Minnesota State Capitol ~ Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Following our time at the Minnesota History Center, we made the short walk over to the state capitol building to take a guided tour. The tour center was clearly labeled in a room just off to the right from the doors we entered. They also had a small gift shop located in the same room. We were told the tour would start just outside the tour office in about 15 minutes, but were free to browse around the rotunda area until the tour began.

We actually had a decent sized group for our tour, including several children, but all of the kids were very well behaved, and our tour guide was wonderful in answering any and all questions throughout the tour. We began in the rotunda area, where he explained how all of the materials used in the building of this third capitol building were native to Minnesota (except for the materials brought in from a Georgia mine, but that mine was bought my Minnesotans to make it still count!) He also explained about how all of the flower/plant carvings found around the building were plants native to the state. Minnesota is also known as the North Star state, so the giant north star in the middle of the rotunda floor pays tribute to that, as well as providing a natural skylight to basement offices, which is why they don’t allow people to walk on top of that North Star formation.

From there we made our way up to the second floor, with our first stop being the Supreme Court chambers. What was neat about this room was that it contains four murals depicting important times in history where “law” was given. I got a picture of when the 10 Commandments were given as I liked how the artist portrayed God as a ball of fire.

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Our next stop on that level was the House of Representatives. We got to view it from the upper chambers public viewing area. I again really liked the artwork and quotes place within the chamber. I also thought it was neat how you could see the board where everyone’s votes show up.

We also got to take a quick view of the Senate Chambers but had to do so quietly as some senators were actually there working. The state capitol recently underwent three years of restoration, and the really neat part was they saved a small part unrestored so that you could see how needed the project was. You can see how dark the paint got from all the people who had previously been allowed to smoke in the building, as well as all the dust that built up over the years, and how as repainting would happen in prior years, things gradually shifted from their original painted location.

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Our tour ended in the Governor’s Reception Hall, which contained four portraits done of the Civil War as Minnesota Regiments were crucial in several battles of the Civil War. They also used to have two paintings of Native American tribes, but those were seen having historic inaccuracies, so they are now looking into other options to fill those portrait areas.

Apparently if you tour in April through October, you also can walk out on the balcony below the rotunda and few the golden sculpture up close. Sadly we visited a few weeks too early, so we may have to stop in another time if we want that experience.

I highly recommend taking the time to tour the building with a guide as it was very informative and is free! They do recommend a small donation, but are not pushy about it.

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Georgia Bucket List: Atlanta Metro

It’s time for the third installment of my Georgia Bucket List series! I know it’s been awhile but what can I say, summer is a time for traveling, which means I spend less time online writing about what I wish to see and more time actually seeing those things!

I’m excited about today, because although I’ve driven through Georgia twice on the way to Disney, I’ve never actually had a chance to stop and explore Atlanta, and it’s one of those places I really hope to get to!

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  • College Footbal Hall of Fame: Football is one of my favorite things, so I figure this would be a pretty fun place to check out!
  • Atlanta Monetary Museum: A museum about money? Sounds like an interesting time!
  • Georgia State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion: Anytime I visit a state capitol, checking out these two locations is a must!
  • Underground Atlanta: Shopping center located underground!
  • The Varsity: The largest drive-in
  • Center for Puppetry Arts: This holds the largest collection of Jim Henson puppet’s in the world, so it’s safe to say a good time would be had here.
  • American Girl Store: I’ve made it my goal in life to visit every American Girl store as I am an avid collector.
  • Atlanta Braves and Falcons Stadiums: While I will always bleed Green and Gold for Football and root for my St. Louis Cards, I still enjoy seeing the other facilities teams get to play in.
  • Atlanta History Center: Whenever I visit a new area I like to take in their history museum. I usually find it gives me a great idea of how the city and area came to be what it is today.
  • Centennial Olympic Park: I am an Olympics super fan, so to visit the park that helps remember the 1996 Olympic Games is a dream come true!
  • Center for Civil and Human Rights: After visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis last summer, I’ve found there’s so much I don’t know and I’m always looking to learn more.
  • Georgia Aquarium: This is the world’s largest aquarium, so I’d say it’s safe to say I’d have a great time here since I’ve loved pretty much any aquarium I’ve already been to.
  • Inside CNN Studio Tour: While it’s a rare occasion that I actually watch the news, I still think it would be fascinating to take a tour of a news studio.
  • Jimmy Carter Presidential Library: A chance to check another presidential library off my list!
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park: Civil War battle field that would get me another stamp in my National Park Passport.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site: A chance to see the birthplace of the great MLK Jr.
  • World of Coca-Cola: While I’m not a fan of Coca-cola in general, I’ve heard from many that this is a must, plus you get to try Coke from different countries, so maybe I’d actually find one I like.
  • Zoo Atlanta: I love zoos and it’s always fun to see how different cities put together unique exhibits.

