Tourists and locals alike head to Minnesota for a break from everyday life. The state is full of surprises, from the rocky banks of Lake Superior to the nation’s largest mall.
15 of the Best Places to Visit in Minnesota
With a nickname lauding the number of lakes in the state, it should be no surprise that many of the best places to visit in Minnesota revolve around lakes and rivers. Minnesotans love being out on the water, whether ice fishing or water skiing, which Ralph Samuelson invented in the state in 1922.
But don’t be fooled — there’s much more than just lakes here. Check out our hand-picked recommendations of the places to visit in Minnesota below!
The Mall of America has hundreds of storefronts, selling almost anything you could think of! You’ll find it all at the nation’s largest mall, from big-name department stores to single storefront businesses with niche markets.
Attractions also help the mall thrive! Watch movies, enjoy fine dining, or try an escape room at the mall. This spot is perfect for family outings, with an aquarium and amusement park located inside. Head to Bloomington, south of Minneapolis, to check out this mall.
Minnesota’s largest city Minneapolis sits on the Mississippi River, providing the best of urban life with some remarkable natural features. Minnehaha Falls, a waterfall with a 50-foot drop, stands out as one of the most stunning.
The surrounding regional park also houses several sculptures. The city also has a vibrant food and cultural scene, with cuisine influenced by the many groups of immigrants that settled there.
Arts flourish in the city, from the hundred-year-old Minneapolis Institute of Art to the Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry.
Read Next: The Best & Worst Times to Visit Minneapolis
When people reference the Twin Cities in Minnesota, they are talking about Minneapolis and Saint Paul. While Minneapolis is the larger of the two, Saint Paul has the distinction of being the state’s capital and one of its oldest cities.
History and culture are two of the most popular draws to the city.
Saint Paul has been home to many famous residents, like The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald and Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. While touring the city, keep an eye out for Peanuts statues commemorating the cartoonist.
New Ulm is a south-central Minnesota city rich with history. The impact of German-Americans and immigrants who settled here can still be seen today. One of the most interesting is the glockenspiel, a clock and bell tower.
German traditions also influence the culture of New Ulm, which is known as the Polka of the Nation. The Minnesota Music Hall of Fame is also located here. Food is another way the city celebrates its heritage, hosting large festivals for people to enjoy.
The city of Duluth in Northern Minnesota sits on the edge of Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes. The city has plenty of parks to explore, including Canal Park, which is filled with unique places to shop, eat, and stay.
Midwesterners love vacationing in the city, so expect lots of tourist attractions here. One of the most prominent is the Great Lakes Aquarium, featuring freshwater exhibits. Those interested in the city’s shipping history tour the S. S. William A. Irvin, a flagship converted into a museum.
While Minnesota has other federally designated lands and monuments, Voyageurs is the only national park in the state. People head to the park for hiking and boating, but people also visit Voyageurs for prime viewing of the Northern Lights.
There are many ways to enjoy the beauty of this national park. A unique way to stay here is in a houseboat. Much of the park can only be accessed by the water. Renting a houseboat provides lodging and transportation throughout this unique area.
Like Voyageurs, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness stretches along the Canadian border. Boundary Waters is the perfect place for those looking for adventure! The wilderness includes an area of one million acres in size, perfect for hiking, boating, and fishing.
Retreating glaciers created the dramatic landscape of this wilderness area, and as beautiful as the Boundary Waters is, it can also be dangerous. Most locations here are remote and rugged, so careful planning and packing is required before a visit.
Located in the Superior National Forest, Lutsen offers one of the few ski resort experiences in the Midwest. Though they don’t rank among the nation’s tallest, the Sawtooth Mountains provide the perfect backdrop for skiing.
Multiple runs are available in the ski area, ranging from easy to expert. At other times of the year, people head to Lutsen for hiking or on trips farther north. The Sawtooth Mountains in fall also draw visitors with brilliant displays of fall leaves.
Another must-see spot along Superior’s shoreline is the city of Grand Marais. The city’s lakeside position has made it a popular vacation destination, and it hosts many festivals celebrating nature and the area’s history.
