Bell Museum of Natural History, St. Paul 2021The museum was created by legislative decree in 1872 to showcase Minnesota animal and plant life. It was originally just one room at the University of Minnesota before moving to a new building in 1940 that was half funded directly by James Ford Bell of General Mills, Bell had a lifelong interest in conservation and wildlife which, along with his generous donation to the museum, led to the facility being named in his honor.
The building was expanded through the 1970s but it started to have serious roof issues which started to endanger the collections.
After decades of lobbying, they got a 51 million dollar loan from the state and started building in 2016 to create this new and open space.
The ArrivalDrove up 94 to 280 and took the Larpenteur Ave exit to the east. Parking costs, but not a lot.
The GroundsA trail on the south side goes through simulated biomes of Minnesota prairies and wetland. It's pretty, although a little small.
EntranceEasy entrance, go to the front desk, pay your fee and you're in the lobby, which has displays in it also.
First FloorThe first floor has a hands-on lab (very cool), special displays and the Planetarium plus lots of offices and some classrooms primarily for school groups.
Second FloorThe real gem is the 2nd floor, with dioramas that have been world-renowned for over 100 years, large collections of Minnesota flora and fauna, items in the skies, and the piece de resistance, a fully restored mastodon.
SummaryA really great museum, with more to it than you would ever expect in a quiet corner of the University of Minnesota. Its move from the main campus to the Agricultural area makes sense in many ways.
I found it really enjoyable and informative, and a great place to wile away an afternoon in a comfortable and relaxed setting.