took control of the part of Minnesota east of the Mississippi.
  • The US purchased Louisiana from France in 1803, giving the US full ownership of what is presently known as Minnesota.
  • Fort Snelling, the first US military base in the state, was built from 1819 to 1825.
A postage stamp with Fort Snelling on it
Old stamp showing Fort Snelling as it originally looked
  • Minnesota officially became the 32nd state of the US on May 11, 1858.
  • From 1850 to 1900, Minnesota’s settler population grew from 6120 to over 1.5 million.
  • The Dakota War of 1862, between the US and the Dakota natives, started in Minnesota. On December 26, 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota, the largest single execution in US history. The US army won the war, and most Dakota were interred or sent away.
  • In 1867, Minneapolis was founded on the Mississippi River.
  • The Kensington Rune stone was discovered on a farm near Alexandria in 1898. The stone had carvings from 1362 that allegedly told the journey of a band of Vikings, but scholars have declared it a “19th century hoax”.
The exterior of the Minnesota State Capitol in Saint Paul
The Minnesota State Capitol
  • At the 1901 Minnesota State Fair, the vice-president at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, gave his famous speech “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick”.
  • The first shot fired by the United States in WWII, towards a Japanese ship at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, was fired by a Minnesotan. The 4″/50 caliber gun is now on display at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.  
  • In 1952, at the University of Minnesota, the first open heart operation in the world was performed by Dr. C Walton Lillehei. Dr. Lillehei has been called the “King of Hearts” for his invention of medical devices and his pioneering research as a surgeon.
  • From 1999 to 2003, the former professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura, who is otherwise known as “The Body”, served as the 38th governor of Minnesota.
  • In 2007, Minnesota implemented a statewide smoking ban for restaurants and bars.
Black Lives Matter protest after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota
  • In 2010, Tom Petters was convicted of the largest fraud in the state’s history ($3.65 billion). He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
  • Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann ran for president of the US in 2011, losing candidacy to Mitt Romney.
  • On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, sparking major Black Lives Matter protests around the world. His dying words “I can’t breathe” became a protest slogan.