Best Places to Visit in Minnesota
Perhaps Minnesota is rightly called the Land of 10,000 Lakes. This US state borders Canada, and it is here in Minnesota, that the mighty Mississippi River emerges through glacial lakes and innumerable mountain streams to form one of the biggest rivers of the US. In terms of natural beauty, few states come even close to what Minnesota has to offer. The surreal natural beauty of its lakes, the deep coniferous forests, picturesque waterfalls, vibrant cities… Minnesota is blessed with these and many other natural wonders. You can indulge in doing some really exciting things and if you love more relaxed sort of activities then also you will find it in Minnesota. So read on to discover some exciting things to do and best places to visit in Minnesota and endless things that you can explore here in this North Star State. Check out this all-inclusive Minnesota travel guide:
Voyageurs National Park
To get a sense of just how grand the great outdoors can be, head to Voyageurs National Park, in the northernmost parts of Minnesota, bordering Canada. Here wilderness abounds in all its myriad forms, from the bald eagle to the moose, and you will get to see surreal landscapes dotted with islands, lakes, and pine forests. Much of the park is lakes, and in winter these are frozen, and snowmobile is the best way to visit the park. In summer, though, when the lakes thaw, it opens up so many activities like kayaking, boating, and swimming. There are other more adventurous activities like hiking on wilderness trails, biking on mountain roads, camping under open skies, and fishing. You can go on boating tours, or rent a houseboat, and hire a canoe to explore the park.
Pipestone National Monument
Native American tribes once used to live and work here in the quarries for a special stone from which they used to make smoking pipes. Even now, you can see these Native Sioux tribes and watch them making handicrafts and the famous stone pipes, which are entirely handcrafted. You can go on guided tours and see unusual rock formations, and visit the quarries. There are hiking trails like Circle Trail, which go through prairie grasslands, and you can also go on a picnic here. Many cultural events are held where you will get to know further about the Native American indigenous tribes and their ways of living.
Itasca State Park
Only the second oldest park in the whole of the US, Itasca State Park is home to old world pine forests, and this is one of the most fantastic places to visit in Minnesota. This park is where you will find the headlands, or the source, of the Mississippi River. There are more lakes here than you could ever have imagined, and the wilderness of one of the most famous parks in Minnesota is amazing. There is so much to do here if you love being amid waterfalls, lakes, forests, and wildlife. You will find around 40 camping sites within the park, and you can also go on 30 different hiking trails, or biking through the forests. You can do boat tours, kayaking, camping, and you can have an overnight stay here also. Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center, Native American burial mounds, Bison Kill Site are must-visit places here.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area
You can spend days here camping in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This protected wilderness is in the northernmost region of Minnesota, and the ethereal beauty of this place can cast a magical spell on you. There are so many lakes here that you can have to take a canoe with you if you want to fully explore the region. Camping is one of the best things to do in Minnesota here, and you can pitch your tent, relax in a hammock, and sleep under the stars. The lakes here are fed with innumerable glaciers and mountain streams, which has made this one of the most scenic places in Minnesota. You can go on hiking trails and spot bobcats, wolves, deer, and many other creatures.
North Shore Scenic Drive
Get behind the wheel or just sit by the car window, and see the most awesome landscapes that the North Shore Scenic Drive offers you. This is one of the most exciting road trips you can take in Minnesota. You start on this epic 145-mile drive from Duluth and travel to Thunder Bay in Canada. And while you travel, the shores of Lake Superior are always beside you. You can easily make a tour plan of 4-5 days on this scenic drive, and on the way, there are scenic places like Tettegouche State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse, Temperance River State Park. There are waterfalls such as Gooseberry Falls, Cross River Falls, and giant rock cliffs along this drive.
International Wolf Center
At the International Wolf Center, you can watch wolf packs in the wild, and learn everything about them. International Wolf Center is situated in Ely, Minnesota. There are short lectures, exhibitions, interactive and simulated tours. But if you want to have a more exciting rendezvous with wolves, then you can go on the safari and see them howl. You can bring your kids along, and they will have fun when they watch the pups playing about in the open. There are daily programs like Ambassadors to the Wild, Wolves of the Northwest, and others, where visitors can know more about these magnificent creatures.
Mall of America
Among the top tourist attractions and best places to visit in Minnesota is the Mall of America. It is the largest indoor mall in the entire US and it is so large, that there is an indoor aquarium and an amusement park with its very own rides and plenty of entertainment. There are more than 500 high-end stores where you can shop at your heart’s content. But more than shopping, the Mall of America is a huge entertainment and relaxation place, and there are more than a dozen restaurants where you can sit, relax and have a bite. But if you want excitement then you can try bowling, zip-lining, go-karting, watch a live concert, go on a virtual ride, swimming, and lots of other stuff to do.
