The Ultimate Minnesota Travel Guide

The Ultimate Minnesota Travel Guide

The Ultimate Guide To Minnesota

Minnesota: Whether you’re a nature person, an art lover, or a shopaholic, Minnesota has you covered! The North Star State has a perfect mix of natural and urban attractions, including stunning waterfalls, serene lakes, pristine beaches, charming small towns, picturesque lighthouses, and world-class museums. Minnesota is also home to one of the largest shopping malls in the country, the Mall of America! Here is my Minnesota travel guide, outlining the major attractions in Minnesota!

To make navigating the content easy, I have organized my Minnesota travel guide into two sections. (1) A brief introduction to Minnesota, including a bit of history, some geography, commute, and weather. (2) Major Minnesota attractions, and if you wish, you can skip the introduction and move on to the next section – Minnesota Attractions

History: Located in the Upper Midwest region of the US, Minnesota was granted statehood on May 11, 1858, becoming the 32nd state to join the union. The state was named after the Minnesota River, which was called “mnishota” by the Dakota Sioux Native Americans, meaning cloudy or milky water. The state’s nickname, The North Star State, originated from the State Motto, “L’Etoile du Nord,” which translates to “Star of the North.” This nickname was inspired by the state’s location at the northernmost point of the Mississippi River. Minnesota is also known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” although it actually has more than 11,000 lakes.

Geography: Minnesota is bordered by Canada on the north and Iowa on the south. On the eastern side, Minnesota is bordered by Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, and Wisconsin. To the west of Minnesota lies North and South Dakota. The state, nicknamed as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes, is popularly known for its abundance of beautiful lakes, forests, and rolling hills. Minnesota’s beautiful coastline along Lake Superior and numerous lakes throughout the state offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, camping, and fishing.

Getting There

Flight: Minnesota has three major airports, Minneapolis-St. Paul Intl. Airport (MSP), Rochester International Airport (RST), and Duluth International Airport (DLH), among which MSP is the busiest among the three airports and is the primary gateway for air travel to and from the state. 

Drive: A road trip to Minnesota is a convenient option if you reside in any of the surrounding states. On the other hand, if you are traveling from a distant location, it is advisable to fly into Minnesota and rent a car to get around the state.

Train: Amtrak offers a rail service called Empire Builder connecting – Chicago, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Spokane, and Portland/Seattle, stopping at St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN – Union Depot (MSP).

Ultimate Minnesota Travel Guide

Climate:  In Minnesota, Summers range from warm to hot, with the highest summer temperature around 90°F. Winters are cold and snowy in the north and slightly mild in the south, with average temperatures around 30°F. Spring season is cold to warm, and Fall is colorful while transitioning from warm to cold temperatures. Undoubtedly, summer is the ideal time to visit Minnesota for outdoor activities, winter is for skiers, and autumn is a photographer’s dream with the stunning fall foliage.

Time zone: Minnesota is in the Central Time Zone.

Getting around: While renting a car is the best option, the Metro Transit system also offers some public transportation options in Minnesota, including a light rail system and bus services in major cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul. Taxi and ride-sharing services are available throughout the state.

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Things To Do in Minnesota

Minnesota Attractions Map

Minnesota Attractions Map

Minnesota, also known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” offers a unique blend of urban and natural attractions, including stunning waterfalls, glistening lakes, pristine beaches, charming small towns, a breathtaking coastal scenic drive, picturesque lighthouses, and some the Nation’s best museums! 

To simplify and make it easy to follow, I have grouped and arranged the attractions in Minnesota into three primary regions – Northern, Southeastern, and Southwestern Minnesota!

Northern Minnesota, bordered by Canada on the north and Lake Superior on the east, is home to a stunning landscape featuring a beautiful coastline adorned with natural wonders, including three gorgeous waterfalls – Grand Portage State Park, Devil’s Kettle, and Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minenesota’s only National Park – Voyageurs National Park, several historic lighthouses, and various museums. 

