Wheelchair Accessible Wonders in Marvelous Minnesota
What has 10,000 lakes and at least 10 really cool wheelchair accessible attractions? It's Minnesota--a beautiful state with plenty to do for wheelers of all ages! Our first stop is Minneapolis--and a mega-mall that has it all!
Mall of America, Minneapolis
It's hard to imagine a shopping mall that's one of the top tourist destinations in America. Welcome to the mecca of merchandise since 1992, and plan to spend the day--there's a lot of territory to cover. Besides the typical shops, stores, restaurants, and movie theaters, the largest mall in North America houses a SEA LIFE aquarium, Nickelodeon Universe, a LEGO Imagination Center, the House of Comedy, and the popular Moose Mountain Adventure Golf--all wheelchair accessible. You'll have a ball at this mall!
Cathedral of Saint Paul, Minneapolis/St. Paul
You've probably guessed that the cathedral's patron saint inspired the city's name, and you're right. Be thankful for that, because the city was formerly known as Pig's Eye Settlement. The first Catholic priest in the area dedicated the cathedral to St. Paul and requested that the settlement adopt the name.
Today, the Cathedral of Saint Paul, which seats 3,000 people, is a national historical landmark and mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Considered one of the finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture, the church's cornerstone was laid in 1907. Take one of their wheelchair accessible,weekday guided tours. When the sun shines through the stunning stained-glass windows, it will take your breath away.
Mayo Clinic, Rochester
Perhaps the most well-know center for medical research and patient care on the planet, the flagship campus of the Mayo Clinic iin Rochester offers tours (wheelchair accessible, of course!) to people around the world who want to see the famed halls of healing.
William Worrall Mayo, MD, a pioneer doctor who settled in Rochester, began his clinic in 1863, so his brainchild has had 150 years to grow into the internationally respected facility it is, with a stellar reputation for caring doctors and excellence in individual patient care. Over the decades, doctors and students from around the world have come to the Mayo Clinic to study new techniques and technologically advanced medicine, and patients worldwide also travel to the Mayo Clinic for diagnosis and treatment.
Children's Theatre Company, Minneapolis
With elaborate productions of shows like "The Wizard of Oz","Annie", Disney's "High School Musical", "The Magic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle", and "Shrek the Musical", you'll experience a night of never-ending delight at a performance of the Children's Theatre Company (CTC). The company has been entertaining audience of all ages since the early 1960's, when it started out as The Moppet Players.
For the past 50 years, the Theatre has adapted classic children's literature and storybooks for the stage, and their extraordinary accomplishments in the areas of scenic and costume design are widely recognized. Today, CTC is the acknowledged flagship theatre for young people and families in North America. The Theatre is wheelchair accessible, so go find your inner child!
North Shore Scenic Drive, Duluth
On part of Minnesota's northeastern border lies Lake Superior--the world's largest freshwater lake, and the drive along the lake's majestic shoreline is nothing short of spectacular. It's 154 miles long, and, as long as you have a wheelchair van, all 154 miles are accessible to you! You can make the drive in three hours, or you can plan to spend one or two days with stops along the way. You'll come across access to at least seven state parks and the Superior National Forest.
The seven state parks are Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettgouche, Temperance River, Cascade River, Judge C.R. Magney, and Grand Portage. Call before visiting a specific state park to find out about its accessibility. Minnesota state parks are well developed with modern facilities, but the degree of accessibility varies from park to park. Park officials will make every effort to assign a you a campsite or area with appropriate picnic tables and easy access to the restrooms and shower buildings.
Munsinger Clemens Gardens, Plymouth
If your Minnesota vacation is in the spring, bring your camera and your cares to these gorgeous gardens on the banks of the Mississipi River. The Munsinger Clemens Gardens have seen their share of weddings, because the fragrant gardens are immaculately kept, the ambiance is gloriously peaceful, and they're wheelchair accessible.
Stop and smell the breathtaking roses, choose your favorite among the gardens defined by different colors, and bask in the beauty of the day. The Clemens Gardens are comprised of five tiers with fountains and accessible brick paths. Spend a few relaxing, reflective hours among flowers, trees, ponds, pavilions, sculptures, fountains--and a view of the Mississippi River you won't soon forget.
Glensheen Estate, Duluth
Glensheen is the historic Congdon estate, one of the country's acknowledged castles, and it was chosen by TruTV as one of America's Top Ten Haunted Places. We won't tell you why--you'll have to find out yourself. If you like spectacular and spooky, Glensheen is your go-to accessible attraction!
Considered one of Duluth's jewels, the estate was built by Minnesotan and captain of industry Chester Congdon in 1905. The lavish residence, built in the Jacobean style, sits on magnificently landscaped property that overlooks Lake Superior. A icon of Duluth's golden age, the home is a testament to the wealth once generated by the town's local iron mines. The tours barely touch on the home's darker past.
Three of the four floors are wheelchair accessible. That said, your admission fee is discounted, and they have a video of the floor without access.
Assisi Heights Sisters of St. Francis, Rochester
Assisi Heights Convent is the home of The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, a religous organization that has been active for more than 125 years. The structure is reminiscent of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy. Built on a hilltop in northwest Rochester, the three-story Italian Romanesque-style building, completed in 1955, has a unique red tile roof, a Romanesque ceiling, beautiful slate floors, and German hand-blown stained glass windows.
Their work keeps them quite busy. Sisters engage in "individual ministries in the areas of: ecology, education, fine arts, health care, hospitality, international missions, therapeutic work, justice and peace, prayer and spiritual guidance, and more." Convent tours, which are wheelchair accessible, are scheduled Mondays and Saturdays at 2:00 PM. Call for reservations.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
A world of art--past and present--awaits you at the The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), which offers services that make the museum's programs and exhibits accessible to all. Considered one of the finest, wide-ranging art collections in the US, the museum contains works by Rembrant and van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, African and Asian artists, too many to name. Sculpture, textiles, paintings, photography, new media, prints and drawings--MIA has it all.
Also housed at MIA is an education component, with classes, lectures and events--all to "inspire wonder, spur creativity, and nourish the imagination." The museum presents intriguing exhibitions year-round, so it's worth nourishing your "imagination" at MIA on your Minnesota vacation.
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, St. Paul
No vacation in a new city would be complete without a vist to the zoo, and St. Paul has a really cool one waiting for you! Besides a zoo filled with animals and art (yes, art!), Como Park has gardens filled with exotic floral displays, including one called the Enchanted Garden, where they invite you to "walk amongst the butterflies." Family fun at the park includes the Ribbit Zibit and Cafesjian's Carousel, which is wheelchair accessible!
Como Park has a lake and picnic area, a marketplace for snacks and souvenirs, and music concerts. The park's goal is to inspire the public to "value the presence of living things in their lives." There's nothing like being inspired and having fun at the same time!
On Minnesota's license plate, it says "Land of 10,000 Lakes," but it's also known as The Gopher State, and we think that's an excellent suggestion! Set your sights on Minnesota, and "gopher" it!