20 Best Places To Visit In Minnesota, USA

best places to visit in minnesota
John Cedrick
John Cedrick 
| 9 min read

Chances are, you’ll begin your adventure in Minnesota in the twin cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. You’re not alone, and this is perfectly fine as it’s the face of the state, both culturally and economically. Both cities are convenient places to accustom yourself to the high-class lifestyle its denizens currently enjoy. It’s home to a busy nightlife and places of interest such as museums, parks, restaurants, cafes, breweries, wineries, shopping centers and many more. But that’s just half of what Minnesota has to offer. The scenic countryside and beautiful nature reserves deserve notice, as it’s the magnet that attracts visitors to experience the blissful outdoors. Known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, this is the perfect place to host a number of water sports activities and recreational fishing. It’s tough to think of a more beautiful nature escape in the USA than Minnesota. So if you’re planning to experience the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the twin cities and see the best of nature, we have outlined a list of the best places to visit in Minnesota, USA.

1. Minneapolis

Downtown MInneapolis
Source: Photo by Flickr user Umberto Nicoletti used under CC BY 2.0

Minneapolis, one of the twin cities of Minneapolis - Saint Paul is more cosmopolitan and has an active nightlife. The place is known for its high standard of living, which is evident as you walk from the busy streets of downtown Minneapolis to the peaceful and quiet avenues of the suburbs. You can visit classy boutiques and markets and revel in nightclubs until dawn. Despite being regarded as a high-class destination, this place provides its residents and visitors some breathing room away from the hassles of city life. It’s home to an abundance of parks, lakes, gardens, and other quiet hangout places.

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2. Grand Marais

Grand Marais Harbor 5/15/22
Source: Photo by Flickr user Sharon Mollerus used under CC BY 2.0

Grand Marais is a quaint rural town on the northeastern tip of Minnesota, situated on the shores of Lake Superior. This place is the epitome of slow-living, with friendly locals and a picturesque location. A must-visit attraction is Artists’ Point, the best place to put the beauty of Lake Superior on canvas and get magnificent views of waves crashing against the pier. Aside from that, you can go hiking, mountain climbing, and canoeing during the summer. During winter, you can see ice floes and go skiing or snowboarding.

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3. Red Wing

Main Street, Red Wing, Minnesota
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster used under CC BY-SA 2.0

A historic town southeast of the twin cities, Red Wing is known for its distinct culture of pottery and stoneware, due to the pioneers of the place being skilled craftsmen. Moreover, they were also expert farmers thanks to the lush riverside farmlands. So up to this day, Red Wing is home to a number of vineyards and other not-so-common agricultural products. It’s home to rolling hills, river channels, verdant grasslands with farmhouses, and a lovely, quiet downtown area. While you’re here, you can explore the parks, try local dishes, and visit a number of museums displaying pottery. Also, visit Barn Bluff - a spot with a panoramic view of both the Mississippi River and Red Wing proper.

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4. New Ulm

Old Main, New Ulm, Minnesota, Spring
Source: Photo by user Gustheeditor used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Another quaint town with a scenic landscape of the Minnesota River Valley is New Ulm. You may be surprised to see that this place resembles a rural German town. Locals retained their cultural upbringing to this day and it has resulted in a unique, yet charming destination where visitors can experience German culture without leaving the US. The landmarks and the food are all German-influenced, so it’s quite a unique experience for visitors.

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5. Saint Paul

Saint paul mn
Source: Photo by user [Unknown] used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Saint Paul, one of the twin cities of Minneapolis - Saint Paul, is the older of the two and, perhaps, the quieter one. Considered laidback despite being a bustling city, this place has its own charm. With the colossal Minneapolis just around the corner, Saint Paul strikes a balance between chill and cosmopolitan. Therefore, it is considered friendlier and more welcoming to tourists. This destination is perfect for someone who just wants to relax at the park or a cafe. In a nutshell, Saint Paul is a big city that sleeps at night and is home to a number of classy shopping centers, fine restaurants, museums, and parks.

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6. Mankato

Source: Photo by user Bobak Ha'Eri used under CC BY 3.0

A fast-growing city southwest of Minneapolis is Mankato, a place that exudes a big-city atmosphere despite being small in size. Although it is small, Mankato is home to posh districts and a vibrant downtown and suburb area. Plus, it’s a bustling retail and entertainment hub in the region, home to a number of movie theaters, shopping malls, fine restaurants, breweries, and museums. It also has a decent nightlife, with a number of pubs available. Besides all that, Mankato is home to Minneopa State Park and Red Jacket Trail, where you can explore the outdoors. Notable must-visit landmarks are Mankato Brewery, River Hills Mall, Carnegie Art Center, and Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.