Southeastern Minnesota features several museums, parks, and historical sites in an urban setting, including the renowned Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, Cathedral of Saint Paul, and one of the Nation’s largest shopping malls – Mall of America.

While less popular than northern or southeastern Minnesota, the southwestern part of Minnesota is primarily known for the Pipestone National Monument, home to historic and sacred gigantic Pipestone quarries, making it one of the must-see places in Minnesota!

Here are the must-see places in Minnesota, starting in Northern Minnesota, followed by attractions in Southeastern and Southwestern Minnesota, traversing the state from top to bottom!

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park | Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park, located in Northern Minnesota close to the Canadian border, is home to a stunning network of interconnected waterways, lakes, and forests and is popularly known for its scenic beauty, pristine lakes, and diverse wildlife, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Grand Portage State Park

Grand Portage State Park

Grand Portage State Park, located right next to the Canadian border, is home to Minnesota’s most stunning natural wonders, including the highest waterfall in the state and the historic Grand Portage National Monument, preserving the rich history of Native American culture and a fur trading center dating back to the 1700s.

Grand Portage State Park | Minnesota

Devil's Kettle

Devils Kettle | Minnesota

Devil’s Kettle

Devil’s Kettle is a unique & mysterious waterfall in northern Minnesota! The waterfall is so intriguing because half of its water disappears into a large pothole known as the Devil’s Kettle, and no one knows where it goes. Several attempts were made to unravel this mystery, including dye tests & throwing logs into the pothole, but none succeeded.

Grand Marais Lighthouse

Grand Marais Lighthouse

Located in the charming coastal town of Grand Marais, Grand Marais Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse built in 1922 and has been standing tall since then, guiding mariners safely through the treacherous waters of Lake Superior. Perched atop a rocky cliff overlooking Lake Superior, making it an ideal spot for photographers and nature lovers.

Grand Marais Lighthouse Minnesota

Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park | Minnesota

Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park, also located in northern Minnesota, with a rugged coastline featuring stunning cliffs and rocky beaches, is a paradise for nature lovers, hikers, bikers, and rock climbers! The park boasts astonishing vistas of Lake Superior, several miles of hiking and biking trails, inland lakes, and waterfalls.

Black Beach Park

Black Beach Park

Black Beach Park in Minnesota, a hidden gem of northern Minnesota, offers unparalleled views of Lake Superior with a mile-long black sand beach, which is a rare sight in the Midwest! The beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking. Besides the beach, the park also has a playground, picnic shelters, and a few hiking trails.

Black Beach | Minnesota

Silver Bay Marina

Silver Bay Marina Minnesota

Silver Bay Marina

Silver Bay Marina is a charming harbor in northern Minnesota, surrounded by lush greenery and serene waters. The marina boasts a wide range of amenities, including boat rentals, fishing trips, camping sites, and RV parks. Even if you’re not into sailing, you can still enjoy scenic nature walks, bird watching, and picnics in the park.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse is a picturesque and historic landmark nestled on the dramatic shores of Lake Superior, surrounded by rocky cliffs. Located in northern Minnesota, the lighthouse was built in 1910 and was in service until 1969. The lighthouse now operates as a museum and offers access to the light tower and tours of the keeper’s house.

Split Rock Lighthouse | Minnesota

Gooseberry Falls

Gooseberry Falls | Minnesota

Gooseberry Falls

Nestled in the lush forests of northern Minnesota, Gooseberry Falls, with its mighty cascading waters, is a sight to behold! Surrounded by breathtaking lush greenery, towering trees, and stunning rock formations, Gooseberry Falls State Park offers a relaxing and peaceful ambiance best explored via its several hiking trails.

Two Harbors Lighthouse

Two Harbors Lighthouse

Two Harbors Lighthouse, located on the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior in Two Harbors, Minnesota, is a historic lighthouse that has been standing watch over the coastline since 1892. The lighthouse offers access to the light tower and a museum featuring exhibits on the history of the lighthouse and the region’s maritime history.

