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State of Minnesota
Flag of Minnesota State seal of Minnesota
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): North Star State;
Land of 10,000 Lakes; The Gopher State
Motto(s): L'Étoile du Nord (French: The Star of the North)
Map of the United States with Minnesota highlighted
Demonym Minnesotan
Capital Saint Paul
Largest city Minneapolis
Largest metro area Minneapolis–Saint Paul
Area  Ranked 12th in the U.S.
 - Total 86,939 sq mi
(225,181 km2)
 - Width c. 200–350 miles (c. 320–560 km)
 - Length c. 400 miles (c. 640 km)
 - % water 8.4
 - Latitude 43° 30′ N to 49° 23′ N
 - Longitude 89° 29′ W to 97° 14′ W
Population  Ranked 21st in the U.S.
 - Total 5,379,139 (2012 est)
 -  Density 67.1/sq mi  (25.9/km2)
Ranked 31st in the U.S.
 -  Median household income  $55,802 (10th)
 - Highest point Eagle Mountain
2,302 ft (701 m)
 - Mean 1,200 ft  (370 m)
 - Lowest point Lake Superior
601 ft (183 m)
Before statehood Minnesota Territory
Admission to Union  May 11, 1858 (32nd)
Governor Mark Dayton ( DFL)
Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon ( DFL)
Legislature Minnesota Legislature
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar ( DFL)
Al Franken ( DFL)
U.S. House delegation 5 Democrats, 3 Republicans ( list)
Time zone Central: UTC -6/ -5
Abbreviations MN Minn. US-MN

Minnesota ( / m ɪ n ɨ ˈ s t ə /) is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. Known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes", the state's name comes from a Dakota word for "sky-tinted water". Those waters, together with forests, parks, and wilderness areas, offer residents and tourists a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.

Minnesota is the 12th most extensive and the 21st most populous of the U.S. states. Nearly 60% of its residents live in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area (known as the "Twin Cities"), the centre of transportation, business, industry, education, government and home to an internationally known arts community. The remainder of the state consists of western prairies now given over to intensive agriculture; deciduous forests in the southeast, now cleared, farmed and settled; and the less populated North Woods, used for mining, forestry, and recreation.

Minnesota is known for its relatively mixed social and political orientations, and has a high rate of civic participation and voter turnout. Minnesota ranks among the healthiest states, and has a highly literate population. The large majority of residents are of Scandinavian and German descent. The state is known as a centre of Scandinavian American culture. Ethnic diversity has increased in recent decades. Substantial influxes of Asian, African, and Latin American immigrants have joined the descendants of European settlers and the original Native American inhabitants.


The word Minnesota comes from the Dakota name for the Minnesota River: Mnisota. The root mni (also spelled mini or minne) means, "water". Mnisota can be translated as sky-tinted water or somewhat clouded water. Native Americans demonstrated the name to early settlers by dropping milk into water and calling it mnisota. Many locations in the state have similar names, such as Minnehaha Falls ("waterfall"), Minneiska ("white water"), Minneota ("much water"), Minnetonka ("big water"), Minnetrista ("crooked water"), and Minneapolis, which is a combination of mni and polis, the Greek word for "city".


Minnesota, showing roads and major bodies of water

Minnesota is the northernmost U.S. state apart from Alaska; its isolated Northwest Angle in Lake of the Woods is the only part of the 48 contiguous states lying north of the 49th Parallel. The state is part of the U.S. region known as the Upper Midwest and part of the Great Lakes Region of North America. The state shares a Lake Superior water border with Michigan and a land and water border with Wisconsin to the east. Iowa is to the south, North Dakota and South Dakota to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba to the north. With 86,943 square miles (225,180 km2), or approximately 2.25% of the United States, Minnesota is the twelfth-largest state.

Geology and terrain

Tilted beds of the Middle Precambrian Thompson Formation in Jay Cooke State Park

Minnesota contains some of the oldest rocks found on earth, gneisses some 3.6 billion years old, or 80% as old as the planet. About 2.7 billion years ago, basaltic lava poured out of cracks in the floor of the primordial ocean; the remains of this volcanic rock formed the Canadian Shield in northeast Minnesota. The roots of these volcanic mountains and the action of Precambrian seas formed the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. Following a period of volcanism 1.1 billion years ago, Minnesota's geological activity has been more subdued, with no volcanism or mountain formation, but with repeated incursions of the sea, which left behind multiple strata of sedimentary rock.

In more recent times, massive ice sheets at least one kilometer thick ravaged the landscape of the state and sculpted its current terrain. The Wisconsin glaciation left 12,000 years ago. These glaciers covered all of Minnesota except the far southeast, an area characterized by steep hills and streams that cut into the bedrock. This area is known as the Driftless Zone for its absence of glacial drift. Much of the remainder of the state outside of the northeast has 50 feet (15 m) or more of glacial till left behind as the last glaciers retreated. Gigantic Lake Agassiz formed in the northwest 13,000 years ago. Its bed created the fertile Red River valley, and its outflow, glacial River Warren, carved the valley of the Minnesota River. Minnesota is geologically quiet today; it experiences earthquakes infrequently, and most of them are minor.

