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30 Best Small Towns in Minnesota to Visit

30 Best Small Towns in Minnesota to Visit

Minnesota is filled with a plethora of unique small towns with charm from the plains-based towns in Southern Minnesota, to the pine lodge towns in Northern Minnesota, and everything else in between.

What I love about Minnesota is the fact that visiting each town and each city is not about visiting a small town, just ’cause, or ooh ‘nother one down, check it off the list…

It’s really about choosing what you want in a town since there is so much variety of scenery and vibes from one town to the next.

They are great destinations to book a flight and explore.

Best Small Towns in Minnesota to Visit

There’s something in each of them for you! These are the best small towns in Minnesota to visit.

1. Medina, MN

Medina (not to be confused with Edina) is a small town in Western Minnesota that really encapsulates the small-town feel no matter what time of year it is.

The streets are filled with small local shops and unique boutiques perfect for a small shopping spree or simply window shopping on a beautiful summer’s day.

With charming restaurants that dot every corner, this town is great for restaurants and boutiques.

Although small in size, Medina isn’t small on the attraction front. There’s a bunch to take part in with family or friends. This town hosts a number of different events and festivals throughout the year.

Medina is also home to the small, privately-owned art museum that was once a part of the larger museum in New Ulm, MN.

With only one small house and about 17 pieces of art, this small-town museum is great for people who prefer small, small art pieces.

See Related: Cheap Places to Travel

2. New Ulm, MN

New Ulm, Minnesota

New Ulm is a small town with a ton of German history.

Founded in 1854 by a small group of German settlers from the once small town of Ulm bordering Bavaria, this small community is living up to its name with lots of festivals, libraries full of books, and churches for intimate weddings or funerals.

The beautiful streets of New Ulm are decorated with beautiful German-style buildings, most of them built over 100 years ago.

You’ll get a flavor of this by visiting the iconic August Schell Brewing Company for Oktoberfest. New Ulm hosts one of the largest Oktoberfest festivals in the United States.

The Riverwalk in New Ulm has beautiful views of the beautiful Blue Earth River along with small fountains that are perfect for taking a small stroll on a summer day or sitting by on a cold winter’s night.

The “Black Eagle” is the largest grain elevator in the world. This staggering grain elevator is a great place to get small views of beautiful New Ulm while taking small pictures with this beautiful structure.

Make sure you visit Hermann the German, an iconic landmark in Minnesota. This town makes for one of the best day trips from the Twin Cities since you can get there in just over an hour.

See Related: Parks in St. Paul, Minnesota

3. Walker, MN

Walker is an adorable, small town in beautiful Northern Minnesota filled with quaint shops and beautiful Victorian buildings that line the streets of this picturesque town.

Home of the North Star Scenic Byway and beautiful Paul Bunyon State Forest, Walker is one of the most charming towns with beautiful views and wildlife to view.

The beautiful Riverfront Park in Walker has miles of hiking, biking trails, and cross country skiing that passes historic Minnesota landmarks of the town such as the beautiful North Star Scenic Byway or the talking Paul Bunyon statue.

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4. Lanesboro, MN

Things to do in Lanesboro, Minnesota

Lanesboro, Minnesota is a beautiful small town with Victorian homes and friendly, welcoming locals. This is one of my personal favorite small towns in Minnesota given its charm nestled in the middle of the Root River Valley and the fact that it is known to be the Bed and Breakfast capital of Minnesota.

Lanesboro is located about an hour from the beautiful Twin Cities, making it a great spot for a weekend getaway during the gorgeous summer months or stunning escapes on a cold Minnesota winter weekend.

Lanesboro is one of the most romantic small towns in Minnesota and offers some great spots for beautiful small weddings or photoshoots.

Lanesboro, Minnesota | The Best Small Town in the State?? [4K HD]
Watch this video on YouTube.

The town, with its quaint shops, local restaurants, and intricate architecture, makes it the perfect backdrop for a fantastic day out.

