At Jeffers Petroglyphs, a Minnesota Historical Society site near New Ulm, 5,000 ancient and sacred Native American rock carvings of bison, turtles, thunderbirds and humans can be viewed. The carvings are estimated to be up to 7,000 years old. Visitors can walk across these carvings, examining how they were made, wondering what they signify, and what messages they convey across the millennia.

With glorious summer weekends now lining up before us, your next getaway should include a Minnesota Historical Society site.

Minnesota is lucky to have a well-planned, well-maintained collection of buildings and landmarks that tell us the story of our past. They are accessible, educational and entertaining. Some of them also qualify as national historic landmarks.

A few are well-known. Your kids have likely taken a school field trip to the Minnesota History Center museum or Fort Snelling, for example. And it’s virtually impossible to drive up the North Shore without seeing Split Rock Lighthouse.

In the Rochester region, Historic Forestville offers a 45-minute tour of the house, office, store, barn and garden of what is basically a ghost town. The site is located within Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, so a visit to the town can be combined with a cave tour.

Also, the W.W. Mayo House, located in Le Sueur, is of particular interest locally because it is the home Dr. William W. Mayo built in 1859. It housed his family and his medical practice until the Mayos moved to Rochester in 1864.

If your family is up for a slightly longer excursion, sites in the Minnesota River Valley include several related to the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War: Birch Coulee Battlefield, Fort Ridgely, Lac qui Parle Mission, the Lower Sioux Agency and the Harkin Store. The home of one of Minnesota’s most famous sons, Charles Lindbergh, is preserved at Little Falls. Ojibwe culture can be explored at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post.

For a list of sites, including hours and admission fees, go to