Top 10 Day Trips From Minneapolis, Minnesota

day trips from minneapolis

Located along the mighty Mississippi River, Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota. With a population of around 400,000, it is part of the metropolitan area popularly known as Twin Cities, comprising Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s a city that experiences all four seasons and offers a little something for everyone. If you like to look at art, you can check out the paintings and sculptures at Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Or head to First Avenue, a renowned venue with live music, and listen to a live band. And if you like to be outside, you can walk along the Chain of Lakes, a series of seven lakes that are connected by walking and biking trails. Minneapolis is a great home base from which to explore other cities in Minnesota and nearby states. Read on to know more about the top day trips from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

1. Red Wing

Red Wing MN - downtown
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Michael Hicks used under CC BY 2.0

Our list starts off with the city of Red Wing, which is located to the south-east of Minneapolis. The city sits along Mississippi River and in the 1850s, settlers came to the area to work on the steamboats plying the river. One of the things the city is most known for today is Red Wing Shoes brand, but there’s much more to do in Minnesota than just shoe shopping. If you want to spend some time outdoors, walk along Cannon Valley Trail, which is 20 mi (32 km) long. If you’re visiting in the snowy and cold winter months, you can snowshoe along the trail. For those who prefer to stay indoors, you can head to Pottery Museum of Red Wing, where you can learn about the clay industry of the city.

2. Brainerd

Brainerd Carnegie Library 2016
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user McGhiever used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Situated in central Minnesota is a city called Brainerd. The area is locally referred to as Lake Country. Minnesota is home to more than 10,000 lakes and many of them are located in the Brainerd area. Thus, it’s a popular tourist spot, especially in the summer. Visitors love to go boating and swimming in the lakes. There’s also Paul Bunyan State Trail to enjoy. This biking and walking trail spans 120 mi (180 km), offering plenty of nature to see. Or you can explore downtown Brainerd, which has plenty of independent boutiques, antique shops and restaurants. It will take you around two hours to get to Brainerd from Minneapolis.

3. Stillwater

Stillwater Bridge 2017
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user McGhiever used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Stillwater is often referred to as the birthplace of Minnesota. Of course, indigenous people lived here before the arrival of settlers, but in 1837, a treaty was signed between the US government and Dakota and Ojibwa nations, which granted settlers the right to inhabit the area. Today, it’s a quaint town located along St. Croix River. One of the city’s landmarks is Lift Bridge. It’s one of just three left in the region today and you can watch it go up and down to allow boats to pass through. If you want to check out some of the city’s history, you can visit Warden’s House Museum. The first prison in Minnesota was built in Stillwater and this is your chance to check out the place that the prison wardens used to call home. There’s also plenty of shopping to do and restaurants to enjoy on Stillwater’s Main Street. The drive is only 30 minutes from Minneapolis.

4. Alexandria

Great Northern Passenger Depot, Alexandria MN
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user McGhiever used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Alexandria is located in central Minnesota, about a two-hour drive from Minneapolis. It’s a small town, with a population around 14,000, but it offers plenty for visitors to see and do. As it’s surrounded by so many lakes, it makes a great destination for those who want to do some boating or swimming in the warmer months or even some ice fishing in winter.

5. Owatonna

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jonathunder used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Owatonna is located in southern Minnesota, about an hour’s drive from Minneapolis. The town was settled in the 1850s and has a population around 25,000 today. One of Owatonna’s main destinations in the Historic Downtown District. It’s filled with unique boutiques, shops, restaurants, and the scenic Central Park, which is home to a farmer’s market on Saturdays. Another popular destination is Rice Lake State Park, a wetland area which offers visitors the opportunity to canoe, hike or birdwatch. And if you like art, check out the current exhibition at the Owatonna Arts Center.

6. Hudson

Hudson, WI sign, Aug 2018
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Thomson200 used under CC0

Now we’re going to cross state lines. Hudson is located east of Minneapolis, just across the border in Wisconsin. It’s only a 30-minute drive from Minneapolis, making it a popular spot for Twin Cities’ residents. It’s a small town but offers plenty for visitors to do. It’s got a trendy downtown area, with vintage shops, restaurants and boutiques. If you want to spend some time enjoying the outdoors, head to Lakefront Park, which has views of St. Croix River, a swimming area and a space to picnic. And when you need some caffeine, stop for a coffee at Hudson Bagel & Coffee Co.

7. Mantorville

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jonathunder used under CC BY-SA 3.0

With a slight population, Mantorville is truly a small town in Minnesota. To enjoy some small town charm, you’ll have to drive about an hour and a half south of Minneapolis. So, what’s there to do in Mantorville? One of the most popular desinations is The Hubbell House. It’s one of Minnesota’s oldest restaurants and you can enjoy steak and barbecue pork ribs in a historic environment. If it’s a nice day out, you can spend some time in Riverside Park, where you can canoe or fish. You can also catch a local theatre show at the Mantorville Theatre Company.

8. Excelsior

Excelsior Public School
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user McGhiever used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Next up, we have Excelsior, a city located just a half-hour west of Minneapolis. It’s situated along the shores of Lake Minnetonka, making it an excellent place to spend a day if you’re interested in swimming, boating or fishing. Another one of the city’s draws is its historic downtown area. You can spend some time perusing the boutiques before stopping for a meal at one of the restaurants. And if you’re into history, stop by Minnesota Streetcar Museum, where you can learn about transportation in the area.

9. Bemidji

Downtown Bemidji, Minnesota Sign (34378081514)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tony Webster used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bemidji is located in northern Minnesota, about four hours from Minneapolis. The city sits on the shores of both Mississippi River and Lake Bemidji, meaning there’s loads to do outdoors. For example, you can hike or fish at Lake Bemidji State Park. But don’t worry, if the weather’s bad or you’re more of an inside person, there are indoor options as well. Head to the Beltrami County History Museum to learn about the area’s history. Or get hands-on with science at the Headwaters Science Center.

10. New Ulm

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

We’ll finish off our list with New Ulm, a city around two hours southwest of Minneapolis. The city was founded in the 1850s and named after the city of Neu-Ulm in Bavaria, Germany. Today, it has around 13,000 residents and offers plenty for visitors to enjoy. To learn about the history of the area, you can head to Brown County Historical Society and check out their exhibitions. When you want to stretch your legs, pay a visit to Flandrau State Park where you can hike a trail or swim in a pond. And if you want to get into the German spirit, enjoy a meal at Veigel’s Kaiserhoff which serves up classic German fare.

Loads to explore around Minneapolis

There are plenty of cities and towns not far from Minneapolis to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to stroll through a charming historic downtown area or splash around in one of Minnesota’s many lakes or go on a hike, there are several great day trip options for you. So pick the one that speaks to you the most and start planning your day trip!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Nicole is an American expat living in London, England. When she moved from the midwest to London in 2012, it was her first time leaving the US. She has traveled steadily since then, making trips...Read more

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