If you love outdoor adventures, this makes for a great destination to visit as the Root River State Trail runs right along with the town which means you can bike for miles. Or, rent a canoe or kayak and paddle down the Root River for as long as you can go on a summer day.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these top things to do in Lanesboro.

See Related: How to Book a Flight Without A Credit Card

5. Marshall, MN

Marshall, Minnesota Downtown

Marshall, a charming small town in Southern Minnesota, is home to a beautiful recreation area with views of Catfish Lake. You can take great summer walks around the lake or go fishing here.

Buffalo River cuts through Marshall. Hiking or canoeing on the river will yield even more beautiful scenery.

Close to Buffalo is Rock Island State Park with its lovely natural sights.

See Related: 23 Best Things to do in Bemidji, Minnesota

6. Cannon Falls, MN

Old Establishment in Cannon Falls, MN
Cannon Falls, Minnesota” by Dougtone is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Cannon Falls is a stunning small town with green space, natural beauty, and the Cannon River running through it.

It’s popular during the warmer months for canoeing and kayaking, or fishing during winter on the frozen water.

This town has quaint local businesses such as small restaurants, shops, and golf courses. It is a great small day trip away from the Twin Cities.

See Related: 14 Best Things to Do in Buffalo, Minnesota

7. Grand Rapids, MN

Garden in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is a small town with beautiful buildings and extremely nice people.

Grand Rapids is located on the beautiful Upper Mississippi River.

The breathtaking river walk in Grand Rapids is great for a summer day or winter stroll. This small town offers local shops, restaurants, and views of the Upper Mississippi River. It’s also home to the Judy Garland Museum.

Attracting visitors from all over the country, Grand Rapids’ historic downtown recently made it into a national ranking of beautiful Main Streets in America.

See Related: Best Lake Street Restaurants

8. Two Harbors, MN

Split Rock Lighthouse

Two Harbors is a small town in beautiful Northern Minnesota. It was originally established in 1884 to supply the transportation needs for ore from the Duluth area mines.

This lakeshore town was also an important hub for passenger rail, with a ferry service to the city Duluth.

The town was named after its two beautiful harbors: Upper and Lower Two Harbors.

Two Harbors is an awesome town located along majestic Lake Superior. It features incredible views and kind, friendly residents, as well as a combination of gorgeous scenery and invigorating trails for visitors to enjoy and explore.

Since Two Harbors is located on Lake Superior, you’ll be conveniently located to access some of the most iconic state parks in Minnesota, including:

Go in the spring to see the many gorgeous waterfalls in the area while they are at peak water flows.

See Related: Month-Long Vacation Ideas

9. Brainerd, MN

things to do in Brainerd 2

Brainerd, Minnesota is definitely one of the better “small cities” out there. It’s not really a town as it’s on the bigger end of the population scale relative to the other towns mentioned on our list – sue me, or not, either way, you should visit Brainerd located in Crow Wing County.

Brainerd is located on serene Lake Brainerd which is wrapped in bike trails. The people and historic buildings, both ooze small-town charm.

There are many landmarks to visit in this city, including the famously clear water of Brainerd Lakes.

Brainerd is part of the larger area known as the Brainerd Lakes Area, which contains over 450 lakes within a 25 mile (40km) radius.

Some of the best things to do in Brainerd include golfing, hiking, and biking. Like what you are hearing? check out these best things to do in Brainerd.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Duluth

10. Lake City, MN

Downtown Lake City Minnesota in Summer

Lake City is located in Southeastern Minnesota along the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin in Goodhue and Wabasha Counties.

Ralph Samuelson, the inventor of water skiing born in nearby Lake City. Hang gliding, sailing, and golf are popular outdoor activities nearby including a visit to the iconic Frontenac State Park.

At the Willows Hotel on the River, take a break with a meal at Nosh Restaurant & Bar, which specializes in healthy cuisine. Enjoy a wooden paddle steamer journey on Pearl of the Lake Pepin.

Lake City is also located along the Great River Road side of Minnesota, which makes it one of the best road trip destinations in Minnesota.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these other top things to do in Lake City, Minnesota.