Palisade Head on Lake Superior formed from a Precambrian rhyolitic lava flow.

The state's high point is Eagle Mountain at 2,301 feet (701 m), which is only 13 miles (21 km) away from the low of 601 feet (183 m) at the shore of Lake Superior. Notwithstanding dramatic local differences in elevation, much of the state is a gently rolling peneplain.

Two major drainage divides meet in the northeastern part of Minnesota in rural Hibbing, forming a triple watershed. Precipitation can follow the Mississippi River south to the Gulf of Mexico, the Saint Lawrence Seaway east to the Atlantic Ocean, or the Hudson Bay watershed to the Arctic Ocean.

The state's nickname, The Land of 10,000 Lakes, is no exaggeration; there are 11,842 Minnesota lakes over 10 acres (0.040 km2) in size. The Minnesota portion of Lake Superior is the largest at 962,700 acres (3,896 km2) and deepest (at 1,290 ft (390 m)) body of water in the state. Minnesota has 6,564 natural rivers and streams that cumulatively flow for 69,000 miles (111,000 km). The Mississippi River begins its journey from its headwaters at Lake Itasca and crosses the Iowa border 680 miles (1,090 km) downstream. It is joined by the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling, by the St. Croix River near Hastings, by the Chippewa River at Wabasha, and by many smaller streams. The Red River, in the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz, drains the northwest part of the state northward toward Canada's Hudson Bay. Approximately 10.6 million acres (42,900 km²) of wetlands are contained within Minnesota's borders, the most of any state except Alaska.

Flora and fauna

A groundhog seen in Minneapolis, along the banks of the Mississippi River

Minnesota has four ecological provinces: Prairie Parkland in the southwestern and western parts of the state, the Eastern Broadleaf Forest ( Big Woods) in the southeast, extending in a narrowing strip to the northwestern part of the state, where it transitions into Tallgrass Aspen Parkland, and the northern Laurentian Mixed Forest, a transitional forest between the northern boreal forest and broadleaf forests to the south. These northern forests are a vast wilderness of pine and spruce trees mixed with patchy stands of birch and poplar.

Much of Minnesota's northern forest underwent logging at some time, leaving only a few patches of old growth forest today in areas such as in the Chippewa National Forest and the Superior National Forest where the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has some 400,000 acres (161,874 ha) of unlogged land. Although logging continues, regrowth keeps about one third of the state forested. Nearly all of Minnesota's prairies and oak savannas have been destroyed or fragmented because of farming, grazing, logging, and suburban development.

While loss of habitat has affected native animals such as the pine marten, elk, woodland caribou, and bison, others like whitetail deer and bobcat thrive. The state has the nation's largest population of timber wolves outside Alaska, and supports healthy populations of black bear and moose. Located on the Mississippi Flyway, Minnesota hosts migratory waterfowl such as geese and ducks, and game birds such as grouse, pheasants, and turkeys. It is home to birds of prey including the largest number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states as of 2007, red-tailed hawk, and snowy owl. The lakes teem with sport fish such as walleye, bass, muskellunge, and northern pike, and streams in the southeast are populated by brook, brown, and rainbow trout.


Minnesota endures temperature extremes characteristic of its continental climate; with cold winters and hot summers. The record high and low span is 174 degrees Fahrenheit (96°C) (from −60 °F (−51 °C) at Tower on February 2, 1996 to 114 °F (46 °C) at Moorhead on July 6, 1936). Meteorological events include rain, snow, blizzards, thunderstorms, hail, derechos, tornadoes, and high-velocity straight-line winds. The growing season varies from 90 days per year in the Iron Range to 160 days in southeast Minnesota near the Mississippi River, and mean average temperatures range from 37 to 49 °F (3 to 9 °C). Average summer dew points range from about 58 °F (14 °C) in the south to about 48 °F (9 °C) in the north. Depending on location, average annual precipitation ranges from 19 to 35 inches (48 to 89 cm), and droughts occur every 10 to 50 years.

Protected lands

Pose Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Minnesota's first state park, Itasca State Park, was established in 1891, and is the source of the Mississippi River. Today Minnesota has 72 state parks and recreation areas, 58 state forests covering about four million acres (16,000 km²), and numerous state wildlife preserves, all managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. There are 5.5 million acres (22,000 km²) in the Chippewa and Superior National Forests. The Superior National Forest in the northeast contains the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which encompasses over a million acres (4,000 km²) and a thousand lakes. To its west is Voyageurs National Park. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), is a 72 miles (116 km) long corridor along the Mississippi River through the Minneapolis–St. Paul Metropolitan Area connecting a variety of sites of historic, cultural, and geologic interest.


