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17 Best Minnesota Family Vacations | Top Spots & Ideas

We are always on the lookout for the perfect place to unwind and rejuvenate, go fishing, and try new activities. While there are many lodges and resorts across the world, there is nothing like heading to picturesque rivers and lakes.

There are several destinations for Minnesota family vacations. The destinations offer an ideal opportunity for travelers to make the most of the picturesque location and serenity.

They also provide families with many things to do and see. Minnesota is known for some of the most enthralling sights in America. It has everything from impressive wilderness to glowing cities, there are cities that boast a variety of destinations for family vacations with young children in Minnesota.

Planning outdoor family vacations in southern Minnesota can be hard and we are here to make things easy for you by listing some of the top Minnesota family vacations. Irrespective of what you are looking for, there will be something for you in these Minnesota vacation ideas.

Best Family Vacation Ideas in Minnesota

1. Bloomington

MOA Mall of AmericaMall of America Sign” class=”wp-image-32272″ title=”Mall of America”/>
Mall of America

Bloomington is all about incredibly fun-filled Minnesota family vacations. Right from a wildlife refuge to the Mall of America, Bloomington has it all. It offers ample fun with attractions that are suitable for the whole family.

You can enjoy a whole day of shopping at The Mall of America which also happens to be the largest shopping mall in, well, America obviously. There are many kid-friendly attractions here including amusement rides, an aquarium, Flyover America, the Escape game, the Void, a mirror maze, and the Crayola Experience.

You can easily spend an entire day at the Mall of America even if you are not a shopaholic. If you are a nature lover, head to the Minnesota Valley National Refuge, and do not miss out on the Water Park of America.

Bloomington is one destination that will leave you asking for more. Irrespective of the type of traveler’s personality, there is so much to see and do here. It is an ideal family destination with various activities and attractions. Whether you are in Bloomington for a couple of days or a long stay, you will have enough things to see and do regardless if the Mall of America is on your bucket list or not.

See Related: Best Things to do in Lake City, Minnesota

2. Minneapolis

Aerial View of Minneapolis and Mississippi River

Do not even think for a minute that Minneapolis, Minnesota is all ice. There are several attractions that can give families non-stop fun for many days. It is an ideal playground for families who love culture, education, and history.

Right from the Bell Museum of Natural History to the popular Children’s Museum, there are so many attractions that make it an ideal destination for family vacations in Minnesota.

It also has many exciting kiddie spots like the ice rink and the Depot’s indoor waterpark. You can also walk, run or bike along the Chain of Lakes. Head to the Como Zoo Park and Conservatory, Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, History Theatre, Mill City Museum, Minnesota Opera, and Minnesota Children’s museum.

When in Minneapolis, you will find several admission-free museums like the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Weisman Art Museum. Or, visit the Walker Art Center where you’ll get a chance for some fun for the whole family, the parents get a chance to see modern art and the kids can play mini golf on the rooftop during the summer.

Additionally, it has some of the best hotels in Minnesota. Minneapolis has got everything for fun-filled family holidays. Check out these top hotels in Minneapolis to book your stay.

Minneapolis also has an excellent nightlife scene. There are many live music events organized over the weekends. This destination also has some of the best cafes and restaurants for you to explore.

Check out this video of all the fun things to do in Minneapolis.

15 Best Things to do in Minneapolis & St. Paul (Twin Cities)

See Related: Where to Stay in Minneapolis

3. Stillwater

Aerial View of Stillwater Minnesota

Known as the birthplace of Minnesota, Stillwater remains one of the top places in Minnesota for a family vacation. This destination has many exceptional experiences for families and it is an ideal place to visit at any time during the year. In the summer season, you can enjoy the town for water fun including kayaking, boating, and gondola rides as it’s located right on the iconic St. Croix River.

If you are traveling with kids, you will love the kid-friendly attractions like BierCycle Adventures, Teddy Bear Park, and the trolley tours. You can enjoy one of the best family vacations at the cabins in Minnesota. Most importantly, Stillwater is conveniently located and gives easy access to various family vacations near Minnesota.

One of the must-visit places here is Nelson’s Ice Cream. A family holiday is incomplete without a day out for ice cream and this place is historic in every way. It was established in 1923 and serves large scoops of delicious ice cream.

Given the close proximity to the Twin Cities, this is one of the best weekend trips for families as you’ll get a glimpse into history and family fun.