See Related: Where to Stay in Winona, Minnesota

11. Grand Marais, MN

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais, located in Cook County, is an exceptionally gorgeous small town on the shore of Lake Superior, and it’s especially lovely in the fall when the leaves change color.

70 miles north of Duluth is Grand Marais, a tiny port town with 3,000 residents. Cook County is a very popular winter destination with one of the country’s numerous cross-country trail networks.

Campgrounds, low-cost hotels, B&Bs, and holiday houses are some of the options for accommodations. Check out these best places to stay in Grand Marais.

The harbor provides unreal views of the lake as well as facilities for boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and biking.

You can also visit the Lutsen Mountains and Lutsen Resort, which offer spectacular views of Lake Superior and are known to be the best ski resort in Minnesota.

The drive from the Twin Cities is one of the best in Minnesota and perhaps a top 20 in the entire country.

You’ll get to drive for hours along the North Shore National Scenic Byway passed several iconic state parks such as Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Tettegouche State Park.

While you are in town, check out these other top things to do in Grand Marais. Grand Marais is by far my favorite town in Minnesota to visit.

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12. Winona, MN

Winona, Minnesota

Winona is an iconic riverfront small town. This small town is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, as there are limitless places to go.

The downtown area of Winona has beautiful historic buildings which provide visitors with a snapshot of its history.

There are challenging outdoor activities like fishing or canoeing on beautiful Lake Winona or surfing in the Upper Mississippi River Pass.

It also has many off-the-beaten-path activities for art lovers, such as parks and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

The small town has parks and beautiful architecture throughout town that makes it an incredible spot for visitors.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Winona.

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13. Taylor’s Falls, MN

Taylors Falls, Minnesota

Taylor’s Falls is of the many fun small towns located on the St. Croix River offering good times and good vibes. Taylor’s Falls is totally charming, with plenty of trails and surrounded by natural beauty.

Despite it being a small town in Minnesota, Taylors Falls has some excellent attractions.

Interstate Park is ideal for jogging and trekking. The Wild Mountain Ski & Snowboard Center is a favorite stop throughout the year. On the other side of the issue, you’ll discover Minnesota’s oldest school, which was erected in 1874.

The city is located about an hour from Minneapolis. It’s a wonderful day trip from Minneapolis that takes just over an hour to get there and make sure you stop by Franconia Sculpture Park on your drive.

The oldest educational system in Minnesota was founded in the state’s history and is the oldest, according to state law.

This delightful small town offers several prime locations for fishing, hiking, or picnicking with beautiful views of the St. Croix River Valley.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Taylors Falls.

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14. Shafer, MN

Shafer is a beautiful small city with beautiful scenery that includes several outdoor activities like boating, fishing, and canoeing.

The small town offers beautiful hiking and biking trails that lead up to magnificent waterfalls.

If you are looking for a weekend getaway with friends or family, camping at one of these beautiful lakes in Minnesota is the perfect relaxer.

The city has a corn maze if that’s your thing or visits the nearby Franconia Sculpture Park, which is one of my personal favorite day trips from Minneapolis.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Rochester, Minnesota

15. St. Francis, MN

Golf Course in St. Francis, Minnesota

St. Francis is easily one of the most beautiful small towns in Minnesota to visit with breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities, including fishing and other water sports.

The town is also home to museums and churches with interesting designs.

With breathtaking views of the lake and its stunning surroundings, it also boasts beautiful hiking trails, biking trails, as well as other picturesque scenery you’ll encounter around every corner.

See Related: Best Beaches in Minneapolis, Minnesota

16. Wabasha, MN

Wabasha Minnesota

Wabasha is home to a few VERY Minnesotan things, like the movie Grumpy Old Men and is actually the birthplace of water skiing (sorry-not-sorry Lake City).

This small town offers biking trails, waterfalls, gorgeous parks, and incredible ice age caves to explore. The park features a beautiful beach and several hiking trails with stunning views of the Mississippi River.

