Nestled in the midwestern region of the US, Minnesota is a state that sometimes gets overlooked for more “well-known” states, like; Florida, California or New York. That being said, there’s a heap of best places in Minnesota that are incredible to see and well worth visiting during a trip.
You see, one of the great things about the vastness that is the US is its diversity. With millions of square miles to explore, each state has its own unique history, fun cities and beautiful national parks that make it a travellers dream country to explore.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the best places in Minnesota to explore when you visit. Just be sure to spend some time in the gorgeous lakes (which make this area so special).
1.) Visit Boundary Waters
The famed Boundary Waters are a 1-million acre wilderness area in Superior National Forest that’s totally unspoilt and stunning to visit.
Straddling the border of Canada, Boundary Waters is known locally for its remoteness and charm that shows off how stunning Minnesota is.
It’s the kind of place to get yourself really immersed in the great outdoors, with camping, hiking, kayaking and dog sledding, available throughout this vast region.
As you drive through this area, spend some time at kayaking Sea Gull Lake, whilst also making a pitstop by the Chik-Wauk Museum.
Also, if you’re fancying a hike, join the Sweethearts’ Bluff Trail that’s totally gorgeous.
2.) Explore Minneapolis
Love art? Then Minneapolis is the city for you! Whilst in the city, head over to the 11-acre Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that’s located in the Lowry neighbourhood Minneapolis. It’s a great place to go for a stroll, snap a few pics and explore the 40 (or so) sculptures by international artists.
If you’re looking for more undercover art (when it’s raining, not as some sort of artist spy mystery), get yourself over to the Walker Art Centre, the Weisman Art Museum or the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
All three are some of the best places in Minnesota to visit for art-lovers.
They have the most incredible permanent and temporary exhibitions that you can’t miss.
Looking for a show, grab tickets for the iconic Orpheum Theatre that’s called this city home for almost a century. It’s a totally stunning venue, with totally epic performances. Check out their schedule to see what’s on.
Fancy some nature without leaving the confines of the city, pop over to see the impressive Minnehaha Falls. This 50-foot waterfall is totally stunning and gorgeous in snow or sun! Just be sure to wear some mitten before heading to Minnehaha Park in the snow – it gets super chilly here.
Arguably one of the prettiest buildings in the city, pop into the Basilica of Saint Mary that stands proudly in the city. Yes, it’s stunning from the outside but even more gorgeous once you step foot inside.
Take a wander down the nave, explore the gorgeous ceiling and take it all in.
Oh, and don’t forget to see Stone Arch Bridge! This unique granite and limestone bridge crosses the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Now, the bridge itself is worth a brief stroll but best views (of the bridge) can be seen from the nearby Father Hennepin Bluff Park.
3.) Visit Lake Itasca, Itasca State Park
Located in the oldest state park in Minnesota, Lake Itasca marks the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River that’s gorgeous to see.
Visit the lake to enjoy its beauty and grab a fishing pole (I’m terrible at fishing, by the way) and spend the afternoon leisurely bobbing the lake.
Fishing not your thing? Enjoy the park and check out the University of Minnesota laboratory and biological station located in the park.
Oh, and if you fancy a short hike, there’s plenty of options on the 50-miles of trails that crisscross the park.
4.) Spend a day in Duluth
Duluth isn’t always the obvious choice when it comes to the best places in Minnesota to visit – but it’s actually a lovely spot to spend a day on a wider road trip around this area of the state.
Of course, you’ve got the Aerial Lift Bridge (an engineering masterpiece and totally iconic in Duluth). Constructed in 1905, it was the first transporter bridge in the whole country.
If bridges aren’t your thing, head over to the Great Lakes Aquarium showcases the unique species of Lake Superior. It gives you a unique experience to learn more about the ecosystems in the region that’s are all so important to how the lake thrives.
If you love a bit of early 20th-century history, head over to Glensheen Mansion. Built within 1908, this is a historic family home that you can visit today. It’s so beautiful and well worth a gander if you’re near Congdon Park.
5.) Explore Saint Paul
Cosying up with its next-door neighbour Minneapolis, Saint Paul is one of the twin cities that make up this one of the best places in Minnesota to explore if you fancy a city break.
Being the capital of the state, Saint Paul might have a little edge over Minneapolis, especially with some of the spots to visit.
Once here, be sure to check out the Minnesota History Center with all its exhibits and learn more about this incredible state.
Oh, and do pop inside the Como Park Conservatory if you’ve got time’ the building is stunning and houses the most incredible fern garden and bonsai collection.
For another stunning spot, head into the Cathedral of St. Paul. This striking and totally historic cathedral is easily recognized by its distinctive copper dome and Baroque architecture that you really can’t miss. It’s gorgeous inside.
Finally, if you’ve got time, take a stroll around the State Capitol and Minnesota House of Representatives chambers that’s just of the Upper Mall.
It really is one of the best places in Minnesota to see.
6.) See Gooseberry Falls State Park
Located on the scenic Highway 61, this state park sits near Lake Superior. The park has so many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in any season. Though be warned, wear plenty of thermals and waterproof boots if you’re heading here in the chilly winter.
As you meander the park, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Gooseberry Falls! It’s pretty epic and well worth visiting whilst driving the north shore of Lake Superior.
7.) See the Northern Lights at Voyageurs National Park
Hugging the Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park is one of the best places in Minneapolis to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). With little light pollution and crips evening air, it’s the kind of place that’s made for stargazing and dancing rays.
Although the northern lights can appear at any time of the year, it’s the winter months when you’ll have the biggest chance to see them. This is due to the longer nights, meaning more night and less light to drown out the aurora.
Check out more information, here, from Voyageurs National Park.
8.) Stop off at Hollow Rock
If you’re driving north, over the border, to Thunder Bay in Canada then be sure to stop off at Hollow Rock. Nestled on the northern banks of Lake Superior, it’s a great place to rent a cabin right on the lakefront.
The views are incredible at sunrise.
Plus, it’s around 20-minutes from Judge C.R. Magney State Park that’s well worth visiting for its hiking routes and falls.
9.) Find Phelps Mill Park
An easy stop on your road trip between Minneapolis and Fargo, Phelps Mill Park is a historic mill that’s great for an afternoon break.
Once here, you can learn more about the history of the mill and explore the Otter Tail County Park, too.
10.) Chillout at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Around 60-minutes north of Duluth, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is one of the best places in Minnesota that’s totally picturesque.
With the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse, the peaceful Little Two Harbors and some of the Gitchi Gami State Trail – it’s a spot that nature lovers will love.