Historic Fort Snelling, Saint Paul

4.7
#3 of 6 in Historic Sites in Saint Paul
The history of this place is more than just the story of the fort itself. The junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers is a place of major social, cultural, and historical significance to all people inhabiting the region, a place whose history evokes both pride and pain. It is a place of cultural importance to many Dakota people as a historical gathering place, the site of the B'dote creation story, and as a place of Dakota internment and exile after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

This area was also the crossroads of two major river highways of the fur trade, one of the most lucrative businesses during the 19th century. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government established its strategic presence at the river junction with the arrival of military forces and an Indian agent, whose goals were to promote and protect the interests of the United States in the region's fur trade and to gain the friendship and cooperation of American Indian communities. The establishment of the fort and Indian Agency became a foothold of U.S. expansionism in the territory that would become Minnesota.

Fort Snelling also played an important role in the great conflict over slavery in the United States. During the 1820s and 1830s, it is estimated that between 15 and 30 enslaved people lived and worked at Fort Snelling at any given time, in spite of the fact that the Missouri Compromise (1820) made slavery illegal in the region. Dred and Harriet Scott, two enslaved African Americans, used their time held at Fort Snelling as part of their decade-long legal battle to gain freedom for themselves and their children.

Located on top of the bluff overlooking the river junction, Fort Snelling served the U.S. military for over 120 years, through conflicts at home and abroad, and thousands of Minnesotans received their first taste of military service within its walls. By the late 20th century its national cemetery became the site of the final resting place for more than 180,000 men and women who served in the armed forces. Today, the historic fort has been restored to its early 19th century appearance, and the site's living history program brings the past to life!
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Historic Fort Snelling Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
168 reviews
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4.7
TripAdvisor
  • My husband and I have lived in MN for many years and finally had an opportunity to visit this historic site. As it was October the guides were not costumed but still offered an amazing amount of infor...  more »
  • I have been to many forts over the last 20+ years and Fort Snelling has always and continues to be the standard to compare the others by. The experience is very immmersive and interesting. Besides exh...  more »
  • We arrived about 50 minutes before the fort closed so we rushed through it. There were guides and character actors in several of the buildings. They were happy to talk and most times we had to cut the...  more »
Google
  • Fort snelling is an amazing place to spend an afternoon. They have employees in Period clothes all around the fort that know a lot about how life was back then. It is one of the most open (as in you can touch a lot). They also have almost all the rooms in the barracks and house open so that you can walk into them. Yard games were set out to play, you could use a wash board also. It was a great time!
  • We had read it would take about 45 minutes to visit. However, we were there for 2 hours and still didn't see everything. Beautiful views, educational information. Most of it is outdoors but shaded area are available. We will definitely be going back soon.
  • A fantastic historical site for families. A shooting of the canon is a definite highlight. The kids enjoyed the scavenger hunt. Overall a very fun and interesting place.
  • Husband and I had such a fun time at the murder mystery tour they had going around Halloween. So much fun! Highly recommend
  • I've been here quite a few times, and it's always fascinating to me. I think most people would have a good time and enjoy the stories, building, and antiques/relics they have to show.

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Where to stay in Saint Paul

Places to stay in St. Paul sit concentrated in the downtown area. The Lowertown Historic District, which includes some of the city's oldest buildings, makes a particularly attractive option. Hotels, guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts here can put you just steps from the Mississippi River, while the greater downtown area also offers apartment rentals and hostels. Staying downtown also puts you within walking distance of most of the city's prime attractions. Additionally, you'll find a handful of national-chain hotels on the east side of town near Interstate 494 / 694.
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