Map of Minnesota Territory 1849–1858

Before European settlement of North America, Minnesota was populated by the Dakota people. As Europeans settled the east coast, Native American movement away from them caused migration of the Anishinaabe and other Native Americans into the Minnesota area. The first Europeans in the area were French fur traders who arrived in the 17th century. Late that century, Anishinaabe, also known as Ojibwe Indians migrated westward to Minnesota, causing tensions with the Dakota people. Explorers such as Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, Father Louis Hennepin, Jonathan Carver, Henry Schoolcraft, and Joseph Nicollet, among others, mapped out the state.

The portion of the state east of the Mississippi River became part of the United States at the end of the American Revolutionary War, when the Second Treaty of Paris was signed. Land west of the Mississippi River was acquired with the Louisiana Purchase, although a portion of the Red River Valley was disputed until the Treaty of 1818. In 1805, Zebulon Pike bargained with Native Americans to acquire land at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. The construction of Fort Snelling followed between 1819 and 1825. Its soldiers built a grist mill and a sawmill at Saint Anthony Falls, the first of the water-powered industries around which the city of Minneapolis later grew. Meanwhile, squatters, government officials, and tourists had settled near the fort. In 1839, the Army forced them to move downriver and they settled in the area that became St. Paul. Minnesota Territory was formed on March 3, 1849. Thousands of people had come to build farms and cut timber, and Minnesota became the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858.

Settlers escaping the Dakota War of 1862

Treaties between European settlers and the Dakota and Ojibwe gradually forced the natives off their lands and on to smaller reservations. As conditions deteriorated for the Dakota, tensions rose, leading to the Dakota War of 1862. The result of the six-week war was the execution of 38 Dakota — the largest mass execution in United States history — and the exile of most of the rest of the Dakota to the Crow Creek Reservation in Dakota Territory. As many as 800 white settlers died during the war.

Logging and farming were mainstays of Minnesota's early economy. The sawmills at Saint Anthony Falls, and logging centers like Marine on St. Croix, Stillwater, and Winona, processed high volumes of lumber. These cities were situated on rivers that were ideal for transportation. Later, Saint Anthony Falls was tapped to provide power for flour mills. Innovations by Minneapolis millers led to the production of Minnesota "patent" flour, which commanded almost double the price of "bakers" or "clear" flour, which it replaced. By 1900, Minnesota mills, led by Pillsbury, Northwestern and the Washburn-Crosby Company (a forerunner of General Mills), were grinding 14.1% of the nation's grain.

Phelps Mill in Otter Tail County

The state's iron-mining industry was established with the discovery of iron in the Vermilion Range and the Mesabi Range in the 1880s, and in the Cuyuna Range in the early 20th century. The ore was shipped by rail to Duluth and Two Harbors, then loaded onto ships and transported eastward over the Great Lakes.

Industrial development and the rise of manufacturing caused the population to shift gradually from rural areas to cities during the early 20th century. Nevertheless, farming remained prevalent. Minnesota's economy was hard-hit by the Great Depression, resulting in lower prices for farmers, layoffs among iron miners, and labor unrest. Compounding the adversity, western Minnesota and the Dakotas were hit by drought from 1931 to 1935. New Deal programs provided some economic turnaround. The Civilian Conservation Corps and other programs around the state established some jobs for Indians on their reservations, and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 provided the tribes with a mechanism of self-government. This provided natives a greater voice within the state, and promoted more respect for tribal customs because religious ceremonies and native languages were no longer suppressed.

After World War II, industrial development quickened. New technology increased farm productivity through automation of feedlots for hogs and cattle, machine milking at dairy farms, and raising chickens in large buildings. Planting became more specialized with hybridization of corn and wheat, and the use of farm machinery such as tractors and combines became the norm. University of Minnesota professor Norman Borlaug contributed to these developments as part of the Green Revolution. Suburban development accelerated due to increased postwar housing demand and convenient transportation. Increased mobility, in turn, enabled more specialized jobs.

Minnesota became a centre of technology after World War II. Engineering Research Associates was formed in 1946 to develop computers for the United States Navy. It later merged with Remington Rand, and then became Sperry Rand. William Norris left Sperry in 1957 to form Control Data Corporation (CDC). Cray Research was formed when Seymour Cray left CDC to form his own company. Medical device maker Medtronic also started business in the Twin Cities in 1949.

Cities and towns

National Farmers Bank in Owatonna by Louis Sullivan

Saint Paul, located in east-central Minnesota along the banks of the Mississippi River, has been Minnesota's capital city since 1849, first as capital of the Territory of Minnesota, and then as state capital since 1858.

Saint Paul is adjacent to Minnesota's most populous city, Minneapolis; they and their suburbs are known collectively as the Twin Cities metropolitan area, the sixteenth largest metropolitan area in the United States and home to about 60% of the state's population. The remainder of the state is known as " Greater Minnesota" or "Outstate Minnesota".

The state has seventeen cities with populations above 50,000 (based on 2010 census). In descending order of size they are Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Rochester, Duluth, Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Plymouth, Saint Cloud, Eagan, Woodbury, Maple Grove, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Burnsville, Apple Valley, Blaine and Lakeville. Of these only Rochester, Duluth, and Saint Cloud are outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Minnesota's population continues to grow, primarily in the urban centers. The populations of metropolitan Sherburne and Scott Counties doubled between 1980 and 2000, while 40 of the state's 87 counties lost residents over the same decades.