See Related: Best Road Trip Books for Kids

4. Duluth


If you are looking for fun things to do with children in Minnesota, Duluth will not disappoint you. It is a preferred choice for Minnesota family vacations. It has some of the most remarkable and best things to do. This beautiful destination is a paradise for adventure and nature lovers.

Canal park remains at the top for downtown family fun. It is much more than a traditional park and is home to Lakewalk, which is a promenade with biking and walking trails. Water sports are accessible in the park including rentals of boats, paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and Seadoos.

It is beautiful across all seasons and is serene with many natural sights. Duluth is one of the most popular summer family vacations in Minnesota. It also offers access to Boundary Waters and the North Shore which is a huge protected wilderness with canoe routes and trails.

If you are traveling with kids, they will enjoy Playfront Park. It is the largest playground in the city and has a lot of activities for kids to engage in.

When in Duluth, make it a point to visit the Duluth Children’s Museum in Clyde Park. It is one of the best places to visit with children and it teaches kids through imaginative play.

There are various interactive programs and facilities that parents and kids can enjoy. Duluth is a classic Midwest road trip for any family to see and explore the great North.

Like what you are hearing with Duluth? Check out these posts and travel guides about Duluth:

See Related: 10 Fun & Best Things to do in Cottage Grove, Minnesota

5. Lake County

Split Rock Lighthouse

A perfect choice for those looking for an outdoor and affordable family trip is Lake County. It does not have many city attractions but offers many family-friendly things to do. It is an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and is one of the top cheap family vacations in Minnesota.

One of the best places to visit here is Gooseberry Falls State Park. It is an ideal location to relax. You can get the camping gear and hit Minnesota Highway 61 to reach the park. It surrounds the mouth of the River and includes Lower, Middle, and Upper Gooseberry Falls.

Gooseberry Falls State Park | Attractions & Things to Do [4K HD]

It has many hiking trails for novices and experienced hikers. Further, there is the beautiful Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It was designed in 1910 and is considered one of the most picturesque lighthouses in the United States.

You can take a family hiking trail to the lakeshore. Or, go night watching to spot the Northern Lights.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Minnesota

6. St. Paul

St. Paul

An ideal destination for those who are looking for many family-friendly places in Minnesota, St. Paul is a blend of educational attractions and urban wonders. One can spend time sightseeing at different attractions.

You will also discover some of the best breakfast places here. It is a popular destination for Minnesota family vacations. Some of the top attractions include the Minnesota History Center and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

There are many luxurious hotels for families visiting the destination. You can take a walk on Summit Avenue and see the beautiful colors on the road which is known for classic Victorian architecture. St. Paul looks beautiful throughout the year and it welcomes tourists from across the globe.

The park system in Saint Paul is ranked number 3 in the country and the parks are ideal for hiking, biking, leaf-peeping, and paddling. Saint Paul is one of the most livable cities in the United States and it is a year-round destination.

You will never get bored of this beautiful place whether you are visiting for the weekend or are there for a long holiday. If you are a brewery fan, check out these top St. Paul breweries. There’s no shortage of great options.

See Related: Best Things to do in St. Paul, Minnesota

7. Preston & Lanesboro

Root River, Minnesota in Winter

Considered a laid-back destination for family vacations, Preston is beautiful. If you are in for an easygoing holiday with outdoor activities to engage in, head to Preston for the best Minnesota family vacations.

When here, visit the Lanesboro Historical Museum, Root River, and Historic Forestville. Do not miss out on the Amish community when in Preston. You will get a chance to learn about their life.

One of the best Minnesota family vacations, Preston is a destination for all types of travelers. Head to the picturesque Minnesota trails, the Root River State Trail, and the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail. You can go on a biking adventure here.

There are more than 50 miles of trails for biking, hiking, and jogging which will make it one of the best winter vacations in Minnesota. Take a walking tour around the beautiful place and see the beauty of the historic buildings.

You can enjoy hiking, camping, and horseback riding at Mystery Cave State Park. Alternatively, you can simply choose to relax and chill at the destination. The options are endless. Like what you are hearing? Book one of these top hotels in Lanesboro.

See Related: 10 Best Iowa Family Vacations to Take This Year

8. Brainerd

Historic Crow Wing County Court House in Brainerd, Minnesota

There is so much more to Brainerd than what people think of. The destination will entrap you in several ways and it has become one of the top vacations in Minnesota.

