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24 Best Places to Visit in Minnesota: Top Attractions

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You may have to spend weeks if you want to explore every attraction in Minnesota. But we don’t have this much time, do we? To shorten the list, here are Minnesota’s best places to visit.

Minnesota, commonly called the Land of 10,000 Lakes, is a Midwestern state popular for water sports and fishing. However, those are not the only attractions in the state. From haunted sites to a ton of parks, there are a lot of places to visit in Minnesota.

As a local who grew up in the Twin Cities, I’ll guide you through my favorite places to visit no matter what you’re trying to see and do, including some of the main staple attractions and some spots off the beaten path.

Best Places to Visit in Minnesota

1. Cathedral of St. Paul

Majestic Sunset View of the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Minnesota - Historic landmark at twilight
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

If you’re hunting for the best places to take pictures in Minnesota, visit the Cathedral of St. Paul. Built-in the 1900s, the cathedral is a pilgrimage site known as the North Shrine of the Apostle Paul.

Featuring a Classical Renaissance design, the cathedral’s interior seats 3,000 people. It’s open for tourists for most of the day except during holy services and Masses since the cathedral is still an active worship place.

If you want to learn more about the history of the building, you can take a one-hour guided tour at 1 pm. These tours take place from Tuesday to Friday and will teach you much about the cathedral’s history. Check the cathedral’s website before visiting to make sure tours are available during your visit.

2. Schmidt’s Brewery

Aerial View of Schmidt's Brewing in St. Paul, Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Like its abandoned places, Minnesota is notorious for many haunted spots. One of these haunted places in Minnesota is the Old Schmidt Brewery, which is located at the now Keg and Case Market.

The brewery is not just proclaimed haunted by people who want to create an air of mystery around it. It’s actually infamous for the cinematic history of the Schmidt family, including gangland kidnappings and random shootings.

The International Paranormal Society’s founder, Adrian Lee, says that this place inspired his publication, Mysterious Minnesota. According to him, the place still sends shivers down his spine.

Before you go there, it’s good to know a little about the history of the place. Jacob Schmidt settled in the area in 1884 and started making beer. Nine years later, the police detained him for shooting pigeon hunters on the river behind his brewery. However, he was not charged.

The Schmidt Brewery officially began in 1890 and burned to the ground the following year. In 1934, the owner’s son, Edward G. Bremer, was kidnapped. The Ma Barker Gang held him hostage for $200,000.

While these are just some sinister events that have taken place in the building, the brewery workers’ deaths are actually chilling about the place. In 1896, two workers died in an explosion.

Later, in 1902, there was an incident with the elevator shaft. Two years later, Matthew Kohler, a worker who lit gas lamps in the building, died of inhaling flames. Long story short, it’s definitely one of the most haunted places in Minnesota.

See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Minnesota

3. North Shore

Aerial view of Cascade River and lush forests, North Shore, Minnesota.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

If you’re planning an extended family or friend’s trip, hit the North Shore Scenic Drive that starts in Duluth. This national scenic byway is along Minnesota State Highway 61.

It follows Lake Superior’s shore up to Thunder Bay in Canada. You’ll find many top state parks along the route, including Grand Portage State Park, Superior National Forest, Tettegouche State Park, and Split Rock Lighthouse.

The route is popular for having some incredible landscapes as it’s lined with several iconic lighthouses, rocky cliffs, beautiful views, and waterfalls, the drive lives up to its name.

For travelers who are not huge fans of enjoying the views from the car, the over 300-mile Superior Hiking Trail takes you along the state’s shoreline, allowing you to view the scenic beauty from above.

See Related: Places to Visit in South Dakota

4. Wolf Creek Falls Trail in Banning State Park

Trees and Flowing River

Speaking of cool hiking places in Minnesota, the Wolf Creeks Falls Trail takes the crown since this is where the adventure happens. You can start hiking from the Quarry Nature Trail along the Kettle River.

Along the way, you’ll also see the ruins of a sandstone quarry that was there in the early 20th century. While the Kettle River offers a splendid view from the top, the real attraction lies in Wolf Creek Falls.

It’s another hiking trail with a serene landscape that spans four miles. Take your hiking boots along because there are some steep steps.

In the middle of this route, you’ll also find Banning State Park’s camping ground, which has 34 sites. Given the proximity, this makes for an excellent day trip from the Twin Cities.

See Related: Things to Do in Taylors Falls

5. Leech Lake

Leech Lake, Minnesota

Leech Lake is three hours north of Twin Cities and is popular for Muskie fishing. The growth rates in this area are phenomenal, and the lake also holds the title of home to the state’s second-largest Muskie.

It was a 52-pound fish released back into the lake after being caught. It’s one of Minnesota’s best places to visit to catch Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Walleye, and Eelpout.

