St. Paul Scavenger Hunt
Are you ready to explore the city? This St. Paul Scavenger Hunt allows you to do just that. The tour will take you through St. Paul’s most charming areas and introduce you to the city’s rich and colorful history. Along the way you’ll discover new restaurants, quaint retail shops and parkland that you surely will want to visit again. The hunt is on. Enjoy!
Burns Ave. Overlook
1450 Burns Ave.
Nature lovers and transportation enthusiasts alike will enjoy this blufftop perch near the intersection of Burns Avenue and Hwy 61 (look for the blue Scenic Overlook sign announcing the entrance). Built in 1950 and restored in 2009, the overlook offers spectacular views of the Mississippi River Valley and the barges, trains, automobiles and aircraft that move through it. Consider visiting at dawn or dusk, when the sun paints pictures in the sky and the city lights below sparkle like diamonds. The area includes green space suitable for an intimate picnic, and ample parking.
1380 Magnolia Ave. E.
As a wave of urban growth enveloped the nation after World War II, ambitious developers eyed open spaces and wetlands merely as plots suitable for housing and commercial developments, and the native landscape took a hit. Such was the case with Ames Lake, a former wetland that was filled in around 1950 to make way for the Phalen Shopping Center. That project, however, did not turn out well for the developer because of ongoing issues with groundwater. Less than 50 years later the shopping center was in bad shape and ripe for change. In 1999, the community stepped in and initiated a plan to demolish the shopping center and reclaim the wetland. Today, the site is a natural sanctuary amidst the urban landscape. One highlight is the wooden, curved walking pier jutting into the lake. Standing on the boardwalk one can see the diverse marshland habitat and hear the trill of songbirds. The lake is a short distance to the Bruce Vento Regional Trail and Phalen Regional Park.
407 S. Wabasha St.
In the early 2000s, hundreds of artistic statues were made of Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip characters and placed all around St. Paul. Most are gone now but a few remain, including one that celebrates Latino heritage. Charlie “Carlitos” Brown is located near Boca Chica Taco House, 407 S. Wabasha St. About one-third of the West Side’s residents are of Latino descent, and the neighborhood is home to St. Paul’s annual Cinco de Mayo celebration. Schulz, who was born in Minneapolis and raised in St. Paul, is widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of all time.
Swede Hollow Henge
665 Greenbrier St.
At the north end of Swede Hollow park is Swede Hollow Henge, a circular arrangement of stones that mildly resembles the famous Stonehenge prehistoric monument near Wiltshire, England. The display was created by artist Christine Baeumler in 1997 as part of a prairie restoration project. The stones are old granite curbstones from past St. Paul Public Works street projects and are arranged in a way that invites people to gather and share conversation. The Swede Hollow neighborhood was once home to many Swedish immigrants, who began settling there in the 1860s and built shanty-style houses with no city sewer or water service. The last of these houses were razed by the City in 1956, and the area became parkland in 1973.
This is the most difficult location on the tour to reach. It requires navigating more than 150 stairs from the parking lot on Greenbrier Street. Alternatively, it can be reached by walking approximately one-quarter mile southbound along the Bruce Vento Regional Trail from the trailhead at Eastside Heritage Park, 735 Phalen Blvd.
China Friendship Garden
Phalen Regional Park
1600 Phalen Dr.
The St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden of Whispering Willows and Flowing Waters at Phalen Regional Park celebrates the sister-city relationship between St. Paul and Changsha, which began in 1988. St. Paul has the largest Hmong population in the United States, and many claim Changsha (capital of Hunan Province) as their ancestral home. The garden was created to promote an understanding of China and its cultural heritage, recognize contributions of Chinese Americans in the Twin Cities, and promote international trade and tourism between China and Minnesota. It’s in a tranquil setting near the shore of Lake Phalen and is still being developed. It features a west entrance archway, Hmong Heritage Wall, and the colorful and ornate Xiang Jiang Pavilion. Plans call for an east entrance and donor wall, a stone garden, a Hmong cultural plaza, a lakeside pavilion with a waterside patio and veranda, and an arched bridge.
