November 2, 2019

Bakken Museum: A Minneapolis Hidden Gem

Minneapolis, Minnesota, has so many museum options for families, it’s tough to figure out where to go first. On our recent summer visit, we found a true Minneapolis gem: The Bakken Museum. And to think, we nearly didn’t go to it!

Our quiet afternoon The Bakken Museum was full of wonder. I’m certain your family will love it as much as mine. Read on for why the museum won a place in our hearts.

The Bakken Museum is an under-the-radar Minneapolis Museum you should check out! Here's a guide to the museum: What to expect, what kids will like, and why you need to visit. #Minneapolis #TwinCities #Minnesota #MeetMinneapolis #FamilyTravel

Disclosure: Our trip to Minneapolis was hosted by Meet Minneapolis. Our visit to The Bakken Museum was complimentary. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Where is The Bakken Museum? 

The location of The Bakken Museum is the main reason we picked it as the lone museum to visit during our summer getaway to Minneapolis. It’s near Bde Maka Ska, a popular lake in Minneapolis. 

Walking along the shore of Bde Maka Ska, a lake near The Bakken Museum in Minneapolis.

We visited the museum first and then dipped our toes into the lake. It wasn’t exactly beach weather that day. (Hope you have better luck!)

What kind of museum is The Bakken Museum?

I would describe The Bakken Museum as part science museum with a touch of children’s museum in a beautiful historic mansion. It’s not overwhelmingly immense and packed with information like some science centers, nor does it bombard the senses like many children’s museums.

The medicinal garden and fountain on the grounds of The Bakken Museum.

The Bakken Museum describes itself as intending to inspire “a passion for innovation by exploring the potential for science, technology, and the humanities to make the world a better place. Housed in the historic West Winds Mansion, the museum offers unique artifact and book collections, seasonal medicinal gardens, dynamic exhibits, and rich education experiences.”

It was established in 1975 to house a world-renowned collection of artifacts and books that detail the history and innovation of electricity, magnetism and their influence on medical innovation. 

The library inside The Bakken Museum.

Since it’s home to the Florence Bakken Medicinal Gardens and Dakota Native Plant Gardens, as well, the museum is able to tell the story of Minnesota’s role in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) innovation, making it a global leader in improving the lives of people around the world. 

How long does it take to visit The Bakken Museum?

Exhibit inside The Bakken Museum

Most families could spend about two to three hours at The Bakken Museum. Of course, if you or someone in your group enjoys reading about each exhibit, add another hour to your visit.

We visited at the end of the day and left less than two hours to explore. It turned out to be enough time for us, though we didn’t get to linger for long at any one place.

What can kids do at the museum?

A lot! Every room has something (or many things) for kids to explore. I spotted the youngest visitors enjoying the circuits the Electropolis exhibit.

The Bakken Museum is a kid-friendly Minneapolis museum and includes exhibits like Electropolis.

My youngest (7 years old)  spent most of her time outdoors in the medicinal garden. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place to explore.

The museum provides backpacks to check out, each containing kid-friendly activities like an insect identifying kit with bug descriptions and a net to catch them and a nature bingo card.

Things for kids to do at The Bakken Museum - Check out a backpack to explore the gardens.

Don’t miss the chance to see the medicinal gardens, if only to have a quiet moment by the fountain. But, since you’re already outside, walk to the other side of the building to see the rooftop garden.

My oldest (9 years old) is into design and building, so he spent a lot of time at the Minnesota Made and Designing For Life exhibits. These exhibits felt more reminiscent of the self-directed, hands-on activities we encounter at children’s museums.

Minnesota Made exhibit at The Bakken Museum

Tip: Frankenstein’s Laboratory is a 10-minute, immersive show about Frankenstein’s monster and his tragic story. Signs were posted saying it may scare children under a certain age, so we skipped it.

A friend of mine has seen the show and she confirmed there is a surprise in it that could, indeed, scare a kid. Glad we skipped it!

SAVINGS TIP: The Bakken Museum belongs to the Association of Science & Technology Centers, meaning if you have a family membership to places like Omaha Children’s Museum, you receive FREE admission for up to four people thanks to the reciprocal membership perks. Read this post for more details.

What was the museum’s highlight?

My entire family had a lot of fun playing in the exhibit Ben Franklin’s Electricity Party. The small room has some of his nutty electric parlor tricks, which he was known to share at parties he’d host in the 1700s.

Electricity Party at The Bakken Museum

Some of the tricks moved butterflies or made a bell ring. Some of the tricks shocked you. We tended to giggle loudest with those tricks.

So, yes, basically my family spent our time watching each other get a mild shock. Ahh, family memories. 🙂

More things to do in Minneapolis

We’ve explored Minneapolis and St. Paul in the summer and the winter. Here are some more fun things to do and places to visit in the Twin Cities (and nearby):

A Perfect Weekend Itinerary For Minneapolis

Holiday Weekend In Minnesota 

Ultimate Mall of America Guide – For Kids!

What Young Kids Like At Science Museum Of Minnesota

Christmas at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis

Where To Stay Near The Twin Cities

Roseville & Twin Cities Bucket List 

Planning a trip to Minneapolis and the Twin Cities? Here's a great museum for families and travelers interested in science and medicine: The Bakken Museum. Learn about the museum's history, what you'll find inside, and what kids will like to do at the museum. #MeetMinneapolis #museum #guide #Minnesota #USA #familytravel

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