Marietta

  • Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area: Not only located along a beautiful river, this also would earn me a stamp in my National Park Passport.

Stone Mountain

  • Stone Mountain Park: I’ve wanted to visit Stone Mountain forever, just to see the mural carved into the Mountain.

Clearly I could spend at least a week in Atlanta alone when traveling through Georgia, and this doesn’t even include all the other attractions in the area! I’ve just picked my favorites. Follow my current travel journeys on Instagram by following sitesandbitesjournal.

Suggestions pulled from Georgia’s 2017 Travel Guide

Southern Tour Day 11: Little Rock

Our final day of our trip was spent entirely in Little Rock. We began our morning at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Growing up in the north, it’s very interesting to visit Military Museums in the south because they offer a much different perspective on the Civil War. Part of the museum also focused on the life of MacArthur which was very interesting. They also had a really neat exhibit on photographs from World War II.

After a lunch break, we had two more stops for our day. The first was the Old Statehouse. It was undergoing some renovations during our visit but still had a lot of neat exhibits. I especially enjoyed seeing the dresses of the First Ladies of Arkansas. Quite a few familiar names were among the governors of Arkansas exhibit as well! They also had a fun room for kids to explore different aspects of campaigning on the first floor. My husband had some fun in that room pretending he was on a Whistle Stop tour!

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Our final stop of the day was to the current state capitol. Unlike other state capitols we have visited, this one sure was tough to find a parking spot nearby! We opted to just give ourselves a self-guided tour, but did stumble upon a tour guide with another family when we neared the Senate chambers, so she allowed us to join in so we could see the upper level. We learned a lot of interesting debates they have had about the use of curtains and other sound system aspects. This state capitol also has a nice little gift shop, perfect for stocking up on those postcards!

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We spent the rest of our evening relaxing at the hotel pool. We’d had a fantastic trip through 6 states but were ready to head home before our big move to Iowa a few days later! We traveled back to St. Louis the next day with a stop to Ozark National Scenic Riverway for a final National Park Passport Stamp. What an adventure we had over those 11 days!

Southern Tour Day 7: Baton Rouge

Phew! So sorry to my followers that it’s taken me so long to finish this trip. The work of a preschool teacher and pastor interns wife comes with a lot of responsibility, especially around the holidays!

Day 7 of our Southern Tour brought us to the capitol city of Louisiana: Baton Rouge. Two weeks before Baton Rouge had been filling the news with the police officer shootings so needless to say we weren’t exactly sure what we would be walking into, but hoped for the best. The night before we had reached Baton Rouge and checked into our hotel after being stuck in horrendous traffic for the last hour. Traffic seems to see the biggest issue when dealing with Baton Rouge. Both times we passed through during the trip it was far worse there than in New Orleans.

Our first stop of the day was to see the Old Statehouse. The outside looks like a gorgeous miniature white castle. They had some fascinating exhibits inside, including one about the different flags that have flown in the state throughout the years and one about the different locations of the capitol throughout the state’s history. The upstairs area is nearly empty, but if you use your imagination you can picture how it would look filled with a bustling government. They also have a nice little gift shop there. If you are wanting gifts about the state, this is your stop because the current capitol and state museum offer limited souvenirs or none at all.