Wabasha, Minnesota | Things to Do & See [4K HD]
Watch this video on YouTube.

Wabasha is also home to some genuine American pride as it’s the home base of the National Eagle Center where you can show off your American patriotism by meeting and greeting bald eagles close and personal!

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Wabasha.

See Related: Southwest vs Sprit: Which Airline is Better?

17. Victoria, MN

Victoria, Minnesota Downtown

Victoria, Minnesota is a quaint, quiet town with a few great restaurants and breweries.

The town is located just a 5-minute drive from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery while hiking or biking beautiful trails.

Other great places to visit in town, include the Hjemkomst Center and the Historic Mandan Theatre, once a small haven for famed vaudeville performers, it is now a small movie theatre that the entire family can enjoy.

With a public park located right in town, this makes for a great small town to visit with kids.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Victoria.

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18. Ely, MN

Ely, Minnesota is one of my personal favorites in Minnesota. Its beautiful location makes for a wonderful getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. The city is part of the Vermillion Iron Range.

Originally settled by fur traders the region didn’t see a substantial amount of immigration until the Lake Vermillion gold rush of 1865. There are several wild walks within the range, including Echo Trail a former logging road or Trezona Trail that takes you to Old Iron Ore mines.

This charming small town is located by several amazing Minnesota lakes and offers opportunities for fishing, canoeing, or hiking.

The city of Ely has become known as a popular town as its an entry point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park, Bear Head Lake State Park, and the International Wolf Center.

The Ely Outfitters downtown is the perfect start to getting ready for a day of fishing, kayaking, or snowshoeing.

If you’re worried about choice, don’t be; Ely is a small town but has more than 50 outfitters, as well as two major highways for easy access.

Ely also has several parks with walking paths, as well as waterfalls to explore and admire near the city. The perfect weekend destination, or choice activity for a family trip, Ely is waiting to be explored!

Like what you are hearing? Check out these other best things to do in Ely, Minnesota.

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19. Waseca, MN

Huge Establishment in Waseca, MN
Waseca, Minnesota” by Dougtone is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Waseca boasts some beautiful parks like Clear Lake Park. This park features the gorgeous Clear Lake with breathtaking views of the surrounding area and gorgeous flora and fauna.

Visitors can also explore the other three beautiful lakes in the area as well as three other state wildlife management areas; Waseca has something for every nature lover!

Waseca is home to churches, and historical sites, and is famous for the incredible wildflowers that bloom there in the summer.

Waseca offers visitors an array of unique sights with small-town charm that really make it a worthwhile destination.

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20. Nisswa, MN

Nisswa Area Historical Society

Nisswa is a small town in Northern Minnesota that offers a beautiful landscape, outdoor activities, and fantastic public parks.

Nisswa is an attractive tourist destination due to its proximity to Gull Lake. The town is a destination for coffee drinkers and those seeking energy after long city journeys. The Bunyan Bike Path goes all the way to the city if you like being outside.

The city’s name is a Native American Ojibway phrase that means “the middle.” The town of Nisswa was originally known as Smiley Township before being renamed Nisswa.

One of the many reasons to visit Nisswa is for its lakes and scenic beauty, but it also features several historical buildings dating back to the town’s founding.

Take a stop at some of the awesome, unique boutiques, candy stores and Scandanavian heritage shops.

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21. Northfield, MN

Historic Building in Northfield, MN

Northfield is a picturesque small town located about 40 miles south of the Twin Cities along the Cannon River with beautiful views of its surroundings.

It provides terrific parks, historic sites, restaurants, and an abundance of stunning natural scenery.

In 1857, Northfield was first founded as the village of Northfield Center. In 1858, it was renamed Northfield and incorporated as a city on April 3rd.

That year saw the arrival of the first train on January 31st and the incorporation of the village of West Northfield on November 10th.

Northfield is in Southern Minnesota, which is more rural Minnesota and has quite a different feel than the towns mentioned in Northern Minnesota.

