If you’re not a fan of the Minnesota Vikings when you walk in the Vikings Museum, you might change your mind after a high-tech tour of the team’s past. With a 360-degree video, memorabilia and interactive displays everywhere you turn, the 2018 museum proves that Eagan, Minnesota, is more entertaining than your typical suburb.
Between St. Paul and Minneapolis, Eagan sits no more than 10 minutes away from the Mall of America, the Minnesota Zoo and other major Twin Cities attractions. Groups can shop inside the city limits at the state’s largest outlet mall: the Twin Cities Premium Outlets.
Stocked full of big-city amenities, Eagan also taps into Minnesota’s natural beauty with mature trees, lakes and over 50 stunning parks, including the 1,869-acre Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
Groups can re-create the famous “Gatorade bath” from a football championship in a photo op at the Vikings Museum. The 2018 museum opened as part of the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, which serves as the training camp for the Minnesota Vikings, an NFL team.
“It’s a really fun guided tour they can do for groups,” said Denise Olsen, senior sales director for the Eagan Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There are a lot of unique exhibits that people can touch. Their 3D movie uses surround screens. You can record your memories of the Vikings and have that video clip incorporated into the theater’s movie as you are watching.”
Videos, photo ops and a digital storybook that tells the story of dozens of former players keeps the museum interactive. For inspiration, guests can don headphones to listen to quotes from every head coach in Vikings history.
Shrines to each Vikings member inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame greet visitors at the museum’s entrance. The rest of the 14,000-square-foot facility charts the evolution of the team’s uniforms, accomplishments and players over the years.
Lebanon Hills Regional Park
What started as 80 acres in 1967 eventually grew to almost 2,000 acres after 40 additional land acquisitions. The Lebanon Hills Regional Park is treasured by both residents and visitors to Eagan.
The park comprises 13 lakes and ponds set amidst forests, grasslands, marshes and wetlands. Dakota County Parks is now restoring more than 1,100 acres of prairie and forest within the park to create an accessible wilderness landscape.
The Visitors Center models sustainability with several green building features, such as a vegetative roof, a rain garden and day lighting. Groups can stop by for park information, interactive nature displays and naturalist programs.
“It is beautiful,” said Olsen. “It would be a great pace to have an afternoon lunch stop or a naturalist program before a hike. The visitors center can tailor naturalist programs to fit what the group wants.”
Rentals also take place in the visitors center. In the winter, the center offers cross-country skis, snowshoes and kick sleds. Summer rentals include canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Groups can stop by Schulze Lake Beach for a relaxing sandy beach and clear water. For active groups, the West Trailhead features over 12 miles of popular mountain-biking trails.
Bald Man Brewing
After three years of brewing beer in apartments in 1995, Tristan Kusnierek thought he was done — home brewing was just too much hassle. But he picked up the hobby again to create a beer to serve at his wedding. After guests raved about the beer, he purchased a professional brewing system, which eventually led to the start of Bald Man Brewing.
Today, Bald Man Brewing beer appears in local bars and restaurants throughout the Twin Cities. The Eagan brewery and taproom serves artisan beer using the highest-quality American and European malted barley.
“It has been open in Eagan now for three years,” said Olsen. “It is a large brewery. They have lots of weekly events, including live music.”
The 15,000-square-foot brewery offers two private rooms for groups: one with a capacity of 45 people and the other for 65 people. Groups can customize the experience with drink tickets, an open bar and brewery tours to learn the intricate brewing process.
Twin Cities Premium Outlets
Savings of 25% to 65% on high-end products can get any shopper’s attention. The Twin Cities Premium Outlets offers more than 100 outlet stores tax free. Nike, Coach, Vera Bradley, Polo Ralph Lauren and more upscale shops deliver deals daily.
The outlet mall houses the largest Under Armour store in the Midwest and is the only outlet mall in the seven-county metro area. A short drive from the Mall of America, the outlet mall offers more affordable versions of apparel, shoes and home goods than the larger shopping complex.
“When groups come that have contacted the CVB, we can send them to the outlet mall with a bag full of coupons for the outlet and the Mall of America, as well as other goodies,” said Olsen. “The outlet offers excellent shopping and amazing outlet pricing. They always have great specials happening there.”
A dining pavilion in the center of the mall has indoor and outdoor seating. The 409,000-square-foot center uses covered walkways to connect the shops.
Caponi Art Park
Anthony Caponi devoted much of his life to organically integrating art, life and nature. The 60-acre sculpture park, the Caponi Art Park, opened to the public in 1987. His wife, Cheryl Caponi, still gives tours of the sculptures to talk about the incredible works her husband created in his lifetime.
Active groups can browse the outdoor art gallery on foot; those with mobility issues can book an accessible guided tour with golf carts. The 60-acre forested park offers several natural trails alongside the sculpture garden. The park’s Theater in the Woods amphitheater is one of the largest in the region. The Summer Performance Series and other special events occur on the outdoor stage.
“The park hosts everything from orchestra concerts to Shakespearean plays to blues music,” said Olsen. “Groups can walk through the park to look at the artwork interspersed throughout the park or take in one of the many performances that take place all summer long.”
Groups can also book an art workshop that caters to all ages and abilities. The park works with group leaders to select a project that fits their groups’ needs.