We always look for the perfect place to unwind, rejuvenate, go fishing, and try new activities. While there are many lodges and resorts worldwide, 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. Plus, some cities boast various destinations for family vacations with young children in Minnesota.
Planning outdoor family vacations in southern Minnesota can be challenging, 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.
Show Table of Contents
- Best Family Vacation Ideas in Minnesota
- 1. Bloomington
- 2. Minneapolis
- 3. Stillwater
- 4. Duluth
- 5. Lake County
- 6. St. Paul
- 7. Preston & Lanesboro
- 8. Brainerd
- 9. Grand Marais
- 10. Winona
- 11. Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior
- 12. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
- 13. Lutsen Resort
- 14. Walker
- 15. Lake Vermillion
- 16. Voyageurs National Park
- 17. Itasca State Park
Best Family Vacation Ideas in Minnesota
Bloomington is all about incredibly fun-filled Minnesota family vacations. Bloomington has everything from a wildlife refuge to the Mall of America. It offers great 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 America. Many kid-friendly attractions here include 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 much to see and do here. It is an ideal family destination with various activities and attractions. Whether in Bloomington for a few days or an extended stay, you will have enough things to see and do regardless of whether the Mall of America is on your bucket list.
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Do not even think that Minneapolis, Minnesota is all ice. Several attractions can give families non-stop fun for many days. It is an ideal playground for families who love culture, education, and history.
From the Bell Museum of Natural History to the famous Children’s Museum, many attractions 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.
Minneapolis has several admission-free museums like the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Weisman Art Museum. Or, visit the Walker Art Center, where you’ll have some fun for the whole family; the parents can see modern art, and the kids can play mini golf on the rooftop during the summer.
Check out this video of all the fun things to do in Minneapolis.
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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 is an ideal place to visit anytime during the year. In the summer, you can enjoy the town for water fun, including kayaking, boating, and gondola rides, as it’s located 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; this place is historic. It was established in 1923 and served large scoops of delicious ice cream. Given the proximity to the Twin Cities, this is one of the best weekend trips for families, as you’ll get a glimpse into the history and family fun.
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Duluth will not disappoint you if you are looking for fun things to do with children in Minnesota. 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, 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, a vast protected wilderness with canoe routes and trails.
If you are traveling with kids, they will enjoy Playfront Park. It is the city’s giant playground and has many activities for kids. 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 stay 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.
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5. Lake County
Lake County is perfect for an outdoor and affordable family trip along Lake Superior. 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 Minnesota’s top cheap family vacations.
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.
It has many hiking trails for novices and experienced hikers. Further, the beautiful Split Rock Lighthouse is on Lake Superior’s North Shore. 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.
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6. St. Paul
An ideal destination for those 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 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 walk on Summit Avenue and see the beautiful colors on the road, known for classic Victorian architecture. St. Paul looks gorgeous 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 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: Things to Do in St. Paul
7. Preston & Lanesboro
Considered a laid-back destination for family vacations, Preston is beautiful. If you are in for a relaxed holiday with outdoor activities to engage in, head to Preston for the best Minnesota family vacations.
Visit the Lanesboro Historical Museum, Root River, and Historic Forestville here. 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 biking, hiking, and jogging trails, making 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.
Enjoy hiking, camping, and horseback riding at Mystery Cave State Park. Alternatively, you can 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.
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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.
There is much to do, from outdoor trips to splashy indoor fun. The destination is a mix of culture and natural beauty. It is ideal for the family and allows you to engage in fishing, golfing, zipline adventures, and biking. It offers something for everyone.
This is not it; there are craft breweries, art museums, and 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, and 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, and drag racing. It also has a lake for snowmobile racing suitable for open water. It is a must-visit for motorsports enthusiasts.
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9. Grand Marais
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 fascinating 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.
Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Grand Marais, Minnesota.
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Winona is a destination nestled on the Mississippi River and offers many options for family fun. Garvin Heights, River Bluffs State Park, and the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka are 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.
You can also relax at Lake Park, a beautiful city park surrounding Lake Winona. It is a five-mile-long trail that runs on the city’s south side 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, and fish on Lake Winona. Winona is undoubtedly a peaceful family holiday destination that will take you closer to nature. It is also one of the most popular weekend getaway destinations for families especially given its easy commuting proximity to the Twin Cities.
See Related: Best Indoor Activities in Minnesota
11. Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior
Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior is an excellent 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 right in the middle of incredible outdoor recreation opportunities year-round—whether you want to explore or 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 include 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
That’s right: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Minnesota, and for a good reason. The area has everything you’d expect from a family camping trip and much more.
There are tons of lakes, rivers, and streams to explore. You can canoe on them or 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
Lutsen Resort is a fantastic place to visit with your family, and it’s one of the best ski resorts in Minnesota. It’s got everything you could want—various activities, restaurants, and accommodations—and it’s great no matter what time of year you go. If you’re looking for fun in the woods with your kids, this is a great place to start.
You’ll find many 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 also spend their days exploring new adventures. This is a well-known spot to many Minnesotans as an annual family vacation spot.
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—it’s home to North America’s oldest operating iron mine (established as early as 1849). Today, visitors can explore the Iron Ore Heritage Center and learn more about this vital 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 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 and 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 famous for fishing and boating, Lake Vermillion is 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
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 people love 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 no motor boats are allowed on Lake Kabetogama except for these (and only from mid-May through mid-September).
Plenty of options exist if you’re looking for a place to rent. You can get a cabin or a chalet; 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.
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17. Itasca State Park
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 is home to Lake Itasca, the Mississippi River‘s birthplace.
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 unique.
You might think that Itasca State Park would be full of tourists all year round, but it’s one of those places people tend to visit when looking for peace and quiet. That’s because there isn’t much going on here except nature—there aren’t any big attractions like roller coasters, theme parks, or other things that attract crowds.
If you’re looking for something different regarding your vacation plans, Itasca State Park might be just what you’ve been looking for. Plan a family trip to northern Minnesota and make the most of these stunning destinations.
Minnesota is a year-round destination; you will always find exciting things to see and do here. The picturesque destination of Minnesota offers a complete blend of adventure, nature, water activities, and historical sites and has a fantastic food and music scene.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.