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The name Minnesota means sky-tinted water and is derived from the Dakota Sioux Indian word Mnisota. It has also been defined as clouded water which references the silt that gives the Minnesota River its milky appearance. The state has several nicknames including The Land of Sky Blue Water, Land of 10,000 Lakes, The North Star State and The Gopher State. The North Star State is taken from the state motto L'Étoile du Nord meaning Star of the North. The Gopher State was adopted as the territory was being considered for statehood because of the abundance of the five-striped gopher which can be found throughout. Minnesota was admitted into the Union in 1858 becoming the 32nd state. Nowadays, Minnesota has about 5.3 million inhabitants, most of them living in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
The prairies of Minnesota were made famous in the Little House series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and more recently, the television program named after the Little House on the Prairie, which is the most famous of her tales. Other famous literary figures who have used Minnesota as a backdrop have been Sinclair Lewis (Main Street), Ole Rolvaag (Giants in the Earth), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (The Song of Hiawatha) and Garrison Keillor who has written several books about his fictional hometown of Lake Woebegone. He also hosts the radio broadcast A Prairie Home Companion which airs on National Public Radio.
Minnesota is home to well-known companies such as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (which became 3M Company in 2002), General Mills, Best Buy, Target and Cargill - the second largest privately-owned company in the United States. The Vermillion, Mesabi and Cuyuna iron ranges in the northern part of the state are also still in production.
Minnesota is the northernmost U.S. state apart from Alaska. Its isolated Northwest Angle in Lake of the Woods is the only part of the 48 contiguous states lying north of the 49th parallel. The state is part of the U.S. region known as the Upper Midwest and part of the Great Lakes Region of North America. The state shares a Lake Superior water border with Michigan and a land and water border with Wisconsin to the east. Iowa is to the south, North Dakota and South Dakota to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba to the north. With 225,180 km2 or approximately 2.25% of the United States, Minnesota is the twelfth-largest state. The state's high point is Eagle Mountain at 701 metres, which is only 21 kilometres away from the low of 183 metres at the shore of Lake Superior. Notwithstanding dramatic local differences in elevation, much of the state is a gently rolling peneplain. Two major drainage divides meet in the northeastern part of Minnesota in rural Hibbing, forming a triple watershed. Precipitation can follow the Mississippi River south to the Gulf of Mexico, the Saint Lawrence Seaway east to the Atlantic Ocean, or the Hudson Bay watershed to the Arctic Ocean. The state's nickname, The Land of 10,000 Lakes, is no exaggeration; there are 11,842 Minnesota lakes with considerable size. The Minnesota portion of Lake Superior is the largest at 3,896 km2 and deepest (at 390 metres) body of water in the state. Minnesota has 6,564 natural rivers and streams that cumulatively flow for 111,000 kilometres. The Mississippi River begins its journey from its headwaters at Lake Itasca and crosses the Iowa border 680 miles (1,090 km) downstream. The Red River, in the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz, drains the northwest part of the state northward toward Canada's Hudson Bay. Approximately 42,900 km² of wetlands are contained within Minnesota's borders, the most of any state except Alaska.
Minneapolis and Saint Paul are the two largest cities in Minnesota and together form the metropolitan area known as Minneapolis-Saint Paul, or the Twin Cities. The two cities, located across the river from each other, are known for hockey and for the largest indoor mall in America, hosting over 520 stores, a amusement park, an underwater adventures, a waterpark, and attracting over 40 million visitors per year. It's also know as the "Icebox" of the nation for having such extreme cold temperatures.
Smaller cities include Brainerd, Ely, International Falls, New Ulm, Pipestone and Red Wing.
The climate of Minnesota is typical of a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. The state's location in the Upper Midwest allows it to experience some of the widest variety of weather in the United States, and each of the four seasons has its own distinct characteristics. The areas near Lake Superior in the Minnesota Arrowhead region experience weather unique from the rest of the state. The moderating effect of Lake Superior keeps the surrounding area relatively cooler in the summer and relatively warmer in the winter, giving that region a taste of a maritime climate.
Winter in Minnesota is characterized by cold (below freezing) temperatures and snowfall. Snow is the main form of winter precipitation, but freezing rain, ice, sleet, and sometimes even rain are all possible during the winter months. Common storm systems include Alberta clippers or Panhandle hooks, some of which evolve into blizzards. Annual snowfall extremes have ranged from over 432 centimetres in the rugged Superior Highlands of the North Shore to as little as 25 centimetres in southern Minnesota. Temperatures as low as -50 °C have occurred during Minnesota winters. Spring is a time of major transition in Minnesota. Early spring commonly sees snowstorms, but by late spring as temperatures begin to moderate the state can experience tornado outbreaks, a risk which diminishes but does not cease through the summer and into the fall.
Summer sees heat and humidity predominate in the south, while warm and less humid conditions are generally present in the north. These humid conditions help kick off thunderstorm activity 30–40 days a year. Summer high temperatures in Minnesota average between 28-29 °C in the south and around 25-26 °C the north, with temperatures as hot as 46 °C possible. The growing season in Minnesota varies from 90 days per year in the Iron Range to 160 days in southeast Minnesota. Tornadoes are possible in Minnesota from March through November, but the peak tornado month is June, followed by July, May, and August. The state averages 24 tornadoes per year. Minnesota is the driest state in the Midwest. Average annual precipitation across the state ranges from around 890 mm in the southeast to just 510 mm in the northwest. Autumn weather in Minnesota is largely the reverse of spring weather. The jet stream, which tends to weaken in summer, begins to re-strengthen, leading to a quicker changing of weather patterns and an increased variability of temperatures. By late October and November these storm systems become strong enough to form major winter storms. Fall and spring are the windiest times of the year in Minnesota.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) is the main gateway to Minnesota. It has dozens of airlines serving hundreds of destinations throughout the country and outside. Destinations include London, Cancun, Reykjavik, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, New York, Anchorage, Las Vegas, Toronto, Tokyo, Puerto Vallarta, San Francisco, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Amsterdam. There are many more flights within the region and the US.
To/from the airport
Several large parking ramps are available for cars. Most other connections are made at the Hub Building and adjacent Transit Center, which has city and shuttle bus, taxi, light-rail, and rental car service.
The Empire Builder, operated by Amtrak, travels between Chicago, Illinois and Seattle, Washington, stopping en route in a number of places in Minnesota, including St. Paul/Minneapolis.
Greyhound offers buses throughout the US.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Minnesota has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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