Bell Museum of Natural History, St. Paul 2021

The 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 Arrival

Drove up 94 to 280 and took the Larpenteur Ave exit to the east. Parking costs, but not a lot.

The Grounds

A trail on the south side goes through simulated biomes of Minnesota prairies and wetland. It's pretty, although a little small.
Wetlands like in many areas of Minnesota wilderness

Entrance

Easy entrance, go to the front desk, pay your fee and you're in the lobby, which has displays in it also.
Great shots and the film type and instructions on how to shoot them yourself listed with each one

First Floor

The 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.
The hands-on lab where you can touch, experiment and see the natural world up close Various displays that were probably from the original opening Special display on water access and improvements around the world
The planetarium with various movies and scenarios to be projected

Second Floor

The 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.
Very imposing, and a show stopper for all the kiddies A diorama in the original form of 130 years ago.  So cool
Spacious and a snapshot of a portion of our world The sky at night, natural as can be
Ok, Polar bears were not in MN except zoos but still The roof walks out to telescopes, and views of the grounds

Summary

A 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.
The gift shop with plant stuff, sciencey things, and overall just interesting and mind stimulating items