25 Best Places to Visit in Minnesota
From the origin of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca to the unique midwestern charm of the Twin Cities, Minnesota has a diverse and unique landscape as well as a fascinating history that is sure to enthrall visitors. Given Minnesota's northern location, deep winters can be found throughout the state and can be enjoyed by tourists alongside the locals who have embraced the cold and refuse to let it control their agenda. From outdoor winter concerts to summertime Renaissance Festivals, Minnesota is a charming state with a local dialect, beautiful lakes,
wedding venues, flea markets, adventurous attitude, and unbridled access to nature. Photo: eunikas/Fotolia
A city well known for its many intriguing neighborhoods, Minneapolis has much to offer to nearly any visitor, no matter what they seek. There are over 200 miles of bike trails, many of which wind through various parks and forests. Given that pretty much any random spot in Minneapolis is never more than six blocks from a park, there is always nature around to be explored. Coupled with the large number of parks, there are diverse museums and art cultural centers located both indoors and outdoors, including many that are free to the public. At any time of year visitors will find an extensive calendar of events filled with concerts, shows, festivals, and much more. Things to Do in Minneapolis
Photo: Mark Herreid/Fotolia
Being Minnesota's major port city on Lake Superior, Duluth has a rich history that has shaped the town into what it is today. With drastically different climates throughout the year, a visit to Duluth in the winter time is completely different than a trip in the summer, and guests will find there are always new gems to discover with every new visit. Travelers to Duluth can catch a show at the Duluth Playhouse or watch large ships come in and out at the canal, Duluth's primary seaport. There are often special events happening in Duluth, so visitors are encouraged to check online ahead of time or contact the Duluth visitors center by telephone to find out what events might pique their interest throughout the year. Things to Do in Duluth
Photo: Henryk Sadura/Fotolia
Often when people think of Rochester, Minnesota, they think of the highest rated hospital in the country, the renowned Mayo Clinic. Rochester, however, has much more to offer than award-winning medical service. There is an historic trolley company, which offers rides throughout the city, as well as the Amish regions in the area, which allow visitors a glimpse into a life likely very different from their own. Guests may enjoy visiting the downtown Rochester farmers market, a locally renowned growers-only market that offers seasonal produce throughout the year. To discover the local history, there are many tours and museums available for guests to partake in, and for those travelling with young minds, Rochester is home to the Minnesota Children's Museum Rochester. Things to Do in Rochester
Photo: Bill E. Reh/Fotolia
When it comes to spectacular twists on traditional culinary delights, St. Paul is likely to impress even the most selective foodies with their original Juicy Lucy burger. Finding a Juicy Lucy year round is very easy to accomplish in Saint Paul, but many of the other attractions offered in the city are more weather or seasonal dependent. If visiting in the summertime, taking a walking tour of the city, visiting one of the many summer festivals, or enjoying a local craft beer in an outside garden are all highly recommended by locals. For those who find themselves in Saint Paul during the wintertime, the fun continues with outdoor skating rinks, special Red Bull downhill skating competitions, and a city that truly embraces the cold. Things to Do in St. Paul
Ely is located deep in northern Minnesota, surrounded by hundreds of lakes and seemingly countless acres of thick forest. Offering easy access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Ely is well known amongst kayakers and water explorers and is also accessible to those who are inexperienced or beginners. Visitors to Ely may also enjoy the International Wolf Center or the Bear Center, both of which provide extensive information on native species to the area. For the more urban-focused tourist, the downtown Ely business district is not to be missed, and the local art centers should also be explored. Things to Do in Ely
Photo: Tomaz Kunst/Fotolia
Founded originally as a fishing village along the largest freshwater lake in the United States, Grand Marais has grown to become an important cultural and touristic hub along the shore of Lake Superior. As with many northern cities in Minnesota, the season in which guests choose to visit can make all the difference. From balmy summer weather to frigid winter, Grand Marais has designed its tourist attractions to showcase all the best parts of each special season. From snowmobiling in the winter to soaking up rays on the beaches of Lake Superior in the summer, guests are advised to plan their visit for the time of year they will most be able to enjoy what Grand Marais has to offer.