Right from outdoor trips to splashy indoor fun, there is so much to do. The destination is a mix of culture and natural beauty. It is ideal for the family and allows you to engage in activities including fishing, golfing, zipline adventures, and biking. It offers something for everyone.

This is not it, there are craft breweries, art museums as well as indoor water parks. You can plan family fishing trips in Minnesota here. A must-visit place in Brainerd is the Safari North Wildlife Park where you can enjoy safe and fun experiences in a learning environment.

It is an opportunity to spot birds, mammals, reptiles, and learn more about primates. Popular animals include bald eagles, striped hyenas, grizzly bears, giraffes, white Bengal tigers, kangaroos, and spotted leopards.

If you want to do something offbeat, head to the largest racetrack in Upper Midwest, Brainerd International Raceway. It is a racing complex with various road courses and a drag strip. You will notice a range of motorsports schedules including car shows, autocross competitions, drifting, road racing, endurance racing, superbike racing, as well as drag racing.

It also has a lake for snowmobile racing suitable for open water. It is a must-visit for motorsports enthusiasts. Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Brainerd

See Related: Best Things to do in Mankato

9. Grand Marais

Lake Superior

Located on Lake Superior’s North Shore, Grand Marais is an ideal place for nature lovers in Northern Minnesota. It offers a lot of fun and plenty of picturesque scenery.

There is so much to do and see here in Grand Marais. The Grand Portage State Forest, Nature Center, Chik-Wauk Museum, Sivertson Gallery, and the Pincushion Mountain Trail System are located here. The Superior National Forest Trail is known for its unique forest ecosystem and interesting cultural history.

Then there is the Cascade River State Park Waterfalls where you can enjoy the beauty of waterfalls and rivers as they course through the rocky gorge.

Check out the many things to do at Cascade River State Park from our YouTube channel.

Cascade River State Park | Superior Hiking Trail & Camping

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

See Related: Things to do in Two Harbors, Minnesota

10. Winona

Aerial View of Winona, Minnesota

Winona is a destination that is nestled on the Mississippi River and offers many options for family fun. You will find Garvin Heights, River Bluffs State Park, and the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Winona.

Head to the Marine Art Museum to learn about the relationship between humans and water through visual arts experiences. The art museum has an extensive collection of paints and contemporary exhibits on display.

You can also spend a relaxing day at Lake Park which is a beautiful city park surrounding Lake Winona. It is a five-mile-long trail that runs on the south side of the city and circles both areas of the lake. You will enjoy extraordinary views of the park and its neighborhoods.

You can canoe, kayak, stand on the paddleboard as well as fish on Lake Winona. Winona is undoubtedly a complete family holiday destination that will take you closer to nature and is very peaceful.

It is also one of the most popular weekend getaway destinations for families especially given its easy commuting proximity to the Twin Cities. Check out these top things in Winona, Minnesota.

Plan a family trip to northern Minnesota and make the most of these stunning destinations. Whether you are a nature lover, an adventure enthusiast, or a shopaholic, these 10 destinations will help you plan an ideal family vacation.

Minnesota is a year-round destination and you will always find interesting things to see and do when here. The picturesque destination of Minnesota offers a complete blend of adventure, nature, water activities, and historical sites and has an impressive food and music scene.

See Related: Best Indoor Activities in Minnesota

11. Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior

Bluefin Bay Resort in Winter

Bluefin Bay is a great place for a family vacation, with its fun activities, kid-friendly vibe, and location on the shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior. A vacation here can be easily combined with other destinations in the Northwoods of Minnesota for an even more fulfilling trip.

Bluefin Bay is located right in the middle of amazing outdoor recreation opportunities year-round—whether you’re looking to explore or just relax on the beach.

The resort’s amenities include an indoor/outdoor pool, hot tubs, and saunas; volleyball courts; basketball courts; horseshoe pits; a sand volleyball court, and an arcade room. Other family attractions nearby fishing charters, hiking and biking trails, and several cute towns on the North Shore.

From here, you can even take a day trip to Grand Marais to experience the best of the resort and another amazing place on our list of family vacation ideas.

12. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Boundary Waters Canoe in Minnesota

That’s right: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Minnesota, and for good reason. The area has everything you’d expect from a family camping trip, plus so much more.

There are tons of lakes, rivers, and streams to explore. You can canoe on them or simply enjoy their beauty as you hike along their shores. There are also plenty of hiking trails stocked with wildlife like moose and bear—and maybe even wolves.

