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The Best & Worst Times to Visit Minnesota in 2023

The Best & Worst Times to Visit Minnesota in 2023

Are you ready to explore the snowy north for a unique cold-weather vacation? Or are you planning on visiting the Land of 10,000 Lakes during the summer to travel the waterways?

Choosing Minnesota as your next vacation destination provides both of these options. Head to the state’s cities to learn more about the area while touring a plethora of museums.

Shopping is another popular activity with folks visiting the nation’s largest mall in Bloomington. There are dozens of reasons to plan a vacation to Minnesota.

However, choosing the best time to visit Minnesota can be challenging if you don’t know about the state. Here, we’ll lay out all your options so you can plan your vacation at the optimal time.

Why You Should Visit Minnesota

Minnesota houses the United State’s largest mall in a suburb south of the Twin Cities. This spot draws many regional visitors from nearby states, not only for shopping and dining options but also for entertainment.

The Mall of America has a theme park and an aquarium. The state has spectacular trails for hiking, waterways to navigate, and even access to one of the Great Lakes.

The northern part of the state provides a rugged area to explore, including Voyageurs National Park. If a more metropolitan vacation is more your style, check out the Twin Cities region. This area covers the state’s capital, Saint Paul, and Minneapolis, the state’s largest city.

There are many places to explore, from historic sites to art galleries. Foodies should check out the Twin Cities for some of the best restaurants in the state.

Duluth is another popular city for tourists. Its location in the north brings people closer to remote areas to explore. The city sits on Lake Superior, providing miles of shoreline for visitors to roam.

Overall Best Time to Visit Minnesota

Red canoe sitting partially on the rocks of a lake during the best time to visit Minnesota

Dan Thornberg/Shutterstock

The overall best time to visit Minnesota falls during the summer months, especially July and August when temperatures are warmest.

Locals and visitor travel throughout the state and head north toward the Canadian border for a cooler alternative to the humid summer weather. Duluth provides one of the most appealing options for summer travel.

In the city, you can walk along the edge of Lake Superior on the three-mile Lakewalk Trail. Following the shoreline, you can spot the Aerial Lift Bridge and the North Pier Lighthouse. The city also boasts a large freshwater aquarium and a railroad museum.

Further north, travelers can explore state and national forests, along with many lakes. One of the most popular spots for water lovers is Voyageurs National Park.

A great deal of the park can only be accessed with a watercraft, so it’s an excellent option for kayaking or canoeing. Lakes aren’t the only draw to the state for outdoor adventures.

Rivers wind their way through the state, including the mighty Mississippi, starting from headwaters in Itasca State Park. Rivers and a landscape carved by glacier retreat mean Minnesota has several gorgeous waterfalls.

Cheapest Time to Visit Minnesota

The cheapest time to visit Minnesota falls during the travel slump after the winter holidays. The period from December to February offers more affordable prices for travel necessities like lodging and airfare.

However, due to the winter conditions, you may have to purchase costly gear for the weather if you live in a warmer climate. Getting around the state during this time can be challenging due to the snow, and certain areas may be hard to reach and lack their summer splendor.

Consider instead a spring vacation before Memorial Day to catch the tail end of off-season prices along with warmer conditions.

Minnesotans celebrate the end of winter weather by getting out of the house, so you’ll find lots of free or low costs spots to visit, like farmer’s markets. The improving weather allows for cheaper activities like hiking in parks.

If you’re planning on visiting the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, save money by traveling through the city on bikes. Rent them for a low cost and drop them offer at convenient locations throughout the Twins Cities to save on gas and costly city parking.

Least Busy Time to Visit Minnesota

Fog on Lake Superior rolling in off the lake during the winter, the overall least busy time to visit Minnesota

Jacob Clausnitzer/Shutterstock

Along with being the cheapest time to visit, winter, especially January and February, is also the least busy time to visit Minnesota due to the chilly temperatures.

However, there are other times when hotspots aren’t as busy if you don’t want to deal with below-freezing weather. Consider fall travel, since traffic declines while school is in session.

These periods see fewer visitors with lingering warm weather through October. The area’s four distinct seasons make for prime fall foliage viewing when the leaves change color.

Fall brings special events to the state, whether you want to be scared at a haunted house or challenge yourself by navigating a corn maze. Many of the region’s crops are harvested in the fall, making it a prime time for visiting markets.

Apple orchards are popular places to visit, where you can pick your own produce as you wander under the trees. However, since these activities are also popular with locals, consider a weekday visit to avoid crowds.

Worst Time to Visit Minnesota

The worst time to visit Minnesota falls during winter, especially during January when the state experiences the coldest weather However, if you want to play in the snow as locals do, there are tons of snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling opportunities.

If you do decide to head to northern Minnesota during this time of year, you can experience some unique opportunities for winter fun, including traveling by dog sled.

The state offers cross-country skiing all around the state and downhill skiing where the elevation is higher, like the Lutsen in the Sawtooth Mountain range.