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is one of the top tourist spots and fun places to visit in Minnesota. Kids will love this place especially, as well as adults. There are wild animals like gorillas, giraffes, polar bears, and creatures from all over the world. But, the zoo is just a small part of what you will see here at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. You can easily spend a whole day here, and visit the Japanese Garden at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory to see its beautiful flowering plants. You can play miniature golf, or go on a fun ride in the amusement park. There are numerous restaurants with live music. Kids can have a hands-on feel of various interactive exhibits and learn about plants and animals at the Leonard Wilkening Children’s Gallery.
Minneapolis is Minnesota’s largest city, and if you love art, culture, movies, dining out, nightlife, concerts, exhibitions, and even outdoor activities like hiking, biking, bird watching, or exploring the untamed wilderness of its national parks, then you can do it all here at Minneapolis. You can watch rare collections of paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and see the majestic architecture of the Minnesota State Capitol building. You can watch a live play at Guthrie Theater, or indulge in plenty of outdoor sports at Chain of Lakes Regional Park. There are outdoor dining places, shopping malls. But the best thing to do here at Minneapolis is to charter a cruise liner and go boating on the Mississippi River.
Grand Marais is a small town on the shores of Lake Superior but it is among the most scenic ones you will see in Minnesota. Superior Hiking Trail starts here, plus some others like the Gunflint Trail, and you will be able to see some fantastic landscapes from various vantage points. Grand Marais is the starting point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Area, but it’s the arts of this little town that is so incredible. You can take some souvenirs home with you, or see the handicraft collection at a local art gallery. If you are going to Grand Marais in July, then do not miss taking part in the Grand Marais Arts Festival, where you can watch live workshops, hands-on activities, demonstrations, and so on.
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
One of the best national parks in Minnesota is the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. It is a protected national park, where you can find yourself amid picturesque woods, lakes, and wildlife. Here, the Mississippi River stretches for 72 miles, and you can hire a paddleboat or a canoe and cruise on the placid waters of one of the largest rivers of the US. There are such magnificent landmarks like the Stone Arch Bridge, Fort Snelling, and if you want to go on a hike, there are plenty of them like the 5 mile Winchell Trail. There are many restaurants and camping areas, and if you like to spot migratory birds then you can visit Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, or at Coldwater Spring.
One of the most unique tourist attractions and places to visit in Minnesota is Lutsen. It is situated on the north shore of Lake Superior and it is a mountainous, rugged place, where you can do several exciting and thrilling adventure activities. There are the thunderous sounds of the Cascade River when it falls in spectacular waterfalls, or the deep gorges and cedar forests on the slope of the Lutsen Mountains that will lure you to visit this scenic place in Minnesota. You can take the Lutsen Mountain Tram and glide through the aerial gondola, 1000 feet above Lake Superior, or stay at a ski resort, or hike through deep valleys and come across deep gorges and scenic streams. There are many resorts at Lutsen, and it is the most famous for hiking and trekking trails.
Stillwater is just an hour’s drive from Twin Cities, but it still preserves its old-world charm and heritage culture. Stillwater is one of the best places in Minnesota when it comes to water sports, and here you will find the historic St. Croix River meandering through its course, and separating Minnesota from Wisconsin. You can go on a river cruise across St. Croix on a paddleboat, or a gondola. You can do some walking or exploring yourself on Brown’s Creek Trail, or if you are interested in wines, then there are wineries and vine trails that will take you to taste vintage wines. To get that laid-back feel, you can go on a 45-minute trolley ride and see Victorian mansions, and medieval-style homes along the way.
Duluth is a port town on Lake Superior, and one of the finest tourist spots and top 10 places to visit in Minnesota. Duluth is famous for being the starting point of the North Shore Scenic Drive, but there are some historical attractions here like Lake Superior Railroad Museum, where you will come across vintage diesel locomotives, steam locomotives, and carriages. Canal Park is a lakefront recreation area full of cafes, restaurants, shops, art galleries. There are exciting museums like Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center and the Duluth Children’s Museum. There are historical buildings like the historic Congdon Estate with its typical European-style architecture. Spirit Mountain Adventure Park is close to Duluth and here you can visit the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, or go on a zip-line tour.
Minnesota is full of the most scenic towns, and Grand Portage is one of them. Situated along the northern shore of Lake Superior, Grand Portage is an exciting place where you will see nature at its most sublime beauty. Grand Portage State Park is full of coniferous forests, and tourists may just be lucky enough to spot bears, foxes, and otters in the woods. There are heritage places like Grand Portage National Monument, where visitors will get to have a peek into the fur-trading activity of this area, and also get to hike along hiking trails. Grand Portage Lodge and Casino invite visitors to try their hand at blackjack and roulette.
What’s next waiting for you?
Now you know where to go and what to do in Minnesota, you can plan your travel with total enthusiasm. The above list of tourist spots and things to do in Minnesota will definitely make your travel memorable. If you are planning to explore best places to visit near Minnesota then don’t forget to check our other travel guides.