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Which are the best places to visit while in Minneapolis? This is a detailed guide to the best day trips in Minneapolis and Saint Paul that you must check out. It will help make your stay or visit even more adventurous.
“For me, going to Minneapolis is like going to Mecca.” – Stephan Pastis
Well, Stephen was right. If you’re looking for a city that religiously prides itself on its attraction sites, Minneapolis is the place. There are many best day trips you can take from Minneapolis, Minnesota!
One of the best day trips is to head up to Duluth for some outdoor adventure or a history tour. Another best day trip is to go and see the Mall of America in Bloomington, which has many shops and attractions.
You could also visit the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, which lets you get up close and personal with animals like elephants and giraffes. It is Minnesota’s largest city and has more to offer than you could ever imagine. Speaking of diverse and unique cultures, awesome people, natural features, and finger-leaking foods from state-of-the-art restaurants, you’ll get it all here.
Also, if you wish to visit some other sites outside Minneapolis, there are numerous excellent sites around the city. This means you can never run out of incredible places for day trips from Minneapolis.
You should also use the best tour booking sites to smooth your trip. This will help prevent disappointments during that vital tour. So, which are these sites that you shouldn’t miss?
- Best Day Trips from Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota
- Red Wing, Minnesota
- Lake Minnetonka
- Stillwater, Minnesota
- Hudson, Wisconsin
- New Ulm, Minnesota
- Lindstrom, Minnesota
- Taylors Falls, Minnesota
- Lake Pepin & Lake City
- Lanesboro, Minnesota
- Duluth, Minnesota
- Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
- Owatonna, Minnesota
- The National Scenic Byway of Great River Road
- Alexandria, Minnesota
- Rochester, Minnesota
- Quarry Park and Nature Preserve
- Long Day Trips from Minneapolis (2-Days or Potential Weekend Trips)
- Bemidji, Minnesota
- Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
- The Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
- Grantsburg, Wisconsin
- What cities are less than 2 hours from Minneapolis?
- What are the best day trips from Minneapolis?
Best Day Trips from Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota
Red Wing, Minnesota
Ever heard of or worn Red Wing shoes? This is an iconic boots collection that was first handcrafted in 1905. Chief Redwing, chief of the Mdewakanton, inspired these shoes. The extensive range of footwear alludes to the town’s history.
It will take you less than one hour to drive to the town from Minneapolis. Some of the most exciting attractions include the Alliveo Military Museum dedicated to the US military, Anderson Center at Tower View, and the Red Wing Marine Museum.
The Red Wing Shoes Museum and Store is dedicated to the shoes and traces the company’s origins and growth over time. These museums bring to light the town’s illustrious history. You will also enjoy hiking the tracks leading to Barn Bluff.
Barn Bluff is where you will get breathtaking views of the city’s beauty and remains one of the top tourist attractions in the area. Red Wing offers the most charming historic downtown in Southeastern Minnesota by far.
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The name “Lake Minnetonka” comes from the Native American term for a glacial lake that once existed in this area. You can start this day trip by taking a scenic drive to the lake. Next, rent a boat and cruise around the water to see all the luxury homes.
Don’t forget your hiking shoes because you will want to trek through the woods and see the serenity that is so unrivaled by other places! Alternatively, head to Excelsior, Minnesota, along Lake Minnetonka.
The lake is a popular destination for anglers, and there are two beaches where you can swim. Visitors may enjoy an incredible show of snow castles with ice slides, statues, and winter attractions in the winter.
The nearby Minneapolis Landscape Arboretum is also a great place to admire the beautiful flowers in the beautiful gardens of the state. Like what you are hearing? Check out these other best things to do in Lake Minnetonka.
See Related: Things to Do in Rogers, Minnesota
Stillwater is a top-notch day trip from Minneapolis, offering various outdoor activities and historic sites. Perched on the banks of the St. Croix River, visitors can admire Minnesota and Wisconsin’s breathtaking views across the water.
