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Minnesota vs Wisconsin: What’s the Difference?

If you want to travel to explore some amazing lakes, you’ve two popular options: Minnesota or Wisconsin. Confused about where to travel? Decide after reading my detailed Minnesota vs Wisconsin comparison?

Some of the most captivating sites of the US are in two bordering states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Both lie in the upper west part of the US and get very, very cold during the winters.

However, these states are more different than you might think. Minnesota offers beautiful countryside and is known as the Land of 10,000 lakes for a reason – its beautiful lakes.

Minnesota vs Wisconsin

Wisconsin, on the other hand, possesses miles of beaches, waterfalls, dense forests, and fun for everyone.

Comparison of Minnesota and Wisconsin

Both states take pride in their lifestyles and natural assets, which differ from one another. Keep reading our Minnesota vs Wisconsin guide to finding out more.

Minnesota vs Wisconsin Comparison


Minnesota has incomparable lakes, luxurious resorts, dense forests, and a unique Minnesota culture.

It is also known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, and denying the significance of its lakes is asking for a fight.


The Minnesota population is approximately 5.7 million, making it the 22nd most populous state in the US.

Map of Minnesota

Map of Minnesota

With such a location, you have the opportunity to hike scenic trails, go paddling in the waters, and have numerous adventures in nature. The beautiful countryside makes Minnesota one of the top places for spending your vacations.

Check out some of these amazing small towns in Minnesota. Some of them are sister cities of Swedish towns, like Lindstrom, Minnesota. There is no official Minnesota language, but English is widely spoken around the state. Some German, French, and other foreign languages exist as well.

See Related: Best Parks in Minneapolis, MN


What is better, Minnesota or Wisconsin will largely depend on the accommodation options that each state offers. Minnesota has accommodation in every size and price. From elegant rooms of luxurious resorts to more rustic settings, you can easily find a place that will fit your budget.

The historic Grand View Lodge in Brainerd is one of Minnesota’s best resorts, situated on Gull Lake. It has an attractive exterior and a comfortable interior with excellent amenities.

The lodge highlights include a private beach, a full-service spa, on-site eateries, and top-class golf courses. Another comfortable place for families is Ludlow’s Island Resort in Cook, a unique island getaway to spend your vacations in peace.

The resort highlights include private cabins giving stunning views of the lake, wood-burning fireplaces, large porches, and decks with BBQ equipment. It is also a known hiking destination.

The Lodge on Lake Detroit is set on a 550 ft scenic shoreline with enough rooms to avoid crowds. The highlights include a full-service spa, nice fireplaces, good-sized balconies, and a swimming pool.

See Related: Best Hotels in the Midwest


Your vacation in Minnesota will likely begin in the greater Twin Cities, Minneapolis, and St. Paul. You can discover the big-city attractiveness in Minneapolis and the layers of history under the streets of St. Paul.

Both of these cities are equally cool with buzzing nightlife and underground restaurants. To the north of the Twin Cities lies Brainerd, one of the largest cities in Northern Minnesota.

Its shores are dotted with restaurants, shops, parks, and hiking trails. Hike off on a Brainerd Golf Trail course and have the best time with your family.

Brainerd Golf Trail course

For people traveling with families, Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure is a good option. For couples, a 3-Hour Craft Brewery Tour in Minneapolis can be a fun trip. If you think you might enjoy a theatre night, head to one of Minneapolis theatres, such as the Guthrie which lies in a complex on the Mississippi River.

You can take a tour during the day and go to the theatre for a memorable night and dinner at one of Guthrie’s restaurants. The Mississippi River starts 20 miles north of Park Rapids in the old-growth forest of Itasca State Park. The park allows you to walk the Mississippi headwaters and admire the sparkling waves of Lake Itasca.

It’s also a good idea to hike its trails or bike the paved paths while you are there. Minnesota is also home to the world’s largest mill – the Washburn A. Mill – which grinds flour to make 12 million loaves of bread each day.

As if that’s not enough, the building now houses the Mill City Museum, displaying the old-day flour production machinery.

