Minnesota is a land of incomparable wilderness, lakes, and unique historical and cultural sites. Whether you are paddling the many waterways, hiking scenic trails, or snowshoeing off the beaten path, Minnesota is a perfect destination for adventurous nature lovers. The "Twin Cities" of Minneapolis and Saint Paul make up a thriving economic and cultural center with many interesting places in which to spend your time. Duluth is more of a crossroads, with elements of big city industry as well as tons of green space.
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1.Minnesota's North Shore Scenic Drive
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Minnesota's North Shore Scenic Drive is a beautiful, 142-mile wilderness journey from Duluth to Grand Portage. Bordered on one side by Lake Superior and on the other by the Sawtooth Mountains, sights include breathtaking cliffs, beaches and thousands of acres of forest. Lighthouses and waterfalls dot the landscape and there seems to be no end to the recreational opportunities.
Many adventures await along the route, including golfing, tent and RV camping, canoeing, hunting, rock climbing, dogsledding, and more. Eight of Minnesota's State Parks are accessible along the way. It takes about three hours to make the journey if you drive straight through, but you could easily stretch the journey to several days by stopping along the way.
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2. Minneapolis Institute of Art
© Minneapolis Institute of Art
The Minneapolis Institute of Art is a fine art museum in Minneapolis. Free to the public, it is one of the largest art museums in the United States. The collections cover more than 5,000 years of history and contain more than 80,000 objects, including paintings, photographs, textiles, drawings, prints and decorative arts.
The museum includes objects from several regions of the world and is quite comprehensive. In addition to their regular collections, the museum features a variety of traveling collections from other museums. A number of tours are available, ranging from free public guided tours to school tours and private group tours. Read more or Things to Do in Minneapolis
2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404, Phone: 888-642-2787
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3. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, St. Paul, Minnesota
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Como Park is a park, zoo and conservatory located in St. Paul. The park is very popular and receives more than 1.9 million visitors each year. The zoo is home to many species of animals that are exhibited for the visiting public. In addition to the zoo and conservatory, recreational facilities at Como Park include an amusement park, carousel, golf course, swimming pool and the 68-acre Lake Como.
The park is expertly landscaped and includes many artistic features such as fountains and sculptures. Como Park hosts many events throughout the year and offers cafes, food carts and gift shops to make your visit both comfortable and enjoyable. Things to Do in St. Paul
1225 Estabrook Drive, Saint Paul, MN 55103, Phone: 651-487-8200
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4. Quarry Hill Nature Center
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Quarry Hill Nature Center is an educational center located in Rochester. It sits amidst a 329-acre park that offers a variety of outdoors activities. There are paved and unpaved trails as well as a historical cave. During winter, cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals are available to enhance enjoyment of the park.
The Harry L. Buck Children's Pond provides aquatic learning experiences for children of all ages. Ducks nest in a box on an island in the pond and a variety of other wildlife can be seen. The center hosts a variety of classes, day camps, trips and activities throughout the year. Read more or Things to Do in Rochester
701 Silver Creek Road NE, Rochester, MN 55906, Phone: 507-328-3950
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5. Minnesota Marine Art Museum
© Minnesota Marine Art Museum
The Minnesota Marine Art Museum is an art museum in Winona that is located in a unique historical building on the banks of the Mississippi River. It houses five different galleries of art and artifacts which include marine art, folk sculptures, impressionism, Hudson River School paintings, as well as space for traveling exhibits. The museum's primary focus is marine and maritime art.
One of the most famous pieces in their collection is one of the two surviving copies of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze, which was on display at the White House prior to becoming a part of the Marine Art Museum. Read more
800 Riverview Drive, Winona, MN 55987, Phone: 507-474-6626
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6.The Duluth Experience
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The Duluth Experience offers some of Duluth's most unique cultural experiences, engaging tourists and residents alike with the city's diverse cultural, culinary, and outdoor recreational scene. The touring company offers a wide variety experiences for participants of all ages, including city bus and walking tours elaborating on the city's rich history and culture. Tour experiences include winter outdoor activity excursions, enjoying activities such as snowshoeing and fat tire biking, and winter photography workshops taking advantage of the beauty of the North Shore landscape. Other experiences include brewery tours, which explore the craft breweries of the North Shore craft beer scene and let participants taste a variety of high-quality brews.
211 E 2nd St, Duluth, MN 55805, Phone: 218- 464-6337
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7.Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden
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The Rose Garden of Leif Erickson Park in Duluth is a traditional English style garden located on the banks of Lake Superior. Its beautiful flowers and stunning location make the park a relaxing and beautiful place to visit at any time of the year. The 2.5-acre park contains over 3,000 rose bushes and many other plants and trees.
