Considering a vacation in Minnesota? Experiencing the land of hotdish, Paul Bunyan, and 10,000 lakes will have you happily saying “uff da” in no time!
From the sprawling wilderness of the boundary waters to the dynamic culture of the Twin Cities, Minnesota has something for everyone. A great place for camping and canoeing in the summer or hockey and ice fishing in the winter, Minnesota is full of unique experiences (and friendly people!) all year round.
Before you start making plans, check out our list of 11 interesting and beautiful places to visit in Minnesota. Then start experiencing it all for yourself!
Looking for more US travel inspiration?
Check out these guides on the best places to visit in…
1. Voyageurs National Park
Located on the border with Canada in Northern Minnesota, Voyageurs National Park draws visitors eager to experience a unique wilderness mostly accessed by boat. When you make it to this remote national park, you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment.
Full of lakes, islands, and waterways, if you want to get away from it all, Voyageurs should be on your Minnesota vacation list. Renting a canoe or a boat is a must so you can explore the park’s isolated hiking trails and campsites, and the wintertime brings excellent ice fishing and northern lights viewing as well.
For a true Voyageurs experience, be sure to reserve an island campsite on Kabetogama Lake so you can camp on your very own island under the sprawling starry night sky.
2. Mall of America – Bloomington, MN
If you’re in the Twin Cities area, a visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing the largest mall in the United States, the Mall of America.
With over 500 stores, 60 restaurants, and an indoor theme park, exploring the Mall of America is a unique cultural experience, endless shopping spree, and a people watcher’s dream all in one. Where else can you ride a roller coaster inside a mall?
There’s a store for everyone inside (literally!), plus you’ll have access to several shops that specialize in Minnesota souvenirs. Grab a pretzel, ice cream, Belgian waffle, or other treat and enjoy the mall’s various performances while you’re exploring (or recovering from all the amusement park rides!).
3. The Northwest Angle
Minnesota’s Northwest Angle is the ultimate geographical oddity. A tiny enclave of the United States on the Lake of the Woods, you have to actually drive through Canada to reach “The Angle.”
Full of unique experiences, a visit to the Northwest Angle is worth it simply just to say you’ve been there. It’s hard to forget going through customs over the phone in the small shack at Jim’s Corner, seeing the community’s tiny post office and school, and marveling at the hardy people who live there year-round.
When you visit, take advantage of the area’s multiple fishing outfitters and snap a photo at the sign marking the northernmost point in the contiguous United States.
4. Wabasha Street Caves – St. Paul, MN
If you’re a fan of gangster history and unique places, then a visit to the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul is a must.
Originally a mining operation, these man-made caves eventually became a restaurant casino and gangster haven during the Prohibition Era. Today you can explore these caves over a fascinating guided tour while you learn the notorious stories that occurred inside.
Ever been to a dance inside a cave? If you’re in town on a Thursday, be sure to visit the caves to enjoy weekly swing dancing nights with a live big band orchestra.
5. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Usually on any outdoor adventurer’s list, Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness draws visitors from all over the country. With over 1,100 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe routes, when you visit yourself, it’s easy to see why exploring the Boundary Waters is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you can’t explore the area by canoe, then make the drive on the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway, which will help you to see the area by car.
An excellent jumping-off point into the Boundary Waters is the seasonal town of Ely. Remote yet tourist-friendly, Ely has a number of shops, restaurants, and accommodations, as well as several outfitters ready to help you explore.
6. “America’s Coolest Small Town” – Grand Marais, MN
Located on the shores of Lake Superior along the famous North Shore Scenic Drive, the lakeside town of Grand Marais is known as “America’s Coolest Small Town.”
A lively town full of shops, restaurants, accommodations, art, and beautiful scenery, Grand Marais packs a lot of personality into each block.
During your visit, make a sunset stroll along Grand Marais Harbor with your camera in hand and watch the ships go by. If you’re hungry, I recommend stopping either at the World’s Best Donuts for breakfast or Sven & Ole’s for some excellent pizza.
7. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – Minneapolis, MN
An icon of the Twin Cities, a stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden should be at the top of your list during your Minnesota vacation.
With over 40 sculptures of all shapes and sizes, you’ll find beauty in the variety of expressions and forms you’ll experience throughout the garden. Make sure you stop and admire perhaps the most famous of them all—Spoonbridge and Cherry (it’s hard to miss!).
While you’re there, the sculpture garden will give you an excellent view of the Minneapolis skyline. Have your cameras ready!
8. Duluth Curling Club – Duluth, MN
You’re probably aware of Minnesota’s love of winter sports, such as hockey, ice fishing, and skiing, but how about curling? Perhaps one of the most prominent places to experience Minnesota curling is the Duluth Curling Club.
Famous for being the curling club of the US Men’s Curling Team that won gold in the 2018 Winter Olympics, you’ll want to see the Duluth Curling Club firsthand to enjoy a unique slice of Minnesota culture. Be on the lookout for its Learn to Curl events and bonspiels!
Plus, with downtown Duluth located along the shores of Lake Superior, you’ll want to explore the city while you’re there. Check out the Lake Superior Marine Museum, Leif Erickson Park & Rose Garden, and the photo-worthy Aerial Lift Bridge.
9. Mississippi River Headwaters at Itasca State Park
The mighty Mississippi River meanders through much of the United States, but at Minnesota’s Itasca State Park, you can see where it all begins.
As Minnesota’s oldest state park, Itasca State Park provides 32,000 acres of serene space to ponder the Mississippi headwaters, a place people from all over the world come to visit. Be sure to take advantage of the park’s numerous hiking trails, 10-mile scenic drive, and concert series in the summer.
Afterwards, make the short drive to nearby Bemidji to see the legendary Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues for an iconic photo-op!
10. Matt’s Bar – Minneapolis, MN
Want to try some local food during your visit to Minnesota? At the top of your list should be a “Jucy Lucy,” a Minnesota-invented burger with hot melted cheese stuffed inside the beef patty.
While you can enjoy a Jucy Lucy all over the state, why not eat one at the place that first created this iconic culinary masterpiece? Look no further than Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis, which claims to have invented the burger in the 1950s.
A visit to the famous Matt’s Bar will give you the classic quintessential Minnesota dive bar experience. It’s cash only, so make sure you have some cash on hand before you visit.
11. Grand Portage National Monument Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow
If you’re looking to relive some fascinating Minnesota history, make a visit to Grand Portage National Monument on Lake Superior. This historic monument preserves the epicenter of fur trading in the 1700-1800s and Ojibwe Native American heritage.
Though you can visit year round, every August the monument comes alive with the Grand Portage Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow, a living history celebration full of historical reenactors demonstrating the culture and activities of fur traders and Ojibwe indians in 1797.
After you’ve immersed yourself in this unique history, book a ferry ride to the elusive Isle Royale National Park nearby. Grand Portage gives you the closest ferry route to the park.
Did we miss any of your favorite places in Minnesota?
Let us know in the comments if there are any more places in Minnesota that you would add to our list!