542 Maryland Ave. W.
Marydale Park is a prime example of what can happen when the community works together for the common good. In 1974, North End residents banded together to transform a longtime chemical- and waste-disposal site into a city park. They worked with the City of St. Paul, which had bought the land in 1969. Today’s residents are now reaping the benefits. The greenspace alongside Loeb Lake offers many recreational amenities, including a fishing pier on the eastern shore. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has designated the lake as a children’s fishing pond. It is the perfect place to bait a hook with your kids or grandkids and try your luck at
catching scrappy bluegills and crappies.
825 University Ave.
“The Show” will go on—eventually—at the Victoria Theater. The nonprofit Victoria Theatre Arts Center purchased the building in 2014 and is slowly transforming it into an arts and community center. While the building would win no beauty contests in its current state, it’s possible to envision a brighter future. The nonprofit plans to provide intergenerational opportunities for all ages and backgrounds, foster mentorships, and promote healing through restorative justice efforts.
The theater opened in 1915, offering movies and live performances. Within 10 years it had become the Victoria Café nightclub, and later Casa Grande. During Prohibition, the nightclub was raided at least twice by federal agents. The 1927 recording “Moonshiners Dance: Part One” was recorded there by Frank Cloutier and the Victoria Café Orchestra. The song is featured in the 84-track “Anthology of American Folk Music” and is the only one not recorded in the American South or Chicago, according to Historic St. Paul. Check out the fascinating Pullman Porter exhibit next door for a glimpse at the contributions African Americans made to railroads and early Civil Rights efforts.
820 Old Rondo Ave.
One of the most striking elements of the plaza is the collection of 18 large chimes that, when struck, are said to sing the songs of the famed Rondo neighborhood’s predominantly African American community. Rondo was destroyed in the 1950s and ’60s during construction of Interstate-94. Each chime commemorates one of the 18 north-south streets of Rondo, and each hammer features the inscription of a notable family or resident of the old neighborhood. The plaza, which opened in July 2018, features an exhibit wall with displays that celebrate the former Rondo community, as well as the multi-ethnic makeup of today’s nearby neighborhoods. The surrounding park has a lighted beacon that can be seen by drivers on I-94, giving testament that the spirit of the neighborhood lives on.
882 W. Seventh St.,
This historic site dates to 1855 when Christopher Stahlmann opened Cave Brewery. Jacob Schmidt bought the property in 1900 and went on to become the largest brewer in Minnesota and the seventh largest in the country. Minnesota Brewing Co. was the last of six producers to occupy the brewery before closing in 2002. In 2012, local developer Dominium purchased it and transformed it into the Schmidt Artist Lofts, and the Rathskeller building and Keg and Case Market, which both feature several independent businesses. “The Drink” aquifer well is also there. It draws from the largest and deepest aquifer in Minnesota, the same one used for generations by the brewing companies. It’s as deep as 1,500 feet and is said to have some of the purest naturally filtered water in the Midwest. Bring your 1- to 5-gallon container to take home some of this natural refreshment for a nominal fee.
1564 Lafond Ave.
The park’s historic 2-story limestone playground shelter dates to 1938. It was designed by Clarence Wiginton, the country’s first African American municipal architect, who also designed several other notable structures in St. Paul, including the Harriet Island Pavilion (which now bears his name), the Highland Park Water Tower, Como Park Elementary School and the administration building at St. Paul’s downtown airport, Holman Field. The park also has a court for futsal—a variant of soccer played on a hard surface with a smaller, harder, low-bounce ball—and may be a training ground for budding soccer players dreaming of playing professionally at nearby Allianz Field.
2262 Como Ave.
One of St. Paul’s most charming commercial districts is nestled among the towering trees near Como and Carter avenues. Milton Square is owned by Mary Ann Milton, one of the first female realtors in the city. Attracted to its Old World European charm, she purchased the complex in 1957. Today, the century-old building includes nine residential flats and nearly a dozen tenants, including boutiques, cafes and Winding Trail Books, an independent bookstore that opened in July 2019. Nearby is the equally historic and charming St. Anthony Park Branch Library, 2245 Como Ave. This repository of knowledge is a branch of the St. Paul Public Library and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1917 with money donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
400 Snelling Ave. N.
Sure, this one is hard to miss if you ever travel I-94 but now is the time to take a closer look at the home of Minnesota United FC of Major League Soccer. The 19,400-seat stadium opened in April 2019. Take a photo in front of the UNITED sculpture then enjoy a quiet stroll around the complex without having to dodge enthusiastic fans eager to get inside. Catch a glimpse of the field by peeking in the glass doors at the northeast entrance near the ticket booth.