Following our visit to the Old Statehouse, we continued on a walk northwards towards the current State capitol. This building is one of the tallest state capitols you can find. Nebraska’s is just a bit taller I believe. We had been told that a trip to the observation deck was a must. I loved every view from the top. My husband doesn’t do well with heights but still peeked out for a little while! It really gives you some perspective on the city from way up there! On our elevator trip back down, we accidentally got out a floor above where we expected, but this gave us a chance to view the Senate and House chambers, so it was a worthwhile mistake.

Our final stop of the morning was a visit to the Louisiana State Museum. The exhibits in this museum were very well done! The bottom level was all state history and the second level dealt with the cultural influences in different regions. It was neat to see how they portrayed areas that we had already visited and a great chance to read up on the next region we would be heading into! We grabbed some fast food for lunch and then headed to our next destination…..Natchitouches. But that would be the next days adventure!

(Roughly) 24 Hours in the Twin Cities

Andrew and I spend a lot of time traveling through the Twin Cities. It’s a great halfway point between both of our hometowns and a nice pit stop when traveling from St. Louis to Bismarck, but we’ve never actually been tourists there aside from a few trips to the Mall of America. So since we had nothing but time this summer to travel, we thought we’d spend a day or so touring the city.

We arrived late in the afternoon on Monday July 11th and caught up with some friends of ours.  Then we had our first bit of tourist time for dinner: A Juicy Lucy Battle. Andrew and I split Juicy Lucy’s at two local bars who claim to be the home of the Juicy Lucy (if you don’t know what this is, it’s a burger that has the cheese melted on the inside and is pretty much the most tasty thing ever.) Our first stop was Matt’s Bar which is quite the hole in the wall and about 10 things on the menu total. We ordered a Juicy Lucy to split. The waitress asked if we wanted onions, which was a big no from us, but failed to mention that pickles would also be included on this burger. Despite the pickle taste we still enjoyed our burger. Next we went over to the 5-8 Club, just down the road. Here we got to choose what cheese we wanted in the burger (pepperjack is always a good way to go). This one was far better than the first, but we both still agree that my dad’s are better.  However the 5-8 Club had a delicious Doughboy dessert that I highly recommend.

We spent the night at Andrew’s aunt and uncle’s apartment and woke up early the next morning to get our sightseeing in. Our first stop would fulfill another spot in the National Park Passport: The Mississippi River National Recreation Area. Due to the fact that the science center downtown is being renovated, the Park Service set up a temporary visitor center at St. Anthony Falls.  I’m so glad they had to move it there because it was neat to see the falls from the observation deck and these are the only falls located naturally along the Mississippi River.

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Directly next to the river, is Mill Ruins Park and Mill City Museum. The old Gold Medal Flour Mill used to sit on this spot and the park sports ruins from that mill and a museum was built in another part of it.  The museum was really interesting and even had a kitchen inside where they baked samples with their products. The best part was our ride in the Flour Tower, which showed us what life at the flour mill was like, and left us at the top floor where we could look out and see St. Anthony Falls from up above.

Anyone who knows us, knows that we are die-hard Green Bay Packer fans, but while in the city, since we were only a few blocks away, we walked past the new U.S. Bank Stadium that the Vikings will begin to play in this year. It’s not everyday that you get to see a brand new stadium!

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Our next stop after lunch was Historic Fort Snelling. After visiting Fort Union earlier this summer, we were much more impressed with this one.  Far more buildings were open for us to peek into and they had Living History people working there so you felt like you’d really stepped back in time.  Our favorite was the blacksmith who taught us how to make a nail in “3 easy steps.”

We attempted to go see the state capitol building in St. Paul after Fort Snelling. We knew the inside was being renovated and wouldn’t be open to the public, but we were surprised to see that the outside was being revamped as well, so no good pictures to be had!