The town is home to two private colleges, St. Olaf College and Carleton College.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Northfield, Minnesota.

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22. Hastings, MN

Downtown Hastings, Minnesota

Hastings is a small town that is located right on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin and sits on the meeting point of 3 different rivers. This town is a great stopover spot along the Great River Road in Minnesota.

Hastings, Minnesota Travel Guide | Things to Do & See [4K]
Watch this video on YouTube.

A beautiful small town in Minnesota, Hastings features parks, a hopping downtown area, and some superb restaurants.

Hastings is located near beautiful parks and landmarks, including the stunning St. Croix River.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Hastings, Minnesota.

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23. Alexandria, MN

Fireworks by the Lake in Alexandria, Minnesota

Alexandria is a small town in Minnesota that is famous for its parks and shopping.

Beautiful parks surround stunning views of the lakes and local shops making for great, unique retail experiences framed by natural beauty.

First settled in 1858 by brothers Alexander and William Kinkead from Maryland, they were named after Alexandria in Egypt – long a center of learning, culture, and civilization centuries.

This Scandinavian-inspired village saw a rapid increase in settlers in the 1860s that brought industry, and many of the beautiful railroad features that characterize this town were built during this time period.

Make sure you stop over to say hi to Big Ole, a Viking statue located in the heart of the city.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these other top things to do in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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24. Red Wing, MN

Downtown Red Wing Minnesota

Heard of Red Wing boots? Yeah, you have and these legendary boots are made right here in this small town in Minnesota!

Red Wing is situated on the Mississippi River and surrounded by the spectacular backdrop of Mount La Grange – Barn Bluff Regional Park. Make a trip through the orchards or wineries at this time too. There are plenty of artsy outlets for those interested in fall festivals of arts.

Walk along to the dock and imagine Red Wing when it was a Dock stop and then head across to the Candlelight Inn to put your feet up.

You may also check out Harbor Bar for drinks and live music. Have a swim in Lake Pepin or walk through the many sprawling trees – they are the prettiest in autumn.

Red Wing is another charming town located along the Great River Road in Minnesota.

The scenic views, other towns like Lake City and Wabasha, and historic sites make it the perfect place to stop during a road trip along The Great River Road.

It’s located right on the mighty Mississippi, making it an ideal location for fishing, canoeing, or other water activities!

Like what you are hearing? Check out our favorite things to do in Red Wing.

If you’re heading down there, make a stop at Frontenac State Park to take in the excellent views of Lake Pepin.

See Related: Scott’s Cheap Flights Review

25. Waconia, MN

Barn House in Waconia, MN

File:North Barn-front.jpg” by Myotus is marked with CC BY-SA 4.0.

Waconia is a quaint small town just outside of Minneapolis that offers beautiful parks, shops, architecture, and historical sites. It’s probably best known for Safari Island, a fantastic indoor waterpark.

The town of Waconia is full of opportunities to explore. Downtown Waconia is postcard cute and is surrounded by wildflowers in the summer that add to this postcard power.

Whether taking in one of their local museums and galleries or simply laying out in the sun for lunch amongst the flowers, Waconia will win your heart.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in downtown Waconia.

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26. Stillwater, MN

Stillwater, Minnesota

Stillwater, located in Washington County, is not just one of Minnesota’s oldest towns. It is THE oldest since it is the first incorporated city in Minnesota. Stillwater is located on the St. Croix River and borders Wisconsin.

Check out this video of Stillwater from our YouTube channel.

Stillwater, Minnesota | Best Things to do & See [4K HD]
Watch this video on YouTube.

This town is home to both beautiful architecture and nature. It’s conveniently close to Minneapolis, so it can be a weekend destination or family trip spot.

Given its proximity to both Minnesota and Wisconsin, this is one of the most popular small towns in Minnesota.

It is a must-visit place for foodies and anyone looking for one-of-a-kind boutiques. Being that Stillwater is the first city of Minnesota, this is a great place to visit for history buffs.

Make sure you stop by the Old Warden’s House and the Washington County Courthouse.