2250 W. Stanford Ct.
The unassuming 15-foot traffic median filled with grass and pine trees at the intersection of Stanford Court and Woodlawn Avenue belies its former glory. The site was once part of Stonebridge, the decadent estate of Oliver Crosby, co-founder of American Hoist and Derrick. He bought nearly 40 acres in 1907 and spent years building a 20,000-square-foot, 24-room mansion. He spared no expense on the grounds itself, which included two artificial lakes, waterfalls and a large sunken garden.
Crosby and his wife Elizabeth took occupancy in 1916 but his time there was short; he died six years later. By 1944, the family could no longer afford the upkeep or taxes and forfeited the property to the State of Minnesota. The State considered using it for the governor’s residence but decided against it, and the mansion was demolished in 1953. The stone bridge after which the estate was named can still be seen on private property of 280 Mississippi River Blvd., visible from the public trail.
Highland Water Tower
Intersection of Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway
While this 127-foot tower no longer holds water, it does hold a lot of history. Dating to 1928, it was designed by architect Clarence Wigington, who designed more than 90 other structures—including five St. Paul Winter Carnival ice palaces—while working for the City of St. Paul. The stately tower features Kasota and Bedford stone and once held up to 200,000 gallons. The observation deck, which offers panoramic views of the Mississippi River Valley, is open to the public one weekend in July and one in October. Visit www.stpaul.gov (search Highland Tower) for more details. Nearby are two modern water towers that pale in comparison aesthetically.
1006 Summit Ave.
In the early 1900s, St. Paul lumber baron Horace Hills Irvine snapped up one of the last desirable lots on Summit Avenue and hired Minneapolis architect William Channing Whitney to design an English Tudor country manor in the Beaux Arts style. Construction was completed in 1912 on the 14,706-square-foot stone and brick mansion, which featured 20 rooms, nine fireplaces, nine bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and two porches. In 1965, Irvine’s two youngest daughters, Clotilde and Olivia, donated the home to the State of Minnesota, and the State Legislature quickly designated it as the State Ceremonial Building and governor’s residence. The house was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Numerous political dignitaries have visited the home over the years, as have many famous actors, including Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn and those “Grumpy Old Men,” Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
1225 Estabrook Dr.
For more than 75 years these painted ponies loped a circular track at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. In 1988 it appeared they were headed for pasture. After unsuccessfully finding a buyer, the carousel’s owner loaded 20 of the horses and a chariot aboard a truck bound for auction in New York. After hearing the news, a St. Paul couple stepped in to save the day. Peter Boehm and Nancy Peterson quickly organized a nonprofit and raised funds to save the St. Paul treasure. The largest donor, Gerard L. Cafesjian, an executive with West Publishing Company, reportedly said: “I believe something special happens on a merry-go-round. The music, the magic and the movement combine to create a one-of-a-kind experience. When we preserve the carousel, we also preserve that joy and hope—that happiness—for the entire community, for years to come.”
The carousel is typically open six days a week May through Labor Day, and weekends through October. Cost is $3 for ages 1-89, with free days offered once a month May through September. For more information, visit www.ourfaircarousel.org.
350 Robert St. N.
This historic 16-story building is oozing with history both inside and out. The Romanesque Pioneer building, once home to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, opened in 1889 with the first glass elevator in the United States. The Endicott building opened in 1890 and was designed by renowned architects Cass Gilbert and James Knox Taylor. The buildings were connected in the 1940s and are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the upper levels feature apartments, and the skyway level has retail establishments. The ground level has the Minnesota Museum of American Art, which bounced around St. Paul for more than 90 years before finally finding its permanent home here. The M features an extensive collection of more than 5,000 pieces that define the American experience from the 19th century to the present.