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Minnesota is a land of striking, yet complimentary contrasts. For while this "Land of 10,000 Lakes" offers endless outdoor activities and enormous wilderness areas, Minnesota is also home to big city theater and arts, multiple shopping and entertainment venues, and world-class medical facilities. Water and wildlife as well as culture and business combine to create a diverse environment offering something for everyone.
Forests and wildlife, rivers and lakes, and endless outdoor activities are found in the upper half of the state. Huge environmental areas such as the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area), Voyager National Park, and the Lake of the Woods area provide habitat for countless flora and fauna and activities ranging from canoeing and hiking to skiing and dog sledding. Wildlife such as deer, moose, and wolf abound, and bear and wolf sanctuaries offer information and tours.
Also located within this northern half is the bustling city of Duluth and its accompanying North Shore area. Here, business and industry are driven by tourism and shipping via the mighty Lake Superior. Both international freighters and small fishing schooners can be found just off Duluth's northern shores. Yet even here in this busy harbor, outdoor escapes can be found along the breathtaking North Shore Scenic Drive. Awe-inspiring vistas, quaint bed and breakfasts, and rustic lighthouses dot this stretch of scenic highway (Highway 61) traveling north out of Duluth.
The southern half of Minnesota is the hub of its business and industry. Strategically located along the shores of the Mississippi River, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are the state's business, history, and governmental centers. St. Paul, the older, quieter twin, houses the state's governmental offices and most of its historic attractions and museums. Minneapolis, the cosmopolitan, art-filled sibling, houses much of the state's business and cultural activities. In addition to their individual offerings, the Twin Cities are also home to numerous lake and river-centered activities, multiple family-friendly amusement/entertainment parks (Valleyfair, Canterbury Downs, Minnesota Zoo, Camp Snoopy), and the Mall of America, a world-renowned shopping and entertainment complex.
Also located within the state's southern half are the quaint, tourist-friendly towns of Stillwater and Red Wing, and the medical-centered city of Rochester. Located just 20 miles east of Minneapolis and along the shores of the scenic St. Croix River, Stillwater offers everything from quaint shops and endless antique stores to river cruises and fabulous dining. Located just 30 miles south of the Twin Cities, Red Wing is Stillwater's little brother, offering wonderful antiques, the historic St. James Hotel, and fabulous entertainment along the banks of the Mississippi River.
While business and industry, activities and wilderness, and culture and entertainment are scattered throughout the state, several commonalties serve as links that bind together the state's major areas.
One such link concerns Minnesota's Native American heritage. Recognition of the state's first residents, the Chippewa and Dakota nations, is found in nearly every corner of the state with names such as Minneapolis (City of Water), Minnehaha (Laughing Water), and Minnesota (Land of Sky Blue Water). Today, decedents of these original Minnesotans operate numerous casino resorts throughout the state.
Another link concerns the state's rivers and lakes and the impact they've had on transporta tion, business, and trade. In addition to its over 10,000 lakes, Minnesota is also home to the Red, St. Croix, Minnesota, and Mississippi rivers, and its northeast corner hugs the shores of Lake Superior. These prime shipping channels and the abundance of both grain and lumber were major factors in the establishment of Minnesota as an early leader in the flour milling and lumber industries. Together with the railroad development of St. Paul native James J. Hill, Minnesota's business and economy grew out of its accessibility to transportation as well as agricultural and forestry products.
A final link involves its weather and the presence of four distinct seasons. With the temperatures averaging 12 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit in January and February, winter in Minnesota is not for the weak of spirit. However, this does not deter a plethora of outdoor activities including everything from skiing and snowmobiling to ice fishing and snowshoeing.
Summer gives way to semi-humid conditions and temperatures in June through September average 61 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Minnesotans are in full swing all season, enjoying just about any outdoor or water-based activity. Fall in Minnesota is brilliantly alive with fabulous colors slowly working their way from north to south throughout September and October.
Today, Minnesota's ethnic, economic, and environmental diversity is its treasure. Here in a land where nature and wildlife meet urban arts and entertainment, there is truly something for everyone.