Since it’s operational year-round, you can go whenever you want. Book a hotel on Booking to go zip lining in Bemidji the next day, within a short distance of the lake.

See Related: Things to Do in Brainerd

6. Lake Mille Lacs

Lake Mille Lacs 

If you’re in the land of lakes, you must put one or two on your itinerary. Mille Lacs is the second-largest lake in the state and is 40 feet deep.

It’s also the most popular lake for fishing, where you can find everything from Smallmouth Bass and Northern Pike to Jump Perch. If you plan it right, you might catch one of the many fishing festivals here all year round. Moreover, you can ask the local guides about the best spots to fish in the region.

While you’re there, stop at the Soo Line Trail Campground. It’s a few miles from the lake and has a perfect base for exploring the lake and catching many fish, especially Walleye.

See Related: Things to Do in Rochester

7. Take a Tour of Abandoned Places in Minnesota

Aerial View of the Abandoned Anoka State Hospital
The Abandoned Anoka State Hospital (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

If you love abandoned places and their eerie charm, you can satisfy your interests in Minnesota. The state has a number of abandoned places, from banks and homes to superstores.

Here’s a route of nine abandoned or haunted places in Minnesota that’s over 800 miles long. You can take the full route or do parts of it, depending on the time on your hands.

  • Hadley Bank: Hadley is a small Minnesota town founded in 1879. At its incorporation in 1903, the town had 161 residents. Over time, the number fell to only 61. The Hadley Bank symbolizes abandonment in the town, covered in irregularly growing vines and reclaimed by nature due to lack of use.
  • Northfield Store: The Northfield store is on MN-19. Some say it was a barbershop and antique store back in the day. However, it has been abandoned for as long as most residents remember. Check out these top things to do in Northfield, Minnesota.
  • UMore Park: One of the strangest abandoned places in Minnesota, UMore Park was previously named Gopher Ordnance Works. The factory made gunpowder during the Second World War. However, it closed at the war’s end and has been abandoned since then. Some sources report that it will be torn down, so it might not be there when you visit.
  • Mills Ruins Park: The park has some amenities and walking paths, but most remain crumbled. It’s an ode to the flour mills operating in the area. Besides offering insight into the state’s history, the park offers spine-chilling views, especially in the evenings.
  • Banning State Park: The Banning State Park, even without its abandoned places, is worthy of a visit since it features a beautiful waterfall and a rushing river. In the 1800s, the area was home to Banning Sandstone Quarry, which operated till 1905. Later, many fires in the region wiped out the nearby town of Banning. Today, only crumbled ruins fill the area.
  • Taconite Harbor: Being a ghost town in Minnesota, Taconite Harbor was built to house the employees who worked in taconite mines in the region. The town began to disappear when taconite’s demand ceased. Today, you’ll be welcomed by overgrown weeds and empty spaces.
  • Tanner Hospital: The Tanner Hospital was built a century ago and abandoned after being used as an apartment building for a few years. Recently, there have been talks of restoring it, but at the moment, the building is something out of a horror asylum movie.
  • Rouchleau Mine: The Rouchleau Mine was abandoned in 1977 and reminds passersby of the state’s mining history today.
  • Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center: Being the last stop on the list of abandoned places in Minnesota, the Treatment Center was once the Fergus Falls State Hospital. Built during the 1800s, it was operational in 1890 and treated mentally ill patients. After 1971, the hospital started treating people with other diseases too. However, it closed in 2005 and is abandoned to date. Check out these top things to do in Fergus Falls.

See Related: Tours in Minnesota to Book

8. Mall of America

Nickelodeon Universe in Mall of America
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

If you plan to visit Minnesota, chances are you’ve heard of Mall of America. Mall of America is no ordinary mall since it’s one of the largest in the country. It opened in 1992 and has over 500 shops and many restaurants to catch a bite.

Nickelodeon Universe, SEA LIFE, Minnesota’s largest aquarium, theatres, and excellent hotel accommodations exist. Possibly the main attraction of Mall of America is the number of celebrations that take place there every year. It’s known for hosting over 400 events yearly – more than the number of days a year.

If you’re staying in St. Paul or Bloomington, check availability for a hotel on Booking.com, and consider those that offer ‘Stay and Shop’ packages, giving you discounts on the key attractions at Mall of America.

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9. Lutsen Mountains

Lutsen Mountains

If you’re looking for the best ski places in Minnesota, the Lutsen Mountains will make all your skiing dreams come true. The mountains get up to 10 feet of snow annually and feature 95 runs for skiing and snowboarding. While you’re here, you’ll get incredible views of the shores of Lake Superior.