Minnesota's population distribution

From fewer than 6,100 people in 1850, Minnesota's population grew to over 1.7 million by 1900. Each of the next six decades saw a 15% increase in population, reaching 3.4 million in 1960. Growth then slowed, rising 11% to 3.8 million in 1970, and an average of 9% over the next three decades to 4.9 million in the 2000 Census. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Minnesota was 5,379,139 on July 1, 2012, a 1.4% increase since the 2010 United States Census. The rate of population change along with age and gender distributions approximate the national average. The centre of population of Minnesota is located in Hennepin County, in the city of Rogers.


The principal ancestries of Minnesota's residents in 2010 were surveyed to be the following:

  • 37.9% German
  • 32.1% from the Nordic countries; (16.8% Norwegian, 9.5% Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Icelandic, Faroese and Karelian)
  • 11.7% Irish
  • 6.3% English
  • 5.1% Polish
  • 4.2% French American
  • 3.7% Czech

Ancestries claimed by less than 3% of the population include American, Italian, and Dutch, each between 2 and 3%; Sub-Saharan African and East African, Scottish, French Canadian, Scotch-Irish and Mexican, each between 1 and 1.9%; and less than 1% each for Russian, Welsh, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Swiss, Arab, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Greek, Slovak, Lithuanian, Portuguese, and West Indian.

The French Renaissance style Cathedral of St. Paul in the city of St. Paul

The state's racial composition in the 2010 American Census Bureau was:

  • White: 86.9% ( Non-Hispanic Whites: 83.1%)
  • African American: 5.4%
  • American Indian and Alaska Native: 1.1%
  • Asian: 4.0%
  • Pacific Islander: 0.0%
  • Other races: 2.4%
  • Multiracial: 1.8%
  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 4.7%

In 1970, the Census Bureau reported Minnesota's population as 98.2% white. In 2011, non-Hispanic whites were involved in 72.3% of all the births. Minnesota's growing minority groups, however, still form a smaller percentage of the population than in the nation as a whole.


The majority of Minnesotans are Protestants, including a significant Lutheran affiliation owing to the state's largely Northern European ethnic makeup, though Roman Catholics (of largely German, Irish, and Slavic descent) make up the largest single Christian denomination. A 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that 32.0% of Minnesotans were affiliated with Mainline Protestant traditions, 21.0% with Evangelical Protestants, 28.0% with Roman Catholic, 1.0% each with Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Black Protestant traditions, smaller amounts for other faiths, and 13.0% unaffiliated. This is broadly consistent with the results of the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, which also gives detail on percentages of many individual denominations. Although Christianity is dominant, there is a long history of non-Christian faiths. Ashkenazi Jewish pioneers set up Saint Paul's first synagogue in 1856. Eckankar's headquarters are located in Chanhassen, Minnesota.


Once primarily a producer of raw materials, Minnesota's economy has transformed to emphasize finished products and services. Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the economy is its diversity; the relative outputs of its business sectors closely match the United States as a whole. The economy of Minnesota had a gross domestic product of $262 billion in 2008. In 2008, thirty-three of the United States' top 1,000 publicly traded companies (by revenue ) were headquartered in Minnesota, including Target, UnitedHealth Group, 3M, Medtronic, General Mills, U.S. Bancorp, Ameriprise, Hormel, Land O' Lakes, SuperValu, Best Buy and Valspar. Private companies based in Minnesota include Cargill, the largest privately owned company in the United States, and Carlson Companies, the parent company of Radisson Hotels.

The per capita personal income in 2008 was $42,772, the tenth-highest in the nation. The three-year median household income from 2002 to 2004 was $55,914, ranking fifth in the U.S. and first among the 36 states not on the Atlantic coast.

As of January 2013, the state's unemployment rate is 5.5%.

Industry and commerce

The IDS Tower, designed by Philip Johnson is the state's tallest building, reflecting César Pelli's Art Deco-style Wells Fargo Centre

Minnesota's earliest industries were fur trading and agriculture; the city of Minneapolis grew around the flour mills powered by St. Anthony Falls. Although less than 1% of the population is employed in the agricultural sector, it remains a major part of the state's economy, ranking 6th in the nation in the value of products sold. The state is the U.S.'s largest producer of sugar beets, sweet corn, and green peas for processing, and farm-raised turkeys. Minnesota has the most food cooperatives per capita in America. Forestry remains strong, including logging, pulpwood processing and paper production, and forest products manufacturing. Minnesota was famous for its soft-ore mines, which produced a significant portion of the world's iron ore for over a century. Although the high-grade ore is now depleted, taconite mining continues, using processes developed locally to save the industry. In 2004, the state produced 75% of the country's usable iron ore. The mining boom created the port of Duluth which continues to be important for shipping ore, coal, and agricultural products. The manufacturing sector now includes technology and biomedical firms in addition to the older food processors and heavy industry. The nation's first indoor shopping mall was Edina's Southdale Centre and its largest is Bloomington's Mall of America.