Oftentimes referred to as the Birthplace of Minnesota, Stillwater was home to the 1848 territorial convention that led to Minnesota becoming a state. Situated along the St. Croix River, Stillwater offers many recreational water opportunities for guests to indulge in, such as paddlewheel riverboat cruises, kayaking, boating, chartered gondolas, and more. Only a short commute from both the Twin Cities and Wisconsin, Stillwater is a centrally located town that offers easy access to the surrounding region, both in Minnesota and Wisconsin. There are many bed and breakfasts to cater to every need of their guests as well as many highly rated hotels for those looking for a more traditional stay. Things to Do in Stillwater
Brainerd, known as Minnesota's Playground, is located in the center of the state and offers a unique juxtaposition of natural and curated experiences. Some of the activities that can be sought out in Brainerd include biking, fishing, golfing, shopping, zipline adventures, Minnesota craft breweries, art museums, indoor water parks, and more. Brainerd is surrounded by lakes and forest, but also has a large retail district located in town. For families planning any trip in Minnesota, Brainerd is a great choice of destination whether the itinerary travels north, south, east or west, as its centralized location and premier entertainment options nearly guarantee a fun time for anyone passing through. Things to Do in Brainerd
Home to High Falls - Minnesota's largest waterfall, which clocks in at 120 feet high - Grand Portage is located on the very tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead and welcomes guests year round. For the nature enthusiast, Grand Portage offers unbridled access to seemingly endless trails that lead through picturesque forests and shorelines via snowmobile in the winter or by bicycle during the warmer summer months. Other attractions include the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino, which offers gaming tables, slots, a variety of restaurants, and a varied calendar of live entertainment and fun shows depending on the season.
Photo: AMB-MD Photography/Fotolia
»Itasca State Park
Itasca State Park, Minnesota's oldest state park, covers more than 30,000 acres of land and also encompasses over 100 lakes, providing guests with ample opportunity to explore the great outdoors in a variety of fashions. Situated around the beginning sections of the Mississippi River, visitors to the park will find themselves immersed in pine forests if they choose to camp in one of the 45 different camping sites. Guests who still want to experience all the park has to offer but who prefer the luxury of modern accommodations may find nearby hotels to their liking, with close enough proximity to the park to still enjoy the Wilderness Drive through 2,000 acres of Wilderness Sanctuary.
Only a short drive from the Twin Cities lies Lake Minnetonka, the largest lake in close proximity to Minnesota's capital, the surface area of which covers over 14,000 acres. Lake Minnetonka isn't just one large lake, however, and what makes it so desirable is that it is a series of small lakes and channels, allowing access for more guests to enjoy shorelines and warmer waters. When it comes to Lake Minnetonka, if a watersport exists it is probably being practiced somewhere on its waters, everything from pleasure yacht cruises and family tubing and water skiing to early morning fishing and sailboat rental. There are many restaurants located around the lake that are accessible by boat, presenting visitors with a unique experience they may not have experienced in the past.
Deep in the north of Minnesota along the stunning shores of Lake Superior, visitors will find Lutsen, a mountainous region offering both winter and summer adventure. Whether seeking a romantic getaway, individual solitude, or family fun, the Sawtooth Mountains are sure to offer an experience not found anywhere else in Minnesota. Home to the largest ski resort in the Midwest, Lutsen Mountains Resort offers approximately 95 different runs across four mountains in the winter time and ample hiking, biking, and golfing opportunities in the warmer months. For more daring guests, there is even an alpine slide that offers views of Lake Superior while zipping down the side of the mountain.
Photo: AMB-MD Photography/Fotolia
Only a short 75-mile drive south of Minneapolis, Mankato has become a destination for Twin City residents who are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without having to travel too far. Steeped in rich history and driven by diverse art and entertainment, Mankato offers experiences to Minnesotans and out of state tourists alike, charming them with a blend of urban and natural attractions. Visitors can bike freely and safely on the 50 miles of paved trails throughout the surrounding area or head to the Verizon Center to catch a hockey game. Finding local craft beer is easy to do in Mankato, and many of the award-winning restaurants could easily earn a place on top of any food lover's list. Things to Do in Mankato
Photo: Evan Meyer/Fotolia
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»Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
A large park dedicated to the very important river that helped life flow into Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is always free to the public and open year round to visitors, extreme weather permitting. With many programs designed and intended for school groups, this park's number one goal is education, and all visiting guests are invited to learn. The park encompasses a 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, where the most diverse character change in the river occurs, more so than anywhere else on its nearly 2,400-mile course through the country.