We journeyed out of the city for a little bit of time to Stillwater, MN.  Stillwater is located right on the banks of the St. Croix River. It’s a quaint little tourist town with lots of neat shops to explore and tasty restaurants.  After doing a little shopping, we opted to have dinner at Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue.  Andrew and I shared a brisket meal and then took a walk along the river where we got to watch a boat pass through the “drawbridge” area.

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Following our dinner in Stillwater, we drove back into Minneapolis to Andrew’s aunt and uncle’s apartment.  They took us for a nice 5 mile walk round trip to Centennial Lakes.  It’s a lake surrounded by office buildings and restaurants, but provides a nice oasis away from city life all the same.  You could rent paddleboats  or play a fancy game of miniature golf (complete with flags that needed to be removed from the holes when you got close.)

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All in all, we had a great time touring Minneapolis/St. Paul in just over 24 hours, but we still have a list of things we’d like to see next time since so much was being revamped this year!

South Dakota Adventure: Day 3, Part 2

Following our lunch at Wall Drug, we headed back east on the interstate to Delta-1 Launch Facility for our tour.  Our Ranger Rob Swanson (great name for any of you Parks and Recreation fans out there), gave us an amazing tour of the launch facility.  This facility would have controlled about 9 missile sites from the Cold War years up until the 1990’s. We got to see the upper rooms where the guards would have eaten and slept, and then took the elevator down to the underground bunker where the actual launch equipment and computers were.  It was crazy to think what it would have been like to work in a facility like that.  Going into the tour, I knew it was something that Andrew would be into, but it turned out to by my favorite thing of the day as well.  I think a lot of people hear about the Cold War, but it’s hard to fathom what it was really like until you see a place like this.

After our tour of the launch facility was complete, we drove back west to Delta-9, the location of a now decommissioned missile. They’ve built a glass roof over it so you can peek down into the earth and see what the missile would have looked like sitting underground all these years.

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After our time with the Minuteman Missile we hopped back in the car to head Northeast to check another state capitol off of our state capitol bucket list.  Pierre, SD. Pierre is located right along the Missouri River and brought us back into Central Time Zone.  The building is beautiful and a rare gem in a rather industrialized city.  With the capitol visited and our passport full, we felt our trip to South Dakota was a big success!

Another State Capitol

Our Northern Tour took us onward to Bismarck to visit Andrew’s family for a few weeks.  Bismarck is where Andrew spent most of his life and become very familiar to the both of us, but sometimes it’s fun to be tourists where you live.  While we have visited the state capitol building several times in our travels back there, I’ve never written about it on here yet.

The capitol building is 18 stories tall and if you ride the elevator all the way to the top you can get some stunning views of Bismarck.  If you are in the area, I also suggest you go next door and check out their newly renovated Heritage Center.  They’ve got some really neat exhibits.

The Capitol building is also the place to be on the 4th of July.  We’ve spent two 4th of July’s in Bismarck and had a great firework show complete with the symphony orchestra providing the music.  It’s also neat because they use the windows on the building to light up in a big “4th.”

Wolfgram Northern Tour Begins!

At the beginning of June, Andrew and I embarked on a 45 day Northern Tour that would take us to see both of our families and allow us to take some side adventures of our own.  Over the next several blog posts I hope to give some insight into the places that we visited.

We began our journey from St. Louis to Wisconsin Rapids with a stop to see the state capitol in Wisconsin.  I’d been here many years ago when we took our 7th grade field trip to Madison.  It was neat to come back and take a self-guided tour of our own.  They still offer guided tours but since we were just passing through we chose to explore on our own.

There are a lot of neat and intricate details to the building, but one of Andrew’s favorites were the giant drinking fountains, or “bubblers” as we call them in Wisconsin. As we left a guide was mentioning to someone about how you could go up to the observation deck and take in beautiful views of the lake, but since Andrew isn’t one for heights we passed on that.