Minnesota is one of 42 U.S. states with its own lottery; its games include Powerball, Hot Lotto (both multi-state), and Gopher 5.

Energy use and production

The state produces ethanol fuel and is the first to mandate its use, a 10% mix ( E10). In 2005 there were more than 310 service stations supplying E85 fuel, comprising 85& ethanol and 15% gasoline. A 2% biodiesel blend has been required in diesel fuel since 2005. As of December 2006 the state was the country's fourth-largest producer of wind power, with 895  megawatts installed and another 200 megawatts planned, much of it on the windy Buffalo Ridge in the southwest part of the state.

State taxes

Minnesota has a progressive income tax structure; the three brackets of state income tax rates are 5.35%, 7.05% and 7.85%. As of 2008, Minnesota was ranked as 12th in the nation for per capita total state and local taxes. In 2008, Minnesotans paid 10.2% of their income in state and local taxes, compared to the US average of 9.7% of income. This ranks Minnesota 12th among the states for total state and local tax burden. The state sales tax in Minnesota is 6.875%, but there is no sales tax on clothing, prescription drug medications, some services, or food items for home consumption. The state legislature may allow municipalities to institute local sales taxes and special local taxes, such as the 0.5% supplemental sales tax in Minneapolis. Excise taxes are levied on alcohol, tobacco, and motor fuel. The state imposes a use tax on items purchased elsewhere but used within Minnesota. Owners of real property in Minnesota pay property tax to their county, municipality, school district, and special taxing districts.


Fine and performing arts

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Beaux-Arts north facade, designed by McKim, Mead, and White.

Minnesota's leading fine art museums include the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Centre, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, and the The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA). All are located in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are prominent full-time professional musical ensembles that perform concerts and offer educational programs to the Twin Cities' community. The world-renowned Guthrie Theatre moved into a new Minneapolis facility in 2006, boasting three stages and overlooking the Mississippi River. Attendance at theatrical, musical, and comedy events in the area is strong. In the United States, the Twin Cities' number of theatre seats per capita ranks behind only New York City; with some 2.3 million theatre tickets sold annually. The Minnesota Fringe Festival is an annual celebration of theatre, dance, improvisation, puppetry, kids' shows, visual art, and musicals. The summer festival consists of over 800 performances over 11 days in Minneapolis, and is the largest non-juried performing arts festival in the United States.


The rigors and rewards of pioneer life on the prairie were the subject of Giants in the Earth by Ole Rolvaag and of the Little House series of children's books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Small-town life was attacked by Sinclair Lewis in the novel Main Street, and more gently and affectionately satirized by Garrison Keillor in his tales of Lake Wobegon. St. Paul native F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of the social insecurities and aspirations of the young city in stories such as Winter Dreams and The Ice Palace (published in Flappers and Philosophers). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem The Song of Hiawatha was inspired by Minnesota and names many of the state's places and bodies of water.


First Avenue nightclub, the heart of Minnesota's music community.

Minnesotan musicians of many genres include rock star Prince, harmony singers The Andrews Sisters, rockabilly star Eddie Cochran, folk musician Bob Dylan, surf band The Trashmen, garage rock band The Castaways, pop songwriters Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, indie rock artists Jonny Lang and Soul Asylum, independent hip-hop labels Rhymesayers Entertainment and Doomtree and cult favorites such as Hüsker Dü and The Replacements.

Minnesotans have made significant contributions to comedy, theatre, and film. Ole and Lena jokes are best appreciated when delivered in the accent of Scandinavian Americans. Garrison Keillor is known around the country for resurrecting old-style radio comedy with A Prairie Home Companion, which has aired since the 1970s. Local television had the satirical show The Bedtime Nooz in the 1960s, while area natives Lizz Winstead and Craig Kilborn helped create the increasingly influential Daily Show decades later. Actors from the state include Eddie Albert, Judy Garland, Jessica Lange, Seann William Scott, Josh Hartnett, Jessica Biel, Vince Vaughn, Rachael Leigh Cook, Steve Zahn, Kevin Sorbo, Cedric Yarbrough and Winona Ryder. Joel and Ethan Coen, Terry Gilliam and Mike Todd contributed to the art of film, and others brought the offbeat cult shows Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Let's Bowl to national cable from the Twin Cities.

The PBS Saint Paul, MN station-Twin Cities Public Television-also created a weekly arts series, MN Original, which showcases the diverse culture and arts scene in Minnesota.

Popular culture

A youth fiddle performance at the Minnesota State Fair

Stereotypical Minnesotan traits include manners known as " Minnesota nice", Lutheranism, a strong sense of community and shared culture, and their distinctive brand of North Central American English sprinkled with Scandinavian-sounding words such as uff da. Potlucks, usually with a variety of hotdish casseroles, are popular at community functions, especially church activities. Minnesota's Scandinavian heritage makes lutefisk a traditional holiday dish. Movies like Fargo, The Mighty Ducks, Juno, A Serious Man, Drop Dead Gorgeous, New in Town, Jingle All the Way, Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men; the television series Mystery Science Theatre 3000, The Golden Girls, the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Coach; the radio show A Prairie Home Companion; and the book How to Talk Minnesotan lampoon (and celebrate) Minnesotan culture, speech and mannerisms.

