1. Much of Minnesota’s land was acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, the treaty in which President Thomas Jefferson more than doubled the size of the United States on April 30, 1803. Other parts were acquired through the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Minnesota officially became the 32nd state in the union on May 11, 1858.
2. Minnesota played an important part in the Civil War, even though no battles were fought in the region: They were the first to respond to President Abraham Lincoln’s volunteer regiment request. Approximately 25,000 people—half of the state’s eligible men—fought against the Confederate army. Reportedly, 100 African American men enlisted in the army. At the time, the state's total African American population, including women and children, was just 259.
3. In the 1984 presidential election, Ronald Reagan won every state except for Minnesota. It went to Democratic nominee—and Minnesotan—Walter Mondale.
4. Minnesota's frigid winters are no reason to go into hybernation. Just ask St. Paul’s residents from 1888. They built an ice palace for the St. Paul Winter Carnival. At the time, it was considered one of the largest buildings in the world. It used 20,000 blocks of ice and was 106 feet high.
5. If an ice palace from 1888 sounds too chilly, you might feel more at home at Southdale Center in Edina. When it first opened in 1956, it was the first enclosed shopping mall in the United States. You know what that means: A temperature-controlled environment built for comfort. The only limitation? Five thousand parking spots sound like a lot—until you’re unable to nab the last open one.
6. The best known mall in the state (and country) is the Mall of America. Since opening in 1992, the destination brings in 40 million visitors per year and generates $2 billion for the state’s economy. Didn’t you hear? Bigger is better. The mall is 4.87 million square feet—the size of 84 football fields!
7. The Minnesota Vikings' (unofficial) No. 1 fan is the homegrown musician Prince. His enthusiasm for the Vikings reached a fever pitch four years ago when he wrote a fight song for his team, “Purple and Gold.” Even if life as a Vikings fan can be difficult, the team and its fans will always have this suave Minnesotan on their side.
8. In 2013, Minnesota had the highest average credit score, with an average of 656. This year, Massachusetts took the lead with 659.
9. Minnesota really does have more shoreline than California. In fact, it has more shoreline than California, Hawaii, and Florida combined. Of course, that’s only if you consider rivers and streams.
10. Frank C. Mars, a real-life Willy Wonka born in Minneapolis, introduced the Milky Way candy bar in 1923. You can also thank him for introducing Snickers in 1930 and 3 Musketeers in 1932, which you could snack on for only 5 cents.
11. Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and lived there until she was four years old. She made her stage debut on December 26, 1924, at a movie theater owned by her father.
12. Traveling to Mill Pond dam on Pelican River, right in downtown Pelican Rapids, is kind of like taking a trip to Jurassic Park. It’s home to the world’s largest pelican, which stands at 15 1/2 feet. Don’t worry. You won’t need night vision to evade this dinosaur with wings, affectionately known as Pelican Pete. He’s just a statue built in 1957.
13. One of Minneapolis’s claims to fame is its skyway system, a gargantuan network that connects over 69 city blocks and spreads eight miles. It allows people to travel building-to-building in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment during harsh winters. In fact, the Minneapolis Skyway System is the largest continuous network of skyways in the world.
14. Minnesota is one of the best places to go see a doctor. Not only is Rochester the home of the Mayo Clinic, but the state has a strong history of medical innovations. The world’s first successful open-heart surgery operation was performed at the University of Minnesota in 1952. Likewise, the first successful human bone marrow transplant between non-twins was completed at the University of Minnesota in 1968.
15. Formerly based in Eagen, Minnesota, Northwest Airlines was the first major airline to ban smoking on all of its North American flights on April 23, 1988, the same day a federal law banned it on all flights lasting two hours or less. The New York Times reported industry experts expressing that “some difficulty” could arise from the decision.