Twin City Model Railroad Museum
The golden age of model trains was 1946-1960, but in this large room it’s still happening. Dozens of model railroads take over the space. One circles the fictional small town of Mattlin, complete with a redbrick two-story hotel and a church modeled after one in real-life Center City, Minn., which was a setting for the movie “Grumpy Old Men.” There’s even an entire block of New York City and a train track made of Legos, if your vibe is more big-city than Center City.
668 Transfer Road, Suite 8, St. Paul. $10 for ages 5 and older; family rates available. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon., Tue. & Fri.; 10-5 Sat.; noon-5 Sun. tcmrm.org
Julian H. Sleeper House
The most eccentric museum on this list is the former home of a St. Paul entrepreneur and theater lover, run by the house’s current owner/occupant, Dr. Seth Hawkins. The front parlor is filled with ornate chairs and couches from the 1880s. Owls abound — more than 650 miniature birds and several taxidermied ones, too. Take a picture with a life-size figure of former President James Garfield, and see the business card of the man who assassinated him, Charles J. Guiteau. In the basement, another surprise: memorabilia from Slovenia, including a deck of tarot cards made by Boris Koba, a Nazi concentration camp prisoner who made it out.
66 S. St. Albans St., St. Paul. $8. By appointment only at 651-225-1505. julianhsleeperhouse.com)
Hmong Cultural Center
Heavy history is balanced with beautiful artistry to offer a neat picture of a complicated people. View embroidered belts and purses, dolls wearing colorful traditional Hmong dress and a rice sickle, knife sheath and machete from 1960s-’70s Laos. Posters detail the Hmong people’s history, dating back to being pushed out of China in the 1700s and 1800s, to their role in the CIA’s secret war from 1961-1975.
375 W. University Av., Suite 204, St. Paul. $5. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri. hmongcc.org
American Museum of Asmat Art
Opened in 2012 at the University of St. Thomas, this collection of artifacts from the Asmat, an indigenous people of New Guinea, was created by missionaries from the Crosier order who have worked in the region for the past six decades. Their fabulous finds include a magical necklace of pointy dog teeth, ancestor masks and 6-foot-tall surfboard-looking shields with sandy red and cream-colored swirls carved into them.
Anderson Student Center, corner of Summit and Cretin avenues, St. Paul. Free. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Wed; 10-6 Thu.; 10-2 Fri.; noon-4 Sat. and Sun. during school year; see art.stthomas.edu/asmat for summer hours.
In a neighborhood where many Nordic immigrants once lived, the organization’s blue, ultramodern Albert Quie Education Center was opened in 2015 by Norwegian-Americans who wanted to preserve their culture. Its gallery currently features portraits of Norway’s indigenous Sámi people by photographer Randall Hyman. The gift boutique — or “Gavebutikk” — offers such souvenirs as a tiny Norwegian flag (a box of 100 on toothpicks costs $9). Norway House also offers Norwegian language classes, held at the neighboring Mindekirken Lutheran church.
913 E. Franklin Av., Mpls. Free. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; 10-3 Sun. norwayhouse.org
House of Balls
The torso of a female mannequin is propped up on a bench, flanked by a pair of arms. Nearby, billiard balls are piled into a triangular shape. They’re all at Allen Christian’s House of Balls, an offbeat artist studio established 30 years ago and now housed in a former gas station next to the Blue Line (you’ll hear light-rail trains coming and going during your visit). As an animist, Christian believes that nonliving objects possess something akin to energy, spirit and soul. One of his funniest finds is a trailer with the Wonder Bread “Wonder” logo, and the word “why” added in paint.
1504 S. 7th St., Mpls. Free. Noon-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat. houseofballs.com
Northwest Airlines History Center
In a hotel near the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, you’ll find the final resting place of Minnesota-born Northwest Airlines, founded in 1926 and merged into Delta Air Lines in 2008. Vintage stewardess and “cabin boy” uniforms — bright red or white, complete with a same-colored cap — are on display in a small, two-room space on the third floor of the Crowne Plaza Aire Hotel, across from the gym.
3 Appletree Square, Bloomington. Free. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Thu.; 11-5 Fri.-Sat. northwestairlineshistory.org
Wells Fargo Museum
A majestic 1863 stagecoach greets visitors at Wells Fargo Center, beckoning them to the skyway level, which houses a museum behind an old-fashioned bank teller window. A massive 19th-century cast-iron letterpress that produced “lightning fast” copies in three minutes rivals the immediacy of technology today. Bank notes in Swedish are a reminder of the city’s heritage. The most exciting element is a virtual Wells Fargo agent who can make you a money order to London, Arizona or California — and even e-mail you a receipt.
90 S. 7th St., Mpls. Free. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.- Fri. wellsfargohistory.com/museums/minneapolis
The Smallest Museum in St. Paul
Established in 2014, this 3- by 2-foot micro-museum is located in a former fire-hose cabinet across from the entrance to Workhorse Coffee Bar, whose co-owner, Shannon Forney, doubles as museum founder and curator. Exhibitions rotate monthly. The current display is Chris Bach’s “Urban Landscapes,” an overlay map of the South St. Anthony Park neighborhood, with a pink layer showing the area as it was in 1928, and a teal layer as it is now — a commentary on how the neighborhood has changed, particularly from the construction of Hwy. 280.
2399 W. University Av., St. Paul. Free and always open. smallestmuseumstpaul.com
Minnesota Transportation Museum
This menagerie of old train cars and memorabilia, housed in a former Great Northern Railroad maintenance facility, is a dream come true for history buffs or train nerds. Explore the massive Great Northern X-757 Drover’s Coach, with wooden floors and plush purple seats. Built in 1893, it once was a status symbol of first-class travel but by 1930 it served ranchers bringing cattle to market, speaking to the process of modernization. Another relic: the dark green suit jacket of a 1955 “stewardess-nurse.” There are also toy trains and train books for kids.
193 E. Pennsylvania Av., St. Paul. $7-$13. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed. & Sat. Train rides offered on Saturdays. transportationmuseum.org