It is connected to Duluth's Lakewalk, which is a walking and biking trail running about three miles along the lakeshore. In addition to stunning flora, the gardens include some beautiful architectural structures, fountains and statues. The marble gazebo in Leif Erickson Park is a popular place for weddings and other events.
S 13th Ave E & London Road, Duluth, MN 55802, Phone: 218-730-4300
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8. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
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The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is an arboretum and horticultural garden that is part of the University of Minnesota. It is the largest public garden in the upper Midwest and comprises more than 1,100 acres. Over 5,000 plant varieties can be found in the park.
The arboretum features gardens displaying plants developed for northern climates as well as educational exhibits, demonstration gardens and a unique Japanese garden area. The property features natural areas, including miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. There is a horticulture library and conservatory on site. Guided tours are available as well as a three-mile driving route that passes many of the park's highlights. Read more
3675 Arboretum Drive, Chanhassen, MN 55317, Phone: 952-443-1400
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9. National Eagle Center, Minnesota
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The National Eagle Center is a non-profit organization, aviary and educational center which is dedicated to conserving and protecting eagles as well as to educating the public. Five eagles are housed at the center. These were all rescued and are now used in outreach programs and ceremonies across the state and country.
Visitors can visit the eagles in the viewing room, where you can see them at close range as they are tethered rather than in a cage or behind glass. There are volunteers to answer questions during viewing hours as well as thrice daily 45-minute educational feeding programs that include a question and answer session, giving visitors another chance to learn about eagles. Read more
50 Pembroke Avenue, Wabasha, MN 55981, Phone: 651-565-4989
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Munsinger Gardens is a botanical garden on the Mississippi River in St. Cloud. It is a 14-acre park located on the site of a former sawmill. The gardens include flower-lined paths which wind through tall pine trees. Water features include a lily-pond and fountain and there is a greenhouse on site.
Don't be surprised by the peacocks roaming the gardens! Events such as art exhibits, musical concerts and the like happen regularly. The gardens are a great place to have a peaceful walk and their beautiful, natural setting on the riverbank make them a popular wedding venue.
1515 Riverside Drive SE, St. Cloud, Minnesota, 56304, Phone: 320-257-5959
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11.Mill City Museum, Minnesota
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Mill City Museum is a museum in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District on the banks of the Mississippi river in Minneapolis. The museum is built on the site of what was once the world's largest flour mill. The museum is dedicated to preserving and teaching the history of the flour industry, the role of the river, and the city of Minneapolis.
In addition to great exhibits and educational programming, the museum has an onsite restaurant as well as a gift shop which sells a variety of souvenirs and gifts, including many locally-made items, historical books and mid-20th century retro collectibles.
704 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401, Phone: 612-341-7555
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12. Science Museum of Minnesota
© Science Museum of Minnesota
The Science Museum of Minnesota houses exhibits related to technology, science, natural history and mathematics. A number of exhibits are permanently on display at the museum. Dinosaurs & Fossils includes several dinosaur skeletons while the Human Body is an exhibit which shows the various human body systems and even allows visitors to extract DNA in the Cell Lab.
Other exhibits focus on the Mississippi River, renewable energy, Native American history and much more. The Science Museum also has a dual screen IMAX/Omnimax theater which was the first of this type of convertible theater to be built in the northern hemisphere. Read more
120 W. Kellogg Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55102, Phone: 651-221-9444
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13. North American Bear Center
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The North American Bear Center is a unique bear and wildlife educational facility. From beautiful wildlife murals to naturally posed bear mounts and background forest and bear sounds, the indoor exhibit area is designed to allow yourself to become immersed in the bear experience. A wall of windows enables visitors to peer into the bear enclosure, which is equipped with ponds and waterfalls.
The Bear Center includes three living black bears, which are housed in a 2.5-acre naturalistic habitat. The bears can be viewed from either the indoor viewing area or an outdoor balcony. The center also has a theater, a 1/4-mile interpretive trail walk, a gift shop, and daily programming and events. Read more
1926 MN-169, Ely, MN 55731, Phone: 218-365-7879
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14.Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
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The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a park in Minneapolis. At 11 acres, it is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the United States. The garden boasts 40 permanent art pieces as well as several rotating pieces. The garden has many well-known and loved pieces, but the centerpiece and most famous sculpture in the garden is the "Spoonbridge and Cherry" fountain.
The garden provides a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the sculptures in an expertly landscaped and manicured setting of plazas and walkways. The Sculpture Garden is currently closed for renovation but is set to reopen in June 2017.