The Minnesota State Fair, advertised as The Great Minnesota Get-Together, is an icon of state culture. In a state of 5.3 million people, there were almost 1.8 million visitors to the fair in 2009, breaking the previous record set in 2001. The fair covers the variety of life in Minnesota, including fine art, science, agriculture, food preparation, 4H displays, music, the midway, and corporate merchandising. It is known for its displays of seed art, butter sculptures of dairy princesses, the birthing barn, and the "fattest pig" competition. One can also find dozens of varieties of food on a stick, such as Pronto Pups, cheese curds, and deep fried candy bars. On a smaller scale, many of these attractions are offered at numerous county fairs.

Other large annual festivals include the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Minneapolis' Aquatennial and Mill City Music Festival, Moondance Jam in Walker, Sonshine Christian music festival in Willmar, the Judy Garland Festival in Grand Rapids, Eelpout Festival on Leech Lake, and WE Fest in Detroit Lakes.


The Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

The people of Minnesota have a high rate of participation in outdoor activities; the state is ranked first in the percentage of residents who engage in regular exercise.

Minnesotans have low rates of premature death, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease, and occupational fatalities, long life expectancies, and a high rate of health insurance. These and other measures have led two groups to rank Minnesota as the healthiest state in the nation, but in one of these rankings Minnesota descended from first to sixth in the nation between 2005 and 2009, due to low levels of public health funding and prevalence of binge drinking.

On October 1, 2007 Minnesota became the seventeenth state to enact a statewide smoking ban in restaurants and bars with the enactment of Freedom to Breathe Act.

Medical care is provided by a comprehensive network of hospitals and clinics, headed by two institutions with international reputations. The University of Minnesota Medical School is a highly rated teaching institution that has made a number of breakthroughs in treatment, and its research activities contribute significantly to the state's growing biotechnology industry. The Mayo Clinic, a world-renowned medical practice, is based in Rochester. Mayo and the University are partners in the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, a state-funded program that conducts research into cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart health, obesity, and other areas.


The Richardsonian Romanesque Pillsbury Hall (1889) is one of the oldest buildings on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus.

One of the first acts of the Minnesota Legislature when it opened in 1858 was the creation of a normal school at Winona. This commitment to education has contributed to a literate and well-educated population; the state ranked 13th on the 2006–2007 Morgan Quitno Smartest State Award, and is first in the percentage of residents with at least a high school diploma. But while more than 90% of high school seniors graduated in 2006, about 6% of white, 28% of African American, 30% of Asian American and more than 34% of Hispanic and Native American students dropped out of school. In 2007 Minnesota students earned the highest average score in the nation on the ACT exam. While Minnesota has chosen not to implement school vouchers, it is home to the first charter school.

The state supports a network of public universities and colleges, including 32 institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, and five major campuses of the University of Minnesota. It is also home to more than 20 private colleges and universities, six of which rank among the nation's top 100 liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. News & World Report.


The Aerial Lift Bridge at Duluth

Transportation in Minnesota is overseen by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT for short and used in the local news media). Principal transportation corridors radiate from the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area and Duluth. The major Interstate highways are I-35, I-90, and I-94, with I-35 and I-94 passing through the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area, and I-90 going east-west along the southern edge of the state. In 2006, a constitutional amendment was passed that required sales and use taxes on motor vehicles to fund transportation, with at least 40% dedicated to public transit. There are nearly two dozen rail corridors in Minnesota, most of which go through Minneapolis–St. Paul or Duluth. There is water transportation along the Mississippi River system and from the ports of Lake Superior.

A Hiawatha Line vehicle in Minneapolis

Minnesota's principal airport is Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP), a major passenger and freight hub for Delta Air Lines and Sun Country Airlines. Most other domestic carriers serve the airport. Large commercial jet service is provided at Duluth and Rochester, with scheduled commuter service to six smaller cities via Delta Connection carriers Comair, Mesaba Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Compass Airlines' and Pinnacle Airlines.

Amtrak's daily Empire Builder (Chicago–Seattle/Portland) train runs through Minnesota, calling at Midway Station in St. Paul and five other stations. Intercity bus providers include Jefferson Lines, Greyhound, and Megabus. Local public transit is provided by bus networks in the larger cities and by two rail lines: The Northstar Line commuter rail service runs from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis, and the Hiawatha Line electrified light rail service runs from the Northstar's terminus to the MSP Airport and Bloomington.

Law and government

As with the federal government of the United States, power in Minnesota is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.


The executive branch is headed by the governor. Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, took office on January 3, 2011, to become the first Democratic Governor to hold the seat in two decades. The governor has a cabinet consisting of the leaders of various state government agencies, called commissioners. The other elected constitutional offices are secretary of state, attorney general, and state auditor.


The Minnesota State Capitol in Saint Paul, designed by Cass Gilbert.