For those eager to explore nature, the area provides plenty of hiking trails and old buildings to investigate. Visitors can also enjoy Stillwater’s small-town charm with its tranquil city streets, incredible hotels, and quaint boutique shops.
If you’re looking for a right and quiet place with a serene environment to spend with your family, Stillwater is one of Minnesota’s best places to visit. Why family? All the features in the town favor family activities and are rated one of our top Minnesota family vacations. For instance, the Teddy Bear Park of Stillwater is excellent for kids.
Visiting the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge will also “lift” the enjoyment of linking Minnesota and Wisconsin. If you are looking for more activities, these are some of the best things to see and do in Stillwater.
For those wishing to experience some local history, there are numerous things to do – from visiting wineries and breweries to admiring fall foliage – visitors can immerse themselves in Stillwater’s past. Several wineries and breweries, like Lift Bridge Brewing Company, are worth exploring.
See Related: Best Things to Do in North Dakota
Speaking of Stillwater, let’s talk about the Stillwater equivalent on the other side of the river in Wisconsin… Good ole’ Hudson, Wisconsin. If you want to visit Wisconsin from the Twin Cities, it doesn’t get much easier than Hudson.
The number of activities here is countless. You’ll get all you need from the antique spots, retail therapy, and getting a view of arts from the seasons of St. Croix Gallery.
The gallery has the best artworks from over 160 national and local artists under one roof. You can also stop at the lakefront beach, which has many leisure activities.
The picnic shelters, a playground, and a band that hosts events are but a few examples of the amenities available. These activities occur throughout the summer, making them ideal for family and business trips.
See Related: Best Lakes in Minnesota
New Ulm, Minnesota
If you’ve never been to Germany, visiting New Ulm is as good as touring the country. It resembles the city of Ulm found in Germany after German immigrants planted their seed here and founded the town.
Thanks to foreign influence, this town’s culture became what it is today. From the Bavarian-style clock towers to the epic Oktoberfest celebration, this charming town attracts thousands of visitors from Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota if you are a fan of all things Germany.
If it’s your first time visiting the town, you will think that nothing good can come out of it as it’s tranquil. The locals mind their own business, and everyone is amiable.
Don’t pack your bags yet. Wait for summer, and the city suddenly bursts into life. The locals will be sitting out of their homes, sharing a unique German beer produced by the Schell Brewery.
For decades, one of the best things to do in New Ulm has been and will always be the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. Here, you get to see masterpiece records produced by music legends, Bob Dylan being one of them.
See Related: Best Breweries in Wisconsin
Lindstrom is one of Minneapolis’ unique day trips and is a great way to see a true Scandinavian sister city in Minnesota. Lindstrom has several things to see despite its reputation as a tiny town. The small retail and cafe establishments that line Main Street are the finest in town. Their charisma can’t be escaped.
It is also known for its recreational opportunities, including fishing, hiking, biking, swimming, and golfing. While you are in town, stop by Franconia Sculpture Park. Franconia Sculpture Park in Fraser, Minnesota, is a sculpture park that is best visited during the summer.
Over 50 sculptures on 12 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds make up this sculpture park. Outdoor totems, mounted plates, large-scale abstracts, and portable wall pieces are among the many sculptures on display.
There is also an organic garden at Franconia Sculpture Park that produces vegetables for the restaurant. We suggest a day trip encompassing Lindstrom, Franconia, and Taylors Falls in one trip (we’ll get to that shortly).
See Related: Best Indoor Activities in Minnesota
Taylors Falls, Minnesota
Taylors Falls is a delightful day trip destination for those seeking to explore the outdoors and witness the beauty of the Twin Cities and beyond. This tiny town offers plenty, just an hour’s drive from Minneapolis.
Nature lovers can bask in the pristine wilderness and lakefront park while hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing. Winter or summer, the fun in Taylor Falls never fades. It’s, therefore, an excellent spot to visit if you are an outdoors person. And it will only take you about thirty minutes from downtown Minneapolis.