If your kids want something more adventurous than hiking or canoeing (which they probably will), there are mountain biking areas where they can safely ride their bikes without worrying about cars passing by at high speeds (you know how kids are).

As for winter sports, there’s cross-country skiing if it’s snowy out; snowshoeing if it’s not too cold; ice fishing when there is ice—plus plenty of other outdoor activities depending on what time of year you visit for your Minnesota vacation.

13. Lutsen Resort

Aerial View of Lutsen Mountain

Lutsen Resort is an amazing place to visit with your family and its one of the best ski resorts in Minnesota. It’s got everything you could want—a variety of activities, restaurants, and accommodations—and it’s great no matter what time of year you go. If you’re looking for some fun in the woods with your kids, this is a great place to start.

You’ll find a ton of things to do on your trip that are all within walking distance from one another: a golf course, hiking trails, water sports (including fishing), cross-country skiing, and snowshoe trails—the list goes on.

And if those things aren’t enough to keep everyone busy, there are several other resorts nearby where they can spend their days exploring new adventures too. This is a well-known spot to many Minnesotans as an annual family vacation spot.

14. Walker

Leech Lake Aerial View in Minnesota

The small town of Walker has a population of around 2,000. It’s located on the northern shores of Lake Superior and is known for its logging industry, which began in 1884 when a mill was built in town.

The town also has a rich mining history—in fact, it’s home to the oldest operating iron mine in North America (established as early as 1849). Today, visitors can explore the Iron Ore Heritage Center and learn more about this important part of Walker’s past.

Summertime is the prime season here: get your feet wet at Leech Lake’s beautiful swimming beach or go fishing with the entire family. The town also has a few fun festivals throughout the summer. In July, there’s the Walker Days Festival, which includes a parade and carnival.

15. Lake Vermillion

Lake Vermillion, Minnesota in Summer

Lake Vermillion is a lake located in northern Minnesota. It lies near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in Lake County near Finland, MN. The lake is known for its fishing and boating opportunities as well as its hiking trails that lead to picturesque waterfalls in a vast wilderness.

Lake Vermillion offers plenty of activities for everyone—swimming and boating during the summer months, canoeing or kayaking through the wilderness during the warmer months before winter sets in, or heading out on winter expeditions by snowmobile or dogsledding when there’s snow on the ground.

The lake is shaped in a unique formation with its base pointing north and its tip pointing south. The water flows out of Lake Vermillion at the northern point of this triangle, through Sadie Creek into Lake Superior. In addition to being popular for fishing and boating, Lake Vermillion is also known for its beautiful scenery and wildlife.

Make sure you stop at the International Wolf Center on your way up north to get a glimpse into the history of wolves in the region and get a chance to get up close and personal with them.

16. Voyageurs National Park

Sunset at Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park is located in northern Minnesota on the border of Minnesota and Canada. This is a great place to get outdoors and see wildlife. If you’re looking for some hiking adventures, the park is the perfect location. You can hike through forests and over mountains to see some beautiful scenery. It’s one of the best family vacation ideas for those that want to experience the natural beauty and get back to simple loving away from city life.

Camping is another activity that people love to do there because it’s so peaceful and quiet with lots of trails to explore on foot or by canoe. Renting a houseboat is also very popular since there are no motor boats allowed on Lake Kabetogama except for these (and only from mid-May through mid-September).

If you’re looking for a place to rent, there are plenty of options. You can get a cabin or a chalet, and they all have different amenities. Some have fireplaces while others have kitchens with stoves and refrigerators. You’ll also find them in varying sizes so there’s something for everyone.

If you love stargazing, you will love this national park as it’s one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.

See Related: Best Weekend Getaways in Iowa

17. Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park Sign

Itasca State Park is one of the most well-known state parks in Minnesota. It’s located in the northwest corner of the state, and it’s home to Lake Itasca, which is known as the birthplace of the Mississippi River.

The park itself has a lot of great features—it’s got plenty of trails for hiking and biking, a campground where you can stay overnight if you want to see everything in the park without having to drive back and forth each day, and a visitor center where you can learn more about what makes this place so special.

You might think that Itasca State Park would be full of tourists all year round, but actually, it’s one of those places that people tend to visit when they’re looking for some peace and quiet. That’s because there isn’t much going on here except nature—there aren’t any big attractions like roller coasters or theme parks or other things that attract lots of crowds.

If you’re looking for something really different when it comes to your vacation plans, Itasca State Park might be just what you’ve been looking for!

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