Like what you are hearing? Check out our favorite things to do in Stillwater.

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27. Excelsior, MN

Excelsior Bay, Lake Minnetonka

Excelsior is located right on Excelsior Bay (duh!) on Lake Minnetonka. This is a small town, technically within the larger city of Minnetonka, so it isn’t really the same as a picturesque small town in the middle of nowhere, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

Excelsior is only 25-35 minutes outside of downtown Minneapolis, so it makes for an ideal weekend trip destination.

The main street is right along Lake Minnetonka and is close to parks, beaches, and excellent restaurants. Excelsior is a place that features a historic downtown that has plenty of stories and memories of the past.

The word is that the Rolling Stones wrote the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” for a boy named Jimmy that frequented the general store on Main Street.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Excelsior.

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28. Bemidji, MN

Sunset in Bemidji

Bemidji is a small town located in Northern Minnesota, which offers beautiful views of natural lakes. Bemidji also has outdoor recreational activities such as fishing and canoeing.

Fans of the cult Minnesota radio show A Prarie Home Companion will no doubt know the name Bemidji, as the show frequently visits the town for shows, festivals, and special broadcasts.

Bemidji is full of lakes and surrounded by dense forests. Located in central Minnesota, Bemidji is close to three Indian Reservations. The Red Lake Nation, White Earth Nation, and the Leech Lake Tribe are all nearby.

Bemidji, Minnesota lies on the southwest shore of Lake Bemidji, the northernmost lake feeding the Mississippi River; it is nicknamed “The First City on the Mississippi”.

Bemidji is also home to three national curling championships and goes by the unofficial title “curling capital” of North America.

The small city is home to Bemidji State University, which also hosts a very well-known hockey program.

See Related: Best Museums in Rochester, MN

29. Lindstrom, MN

Coffee Pot Tower in Lindstrom Minnesota | Things to do in Lindstrom

You absolutely need to put a Scandinavian sister city on your list of small towns in Minnesota to visit.

Daniel Lindstrom, the founder of the city, called it “Little Sweden,” in hopes that his creation would be a safe haven for Swedes fleeing from their own country. It was founded in 1880.

Erik Norelius, a Swedish immigrant, wrote diaries that feature in Vilhelm Moberg’s works about immigration to the United States. Karl Oskar Days (usually held on July 25) is a community event with activities such as parades, dancing, and fireworks.

Visit the sculptures of Kristina and Karl Oskar in town, there you have it, folks.

Lindstrom makes for an excellent weekend getaway since it’s conveniently located from the Twin Cities and features plenty of other fun attractions nearby.

I recommend exploring the museums or stopping at some local attractions along the way such as Franconia Sculpture Park, Schafer, or Taylors Falls.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Lindstrom.

30. Henderson, MN

Snow Covered Ground and Barn House on a Park
Henderson MN, Hummingbird Park” by jkmarko is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Henderson is located in Sibley County or Minnesota and the town has a population of slightly over 900 people.

Joseph Brown began the town of Henderson in 1852 after his mother, and it was named after her. The tiny city flourished as a shipping hub for the Minnesota River Valley’s interior. Sauerkraut Days is celebrated throughout June.

Kerfoot Canopy Tours is a great option if you are looking for an excursion. Or visit Neisen’s Tavern for a classic Minnesota dive bar vibe to grab a cocktail and unwind after a day of exploring.

Conclusion

So, what do you say?

Small town Minnesota or bust. If you’re looking for some best small towns in Minnesota to visit, there are plenty of options within the state!

You’ll find everything from quaint lakeside communities with historic downtowns to outdoorsy getaways on our list of best small towns in Minnesota to live in Minnesota.

We hope this has helped narrow down your search and give you a few ideas about which best small towns in MN might be right for you – but if not, let us know how we can help.

Minnesota will likely leave an impression with its beautiful scenery, friendly people, and best of all – that fresh lake air.

Have fun exploring the North Star State during your next visit and join our free travel newsletter if you enjoyed the article.

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