In addition to being a fun spot for winter activities, the Twin Cities metropolitan area has excellent attractions to visit any time of year. From museums to the nation’s largest mall, there’s something for everyone in the area.

Things to Consider

Guthrie Theater in the Twin Cities pictured during the summer, the best time to visit Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States – October 10, 2008: Colorful Maple trees at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis with Gold Medal Flour silos in Autumn/Reimar/Shutterstock

Consider these options to inspire your Minnesota vacation itinerary. These include some of the top attractions in the Twin Cities, where you’ll most likely be near if flying to the state, and some seasonal celebrations for you to participate in!

Twin Cities Attractions

Regardless of when you visit, you should consider checking out the Twin Cities. The combined population of both cities makes them one of the most populous areas in the country, providing lots of places to visit in the metropolitan area.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Como Park Zoo & Conservatory: Unlike many other zoos, Como offers free admission to tour this park with a zoo, amusement park, conservatory, and golf course, though some activities cost extra.
  • Guthrie Theater: A popular regional theater featuring a 1,000-seat auditorium on the banks of the Mississippi River.
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art: A large museum with over 90,000 pieces of art from around the world.
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A large park offering views of 40 art installations, making it one of the largest sculpture gardens in the country.
  • Minnehaha Falls: An easy-to-access falls in a city park of the same name along the Mississippi River with historic buildings.
  • Ordway Center for the Performing Arts: A multi-million dollar performing arts center featuring opera, orchestras, and theater.
  • Weisman Art Museum: Besides offering an extensive collection of art, this museum boasts one-of-a-kind architecture designed by Frank Gehry.

Festivals in Minnesota

Despite frigid conditions during a good portion of the year, Minnesotans always find a reason to celebrate. Consider attending a festival during your trip to enjoy yourself with locals and visitors alike.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Saint Paul Winter Carnival: A festival lasting nearly a week, usually starting during the last week of January, offering family-friendly activities across Saint Paul.
  • Spicer Winterfest: A mid-January festival held on Saulsbury Beach on Green Lake in Spicer, Minnesota, where volunteers create spectacular ice sculptures.
  • Family Festival at Lutsen Mountains: A family event held at Lutsen Mountains, offering live music, games, and face painting on special weekends in the winter.
  • Hygge Festival: An event in Grand Marais spanning a week in February, where you can relax by the fire and learn about the cozy Hygge lifestyle.
  • Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds: Celebrate the arrival of warmer weather in May by birdwatching at this festival held in Detroit Lakes.
  • Midsommar Dag: Celebrate the area’s Swedish heritage in Scandia with traditional music and free activities during this day-long festival in late June.
  • Lumberjack Days: Head to historic downtown Stillwater on the shores of the St. Croix River with a parade and unique activities held in July since 1934.
  • Bavarian Blast: This south Minnesotan festival, held in New Ulm, celebrates German culture during late July with a sauerkraut eating competition and barrel rolling.
  • SEMBA Bluegrass Festival: Listen to bluegrass at this mid-August festival held in southern Minnesota.
  • Minnesota State Fair: Celebrate the end of summer at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, showcasing agriculture and delicious food starting at the end of August.
  • Duluth Oktoberfestival: Head to the shores of Lake Superior to celebrate with German beer and food in mid-September, featuring family-friendly activities.
  • Scarecrow Tour: An October festival featuring scarecrows around the city of Waconia, where you can vote on your favorite creation and win prizes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sunrise over Voyageurs National Park as seen from the bank of a lake during the best time to visit Minnesota


These are some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Minnesota and their answers!

What is Minnesota famous for?

One of Minnesota’s most significant claims to fame is the 10,000 lakes, drawing residents during the warmer months for swimming, fishing, and water sports. Minnesota resident, Ralph Samuelson, invented water skiing in Lake City, creating one of the state’s most popular activities in 1922.

What months are warm in Minnesota?

In May, temperatures start to warm. In northern Minnesota, the climate stays cooler than in the south, though both areas experience warmer summer weather. Southern Minnesota receives the hottest temps with frequent humidity from June through August.

What months does it snow in Minnesota?

Expect snow in Minnesota from November to April, though this varies by year. Sometimes the snow lasts longer or begins earlier. Northern areas receive more snow than parts of the state further south.

What is the best time to see fall colors in Minnesota?

Mid-September to mid-October is the best time to see fall colors in the state. The farther north you travel in Minnesota, the sooner trees change color.

What is the snowiest city in Minnesota?

Duluth ranks as Minnesota’s snowiest city due to its location on Lake Superior. The city holds the record for the highest daily snowfall in the state. The record was set in November of 1991 when Duluth received over two feet of snow in one day.

So, When Should You Visit Minnesota?

The overall best time to visit Minnesota falls in warmer months to experience most of what the state offers. However, there are plenty of other things to see and do in the state during different times of the year. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!