Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes (except not really, as you will soon find out!), is home to thriving natural landscapes, a ton of hockey, and a rich history on top of it all. With that, comes a long list of interesting facts. Facts that reveal just how rich with fascinating information the state is. Minnesota has a few surprises you may not know about. All you need to do is explore a little further. Here are 15 fascinating facts about the state.
Minnesotans love hockey… a lot. And they’re good at it. In fact, more NHL players come from Minnesota than any other state in the U.S. Kids start playing at young ages. Schools excuse students to watch the state high school hockey tournament. Several universities in the state have Division I men’s hockey programs. The University of Minnesota’s Gopher Women’s Hockey program is a dynasty, with three recent national championships. The Twin Cities regularly hosts the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. Outdoors. In January. It’s no wonder so many pro players come from the state.
As of last year, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 109 times. The first American to win the award was Sinclair Lewis, the novelist from Sauk Centre, Minnesota. The most recent Nobel laureate in literature is Bob Dylan, the brilliant lyricist from Hibbing, on the Iron Range. Of the 12 Americans who’ve been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, two are from Minnesota. Not too shabby! It should probably also be mentioned that F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Great Gatsby” and other renowned works, is from St. Paul. Despite his lack of a Nobel Prize, he is probably Minnesota’s best known writer.
Minnesotans are pioneers when it comes to shopping malls. Southdale Center in Edina was the nation’s first fully-enclosed, climate-controlled mall. Bloomington’s Mall of America, which was the biggest in the U.S. for several years after it was built, has more than 500 stores, an aquarium, and an indoor amusement park. Minnesota is so mall-centric that Kevin Smith picked Eden Prairie Center as the setting for his film “Mallrats.”
Okay, so yes, that is one of the state’s nicknames, but there are not 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. This figure is actually short by almost 2,000 lakes. According to the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), we could be the land of 11,842 lakes… but it’s not quite as catchy. Only four counties in Minnesota—Mower, Olmsted, Pipestone and Rock—have no natural lakes. Given the total number of lakes in the state, it’s a bit surprising that any county doesn’t have at least one.
The Mississippi—you know, Old Man River, the Ol’ Muddy—starts its flow toward the Gulf of Mexico from an isolated lake in Minnesota’s North Woods. The fabled stream, whose delta eventually comprises thousands of square miles, starts as a creek about the width of a man’s arm-span, flowing from Lake Itasca. The name of the lake, actually, is a portmanteau that reflects its status as the river’ birthplace. It comes from the Latin verITAS CApit: “true head,” as in the true headwaters of the Mississippi.
Folks of a certain age will remember seeing it’s picture in the “Guinness Book of World Records:” The world’s biggest ball of twine (why?!) is housed in its own “museum” in https://p300-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/article/Darwin, Minnesota. Since it was first made, a rival twine ball has emerged in Kansas, but it was created by multiple people. The Darwin ball of twine remains the largest created by one man. And Minnesotans remain very proud.
The most useful office supply in the world (the stapler and ballpoint pen could, perhaps, protest) is the Post-It Note. It was invented in 1980 by Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver of Maplewood-based 3M. Romy and Michelle are lying.
In 1922, Ralph Samuelson, of Lake City, developed and perfected the world’s first successful design for water skis on the Mississippi River. Lake City has been calling itself the birthplace of water skiing ever since.
From the Trashmen’s 1963 mega-hit “Surfin’ Bird” to the latest from Lizzo (not to mention the already-mentioned Bob Dylan), Minnesotans have made a mark on music. In the 1980s, Prince and a cadre of other musicians, along with super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, developed what came to be known as the “Minneapolis sound.” At the same time, Babes in Toyland, the Suburbs, Husker Du, and the Replacements stepped out of their parents’ garages and onto the national stage. Pop acts like Marcy Playground and Semisonic were 90s radio mainstays, and this century gave rise to hip hop acts like Brother Ali, Atmosphere, and Dessa, nurtured by the Rhymesayers and Doomtree collectives. Duluth has become a hotbed for incubating folksy sounds from the likes of Trampled by Turtles, Low, and Haley Bonar. Having globally-known venues like First Ave. and a radio station like the Current, makes Minnesota a year-round destination for touring acts of all sizes.
A couple of University of Minnesota students, who also happened to be brothers and disco-loving hockey players, invented the Rollerblade and gave birth to the in-line skating industry. Brennan and Scott Olson wanted a way to work on their skating skills in the off-season, so they replaced the blades on a hockey skates with wheels... and voilà!
Based on tonnage, Duluth—along with its adjacent “Twin Port,” Superior, Wisconsin— is the 17th busiest commercial shipping center in the U.S. What’s unique is that it’s a freshwater (Lake Superior) port that’s a thousand miles to the nearest ocean but ranks in the top 10 of ports when it comes to foreign exports. This makes the Twin Ports the busiest inland port in the U.S. and one of the busiest in the world. Iron taconite, grain, and cement are some of the most-shipped products.
While the record has gone back-and-forth between cities, Minneapolis has twice held— and currently does hold, according to the “Guinness Book of World Records”— the world record for the “Largest gathering of zombies.” This happens every October when regular folks become undead-for-a-day and bar-hop in downtown Minneapolis during the annual Zombie Pub Crawl.
Every August, one of the country’s biggest fairs is held at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds in St. Paul/Falcon Heights. While Texas typically wins the overall attendance honors, it runs several days longer than the 10-day “Great Minnesota Get Together,” which has a higher average daily attendance than any other fair in the U.S. Along with livestock, questionable carnival rides, and big-name grandstand concerts, you can get just about any kind of food imaginable at the Fair… as long as it’s on a stick.
In 1998, several years before Arnold became the “governator” of California, professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura, running as an independent, was elected Minnesota’s governor. Ventura, who served one term, never moved into the Governor’s Mansion, bragged about doing shots with the president (Clinton), and wanted to decriminalize prostitution. Interestingly, he and Schwarzenegger co-starred in the movie “Predator.” This means Carl Weathers definitely has a shot at elected office.
The first-ever successful open-heart surgery was performed in 1952 at the University of Minnesota by Dr. C. Walton Lillehei. A few years later, Lillehei collaborated with Earl Bakken, who eventually founded medical device giant Medtronic, to help him with a device. TheirI collaboration resulted in the world's first portable, wearable, battery-powered pacemaker. Minnesota is also home to the first Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and the Mayo Clinic. So, if all the other excitement the state has to offer has got your heart racing, don’t fret: Minnesota will take care of you.