Kristen Christenson brought her twin boys to the Bell Museum in St. Paul on Monday, where hundreds gathered in the afternoon to catch what they hoped might be even a quick glimpse of a solar eclipse behind a gray, cloudy sky.

Timothy and Benjamin Christenson had a large LEGO set in tow that depicted Earth, its sun and the moon in orbit. "I figured other people would also find it entertaining," said Christenson, of Chaska. She gave it to them for their fifth birthday last month and they've played with it constantly ever since — great preparation for a real celestial event.

As it turned out, the toy model sitting in the grass was a big hit among the Bell crowd — who, like all Minnesotans who stayed local on Monday, were totally deprived of an actual show by the crummy weather. Meanwhile, the twins demonstrated on the LEGO set what was happening above, behind the clouds.

"This is it, guys," Christenson, who had also carted in homemade viewing boxes, said as the eclipse reached its supposed local peak. "It looks like nothing."

Optimism turned to mild disappointment for those Minnesotans who weren't keeping a close eye on the forecast Monday. As sky watchers in select parts of the U.S. experienced a few minutes of dark at daytime, the crowds gathered at the Bell and across town at the Science Museum of Minnesota made solar-themed crafts and watched livestream feeds of the eclipse from other, sunnier cities experiencing totality.

An eclipse last October also fell on a cloudy day locally, though that day saw the clouds part enough to give dedicated watchers a show, said Sally Brummel, planetarium manager at the Bell Museum. Despite Monday's disappointment, Brummel was still feeling lofty.

"An eclipse lets us really understand where we are in the universe," she said. "We're able to see or experience these two other objects in the sky, the sun and the moon, and they line up just perfectly, and they're just the same size in the sky for an eclipse to happen."

In downtown St. Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota was also bustling, with many kids on spring break visiting with their parents. On the museum's outdoor terrace, beneath the clouds, Kevyn Zeipelt of St. Paul said she was disappointed but didn't regret the attempt.

"We had to give it a shot, at least," Zeipelt said, adding that "there are other cool things at the Science Museum."

Heather Ethen, who was visiting with her four kids, said they made plans months ago to visit the Science Museum. The weather made it feel like a letdown, she said.

"Disappointed is a great word for it," Ethen said.

Back at the Bell, as peak viewing time came and went with nothing but cloudy skies, Christenson turned on her phone's flashlight and shined it into the cereal box projectors that she and her sons had created for the occasion, trying to give them a taste of the visual effects they would have seen had it been a sunnier day.