By Lauren Monsen
Most people know Minnesota as a Midwestern state with over 10,000 lakes and spectacular scenery. And they might know it as home to music icons Bob Dylan and Prince, as well as the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.
But they may not realize it’s a cosmopolitan and multicultural state that embraces the immigrant heritage of many ethnic groups. In fact, its largest city, Minneapolis, welcomes some 30 million visitors annually.
The Norwegian and French-Canadian immigrants who arrived in the 19th century were followed, in the next two centuries, by immigrants from every corner of the globe. Today Minnesota has the largest Hmong, Nepali and Somali diaspora groups in the United States, along with a large population of German Americans.
“Minnesota is home to a vast array of ethnic groups, many of whom have lived in the state for generations,” Madel said. “In addition to the long-established ethnic groups in Minnesota, the state is experiencing a tremendous growth in more recently arrived immigrant communities.”
Minnesota’s demographic diversity is mirrored in the cosmopolitan character of its cities, particularly Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Twin Cities offer an abundance of cultural amenities, including opera and theater companies, professional sports teams, orchestras, museums and venues for live music. World-class restaurants featuring many types of cuisine abound.
In St. Paul, right next to Minneapolis (the two cities are known as the Twin Cities), a popular event called the Festival of Nations takes place every spring. For nearly 85 years, the festival has offered music and dance performances, exhibits, activities and food. It celebrates the cultures of nearly 100 ethnic groups.
The 2018 festival will have more than 1,000 participants and draw about 60,000 visitors from all over the world, according to Justin Madel, the festival’s director.
Not a stranger to big events, Minneapolis has an infrastructure that accommodates large gatherings. The city hosted the Super Bowl football championship in 1992 and will host it again in February 2018.
With an established light-rail mass transit system and extensive lodgings, the city of Minneapolis welcomes tens of millions of visitors annually. Its Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States, attracts 50,000 visitors from China alone each year. Visitors from across the United States, and from around the world, buy clothes and shoes (tax-free) and countless other goods.
Minneapolis also hosts thousands of international students annually. The University of Minnesota, for example, enrolled students from 109 countries during the 2016–2017 academic year.
Although Minneapolis is a vibrant urban center, it offers easy access to state and national parks.
Residents and visitors enjoy Minnesota’s lakes and rivers by renting canoes, kayaks or fishing boats to explore the state’s almost endless waterways and unspoiled recreation spots. Camping is popular, and wildlife — ranging from wolves to bears, and other creatures — can be viewed (from a safe distance) in many protected areas.
So the next time you’re planning a trip to the United States, consider adding Minnesota to your itinerary. Whether you want a taste of city life or you want to commune with nature (or do a bit of everything!), Minnesota will welcome you.