Most people don’t think of Minnesota when they are planning a vacation. But the truth is, more people should! The best places to see in Minnesota include attractions for every interest, including breweries, state parks, museums, theaters, and amusement parks.
In this article, we’ll talk about the top attractions in Minnesota to help you decide what to hit up the next time you’re in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes!
Grand Marais is a tiny village situated on the edge of Lake Superior. Here, you will find the Superior Hiking Trail, which offers some of the most breathtaking sights of the lake and eventually crosses into Canada.
1. Grand Marais
First on the list of best places to see in Minnesota is Grand Marais. This is a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts visiting Minnesota since it lies on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. There is everything you need here, from swimming to hiking, fishing, and boating. And of course, there are also some of the most scenic views in the whole state. If you love spending time outdoors, you can’t miss this humble village on your next trip to Minnesota.
Minnesota is home to dozens of amazing breweries, so it can be hard to pick a favorite! Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is at the top of our list. This local brewery started in Canada and is still the northernmost brewery in the state. These days, it has three locations, all of which serve some of the tastiest and most unique beers you’ll ever try.
There is always something new going on at Lake Of The Woods, including live music, new drink releases, festivals, and even beer cruises. If you visit all three locations, you might be able to win a free T-shirt and some extra perks.
Itasca State Park is the oldest and most well-known state park in Minnesota. It was established in 1891 and covers an astonishing 32,000 acres. As you can imagine, there is no end to the amazing sights and activities you can experience here, including kayaking, hiking, swimming, or spotting wildlife.
Most interestingly, Itasca is home to the start of the Mississippi River. This unique environment is home to tons of native wildlife, some of which you might not be able to see elsewhere! You might see loons, bald eagles, porcupines, otters, wolves, bobcats, fishers, beavers, salamanders, and even black bears. It’s a must-visit for animal lovers and outdoors enthusiasts!
You can’t mention tourist activities in Minnesota without giving a nod to the Mall of America. Located just outside St. Paul, this enormous shopping mall is the largest in the United States. Here, visitors can shop at 555 stores, and shopping is far from the only thing to do. You can also find dozens of restaurants, theaters, family attractions, and even hotel rooms. There are more than 400 events there every year, from music festivals to dances, flash mobs, sports events, and more. Just be prepared for a crowd — the mall attracts 40 million visitors on average every year.
In the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, what makes Lake Minnetonka one of the best places to see in Minnesota? For one thing, it is one of the largest lakes in the state, and located just outside the Twin Cities.
But this 14,000-acre lake has another charming feature that keeps drawing visitors back year after year. Lake Minnetonka is actually made up of a series of smaller lakes, inlets, and waterways. This makes for a fascinating ecosystem that is perfect for boating, swimming, fishing, and exploring. There’s also tons of isolated shoreline. It’s a gorgeous place to visit no matter what kind of activity you’re planning.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is located in the town of Chaska. This unique display of fascinating plant life covers 12,000 acres and serves to provide education to visitors about plant life, gardening, and sustainable living.
The arboretum has been the source of some amazing innovations, including the Honeycrisp apple, which is one of the most popular apple varieties in the United States. Today, it features more than 5,000 plant varieties, making it the most diverse arboretum in the state.
If you love seeing and learning about interesting and unique plants, you will love visiting the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Lake Superior is a great experience in and of itself. But to experience it to its best advantage, you have to jump in the car and take the North Shore Scenic Drive. This wandering drive covers 140 miles around the lake, with stops at some great tourist attractions along the way.
The route starts in Duluth and finishes in Grand Portage just off the border of Canada. Along the way, you’ll get to see not only views of the lake, but along the Sawtooth Mountains, Gooseberry Falls and High Falls, charming lighthouses, and small villages. This drive is perfect for a weekend trip.
8. New Ulm
If you are a fan of German culture, you have to hit up the town of New Ulm. This southern Minnesota town is full of German heritage, as the name implies! Not only is it rich in history and architecture, it also has regular cultural festivals and events that the whole family can enjoy.
In fact, New Ulm has been dubbed the City of Festivals! There is always something going on here for residents and visitors alike, from Fasching celebrations to Maifest, Bavarian Blast, county fairs, Christmas markets, and of course, Oktoberfest.
Whether you have German heritage or just love to party, you can’t miss visiting New Ulm.
Next on the list of the best places to see in Minnesota is the Minnesota Children’s Museum. If you have a curious child who loves to learn, you have to bring them to the Minnesota Children’s Museum. This St. Paul museum was established in 1981 and has charmed generations of children ever since.
Here, kids can play and explore three floors of exhibits made to stimulate minds and inspire creative play. Exhibits include life-size pretend play centers, a dinosaur exhibit, science experiments, building blocks, a climbing wall, an art studio, water play, and even a 40-foot-tall catwalk.
This one-of-a-kind museum has so much to see and do that you’ll definitely want to plan multiple visits.
