Located in the American Midwest, Minnesota is a state that is sometimes overlooked by “better known” states, such as Minnesota. Florida, California or New York. That being said, there are tons of the best places in Minnesota that are incredible to see and well worth visiting.
You see, one of the great things about the vastness of America 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 dreamland for travelers.
For this very reason, I wanted to share some of the best places in Minnesota to explore when you visit. Just spend some time in the beautiful lakes (which make this area so special).
1.) Visit Boundary Waters
The famous Boundary Waters are 1 million acres of wilderness in the Superior National Forest that is completely unspoiled and breathtaking to visit.
Boundary Waters is on the Canadian border and is locally known for its seclusion and charm, which show how breathtaking Minnesota is.
It’s the kind of place where you can really immerse yourself in nature. There is camping, hiking, kayaking, and dog sledding in this vast region.
As you cruise through this area, spend some time kayaking on Sea Gull Lake while also making a pit stop at the Chik-Wauk Museum.
If you fancy a hike, join the Sweethearts’ Bluff Trail which is absolutely awesome.
Read more: Best Hikes in the US
2.) Explore Minneapolis
Dear art? Then Minneapolis is the city for you! While in town, visit the 11-acre Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in the Lowry neighborhood of Minneapolis. It’s a great place to take a stroll, snap some pictures, and explore the 40 (or so) sculptures made by international artists.
If you’re looking for more undercover art (when it’s raining, not some sort of spying secret for artists), check out the Walker Art Center, the Weisman Art Museum, or the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
All three are some of the best places in Minnesota for an art lover.
They have the most incredible permanent and temporary exhibitions that you cannot miss.
Find a show and secure tickets to the iconic Orpheum Theater, which has been home to this city for almost a century. It’s a totally breathtaking venue with totally epic performances. Check their schedule to see what’s going on.
If you want to enjoy nature without leaving the city limits, visit the impressive Minnehaha Falls. This 50 foot waterfall is absolutely stunning and beautiful in snow or sun! Be sure to wear a mitt before heading to Minnehaha Park in the snow – it gets super cold here.
Visit the Basilica of Saint Mary, which stands proudly in the city and is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Yes, it’s breathtaking from the outside, but even more beautiful once you step inside.
Take a stroll around the nave, explore the beautiful ceiling and enjoy it all.
Oh, and don’t forget to see Stone Arch Bridge! This unique granite and limestone bridge crosses the Mississippi in Minneapolis. Now the bridge itself is worth a short walk, but the best view (of the bridge) can be seen from nearby Father Hennepin Bluff Park.
3.) Visit Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park
Lake Itasca is located in the oldest state park in Minnesota and marks the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River, which is beautiful to look at.
Visit the lake to soak up its beauty, grab a fishing rod (I’m terrible at fishing by the way) and spend the afternoon rocking leisurely across the lake.
Aren’t you fishing your thing? Enjoy the park and visit the University of Minnesota laboratory and biological station in the park.
Oh, and if you fancy a short hike, there are plenty of options on the 50 miles of trails that run through the park.
Read more: Best Hikes in the US
4.) Spend a day in Duluth
Duluth isn’t always the obvious choice when it comes to the best places to visit in Minnesota – but it’s actually a nice place to spend a day on a wider road trip through this area of the state.
Of course, you have the Aerial Lift Bridge (a technical masterpiece and icon in Duluth). It was built in 1905 and was the first transport bridge in the whole country.
If bridges aren’t your thing, check out the Great Lakes Aquarium, which exhibits the unique species of Lake Superior. It gives you a unique experience learning about the ecosystems in the area, all of which are so important to the lake’s thriving.
If you love a bit of early 20th century history, check out the Glensheen Mansion. Built in 1908, this is a historic family home that you can visit today. It’s so beautiful and well worth a look when you are near Congdon Park.
5.) Explore St. Paul
Saint Paul is one of the sister cities in Minnesota that merges with neighboring Minneapolis. This is one of the best places in Minnesota to explore if a city break is your thing.
Saint Paul is the capital of the state and may have a small advantage over Minneapolis, especially with regards to some of the places to visit.
Once you get here, be sure to visit the Minnesota History Center and all of its exhibits and learn more about this incredible state.
Oh, and visit the Como Park Conservatory when you have the time. The building is stunning and is home to the most incredible fern garden and bonsai collection.
For another stunning location, visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. This striking and utterly historic cathedral is easy to spot by its distinctive copper dome and baroque architecture, which you really cannot miss. It’s beautiful inside.
If you have time, take a stroll through the chambers of the State Capitol and the Minnesota House of Representatives, located just on the Upper Mall.
It really is one of the best places to see in Minnesota.
Read more: Best National Parks in the US
6.) See Gooseberry Falls State Park
This state park is located on scenic Highway 61 near Lake Superior. The park has so many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed any time of the year. However, be warned, wear plenty of thermals and waterproof boots if you go here in the cool winter.
As you traverse the park, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Gooseberry Falls! It’s pretty epic and well worth a visit if you are driving on the north shore of Lake Superior.
7.) See the Northern Lights in Voyageurs National Park
Located on 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 strong evening air, this is a place to watch stars and dance.
Although the Northern Lights can appear at any time of the year, the winter months are your greatest chance to see them. This is due to the longer nights, meaning that more night and less light drown out the aurora.
More information can be found here in Voyageurs National Park.
8.) Stop at Hollow Rock
When driving north across the border to Thunder Bay, Canada, be sure to stop at Hollow Rock. Located on the north shore of Lake Superior, it’s a great place to rent a lakefront cabin.
The view is amazing at sunrise.
Judge CR Magney State Park is about 20 minutes away and well worth a visit for its hiking trails and waterfalls.
9.) Find Phelps Mill Park
Phelps Mill Park is a historic mill that is great for an afternoon on your road trip between Minneapolis and Fargo.
Here you can learn more about the history of the mill and also explore Otter Tail County Park.
10.) Chill out in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Located about 60 minutes north of Duluth, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is one of the best spots in Minnesota that is absolutely picturesque.
With the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse, the peaceful Little Two Harbors, and some of the Gitchi Gami State Trail, this is a place nature lovers will love.
Read more: Best National Parks in the US
10 best national parks to visit in the US