Two Harbors Lighthouse | Minnesota

The Lakewalk

The Lakewalk Minnesota

The Lakewalk

Duluth’s Lakewalk is an idyllic pathway that runs along the shores of Lake Superior, offering breathtaking views of the water, fresh air, and the soothing sound of the waves. It’s a perfect place for a peaceful stroll or jog and also an excellent spot for a picnic, watching the sunset, and capturing beautiful photographs of the surroundings.

William A Irvin Museum

William A Irvin Museum

The William A Irvin Museum in Duluth, Minnesota, is a fascinating museum offering a unique opportunity to explore the life of a Great Lakes ship captain. Visitors can explore the massive iron ore carrier that sailed the Great Lakes for over forty years, including its cargo holds, engine room, crew quarters, and wheelhouse.

William A Irvin Museum | Minnesota

Glensheen Mansion

Glensheen Mansion | Minnesota

Glensheen Mansion

Glensheen Mansion, located on the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, is a magnificent and historic mansion that has been beautifully preserved and restored. The mansion was built in 1908 for the Congdon family and is now open to the public for tours. It features 39 rooms, breathtaking architecture, & original furnishings and decor.

Duluth Rose Garden

Duluth Rose Garden

Overlooking Lake Superior, Duluth Rose Garden, located in the heart of Duluth, is a beautifully landscaped garden featuring several thousand rose bushes of different varieties! The garden offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, with its winding paths, manicured lawns, vibrant colors, and stunning vistas of Lake Superior.

Duluth Rose Garden | Minnesota

Great Lakes Aquarium

Great Lakes Aquarium Minnesota

Great Lakes Aquarium

The Great Lakes Aquarium, located in Duluth, Minnesota, offers a unique opportunity to explore the diverse ecosystems of the Great Lakes region, from the depths of Lake Superior to the wetlands of the Mississippi River. Visitors can get up close with various freshwater fish, including sturgeon, trout, salmon, and other aquatic creatures.

Enger Tower

Enger Tower

Built in 1939 as a tribute to businessman Bert Enger, the Enger Tower in Duluth, Minnesota, is a popular tourist destination offering breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the city of Duluth. Surrounded by lush gardens, the tower stands 80 feet tall and lets visitors climb to the top to enjoy unparalleled panoramic views of the city and lake.

Enger Tower | Minnesota

Aerial Lift Bridge

Aerial Lift Bridge | Minnesota

Aerial Lift Bridge

The Aerial Lift Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks and a popular tourist spot in Duluth, Minnesota, spanning the Duluth Canal and connecting the mainland with the Park Point peninsula. The bridge is known for its unique design, which allows it to lift up to 135 feet to accommodate large ships passing through the canal.

Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Housed inside a beautifully restored historic train depot, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minnesota, featuring an impressive collection of vintage locomotives and railcars, including the famous Yellowstone Class Mallet 2-8-8-4 steam locomotive, is a fascinating destination for both train enthusiasts and history buffs.

Lake Superior Railroad Museum | Minnesota

Duluth Harbor Lighthouse

Duluth Harbor North Breakwater Light Minnesota

Duluth Harbor North Breakwater Light

The Duluth Harbor North Breakwater Light is a prominent lighthouse at the end of a long breakwater in Duluth. It’s accompanied by the Duluth South Pier Lighthouse and South Breakwater Inner Light, and all three have been popular tourist attractions for years due to their picturesque views of Lake Superior and the city skyline.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Located in Saint Paul, southeast Minnesota, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is an expansive zoo and conservatory that houses diverse animals and gardens, including a Japanese garden, a tropical rainforest, and a bonsai garden, and is open year-round, offering an opportunity to experience the beauty of nature and wildlife in Minnesota.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory | Minnesota

Cathedral of Saint Paul

Cathedral of Saint Paul | Minnesota

Cathedral of Saint Paul

The Cathedral of Saint Paul in Minnesota is a stunning architectural masterpiece with a towering dome, intricate façade, and awe-inspiring interior with intricate stained glass windows, soaring ceilings, and ornate decorations. It’s a true gem of the Midwest, perfect for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts.