The Minnesota Legislature is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The state has sixty-seven districts, each covering about sixty thousand people. Each district has one senator and two representatives (each district being divided into A and B sections). Senators serve for four years and representatives for two years. In the November 2010 election, the Minnesota Republican Party gained twenty-five house seats, giving them control of the House of Representatives by a 72-62 margin. The 2010 election also saw Minnesota voters elect a Republican majority in the Senate for the first time since 1972. In 2012 however the Democrats regained the House of Representatives by a margin of 73-61, picking up 11 seats. The Democrats also regained the Minnesota Senate.


Minnesota's court system has three levels. Most cases start in the district courts, which are courts of general jurisdiction. There are 279 district court judgeships in ten judicial districts. Appeals from the trial courts and challenges to certain governmental decisions are heard by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, consisting of nineteen judges who typically sit in three-judge panels. The seven-justice Minnesota Supreme Court hears all appeals from the Tax Court, the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals, first-degree murder convictions, and discretionary appeals from the Court of Appeals; it also has original jurisdiction over election disputes.

Two specialized courts within administrative agencies have been established: the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals, and the Tax Court, which deals with non-criminal tax cases.


In addition to the city and county levels of government found in the United States, Minnesota has other entities that provide governmental oversight and planning. Some actions in the Twin Cities metropolitan area are coordinated by the Metropolitan Council, and many lakes and rivers are overseen by watershed districts and soil and water conservation districts.

There are seven Anishinaabe reservations and four Dakota self-governing communities in Minnesota.


Minnesota's United States senators are Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Democrat Al Franken. The outcome of the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Minnesota was contested until June 30 the next year; when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favour of Franken, Republican Norm Coleman conceded defeat, and the vacant seat was filled by Franken. The state has eight congressional districts; they are represented by Tim Walz ( 1st district; DFL), John Kline ( 2nd; R), Erik Paulsen ( 3rd; R), Betty McCollum ( 4th; DFL), Keith Ellison ( 5th; DFL), Michele Bachmann ( 6th; R), Collin Peterson ( 7th; DFL), and Rick Nolan ( 8th; DFL).

Federal court cases are heard in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, which holds court in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Fergus Falls. Appeals are heard by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in St. Louis, Missouri and routinely also hears cases in St. Paul.


Election results from statewide races
Year Office GOP DFL Others
2012 President 45.1% 52.8% 2.1%
Senator 30.6% 65.3% 4.1%
2010 Governor 43.2% 43.7% 13.1%
2008 President 43.8% 54.1% 2.1%
Senator 42.0% 42.0% 16.0%
2006 Governor 46.7% 45.7% 7.6%
Senator 37.9% 58.1% 4.0%
2004 President 47.6% 51.1% 1.3%
2002 Governor 44.4% 33.5% 22.1%
Senator 49.5% 47.3% 1.0%
2000 President 45.5% 47.9% 6.6%
Senator 43.3% 48.8% 7.9%
1998 Governor 34.3% 28.1% 37.6%
1996 President 35.0% 51.1% 13.9%
Senator 41.3% 50.3% 8.4%
1994 Governor 63.3% 34.1% 2.6%
Senator 49.1% 44.1% 6.8%
1992 President 31.9% 43.5% 24.6%

Minnesota is known for a politically active citizenry, and populism has been a longstanding force among the state's political parties. Minnesota has a consistently high voter turnout (due in part to its liberal voter registration laws) "with virtually no evidence of unlawful voting". In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, 77.9% of eligible Minnesotans voted—the highest percentage of any U.S. state—versus the national average of 61.2%. Previously unregistered voters can register on election day at their polls with evidence of residency.

Hubert Humphrey brought national attention to the state with his address at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. Eugene McCarthy's anti-war stance and popularity in the 1968 New Hampshire primary likely convinced Lyndon B. Johnson to drop out of the presidential election. Minnesotans have consistently cast their Electoral College votes for Democratic presidential candidates since 1976, longer than any other state. Minnesota is the only state in the nation that did not vote for Ronald Reagan in either of his presidential runs. Minnesota has gone to the Democratic Party in every Presidential Election since 1960, with the exception of 1972, when it was carried by Richard Nixon and the Republican Party.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties have major party status in Minnesota, but its state-level "Democratic" party is actually a separate party, officially known as the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL). Formed out of a 1944 alliance of the Minnesota Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties, the DFL now serves as a de facto proxy to the federal Democratic Party, and its distinction from the Democratic Party, while still official, is now a functional technicality.

The state has had active third party movements. The Reform Party, now the Independence Party, was able to elect former mayor of Brooklyn Park and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura to the governorship in 1998. The Independence Party has received enough support to keep major party status. The Green Party, while no longer having major party status, has a large presence in municipal government, notably in Minneapolis and Duluth, where it competes directly with the DFL party for local offices. Official "Major party" status in Minnesota (which grants state funding for elections) is reserved to parties whose candidates receive 5% or more of the vote in any statewide election (e.g., Governor, Secretary of State, U.S. President).

