Iconic MN must-visit photo backdrops

With thousands of Super Bowl visitors coming to Minnesota and the Twin Cities for the very first time, we thought it might be helpful to share some iconic (and odd) photo backdrops that conjure up what this place is all about.

One of the great things about traveling to an unfamiliar place is the joy of discovery... seeing or doing something you've never done before.

And yet many destinations, whether just down the road or across the globe, can be associated with an image that immediately is identified with that place. Think Paris and the Eiffel Tower, Rome and the Colloseum, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge... you get the point.

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With thousands of Super Bowl visitors coming to Minnesota and the Twin Cities for the very first time, we thought it might be helpful to share some backdrops that conjure up what this place is all about. To do so, we enlisted the help of KARE 11 photojournalist Carly Danek, whose unique sense of curiosity and adventure has taken her down main streets and back roads across the state. She has chronicled those visits by taking pictures in front of identifiable icons and oddities (many of which feature her leaping).

With no further adieu.... here's Carly.


I love this town. I love this state. If you and I were friends and you asked me what to do on your visit, I'd have enough ideas to keep you busy until the snow melts (and then I'd have more because SUMMER). This small subset is only that, a teeny tiny selection of cool places to visit and photograph that are a few blocks... or a few hours away from that pretty new stadium you came to see.

The Guthrie Theater and the Amber Box

The Amber Box, found on the 9th floor of the Guthrie Theater, provides a near-360 degree view of the Minneapolis riverfront.

How lucky are we that the Guthrie Theater is in this community? So lucky, that's how lucky. If you have a chance to see a show while you are here, GO. If you don't have a ticket, still go. Stop in and check out the Endless Bridge and the Amber Box. You will see great views of the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls. The riverfront is one of my favorite parts of the city.

First Avenue stars

The First Avenue Wall of Stars is a who's who of music acts... from Ace Frehly to The Fugees, Siouxsie Sioux to Sonic Youth... who have played the venue that Prince helped make famous.

Classic Minneapolis. First Ave is an iconic music club that is best known by its cameo in the movie Purple Rain. That's right, Prince played here and, as you can see by the collection of stars out front, so has everyone else (okay, maybe not everyone, but everyone cool).

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The Music Wall

An awesome photo backdrop in its own right, the Schmidt Music Wall's cool factor is upped by the fact that Prince posed for an iconic pic here in 1977.

If you're a Prince fan, you've probably seen this mural. Young Prince Rogers Nelson posed in front of it 41 years ago. It's on 10th and Marquette in downtown Minneapolis. Stop by and try to replicate the iconic photo.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

The Spoonbridge and Cherry is likely the image most associated with Minneapolis and the Twin Cities, but that doesn't mean it has to be cliche'. Here, Carly puts her own sundown spin on the sculpture.

Of course you have to go see a giant spoon holding a giant cherry. It's the center piece of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden which has just reopened after a renovation. Also see the giant blue rooster and the cool views of the city. If the cold gets to you, the Walker Art Center is across the street and is great for an afternoon wander.


The Luminary Loppet features a trail of ice lanterns around Lake of the Isles that leads adventurous spirits to an ice forest, ice sculptures, ice-cropolis, ice-henge... do you sense a theme?

The City of Lakes Loppet is a festival that is known for it's cross country ski races. But they also have snowshoe events and one of my favorite winter events, the Luminary Loppet. A trail of ice lanterns around Lake of the Isles leads you to an ice forest, ice sculptures, ice-cropolis, ice-henge, have you noticed a theme? I love this event. Wear your long johns and put on your boots. This is cool. Literally. And figuratively. If you want to do this, you need to register. Info here.

More Minneapolis ideas

Minnehaha Falls, Matt's Bar for a Jucy Lucy, walk around the Chain of Lakes, ice skate at Lake of the Isles, cross country ski at Theo Wirth, how much time do you have....

**Carly made sure we included this Mea Culpa**

Dear people of St. Paul who might be a bit miffed that I haven't included any St. Paul sites: I LOVE St. Paul. I do. Promise. I went through my photos and it turns out I don't take a lot of photos in iconic St. Paul locations. I will do better.

To new visitors: St. Paul is great! Go there. Como Park has both a zoo and a conservatory. The gardens in the conservatory are beautiful and it's a great place to get out of the cold. I also recommend wandering through the Union Depot, Mears Park, the Landmark Center, Rice Park, stop by the James J. Hill house, check out F. Scott Fitzgerald's childhood home - there's SO much.


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Are you not really a city person? Anxious to explore what Greater Minnesota has to offer? It should come as no surprise that Ms. Danek has some ideas and suggestions on things you should check out.

Franconia Sculpture Park

Carly is not a woman of few words, but even she has trouble coming up with a description for the wacky, artful statement that is the Franconia Sculpture Garden.

An hour drive will get you to this absurd sculpture garden that I love. It is free and is fun no matter the weather. I'm having a hard time thinking about how to describe it. The sculptures are all so different from each other and I enjoy just wandering through and seeing what interests me. When you're done here, pop down to Taylors Falls.

Headwaters of the Mississippi

Carly says it's awesome to stand at the headwaters and try and imagine how the water underfoot will be taking a 2300 mile trip to Louisiana. By the way, it doesn't look like this in January and February.

The Mississippi River, it's kind of a big deal. I don't know if you've heard of it. Stand at the headwaters and try and imagine how this water will be taking a 2300 mile trip to Louisiana. This spot is in the beautiful Itasca State Park and is worth exploring on snowshoes or skis or by a fire.


Love giant Roadside Attractions? Carly does too. She has a bunch, so buckle up and start your engines!.

Dala Horse

A nod to the region's Swedish heritage. It's in Mora, MN

The Dala Horse looms on the horizon in Mora, Minnesota, and is a nod to the region's Swedish heritage.

Giant ear of corn

As advertised. It's in Olivia, MN

It's giant... it's corn... it's Olivia's giant ear of corn. And it makes Carly leap.

Paul Bunyan

Lucky you, there are at least 5 giant Pauls in Minnesota. The most iconic is Paul with Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji. I couldn't track down my photo from there, so here I am sitting in the lap of a Paul in Brainerd and lounging with my friends in the hands of the Paul in Akeley.

There is no shortage of Paul Bunyans on Minnesota's landscape, thanks in part to the state's lumber industry. Here Carly sits on the lap of Brainerd Paul.
This Paul Bunyan calls Akely, Minnesota home. His beared is a bit more unkempt than his Brainerd compatriot.

Green Giant

He's green, he's giant, and his vegetables are delicious. In Blue Earth, MN

You likely know him from vegetable cans, but wait until you see the Green Giant in person!

Smokey the Bear

Way up north in International Falls. Bundle up, I-Falls (as the locals call it) is known as the icebox of the nation. (that, and Embarrass)

This huge Smokey The Bear stands watch in International Falls, reminding visitors to prevent forest fires... and take awesome pictures.

This is only a small sampling of the GIANT things to find in Minnesota. If you love this kind of stuff, some internet searching will show you several large fish, a king-sized otter, a humongous hockey stick, Paul Bunyan's girlfriend, and the world's largest ball of twine rolled up by one person (it's impressive, promise).

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Have fun!