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a beautiful 50-foot waterfall surrounded by verdant greenery and rocky formations, providing a picturesque setting in the heart of the city. The park surrounding the falls also features several hiking trails through forests and along the river, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Minnehaha Falls | Minnesota

Mall of America

Mall of America | Minnesota

Mall of America

Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, is one of the largest malls in the world, spanning over 5.6 million square feet with more than 500 stores, 50 restaurants, and numerous attractions. The mall is a shopper’s paradise and a popular tourist destination with an indoor amusement park, Sea Life Aquarium, and a LEGO store.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis boasts a beautiful Sculpture Garden that is nothing less than a paradise in the heart of the city. It’s one of the country’s largest urban sculpture parks, flawlessly blending art & nature, featuring over forty permanent artworks. The cherry-topped Spoonbridge sculpture is undoubtedly the most sought-after attraction here!

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden | Minnesota

Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone National Monument | Minnesota

Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone Monument, a unique & sacred location in southwest Minnesota, is known for its beautiful red pipestone quarries that Native Americans have been using for centuries to carve pipes, essential items in their spiritual & cultural practices. There is a visitor center offering an in-depth look at the history & significance of the area.

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Planning Your Trip To Minnesota

Aerial Lift Bridge | Minnesota

Visiting outside the winter months, spending a minimum of two weeks or breaking down your Minnesota trip into multiple visits, and staying close to the attractions is the best way to explore Minnesota!

As you have seen above in my Minnesota attractions list, Minnesota boasts numerous awe-inspiring sights and unforgettable experiences throughout the state. Each attraction offers a distinctive and enthralling experience, making it difficult to choose just one. If you’re unable to explore all the attractions in Minnesota on a single trip, I recommend splitting your Minnesota trip into multiple visits, focusing on one or two regions of Minnesota at a time.

Best Time To Visit Minnesota: While Minnesota’s diverse attractions can be enjoyed throughout the year, winters are bitterly cold and snowy and not the best time for enjoying the outdoors. Summer and early Fall are the busiest seasons in Minnesota, and for good reasons. Summer is ideal for hiking, biking, water sports, and exploring the lakes, while autumn is a photographer’s dream with the stunning fall foliage. Spring offers slightly cooler temperatures with colorful landscapes as it emerges from the winter slumber, making it an excellent choice to avoid the crowds in Minnesota.

Time Required In Minnesota: With several remarkable experiences and attractions in Minnesota spread across its Northern and Southern regions, and considering the long drives between these parts of the state, I highly recommend spending at least two weeks to see all that Minnesota has to offer. Or split your Minnesota trip into multiple visits, exploring one region of Minnesota at a time. No matter how you plan your trip, I recommend spending a minimum of seven days in Northern Minnesota and three days in southern Minnesota.

Hotels In Minnesota: While there are several campsites and vacation rentals available in most parts of Minnesota, if you’re like me and prefer the comfort and convenience of a hotel room, here are my top picks for hotels in the different regions of Minnesota, strategically selected close to the major attractions of the area –

Restaurants In Minnesota: Minnesota is a foodie’s paradise with its diverse culinary landscape, including Scandinavian, German, and Native American influences. The state is famous for its Tater Tot Hotdish, also commonly known as the hot dish, a hearty casserole made with various ingredients such as tater tots, ground beef, and cream of mushroom soup. Another must-try is the Juicy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger that originated in Minnesota at Crooked Pint at multiple locations. Scandinavian food at FIKA Cafe or Taste of Scandinavia Bakery & Cafe, various locations. Walleye is Minnesota’s most sought-after fish, and no matter how you like it, fish fingers, beer battered or pan-fried walleye, you will find it at Hell’s Kitchen in MinneapolisWhether you’re craving comfort food or gourmet delights, Minnesota has something to satisfy every palate.

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Aerial Lift Bridge Minnesota

I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Minnesota Travel Guide, and I hope it will help you plan your trip to Minnesota. You can find other US attractions and destinations in my USA Travel Guide.

Happy feeding your soul!
Shreyashi

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