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A small town of approximately 15,000 people with deep German roots, New Ulm is a special destination for anyone travelling through southern Minnesota. Rich in German heritage, from the local beer made in German tradition to the local history with much to share, New Ulm is an ideal family destination for any itinerary. Many festivals are celebrated in the town throughout the year, and many attractions can be explored depending on the weather, but there are a few key essentials that are available all year round. The New Ulm Hermann Monument offers striking panoramic views of the local area for miles and miles, and many of New Ulm's shops base their merchandise heavily on their Germanic roots. Things to Do in New Ulm
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»Pipestone National Monument
In the far southwestern reaches of Minnesota lies Pipestone National Monument, a sacred quarrying location where Native American tribes once sourced the rock for the special stone pipes. The red pipestone found at the site is special to the region, and visitors to the monument can see an active quarry that was designed in such a fashion as to represent the traditional quarrying methods of Native American tribes. Many cultural demonstrations take place at the information center, giving guests insight into the historical ways of working this unique stone.
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Having been once ranked in the top 25 most historic places to visit by National Geographic Traveler magazine, Red Wing, Minnesota, has a vibrant history that visitors can explore through many different mediums. Aside from history, Red Wing also presents opportunities for many recreational activities such as kayaking, hunting, biking, ice skating, swimming, hockey games, skiing, and much more. When the winter is too cold to explore the outdoors, or the summer too hot, guests can find entertainment indoors with wine tastings, movies, many unique stores for shopping, and a large collection of restaurants, many of which are award winning. Things to Do in Red Wing
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Situated close enough to the Twin Cities to enjoy all they have to offer without experiencing the downsides of traffic and crowds, Shakopee finds itself with exciting opportunities to offer to locals and tourists alike. Very near to Shakopee lies Valleyfair, one of the Midwest's largest amusement parks, as well as Canterbury Park, an enthralling combination of horse racing and year-round casino access. For a step back in time, Shakopee is home to the enticing Minnesota Renaissance Festival, an event that tourists will not want to miss. For special themed weekends of the Renaissance Festival, guests are encouraged to visit the website ahead of time or contact the visitors center by telephone. Things to Do in Shakopee
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Surrounded by striking granite quarries, lakes, forests, and large swaths of agricultural land, Saint Cloud is uniquely situated as a bridge between urban and rural. In terms of literal bridges, St. Cloud has many that physically span the Mississippi, offering breathtaking views of the legendary river as it surges past. Home to St. Cloud State University, the city maintains the youthful energy of a college town while also embodying a sophisticated environment of culture, art, theater, and museums. No matter the weather, there is always something to do in St. Cloud, from strolling through the seemingly endless flowers at Munsinger Gardens to picking fresh produce at local farms, catching an award-winning show at the Paramount Theatre, or eating at one of the many locally renowned restaurants. Things to Do in Saint Cloud
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Bloomington is Minnesota's premier shopping destination, given that it is the location of the Mall of America, a shopping center containing over 500 different stores and approximately 50 restaurants. However, the Mall of America is more than just shopping, it is also a luxury entertainment destination with roller coasters, adventure courses, and many family-centric experiences. In the surrounding area of Bloomington, visitors will find ski areas, zoos, nature conservatories, and a variety of museums that present opportunities for everyone to enjoy. Although visiting the Mall of America is a quintessential part of any Bloomington visit, guests are encouraged to explore everything else the region has to offer as well.
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Welcoming guests year round, but with slight preference for autumn visits, Taylors Falls rests along the Ice Age Trail and is best known for its potholes. The St. Croix River, and Taylors Falls particularly, are the results of glacial activity thousands of years in the past, carving and shaping the land to be what we see today. Surrounding the falls themselves are many observably large potholes in the riverbed and edges, carved when torrents of water spun small and large stones against softer rock, shaping out huge cavities that are still visible to this day. Viewable potholes aren't the only attraction at Taylors Falls, however, as guests can also take hikes, enjoy a ride on a paddle wheeler boat, birdwatch, and much more.