The falls are surrounded by pristine “mountain-like” landscapes that are monumental during winter. The mountains pile up snow to make skiing slopes. People gather from all over the country to come and have a good time in the snow. Undoubtedly, it’s the correct destination for winter day trips from Minneapolis.
Guess what! It’s even better during the summer season. You can journey to Interstate State Park, where you’ll get some of the best hiking trails and even rock climbing in the entire state. There are many areas to explore, like Lake O’Dallas and St. Croix River.
See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Minnesota
Lake Pepin & Lake City
The beautiful lakeside city of, well shocking, Lake City is home to a culinary food lover’s paradise in the form of Lake Pepin. This is a great day trip to enjoy one of Minnesota’s largest lakes, from excellent craft breweries to tea rooms to pizza restaurants that line the lake.
Beyond that, this city is known to be the birthplace of water skiing. Alternatively, take a trip on the famous Pearl of the Lake paddle-wheeler from downtown for an unforgettable journey back.
This ferry has a fantastic view of Lake Pepin and other towns along the Great River Road. This becomes more of a quiet city in the winter unless you’re into snowmobiling and ice fishing. Want to learn more about this town? Please read our full post on the best things to do in Lake City.
Lanesboro, Minnesota, is situated along the Root River in Southern Minnesota. If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip from Minneapolis, drive an hour southeast of the Twin Cities to reach this scenic destination.
Lanesboro is a relaxing, outdoor-filled day trip filled with cycles. You can bike along the legendary Root River for miles. The historic district of Lanesboro is known for its charming bed and breakfasts, fine dining, and clean, small-town charm.
This beautiful city perfectly blends Americana with its forested countryside and brick-laid main street. This was one of my favorite day trips I’ve been on in a while. Read our full post on the best things to do in Lanesboro.
See Related: Best Things to Do Around Lake Minnetonka
Duluth, known as the Lake Superior port city, has a ton of culture and history. It’s a long day trip that you might want to consider staying a night or two since you won’t miss the nearby state parks and excellent Duluth restaurants.
There are a ton of great breweries in Duluth if you are a fan of nightlife and drinking. If that’s your thing, you’ll need to stop by Canal Park for a bar crawl or a night out on the town. For the history buffs, check out the Depot Museum, the Glensheen Mansion, and these other top Duluth museums to round out your culture trip.
Minnesota does not have a lot of large-scale beaches; hence, locals have Duluth Park Point Beach and Lakefront Park in their hearts. It’s the best place to unwind by Lake Superior during the weekend or holidays.
It’s located at the end of Minnesota Avenue in Duluth, a two-hour drive from Minneapolis. This beach is an ideal place for swimming and recreational activities. Not only that, but it also has a volleyball pitch for beach volleyball and a few grills.
It is filled with people during the summer, making it ideal for visiting to mingle with the locals. If you move further north, you will find some of the best state parks in the area, including Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls, for stunning scenery that embodies authentic Northern Minnesota culture.
These parks are suitable for hiking and camping. During winter, the park is turned into snowboarding dunes. Check out these best hotels in Duluth to book your trip.
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
Chippewa Falls is a charming town in southwestern Wisconsin near the Minnesota border. Since 1867, the Leinenkugel Brewing Company has been affiliated with Chippewa Falls. It is the United States’ seventh-oldest brewery. Cook Rutledge’s Mansion is a ten-year-old, but it provides a colorful look at early timber barons’ opulence.
You may go to Olson’s and picnic in Irvine Park, one of Wisconsin’s lovely parks. The city is located an hour and a half southeast of I-94. It is at Lake Wissota and Chippewa River in Wisconsin, near Madison.
If you want an outdoor day trip, stop by the Red Cedar River and the Red Cedar State Trail for excellent riverside hiking trails. Check out these other top things to do in Wisconsin (besides cheese and beer).
