Welcome to Minnesota!Published 9:55am Friday, June 14, 2013
By Erin Murtaugh, staff intern
Inside the first set of doors at the Minnesota Welcome Center at Mile 1 of northbound Interstate 35, there are vending machines. Through the next set, travelers find restrooms and a counter.
At that counter, they might find Bonna Brenegan of Explore Minnesota Tourism. She is a travel guide, welcoming travelers to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and answering questions about their journeys.
“If people ask what to do or see, I give them suggestions,” Brenegan said.
The Welcome Center functions for many travelers as just an ordinary rest stop on the Interstate Highway System. However, the Minnesota Department of Transportation lists it as one of six TICs it operates. TIC stands for travel information center.
Maps, travel guides, discounts and accommodation suggestions can be found inside the welcome center.
Brenegan said the rest stop sees 2,000 to 2,500 visitors in a 24-hour period. People from all 50 states and myriad foreign travelers stop at the Minnesota border.
Some of the most popular attractions people ask about are the Mall of America and the trails along the northern shore of Lake Superior.
“A lot of people like to do biking,” Brenegan said.
On Tuesday, Larry Biard and his wife, Diane, of Texas were headed to Winona to see their son, who is working there for the summer.
“It is very nice,” Biard said. “We haven’t decided if we’ll stop to see any attractions, but we have maps and directions now if we decide to.”
Megan Darr had never been to Minnesota. On Wednesday, she and Jean Fedreico were on their way westward to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park from Sebring, Fla. They stopped at the welcome center to take a break from driving.
“On our way back, we will stop in the Minneapolis area for some sightseeing,” Fedreico said.
Jewel Vaughn of Garland, Texas, was a resident of Minnesota for 15 years. On Wednesday, she was on her way to Minnesota to visit family and friends. She said she didn’t stop for any guide materials but likes to use the place as a rest stop on her trips home.
“We only miss Minnesota when it’s 105 degrees in Texas,” Vaughn said.
Not only does the stop serve as a rest area and travel center, it is used for routine checks for truck drivers as well. Truckers on Wednesday were required to pull in to have their trucks and paperwork checked over by the Minnesota State Patrol.
Lt. Eric Roeske of the State Patrol said troopers were looking for hazardous material, specifically fireworks.
Sometimes, people go to states to buy large quantities of fireworks and haul them to Minnesota in rental trucks, which violates state law. Transporting large amounts of combustibles, he said, requires proper identification on the exterior of the truck.
The Iowa State Patrol was stopping southbound drivers just over the border, Roeske said.
The Minnesota Welcome Center offers information for all ages and also serves as a nice area to pull over and stretch after a long haul of driving, Brenegan said.
Amenities at the welcome center
The Minnesota Department of Transportation lists the following as amenities of the Minnesota Welcome Center on Interstate 35 near the Iowa border:
• Modern rest area with flush toilets
• Back-up restroom available for family or assisted use upon request to custodian, 8 a.m. to midnight
• Tourism information counter staffed by Explore Minnesota Tourism, typically staffed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
• Pay phone
• Vending machines
• Drinking fountain
• Play area
• Pet exercise area
• Picnic shelters and tables
• Interpretive information
• TTY pay phones
• Located on the Prairie Passages Route, international North American effort to preserve native prairie