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The original home of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, or 3M as it is better known, Two Harbors has maintained its small town feel in spite of being the birthplace of a worldwide company. Situated along the coastline of Lake Superior, Two Harbors tourism depends heavily on the season, as outdoor activities change dramatically between the somewhat balmy summers and the frigid winters. But no matter what the weather, guests are always invited to take a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railway, a historic railroad that offers both transportation as well as views of nature that are hard to find elsewhere. Things to Do in Two Harbors
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»Voyageurs National Park
In the far reaches of northern Minnesota, nearly in Canada, visitors will find Voyageurs National Park and all of its natural beauty. Given its extreme northern location within the United States, guests are advised to plan their visits according to their weather preferences. Winters are strong in the park and limit the access to outdoor activities without adequate preparation. Those visiting in the warmer months will find themselves with access to seemingly unlimited kayaking opportunities, hiking paths, biking paths, boating access, and the vastness of nature at their fingertips. However, there are many dangers present in the park, and for guests visiting who are unfamiliar with the area it is recommended to stop by the visitors center before venturing out on their own.
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Situated in southeastern Minnesota along the banks of the great Mississippi River and a long stone's throw from the Wisconsin border, Winona rests in the sculpted bluffs and has been built to accentuate the natural beauty of the area. For any who proclaim to love the outdoors, Winona has an extensive list of outdoor activities year round, from hiking in forests and around lakes to outdoor concerts, ice skating, and many different festivals. To explore the local history, there are many museums available, and to satiate the hunger that strikes after a day of exploring, there are many authentic local restaurants to choose from.
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Known for being the birthplace of Paul Bunyan and his famous ox Babe as well as the self-proclaimed first city on the Mississippi River, Bemidji is a destination in northern Minnesota that offers a wide variety of activities for visiting guests. Guests visiting during the warmer months will find many outdoor and water-based activities, such as hiking in the Northwoods or boating on one of the many local lakes. For guests who plan their visit in the colder months, Bemidji offers easy access to ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and many other outdoor winter activities. Bemidji also features many cultural attractions, ranging from concerts to orchestras to locally themed museums. Things to Do in Bemidji
Photo: Visit Bemidji
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25 Best Places to Visit in Minnesota
- Minneapolis, Photo: Courtesy of Mark Herreid - Fotolia.com
- Duluth, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com
- Rochester, Photo: Courtesy of Bill E. Reh - Fotolia.com
- Saint Paul, Photo: Courtesy of Katherine - Fotolia.com
- Ely, Photo: Courtesy of Tomaz Kunst - Fotolia.com
- Grand Marais, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- Stillwater, Photo: Courtesy of Austin - Fotolia.com
- Brainerd, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- Grand Portage, Photo: Courtesy of AMB-MD Photography - Fotolia.com
- Itasca State Park, Photo: Courtesy of aljndr - Fotolia.com
- Lake Minnetonka, Photo: Courtesy of Nelson - Fotolia.com
- Lutsen, Photo: Courtesy of AMB-MD Photography - Fotolia.com
- Mankato, Photo: Courtesy of Evan Meyer - Fotolia.com
- Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Photo: Courtesy of jcg_oida - Fotolia.com
- New Ulm, Photo: Courtesy of XtravaganT - Fotolia.com
- Pipestone National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- Red Wing, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- Shakopee, Photo: Courtesy of wolterke - Fotolia.com
- St. Cloud, Photo: Courtesy of Austin - Fotolia.com
- Bloomington, Photo: Courtesy of Brian - Fotolia.com
- Taylors Falls, Photo: Courtesy of Scruggelgreen - Fotolia.com
- Two Harbors, Photo: Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
- Voyageurs National Park, Photo: Courtesy of georgeburba - Fotolia.com
- Winona, Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
- Bemidji, Photo: Visit Bemidji
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of eunikas - Fotolia.com
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