The state's U.S. Senate seats have generally been split since the early 1990s, and in the 108th and 109th Congresses, Minnesota's congressional delegation was split, with four representatives and one senator from each party. In the 2006 midterm election, Democrats were elected to all state offices except for governor and lieutenant governor, where Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Carol Molnau narrowly won re-election. The DFL also posted double-digit gains in both houses of the legislature, elected Amy Klobuchar to the U.S. Senate, and increased the party's U.S. House caucus by one. Keith Ellison (DFL) was elected as the first African American U.S. Representative from Minnesota as well as the first Muslim elected to Congress nationwide. In 2008 DFLer and former comedian and radio talk show host Al Franken beat incumbent Republican Norm Coleman in the United States Senate race by only a few hundred votes out of 3 million cast.

In the election of 2010, Republicans took control of both chambers of the Minnesota legislature for the first time in 38 years, and Mark Dayton of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party took the governor's office for the first time in 20 years. Two years later, the DFL regained control of both houses, and with Governor Dayton in office, the party has same-party control of both the legislative and executive branches for the first time since 1990.

Sports and recreation

Organized sports

A faceoff between the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the St. Cloud State University Huskies during the WCHA Final Five at the Xcel Energy Centre.

Minnesota has professional men's teams in all major sports. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is home to the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. The building formerly hosted the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball, winners of the 1987 and 1991 World Series. The Twins began playing at Target Field in 2010. The Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association play in the Target Centre. The National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild team reached 300 consecutive sold-out games in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Centre on January 16, 2008. Minnesota United FC replaced the United Soccer League Minnesota Thunder in 2010 and plays at the National Sports Centre in Blaine.

Minor league baseball is represented both by major league-sponsored teams and independent teams such as the popular St. Paul Saints.

Professional women's sports include the Minnesota Lynx of the Women's National Basketball Association, winners of the 2011 WNBA Championship, the Minnesota Lightning of the United Soccer Leagues W-League, the Minnesota Vixen of the Independent Women's Football League, the Minnesota Valkyrie of the Lingerie Football League and the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women's Hockey League.

The Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota is a National Collegiate Athletic Association ( NCAA) Division I school, with the university's sports teams competing in either the Big Ten Conference or the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Four additional schools in the state compete in NCAA Division I ice hockey: the University of Minnesota Duluth; Minnesota State University, Mankato; St. Cloud State University and Bemidji State University. There are nine NCAA Division II colleges in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, and nineteen NCAA Division III colleges in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.

Winter Olympic Games medallists from the state include twelve of the twenty members of the gold medal 1980 ice hockey team (coached by Minnesota native Herb Brooks) and the bronze medallist U.S. men's curling team in the 2006 Winter Olympics. Swimmer Tom Malchow won an Olympic gold medal in the 2000 Summer games and a silver medal in 1996.

Grandma's Marathon is run every summer along the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior, and the Twin Cities Marathon winds around lakes and the Mississippi River during the peak of the fall colour season. Farther north, Eveleth is the location of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Outdoor recreation

Fishing in Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis

Minnesotans participate in high levels of physical activity, and many of these activities are outdoors. The strong interest of Minnesotans in environmentalism has been attributed to the popularity of these pursuits.

In the warmer months, these activities often involve water. Weekend and longer trips to family cabins on Minnesota's numerous lakes are a way of life for many residents. Activities include water sports such as water skiing, which originated in the state, boating, canoeing, and fishing. More than 36% of Minnesotans fish, second only to Alaska.

Fishing does not cease when the lakes freeze; ice fishing has been around since the arrival of early Scandinavian immigrants. Minnesotans have learned to embrace their long, harsh winters in ice sports such as skating, hockey, curling, and broomball, and snow sports such as cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

State and national forests and the seventy-two state parks are used year-round for hunting, camping, and hiking. There are almost 20,000 miles (32,000 km) of snowmobile trails statewide. Minnesota has more miles of bike trails than any other state, and a growing network of hiking trails, including the 235-mile (378 km) Superior Hiking Trail in the northeast. Many hiking and bike trails are used for cross-country skiing during the winter.

State symbols

The Common Loon's distinctive cry is heard during the summer months on lakes throughout the state.

Minnesota's state symbols:

  • State bird: Common Loon
  • State butterfly: Monarch
  • State drink: Milk
  • State fish: Walleye
  • State flower: Pink and white lady slipper
  • State fruit: Honeycrisp apple
  • State gemstone: Lake Superior agate
  • State grain: Wild rice
  • State motto: L'Étoile du Nord ("The Star of the North")
  • State muffin: Blueberry
  • State mushroom: Morel
  • State photograph: Grace
  • State song: " Hail! Minnesota"
  • State sport: Ice hockey
  • State tree: Red Pine also known as Norway Pine
  • Nicknames:
    • "Land of 10,000 Lakes"
    • "North Star State"
    • "Gopher State"
    • "Land of Sky-Blue Waters"
    • "Bread and Butter State" (A reference to the grain and dairy products Minnesota produces)
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