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7. Lutsen

Cascade River, Lutsen, MN 3/28/18
Source: Photo by Flickr user Sharon Mollerus used under CC BY 2.0

Lutsen, just like Grand Marais, is the epitome of rural living. It is situated alongside the picturesque Lake Superior, to the northeast of Duluth. With a population of 190 people and smack in the middle of the wilderness, Lutsen portrays a place similar to the one in the movie “Cabin in the Woods”. The population here mostly consists of private owners of resthouses and resorts. If you’re keen on experiencing thrilling outdoor activities, consider Lutsen as your next travel destination. You can hike at Lutsen Mountains and Oberg Mountain Loop, explore Cascade River, and golf at Lutsen Resort.

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8. Ely

Birch Lake
Source: Photo by Flickr user TumblingRun used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Ely is a typical small town located in the forested woods of northeastern Minnesota. It first came into existence during the discovery of iron ore deposits, making it part of a larger group known as the Minnesota Iron Range. At present, It is known for its outdoor recreational activities and is the premier location for the famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - the perfect place to enjoy canoeing, hiking, or camping in the middle of no man’s land. In fact, it’s the most visited wilderness in the US, the likes of which have never been seen in other American states. Aside from outdoor activities, you can also enjoy shopping and local food at Sheridan Street in downtown Ely.

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9. Stillwater

St. Croix River, Stillwater, MN 3/17/18
Source: Photo by user Sharon Mollerus used under CC BY 2.0

Considered the birthplace of Minnesota, Stillwater is one of the state’s oldest towns. At present, the town is moderately-sized, with picturesque tree-lined avenues and a quiet downtown district. Must-do activities here include exploring historic streets and other famous landmarks such as the Historic Lift Stillwater Bridge and Aamodt’s Apple Orchard, where you can harvest some apples. Outdoor activities, on the other hand, can be enjoyed at Brown’s Creek Trail, where you can go hiking, cycling and walking. To cap off your day, have a bite at one of the fine restaurants downtown.

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10. Duluth

Enger Tower Duluth view east
Source: Photo by user Ferahgo the Assassin used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Duluth is the premier port city on the shores of Lake Superior. This is the ideal place to explore a huge portion of the lake because it is home to a number of boat ride services. It is the best place to enjoy water-based activities such as fishing, canoeing, and paddle-boarding. If that’s not enough, this city is also home to a protected wilderness where it’s safe to go hunting and camping. Moreover, the central part of Duluth has a number of fine restaurants and accommodations.

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11. Brainerd

Fall Reflection, Brainerd, MN
Source: Photo by Flickr user Sharon Mollerus used under CC BY 2.0

Located northwest of Mille Lacs Lake, Brainerd is another moderately-sized city in Minnesota. Its location makes it an ideal spot to enjoy both summer and winter activities. During the summer, the city is a great place to go cycling, kayaking, canoeing, and golfing. During winter, when the snow starts falling, you can either go skiing or snowboarding. However, Brainerd is not only limited to fun outdoor activities - the surrounding area provides a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, but the city proper offers visitors an array of delightful local cuisines and good breweries.

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12. Grand Portage

Bay Road - Grand Portage Bay, Minnesota
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Grand Portage is on the northeastern tip of Minnesota and Lake Superior, where it shares a border with Canada. It’s home to a number of spectacular nature views and mostly features a wintry shoreline and green landscapes. This place is home to ice floes, rolling valleys, woodlands, forests, sprawling meadows, and hilly terrains. Its ambiance is that of a far-flung place, but it is complemented by a number of trails where you can go hiking, cycling, and mountain climbing. Moreover, there are boat services available so you can explore the deep waters of Lake Superior.

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13. Shakopee

Shakopee, Minnesota 5
Source: Photo by user AlexiusHoratius used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Nestled within the outskirts of Minneapolis - Saint Paul, Shakopee is a thriving small-town community with access to the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the twin cities due to its proximity. One of the many towns situated along the banks of the Minnesota River, this is one of the most vibrant and visited towns in the state. Its main avenues are saturated with boutiques, markets, fine restaurants, and pubs. It’s also home to the largest amusement park in the Upper Midwest area, the Valleyfair.