Here, you can explore old-school railroad cars and an awesome freight elevator. This glass elevator rises from Mill Ruins Park all the way to the Gold Medal flour sign at the top of the building.

See Related: Best Museums in the United States


Lakes are the gems of Minnesota. The Dakota word for water “minnie” appears in “Minnesota”, which translates to “sky-blue waters.” Minnesota, also known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, is defined by charming waters and exotic wilderness waiting to be explored.

Lake Pepin

The world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior, has a rugged shore on Minnesota’s northern border which is extraordinarily wild and appealing. The incredible scenery and water full of fish have been an attraction for hundreds of visitors all year long.

One of the most popular activities here is sailing on the North Shore to admire the scenic location and catch some fish along the way. Since you most likely won’t have your own boat, you can take a Hjordis Schooner to take a tour of the Grand Marais harbor.

Lake Superior

Another beautiful lake of Minnesota is the 9-mile Burntside Lake, covering over 7000 acres of St. Louis County. The lake allows all water sports enthusiasts can enjoy boating, skiing, and wakeboarding any day.

The water of Burntside is so clear that you can see more than 20 ft under the water. Plus, the 150 islands on the lake are a popular nesting place for various species of shorebirds.

Best Lakes in Minnesota

If you are looking for solitude in the lakes, you will love the Voyageurs National Park, which holds about 30 calm lakes. Go for a guided walleye fishing trip, or stay at a resort in one of the towns along the shores of International Falls or Ranier.


Minneapolis, which forms half of the Twin Cities, offers a diverse dining experience. It has everything from pizzas and hamburgers to exotic Greek dishes and the finest cocktails.

The Bachelor Farmer is one of the top restaurants in Minneapolis. It sources fresh and organic ingredients from local farmers to create unique Nordic recipes. The restaurant serves Sunday specialty dinners and brunches with meals such as duck liver pâté and lemon pancakes.

Minneapolis is also the best city to taste different takes on the classic American Hamburgers. Red Cow Minneapolis, located Downtown, serves the best burgers in town.

Its unique menu includes Barcelona, which comes with fine wines and craft beers. Butcher & the Boar brings in the best American food and bourbon to the city in a casual environment. If you are craving meat and fish, this restaurant is the way to go.

Another place famous among Minneapolis residents is the Birchwood Cafe. It stands out because of its simple and creative environment, perfectly paired with organic dishes.  Check out these other great breakfast spots in Minnesota.

Hungry? Check out our other top guides on food in Minnesota:

On the Wisconsin side, check out these best breweries in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin is home to big cities, stunning waterfalls, forests, and miles of beaches. It has a rich history of immigrants who led to a blend of traditions, creating a unique Wisconsin culture.


The Wisconsin population is around 5.9 million, making it the 20th most populated state. During the 18th and 20th centuries, immigrants from Germany brought the art of making beer to Wisconsin.

While Wisconsin has a beer-making tradition, it also excels at making dairy products. The residents call themselves “cheeseheads” and wear artificial wedges of cheese on their heads during Green Bay Packers football games.

See Related: Best Things to do in Hudson, Wisconsin


Bay Shore Inn is a historic building and one of the best hotels to book a stay in that offers suites facing Sturgeon Bay. The property lies in a beautiful location, and you can go out to explore Door County which is known for its endless shoreline.

Looking for a cabin getaway? There are plenty of well-equipped cabins in Wisconsin for a romantic couple’s stay. Some of the best ones are at Lake Geneva, where you can camp near the calm waters of the lake. About six hours from Milwaukee, Lakewoods Resort is another place for a perfect stay in the Wisconsin Northwoods.

Here you have plenty of accommodation options from cozy rooms to luxurious apartments and gold villas, to fit all needs and budgets.

Lakewoods Resort

The Vue Boutique Hotel is at a two-hour distance from Milwaukee, perching on top of a sandstone cliff, looking out on Lake Delton in Wisconsin Dells.

The resort offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities to accommodate families. You can dive into the on-site pool or enjoy the natural lake water on a boat ride.