726 Vineland Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403, Phone: 612-230-6400
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15.Lake Superior Marine Museum
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The Lake Superior Marine Museum is a maritime heritage museum in the historic Canal Park area of Duluth. This museum exists to display and preserve the marine history of the Lake Superior and Port of Duluth-Superior area. They work closely with the Corps of Engineers in acquiring museum-worthy artifacts and publications.
Exhibits interpret the history of the area's commercial shipping industry as well as that of the nearby Aerial Lift Bridge. The museum displays three replica cabins and a pilothouse. There are many interactive displays available for visitors to get a hands on experience of marine history as well as 50 scale models and a three-story steam engine.
600 South Lake Avenue, Duluth, MN 55802, Phone: 218-720-5260
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16.Minnesota History Center, Minnesota
© Minnesota History Center
The Minnesota History Center is a library and history museum located near downtown Saint Paul. It has an ideal location between the Mississippi River and the Minnesota State Capital. The museum displays artifacts from the Minnesota Historical Society's large collection in 44,000 square feet of gallery space. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits and often has historical programming and visiting lecturers.
The center is a popular event venue and hosts events such as concerts, dance performances, conferences, lectures, political campaign events, parties, and weddings on a regular basis. Cafe Minnesota offers a variety of food options and there are two museum gift shops on the premises.
345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102, Phone: 651-259-3000
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17.Pipestone National Monument
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Pipestone National Monument is a catlinite or "pipestone" quarry near the city of Pipestone. Plains Indians have traditionally used the stone to make ceremonial pipes, which are an integral part of their religious practices. The quarries are sacred places for the Dakota, Lakota and other tribes.
The tradition of making prayer pipes continues today, but only those with Native American ancestry are allowed to quarry the pipestone. However, the National Park Service maintains the site as a historical monument and cultural heritage site. The monument includes a ¾-mile walking trail that leads to several points of interest, including the quarries themselves, waterfalls, creeks and prairie areas. The Three Maidens picnic area includes picnic tables and restrooms.
36 Reservation Avenue, Pipestone, MN 56164, Phone: 507-825-5464 x214
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18.Split Rock Lighthouse
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The picturesque Split Rock Lighthouse is a lighthouse located on the northern shore of Lake Superior, near Silver Bay. The lighthouse has been restored to look as it did in 1920 and is a National Historic Landmark. Visitors to the property can tour the four buildings on site and climb the lighthouse.
The keeper's home is staffed by guides in period-appropriate costumes who show what life was like for light keepers and their families during the early 20th century. The lighthouse itself is the centerpiece of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, which boasts a picnic area, tent camping and 14 miles of hiking and multi-use trails.
3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors, MN 55616
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19.James J Hill House
© James J Hill House
The James J. Hill House is a historic mansion in Saint Paul. The home was built by railroad tycoon and builder of the Great Northern Railway James J. Hill in 1891. The 36,000-square-foot home is a National Historic Landmark and is available for touring.
The interior of the home features an art gallery which displays Hill's private art collection, some of the family's furnishings, a pipe organ, and very intricate, hand-carved woodworking. A small gift shop is available, selling books and items relating to the railroads, the Hill family, and the historic site itself.
240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102, Phone: 651-297-2555
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20.Glensheen, The Historic Congdon Estate
© Glensheen, The Historic Congdon Estate
Glensheen is a mansion in Duluth which is operated as a historic house museum. The property includes almost eight acres of waterfront property on Lake Superior. The 27,000-square-foot Jacobean style house has 39 rooms and the interior is filled with ornate Victorian furnishings.
Glensheen has gained a certain amount of unfortunate fame as the site of the murders of Elisabeth Congdon and her nurse Velma Pietila in 1977. Tour guides are prohibited from speaking about the murders during the tours, but there are books about the incident available for purchase on site. In addition to the impressive home, the estate also includes gardens, bridges and trails for visitors to enjoy.
3300 London Road, Duluth, MN 55804, Phone: 218-726-8910
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21.Xcel Energy Center
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Xcel Energy Center is a multi-purpose arena in Saint Paul. The arena can hold almost 18,000 guests and has four spectator levels, one level for suites and three levels of general seating. The building is the home arena of the NHL's Minnesota Wild and is the former home of the Minnesota Swarm lacrosse team.
In the recent past, it has hosted high profile events such as the Republican National Convention. The arena hosts multiple events throughout the year such as concerts, sporting events, conferences and more. Tickets for events can be purchased on the center's website.
199 W. Kellogg Boulevard, Saint Paul, MN 55102, Phone: 651-265-4800
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22.The Frederick R Weisman Art Museum
© The Frederick R Weisman Art Museum
The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is an art museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The collections lean toward modern art and include more than 20,000 images from artists such as Marsden Hartly, Alfred Maurer and Charles Biederman as well as Native American Mimbres pottery and Korean furniture.