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14. St. Cloud

First National Bank, St Cloud MN
Source: Photo by user McGhiever used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Known due to its geographic features, St. Cloud is strategically located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Sauk Rivers, causing the rapids and making the city a popular destination for kayaking and canoeing. Plus, it’s also home to a number of trails, parks, gardens, and nature reserves. This place is pedestrian-friendly, so it’s a nice experience exploring the city on foot. Other must-visit landmarks are Stearns History Museum, Old Capital Tavern, resto-bars near the rapids, and Crossroads Center, the largest shopping center outside of the twin cities. Visiting this place definitely has its perks, from the fun outdoor activities to the hip and modern city center.

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15. Bloomington

Normandale Lakes Park
Source: Photo by Flickr user Joe Passe used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bloomington is home to the world-renowned Mall of America, a shopping center consisting of 400 shops. The word shopping is definitely redefined at Bloomington! But it doesn’t stop there - MOA is also home to a theme park where you can enjoy the thrill of extreme rides. However, this place isn’t only about shopping and theme parks. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in both city and outdoor life, this is the place for you. You can visit Minnehaha Falls, Regional Park, and Richardson Nature Center. To cap off your day, you can savor a meal at one of the many great restaurants in the city.

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16. Two Harbors

Two Harbors Lighthouse
Source: Photo by Flickr user Pete Markham used under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the many port cities within Lake Superior, Two Harbors is a picturesque lakeside town. It’s home to the oldest operating lighthouse in the North Shore and is also the most photographed lighthouse in the US. Moreover, it boasts historic sites like the first building where the world-famous 3M Company started. Aside from that, this place is known for having a tranquil wilderness where various outdoor activities can be enjoyed. There are a number of must-visit spots here, such as the Hellacious Overlook, among others.

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17. Bemidji

Indian Statue
Source: Photo by Flickr user Amy Meredith used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Bemidji, the first city to emerge on the Mississippi River, was pioneered by lumberjacks during the 1800s. At present, it’s home to a mix of Native American and Scandinavian culture. The result is a distinct local culture not found in other places, which makes it unique in terms of ambiance and festivities. Explore the city confines on foot to experience the charming and progressive city life. Must-visit places are Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Bemidji Sculpture Walk, Headwaters Science Center, and Lake Bemidji.

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18. Taylors Falls

Taylors Falls 1 - panoramio
Source: Photo by user Jon Platek used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the most rural towns in Minnesota, Taylors Falls is a quiet and peaceful community, home to just a few hundred people. What makes this place special is that it gives visitors convenient access to the wilderness. Nature is just a few steps away from your accommodation, so you can explore the great outdoors whenever you feel like it. This feature allows visitors to have spontaneous adventures. A fun thing to do is ride on horseback, pick pumpkins straight from the farm, and go hiking or cycling.

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19. Winona

General Store
Source: Photo by user PunkToad used under CC BY 2.0

Winona is known for its scenic countryside, numerous parks, and beautiful architecture - a blend of Old American and western European. The latter was caused by the arrival of German and Polish immigrants during the 1850s. Such architecture is prominent until now and it can be seen in the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka. If you want a bird’s-eye view of this awe-inspiring city, visit Garvin Heights which is a short hike away from the city.

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20. Bay Lake Township

Cass county MN 200 Walker Bay of Leech Lake IMG 1323
Source: Photo by user Bjoertvedt used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Bay Lake Township is home to hundreds of small lakes and is complemented by hills, rolling valleys, meadows, and forests. For this reason, it’s safe to say that this place is one of nature’s finest. Many visitors flock here during the summer to experience water sports such as canoeing, fishing, boating, and paddleboarding, among others. Other outdoor activities can also be enjoyed here, including hiking, cycling, and mountain climbing.

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Discover the hidden gems of Minnesota

A state blessed with beautiful landscapes and fascinating cultures, Minnesota has definitely made its mark in the world. Locals take pride in their friendliness and hospitality and take time to keep their homes in good shape with the idea of showcasing it to visitors - this is the very spirit of Minnesota. As a visitor, the state is perfect for all kinds of people, whether you’re a city person, night person, nature enthusiast, or thrill-seeker - there’s a place here for everyone. Explore these gems in Minnesota!

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Based in Manila, Philippines, and born and raised there, John Cedrick is a Civil Engineer by profession with a deep-seated passion for writing. He aspires to establish a renowned blog while...Read more

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