If you are looking for more affordable options, consider the Black Hawk Motel, located near the region’s downtown district. The family-owned motel has received good ratings for its guest rooms and suites.

See Related: Best Accessories for Travel


If you are an adventurer, you will find plenty to do in Wisconsin. The state boasts excellent hiking trails and stunning islands with caves and shipwrecks waiting to be explored.

Wisconsin Dells is located on the Wisconsin River, among sandstone formations in the south of Wisconsin. Here you can enjoy fun water parks and other outdoor adventures for adults and kids.

Go rock-climbing or fishing in the Wisconsin River which is full of various fish such as trout and cod. Check out these other best things to do in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin River

In case you’re traveling with family, Milwaukee Scavenger Hunt Adventure can be a great option for family fun with kids.

For an island getaway, visit the Chippewa Valley and enjoy the Chippewa River, a hot spot for tourists. You can admire the river from the shore or take a paddleboat to explore the surrounding islands drenched in history.

If you are a hiking enthusiast, Door County is the perfect place to explore the lands of Southern Wisconsin. The vast lands have a peaceful and relaxed mood, with lesser people so that you can enjoy your hike to the fullest.

Door County

Another attraction in the state is the Wisconsin state parks with lush greens covering acres of land in every direction. Head to the High Cliff to admire the natural beauty and have a picnic with your loved ones. Or, visit Devil’s Lake State Park for a camping day.

The Big Manitou Falls is a 150 ft tall massive waterfall that drops pure water into a lovely river. The unique colored water and scenery around the waterfall make it one of the region’s best views.

Take a walk alongside the river and the brownish fall in a relaxed atmosphere.

See Related: Chicago vs Detroit: What’s Better to Visit?


With infinite lakes and shorelines, Wisconsin is heaven for lake lovers. The state is bordered by two great lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. These are the most popular locations for boating, kayaking, fishing, and other water sports.

Lake Michigan is a must-see when you are visiting Wisconsin. It is located on the eastern side of the state, with a shoreline stretching over 300 miles alongside Door County.

Wisconsin Lake

Lake Michigan is ideal for catching perch and walleye. The 53 public beaches are also excellent for swimming or diving to explore the 275 shipwrecks around the area.

The spring-fed Geneva Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in Wisconsin, famous for cottage homes and resorts. The lake stretches over 5000 acres for swimming, boating, and fishing.

Located in the east-central part of Wisconsin, Green Lake is one of the deepest lakes in the state. Due to its 237 ft depth, the water is ideal for fishing bass, crappie, walleye, and trout.

See Related: 10 Minnesota Family Vacation Ideas


Milwaukee offers fine dining for both vegans and non-vegans. For everything in between, check out Arby’s or Wendy’s for a range of sandwiches and salads. These are the best stops to get food in Milwaukee.

For meat-lovers, the Rare Steakhouse makes delicious meat steaks that are easily the best in Wisconsin. After a day of adventure in Milwaukee, enjoy a delicious steak dinner with your partner or with your buddies.

For vegans, National Café and Beans & Barley offer fresh salads and freshly squeezed fruit juices. You can have a nice breakfast here to fill up for a long day of adventure ahead.

See Related: Best Midwest Roadtrips

What is Better Minnesota or Wisconsin?

At this point, you must be wondering where to travel to Minnesota or Wisconsin. Whether you visit Minnesota or Wisconsin, both states are the best places to visit in the US. Minnesota borders Lake Superior while Wisconsin borders Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

The residents of both states are equally welcoming and take pride in their lakeside cabins and beer traditions. If you want to spend your vacation enjoying watersports in sparkling lakes, go to Minnesota for the perfect holiday. For an ideal lake getaway, travel to Wisconsin, surrounded by beautiful scenery and a relaxed atmosphere.

It’s an undoubtedly tricky task to pick from Minnesota vs Wisconsin comparison, as either of the two locations is ideal for vacations in their own ways.

We hope this post gave you a better idea of the difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin, so you can catch the distinct vibes of each location and make your pick accordingly.

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