The building has a unique stainless steel design on the side that overlooks the Mississippi. The other side of the museum is made of brick so that it fits in with the other campus buildings facing it.
333 East River Road, Minneapolis, Phone: 612-625-9494
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23.International Wolf Center, Minnesota
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The International Wolf Center is a conservation, education and research organization based in Ely, Minnesota, dedicated to teaching others about wolves and advocating the survival of wild wolves. The center includes a variety of educational exhibits and a theater which shows film presentations about wolves.
Visitors to the center can view the resident "ambassador wolves." This pack of four captive wolves live in a naturalistic habitat and can be viewed from behind glass windows inside the center. The pack includes two Great Plains wolves and two Rocky Mountain wolves. The "Little Wolf" exhibit is a children's exhibit which provides an interactive learning experience for kids aged 3 to 9.
1396 MN-169, Ely, MN 55731, Phone: 218-365-4695
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24.Great Lakes Aquarium
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Great Lakes Aquarium is located on the Duluth waterfront. It is one of the few freshwater aquariums in the United States. The aquarium features animals which reside in the Great Lakes region and other freshwater ecosystems around the world.
205 different species can be seen at the aquarium, including fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. The main exhibit is the 85,000 gallon "Isle Royale" which extends through both floors and can be viewed from many different angles. There are several other permanent exhibits as well a variety of rotating exhibits.
353 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN 55802, Phone: 218-740-3474
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Guthrie Theater is a performing arts center in Minneapolis. The theater is also involved in the production, education, and professional training of the theater arts. The theater has its own local acting company where actors hone their skills by performing classic and modern works throughout the year. There are three theaters as well as a 178-foot cantilevered "Endless Bridge" to the Mississippi river that is open to the public.
This riverside location provides phenomenal views. There is an onsite restaurant as well as catering facilities and conference and private event services. The Guthrie Theater website has a calendar with current event information and ticketing services.
818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415, Phone: 612-225-6000
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25 Best Things to Do in Minnesota
- Minnesota's North Shore Scenic Drive, Photo: Courtesy of khlongwangchao - Fotolia.com
- Minneapolis Institute of Art, Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art
- Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, St. Paul, Minnesota, Photo: Courtesy of Marcus - Fotolia.com
- Quarry Hill Nature Center, Photo: Courtesy of EBFoto - Fotolia.com
- Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Photo: Minnesota Marine Art Museum
- The Duluth Experience, Photo: Christopher Boswell/stock.adobe.com
- Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden, Photo: Courtesy of tesoro photo - Fotolia.com
- Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Photo: Courtesy of Austin - Fotolia.com
- National Eagle Center, Minnesota, Photo: Courtesy of jkral - Fotolia.com
- Munsinger Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of coppec - Fotolia.com
- Mill City Museum, Minnesota, Photo: Courtesy of burningmine - Fotolia.com
- Science Museum of Minnesota, Photo: Science Museum of Minnesota
- North American Bear Center, Photo: Courtesy of Vladimir Wrangel - Fotolia.com
- Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Earl Robbins - Fotolia.com
- Lake Superior Marine Museum, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- Minnesota History Center, Minnesota, Photo: Minnesota History Center
- Pipestone National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- Split Rock Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of Aneese - Fotolia.com
- James J Hill House, Photo: James J Hill House
- Glensheen, The Historic Congdon Estate, Photo: Glensheen, The Historic Congdon Estate
- Xcel Energy Center, Photo: Courtesy of Federico Rostagno - Fotolia.com
- The Frederick R Weisman Art Museum, Photo: The Frederick R Weisman Art Museum
- International Wolf Center, Minnesota, Photo: Courtesy of alkerk - Fotolia.com
- Great Lakes Aquarium, Photo: Courtesy of Vladimir Wrangel - Fotolia.com
- Guthrie Theater, Photo: Courtesy of montywheels - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Aneese - Fotolia.com
Enger Park and Tower
Enger Park and Tower is a public park and observation tower located in Duluth. Its 80-foot, five-story, blue stone observation tower provides stunning views of Lake Superior and panoramic vistas of the Twin Ports area. Each of the five levels of the tower has a lookout with stairway access.
The tower is the centerpiece of Enger Park, which has several lovely and unique gardens. During your visit you can learn about the park's interesting history. It was dedicated by the King of Norway in 1939 and Norwegian royalty has visited on several occasions. Things to Do in Duluth
16th Ave W & Skyline Drive, Duluth, MN 55811, Phone: 218-730-4300