You shouldn’t leave Minneapolis before you visit Owatonna. If you can, give it one hour, and you will not regret it. It’s only an hour away from the city. You can make it your first stop if you don’t know where to go from Minneapolis.
It has historic sites that preserve the fascinating small beginnings of the town. This takes you back to the old ages and gives you first-hand experience of how the earlier generations used to live here.
The village of yesteryear is one of the fascinating areas to visit, and it’s a lovely place to wander away. The best lunch places in this area serve great food. You can always dine at one and enjoy exquisite low-cost meals.
If you love animals, Owatonna still has you covered. The Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo is the perfect premier reptile destination. The zoo hosts snakes, crocodiles, turtles, and many amphibians.
The park is also an incredible spot for surprise birthdays. If your kid is an animal lover, organize a unique birthday experience that she/he will live to remember.
See Related: Best Museums in Duluth, Minnesota
The National Scenic Byway of Great River Road
One of the best things to do in Minnesota is a tour of the Great River Road along the Mississippi River. The most enjoyable excursion along the Great River Road is going by motorcycle, which will undoubtedly provide much enjoyment.
Don’t have one? No problem. This National Scenic Byway is one of Minnesota’s better drives. It features the best type of scenery Minnesota offers, such as glacial bluffs, the Mississippi River gorge, Lake Pepin, and small-town charm.
See Related: Top-Rated Restaurants in St. Paul, Minnesota
Owatonna is not the only historical city in Minnesota. Alexandria has also made a name for its history and outdoor activities. Alexandria is an excellent spot for those seeking various activities and attractions.
Just one hour from Minneapolis, Alexandria is a picturesque small town with an exciting past, gorgeous natural beauty, and plenty to do. Its friendly locals, stunning scenery, and remarkable architecture make it the perfect destination for explorers.
Note that a one-day trip is not enough to visit every tourist destination in Minnesota. Plan to stay for at least three days to make the most of your visit.
During this period, you can cover every area of the town, including the Runestone Museum, which has one of the most extensive collections of Native American artifacts. If you’re a wine lover, you can visit the Carlos Creek Winery, the official wine of Minnesota fun. There are many leisure activities, from live music and ventures to beautiful Tuscany.
Buying a few wines or joining the wine club would be fair as they chase numerous world-class and tasty wines. Trust me; some goodies come with the membership. Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Rochester is perfect if you’re in the mood for a city with a small-town feel. It’s Minnesota’s third-largest city and is home to the legendary Mayo Clinic.
The city they found is one of the contrasts, with natural beauty unmatched by any other community in Minnesota. The Zumbro River, which has stood still for hundreds of years, is one element that creates the distinctiveness and majesty that makes Rochester such a special place to visit.
The best time to experience this beauty is during summer or when the fall turns into autumn. If you want the best of both worlds, visit the Rochester Artwalk in November and the Minnesota Bicycle Festival in June.
Rochester has some fantastic art galleries and museums thanks to the Mayo Clinic. Make sure you stop by the Mayowood Mansion during your visit and these other top museums in Rochester.
It’s best to stay at an Airbnb rental for this best day trip because you get the best of both worlds—a mini-vacation and more space than your packed hotel can give.
Plus, renting out homes is becoming more popular every year, so you will find what you’re looking for here. If you enjoy hotels, check out our list of the top Rochester hotels. Be sure to stop and check out one of these top things to do in Rochester.
Quarry Park and Nature Preserve
One hour from Minneapolis is the Quarry Park and Nature Reserve in Waite Park of Stearns County, Minnesota. The park covers 683 acres and includes all the beautiful natural features and wooded areas. As a result, it’s ideal for people that enjoy being outside.
Open prairie and wetlands are some of the plants you’ll see in the region. They also have artificial features, such as high mountains surrounding rock debris. You’ll enjoy seeing white-tailed deer and various birds in their natural habitat and be delighted to see these animals in their purest form.
This is a fun day trip from Minneapolis for individuals who value solitude and quiet. Plus, you can’t beat the fresh air! Like hiking? Here are some of the great hiking options near Minneapolis.
