Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum Frank Gehry's gleaming silver building (left) on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River houses the University of Minnesota's art. The museum has 17,000 works and is known for its collections of American modernism, ceramics, Mimbres pottery and Korean furniture. Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum 
Minneapolis Institute of Arts The recently expanded museum's holdings include a renowned Asian art collection among more than 80,000 works that span 5,000 years of human history. Minneapolis Institute of Arts 
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden The star attraction in this free garden is Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Spoonbridge and Cherry (left), with its 5,800-pound spoon and 1,200-pound cherry. More than 40 other works are on view, including Kinji Akagawa's Garden Seating, Reading, Thinking bench and The Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge designed by Siah Armajani. Tours are available in summer.
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Como Zoo and Conservatory A new conservatory wing features orchid, bonsai and fern rooms. The zoo, meanwhile, houses all the animals that children like (zebras, giraffes, lions, monkeys, penguins and more) in a small, easy-to-navigate area. The new Tropical Encounters exhibit spotlights both animals and plants in a rainforest setting.
Minnesota Capitol A $270 million, three-year renovation of the 1905 capitol will wrap up in 2017; until then, indoor access is limited but visitors can take outdoor self-guided tours. Check on the progress of the renovation: mnhs.org 
Minnehaha Falls Park With 193 acres, limestone bluffs and a river overlook, this park halfway between the two downtowns ranks as one of the most popular local nature areas. Minnehaha Falls Park 
Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Rochert About 18 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes, this 43,000-acre sanctuary (left), in the transition zone between northern hardwood and coniferous forests, has more than 250 species of birds and 50 types of mammals. A visitors center overlooks marshland and has exhibits and a theater presentation about area wildlife. Explore the refuge on a 5-mile self-guided scenic drive and or hiking trails.
Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, Duluth Learn about the lake's shipping industry and try your hand on a pilothouse wheel. The center has three replica cabins and a pilothouse, a two-story steam engine, 50 scale-model exhibits and presentations on shipwrecks, life on board a boat and more. The center's location at the foot of the Aerial Lift Bridge provides for great ship-watching, as huge freighters pass within 200 feet of the building.