SELF GUIDED TOURS
SELF GUIDED TOURS
VISIT OWATONNA ATTRACTIONS ON YOUR OWN TIMELINE!
There are many options for self-guided tours around Owatonna at our major attractions. Take in history, science and more at your leisure!
HISTORIC WALKING TOUR
Encounter a blend of architectural styles from the late 1800s to early 1900s during the Historic Walking Tour including historic homes, schools, churches and other buildings. The Historic Walking Tour Guide Brochure is available at the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and can also be viewed online (click here).
The National Farmers’ Bank is a premier example of Prairie School Architecture and was named one of the “11 Can’t-Miss Stops on a Tour of America’s Hidden Architecture Gems”. The bank was designed in the early 1900s by Louis Sullivan who was known as the “father of the skyscraper”and Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor. The National Farmers Bank became the first, and most famous of Louis Sullivan’s “jewel box” banks. The building features gold leaf arches, stained glass windows, ornate terra cotta, and 2-ton electroliers. Now an operating Wells Fargo, the bank is located across from Central Park in Historic Downtown. Take a self-guided tour or call the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism to organize a group tour.
Address: 540 West Hills Circle | Phone: 507-774-7369
Operations: Museum M-F 8am-5pm & Sat-Sun 1pm-5pm | Cottage 11 Tues-Sun 1pm-4pm from May 1 to Labor Day and 1pm-3pm other months. Closed Jan and Feb. Call to make an appointment during off hours.
Approximately 10,635 orphaned, abandoned or abused children were sent to Owatonna between 1886 and 1945 to live at the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children, located on what is now called the West Hills Campus. The historic campus is now home to the Owatonna Arts Center, the Little Theatre of Owatonna, City offices and the only known Orphanage Museum in the nation. The museum was founded by a former “State-Schooler” to remember the children who lived there. Explore the Museum, historic Cottage 11, the Children’s Cemetery, and an audio tour to get a glimpse of what life was like for the children who called the State School their home. Whether you schedule a guided group tour or choose a self-guided visit, you will find unforgettable history awaiting you.
Spend an afternoon enjoying the current art exhibit at the Owatonna Art Center and the diverse group of works by local and regional artists, which comprises the majority of the OAC permanent collection. For over 35 years, the Owatonna Arts Center has been a cultural beacon serving community members by inviting them to explore, experience, and engage in unique and meaningful art experiences. The Owatonna Arts Center is housed on the West Hills Campus where the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children was in operation from 1886 until 1945. Make sure to check out the beautiful stained glass windows that were salvaged from a local church. Walk down the hall to the Orphanage Museum to learn more about the rich history of the State School. No Admission Fee – donations appreciated.
With 3 smokestacks, behind the signature red neon lettering; the old Owatonna Power Plant stands to this day as a local landmark. The original municipal power plant was built in 1855 as a steam power plant. After the Straight River flooded the building in 2010, the plant shut down. The inside was renovated in 2015 to house the Owatonna Public Utilities headquarters. The building still has its original iconic structure and powerful sense of space.
Take a walk through the lower level of the building to see parts of the original plant incorporated in the renovated architecture. Take group tour to learn about the plant’s history and visit all three floors, including the top floor with a one-of-a-kind view of the city. Contact the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism to organize a tour.
The Reptile and Amphibian Discovery (RAD) Zoo is home to a diverse collection of more than 150 kinds of snakes, turtles, crocodilians, toads, frogs and salamanders from all over the world. Meet “Big Al”, a 12 foot long American alligator, and Justin Bieber’s former pet boa constrictor “Johnson”. Stop in for the daily Everglades Encounters show focusing on the animals of the Florida Swamps, or witness snakes and crocodilians during feeding time on the weekends. From autumn through spring, bring a large group and “Camp with the Crocs” overnight at the zoo. Get a souvenir photo taken holding a snake or alligator! Show Times: Mon.-Fri. 3:30pm; Sat. 11:30am, 2pm, & 4:30pm; Sun. 1:30pm & 3:30pm. Admission charged.
Immerse yourself in the history of Steele County and Minnesota at the Steele County History Center. The beautiful new building is also home to many events throughout the year. The Great War and Toys & Play exhibit is now open. Visit the Village of Yesteryear next door (guided tours). Admission charged.