See Related: Things to do in Two Harbors, Minnesota
Long Day Trips from Minneapolis (2-Days or Potential Weekend Trips)
How can we forget such a beautiful town? Bemidji had to make it to the list of Minnesota’s best places to visit. We’ll tell you why. First, Bemidji has made a record as a town with thousands of families visiting every month. Thanks to Headwater Science deals with collections of live animal exhibits.
You can be assured of getting some of your beloved animals’ exhibits and collections here. Besides that, the center has a rich understanding of natural history.
If you have a place for art, Bemidji should also be in your heart. All the art lovers gather here to take breathtaking looks at sculptures produced by artists worldwide for the last two decades.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Nisswa, Minnesota
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
How does it feel to swim in that frigid water splashing up your back and the sun beating down on Mother Earth? Or, what to escape the cold and pretend you are in a tropical destination? Well, you will get all your answers at Noah’s Ark Waterpark.
It will take 3 hours to road trip to Noah’s Ark Waterpark from Minneapolis. Established in 1979, the waterpark has risen to become one of the most significant waterparks in America.
It offers two endless rivers, two massive wave pools, and four water play areas for kids. It also includes an indoor water park… Because it’s in Wisconsin, rather than everyone loving the cold, it’s no surprise it’s one of the finest locations for weekend escapes from Minneapolis. Other things to do in Wisconsin Dells include dining, shopping, and organizing birthday parties and events.
See Related: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
The Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
A ride of around 3.5 hours from Minneapolis lands you here. The Apostle Islands are only over five years old, but new surprises keep coming every year. It’s no doubt that this park has a great future. You can be part of the evolution if you pay it occasional visits.
The unique natural formations take place in Lake Superior. To the locals here, it’s where water, sky, and land converge to create one of the most beautiful scenes. The natural and cultural resources bring out the best of this spot.
As a visitor, you can go hiking, paddling, or cruising in the Great Superior River. You can also visit the mainland caves or camp in the secluded campsite. But before you come here, check with the camp authorities if the conditions are favorable.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Wabasha, Minnesota
Grantsburg is an ideal location for a nature lover. It will take only 2 hours to reach here in northern Wisconsin. The environment is filled with wetlands and marsh that cover an area of around 24 miles. The bushes are not thick, which makes them the perfect habitat for birds like fowls and sandhill cranes.
You can still do some great outdoor activities like hiking and canoeing. The rentals are also in abundance. In a nutshell, this is the perfect place for soul-searching as you get to know more about nature. Always carry a camera to take photos of the breathtaking beauty of the fascinating fauna and the unique birds.
Life in Minnesota is hidden in these small cities that many people shun when looking for perfect destination sites. The result is that they don’t get to experience fun as it ought to.
Lucky you, you now have the secret. You’ve got a list of the best day trips from Minneapolis. And it’s only fitting that you make your visit more enjoyable by trying out some of these sites.
What cities are less than 2 hours from Minneapolis?
Several charming cities lie within a 2-hour drive from Minneapolis, making them perfect for day trips. A few of our favorites include Stillwater, renowned for its historic downtown and scenic river views; Red Wing, famous for its pottery, boots, and stunning bluffs; and Northfield, a quaint college town with a rich history.
What are the best day trips from Minneapolis?
Some of the best day trips from Minneapolis include excursions to the idyllic Taylors Falls, the historic city of Stillwater, and Duluth along the shores of Lake Superior. Each destination offers unique experiences and picturesque landscapes, perfect for a memorable getaway from bustling city life.
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- About the Author
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Alex is a travel writer for ViaTravelers currently living in Amsterdam. She has lived in three countries, 4 states, and visited over 15 countries worldwide. She enjoys top-tier restaurants, old books, and uncovering historic sites around the globe. She specializes in European destinations, particularly her favorites, Paris, Amsterdam, and Vienna and is an expert at family travel after visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks before her daughter turned 2 years old.