These festivals include Moose Madness, a family event centered around the native animal. If you’re traveling north towards Canada, take the National Scenic Byway starting in Grand Marais.
The road leads up through Superior National Forest through mixed forests, which are particularly beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color.
Visit the headwaters of the Mississippi at this Minnesota state park, which also happens to be the state’s oldest. The state created the park to protect the river’s source, which travels nearly 700 miles through Minnesota.
Itasca State Park offers camping, hiking, and fishing. Many visitors opt to stay in the Douglas Lodge, a historic lodge with a restaurant built in 1905. The lodge has beautiful amenities inside and out, like its large stone fireplace and cozy front porch.
Lake Minnetonka ranks as Minnesota’s ninth-largest lake, only a short drive from the Twin Cities. The regional park system provides amenities and activities at the park at all times of the year. In the winter, people come to the lake for ice fishing and snowmobiling.
The park has even more options during the summer, providing locations for everything from swimming to disc golf. One of the most popular activities here is biking, with three miles of trails available in the park.
In addition to being the third most populous city in the state, Rochester in southern Minnesota has an extensive history, with several buildings appearing on the National Register of Historic Places.
This includes St. Mary’s Hospital, which later would become the world-famous Mayo Clinic. The city boasts an extensive park system with miles of trails to explore on foot or by bike.
Rochester also has several public golf courses in addition to private courses. Quarry Hill is one of the largest and most popular parks, with a pond and a manmade cave carved in sandstone.
Back in the northern part of the state, on the shoreline of Lake Superior, people head to Gooseberry Falls State Park for the beautiful scenic waterfalls. These waterfalls stem from the river of the same name, which creates three sets of falls in the park.
Hikers and bikers head to the state park to explore the multi-use trails. Various birds live in and migrate through the park, making this an excellent spot for birdwatching and other wildlife viewing.
A few miles away from Canada’s border, Grand Portage National Monument commemorates the area’s place in history, both as a fur trading hub and home to the indigenous Ojibwe people. Learn more about the area at the site’s museum or tour the historic trade depot.
Hiking and camping are popular in the park during the summer. If you head to this national monument during the winter, you can try out snowshoeing. Check out the nearby Grand Portage State Park!
Directly across the St. Croix River from Wisconsin, people refer to Stillwater as the birthplace of Minnesota. The settlement specialized in lumber, which caused the city to grow quickly after its establishment.
Today many of the mills have become new businesses, along with the historic brick buildings that line downtown. There are dozens of charming places to eat and shop in this riverside city. No trip to Stillwater is complete without a stroll across the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge built in 1933.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the North Star State and our answers:
Why do tourists come to Minnesota?
Many tourists come to the state for outdoor adventures, while others come to explore historic cities and urban areas. Families, in particular, love touring Minnesota for its laidback atmosphere compared to other vacation hotspots and selection of things to do!
Can you see the Northern Lights in Minnesota?
Yes, especially in the northern portion of the state. The farther north you go, the better chance you have of seeing the Northern Lights.
What is the most visited state park in Minnesota?
The distinct geology of Gooseberry Falls State Park draws more visitors than any other state park in Minnesota. People often visit Gooseberry as their first stop when exploring the Lake Superior region.
What is the number one attraction in Minnesota?
Despite all the great options for outdoor activities, the most popular attraction in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the Mall of America. Many people from nearby states head to the mall for shopping and entertainment!
What food is Minnesota famous for?
Minnesota famously cultivates most of the commercial supply of wild rice. In 1977, the state named wild rice its state grain, and it is a popular addition to many dishes. These factors make wild rice Minnesota’s most famous food!
So, What Are the Best Places to Visit in Minnesota?
The best places to visit in Minnesota range from secluded lakeside locations to shopping at the largest mall in the United States. Whether your interests lie in kayaking or history, Minnesota has some excellent places to visit and explore!
Choosing where you want to go may be the most challenging part of your trip. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Minnesota today!