Yes, you read that right! The International Wolf Center is an educational institute located in Ely, Minn. Its mission is to educate about wolf populations around the world and particularly in Minnesota.
The goal is to generate support to help these wild animals whose populations have been suppressed by human expansion. There are tons of programs here, including geocache activities, learning about how wolves track their prey and observing the wolf pack that lives at the center. You can even book an overnight stay for a group! This one-of-a-kind activity combines the best of fascinating experiences and educational opportunities.
The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is one of the most popular destinations for residents and tourists alike in Minnesota. Not only is this enormous zoo full of fascinating exhibits, it is also completely free and open 365 days a year.
Located in St. Paul, the zoo and conservatory feature animal and art exhibits, a garden, and regularly scheduled events. These include events where you can enjoy a meal in the conservatory and days for kids with special needs.
You can even sign up to take classes at the zoo, no matter what your age. Or you can simply stroll through and enjoy the fascinating exhibits.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art is one of the best art museums in the United States, drawing as many as 700,000 visitors every year!
Here, you can view regularly changing exhibits that cover subjects from modern art to antiquity. The institute is home to more than 89,000 individual pieces, so there is always something new to see.
While some exhibits change regularly, others can be viewed at any time, including the institute’s breathtaking displays of Japanese and Korean art as well as some extremely rare ancient Greek sculptures. You can also attend the annual springtime Art in Bloom festival!
Valleyfair Amusement Park, located in Shakopee, is the largest amusement park in the state of Minnesota. It features 75 rides with choices for all ages, including water rides.
The park has been open since 1976. In the nearly 50 years since then, it has grown in size thanks to its consistent popularity that draws thousands of visitors every year. Some of the original rides are still in operation for you to enjoy.
Valleyfair is home to eight roller coasters, several restaurants, and games that are perfect for visitors of every age. But act fast — the park is only open from May to October!
14. Guthrie Theater
The Guthrie Theater, located in downtown Minneapolis, was founded in 1963. To this day, it serves as a hub of all things artistic in a historic building overlooking the Mississippi River.
Here, you can see both classic and contemporary plays. When nothing is playing, visitors enjoy coffee while enjoying the view from the theater. Theater enthusiasts can also enjoy backstage tours every weekend.
The Guthrie is also located in the midst of the Historic District in Minneapolis, putting it perfectly adjacent to some of the most interesting and important sites in the city.
The Munsinger Clemens Gardens are located in St. Cloud. These fascinating botanical gardens lie alongside the Mississippi River. In total, the two gardens cover 21 acres that are open daily throughout the year. They are free to the public.
In addition to featuring some of the most interesting and unique plant life in the area, the gardens are also rich with history. They have been developed in one form or another since 1915.
While Munsinger Garden has a more relaxed structure, Clemens includes six distinct gardens with different themes, including native Minnesota perennials and a rose garden with 1,100 flowers.
Last but not least on the list of best places to see in Minnesota is the Science Museum of Minnesota. Located in St. Paul, it is one of the most fascinating and diverse museums in the state. This enormous museum features a huge variety of exhibits, both permanent and rotating.
Here, visitors can learn about topics ranging from space exploration to anatomy, dinosaurs and fossils, and how to conduct science experiments.
It also features some of the most interesting traveling exhibits in the country, including topical exhibits on subjects such as race and prejudice. If you love learning, the Science Museum of Minnesota should be top on your list to visit!
What Time Of Year Can You See The Aurora Borealis In Minnesota?
Believe it or not, you can view the Aurora Borealis at any time of the year in Minnesota, provided you have the right conditions and are willing to put in the work. But the most activity occurs in the early spring and early fall, which is when they are the easiest to spot.
What Is There To Do In Itasca State Park?
There are tons of activities to do in Itasca State Park. The 32,000-acre park is home to more than 200 campsites and 100 lakes. It is a haven for campers, kayakers, hikers, and birdwatchers. More than 300 species of birds have been spotted and catalogued at Itasca, including some that are extremely rare or endangered.
Where Are The Best Places To Eat In Minneapolis?
Minneapolis is a foodie paradise, with food from every culture and style around the world. Some of the most popular restaurants in the city include Travail Kitchen, Nixta Tortilleria, and Spoon and Stable. Whether you are looking for gourmet food or something more relaxed, you can find it all in Minneapolis.
So many choices…..
Choosing the best places to see in Minnesota isn’t easy for one simple reason: there are so many of them! With all the beautiful natural sites, fascinating art exhibits, and fun family events, there’s no time to see everything on one visit — which just means you’ll have to come back a second time.
Comment below to share your favorite place or experience in Minnesota!
Ready for more Minnesota advice, info, and guides? Whether you’re a local or a passerby, discover the best of Minnesota that our great state has to offer!
Looking for some warm weather recommendations? Discover spring and summer in Minnesota for best destinations, travel recommendations, small (and big!) town events, and more!
Looking for more autumnal activities? Then visit our Minnesota Fall page to find inspiration for sweater weather fun!
- About the Author
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.