If you’re a beginner, you can try the Caribou Express to gain easy access to the top as well as beginner runs. Meanwhile, pros can try the Iron Mountain chair, one of Minnesota’s prized possessions, as it’s the only gondola in the state.

As one of Minnesota’s most well-known destinations for families for winter and summer activities, you can enjoy four interconnected mountains as part of the Sawtooth Mountains, offering various snowboarding and skiing options in the winter. Meanwhile, in the summer, you need to ride the toboggan.

10. Stillwater

Aerial View of Stillwater and St. Croix River, Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Stillwater is the heart of Minnesota, literally. This was the first established city in the state, and its charm has remained ever since. Throughout Stillwater, you’ll find several historic landmarks, including the Stillwater Lift Bridge, the iconic and spooky Warden’s House Museum, and the Historic Courthouse that dates back to the 1870s.

This is one of my favorite fall destinations, where the colors are alive throughout the banks of the St. Croix River Valley.

See Related: Things To Do in Granite Falls

11. St. Croix River

Breathtaking Scenic View of St. Croix River in Taylors Falls, Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

When you think of fishing in Minnesota, lakes are more likely to come to mind. However, this river is just as good of a place to fish. It’s one of the best places to catch catfish in Minnesota.

Some other fishes in the area include Walleye, Sturgeon, Muskie, Bass, and Panfish. Since river fishing differs slightly from lake fishing, you might want to get help from local guides to find the right spot.

If you need a place to rest or stay, find the St. Croix River Resort on Booking for a deal on your stay. While you’re there, you should bring your supplies or rent some from the hotel you’re staying at – most local lodgings have such facilities.

Minnesota has certain regulations about fishing that you must follow. If you’re a non-resident, you need a fishing license. Kids under 15 do not need a permit if they’re with a licensed guardian or parent.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issues these licenses. Even if you’re a state resident, you still need a permit to fish.

See Related: Things to Do in Red Wing

12. Mississippi River

An aerial view of a leisure boat cruising along the Mississippi River, surrounded by autumn-hued trees and a clear blue sky, reflecting a tranquil and picturesque setting.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Mississippi River, aka The Mighty Mississippi, is easily one of Minnesota’s best places to visit. That’s because it winds through several iconic regions throughout the state! The best way to enjoy the sights of one of the most well-known rivers in the world is by taking a road trip along the Great River Road.

There are also many cities that you can explore along the Great River Road. One of these cities is Winona, best known for its cherry blossoms. This would be a great sight to see during Springtime. The Mississippi River is one of the most iconic rivers in the world, and some incredible views of this river are located in Minnesota.

You don’t have to go far, either. If you’re just in the Twin Cities for a few days, consider checking out the Mississippi River Gorge Regional Park, one of the best parks in Minneapolis, which offers excellent hiking trails and sweeping views of the river and borders Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Alternatively, Minnehaha Falls Regional Park is a unique way to see the Mississippi River. You’ll see how the waters from Lake Minnetonka eventually become Minnehaha Falls, draining into the Mighty Mississippi. If you can’t trek to parks, this sprawling river is easy to spot while visiting Minnesota.

See Related: Things to Do in Chaska

13. Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness

Serene Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness panoramic view in Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is one of Minnesota’s best places to canoe. The Superior National Forest covers most parts of the state’s northeast. If you want to explore the unspoiled landscape, this wilderness sanctuary is the ultimate place to enjoy the natural beauty of Northern Minnesota.

Meanwhile, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is in the forest, along the US-Canada border. Here, you can canoe, fish, and kayak while enjoying being surrounded by wildlife, such as wolves, moose, and bears.

With the water covering 700 square miles and the forest going on for 445,000 acres, you’ll be blanketed by nature. The area also has some cool hiking places in Minnesota that you can find on their official site.

While visiting, be sure to stop by the International Wolf Center to meet some new friends and get a glimpse of the local history of these fascinating animals.

See Related: Things to Do in Otter Tail

14. Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park may be Minnesota’s only national park, but that’s for a reason. This national park is epic. Voyageurs National Park is located in one of the northernmost parts of Minnesota, in International Falls, which borders Canada. However, the best thing about this National Park is that it contains the most diverse ecosystem in the country.

This national park is best known for its camping facilities, canoeing opportunities, and fishing experiences, making it one of the best national parks in the US. The best time to visit the park is during the summer months. This allows visitors to enjoy themselves by swimming, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing.

Voyageurs National Park is considered one of the best places to go if you want to experience nature at its best and go completely off the grid. You’ll be close to the International Wolf Center, like the Boundary Waters. So, stop by on your way to or out of the park.

See Related: Things to Do in Buffalo

15. Spirit Mountain

Spirit Mountain, Duluth during Winter

Spirit Mountain is slightly different from other ski places in Minnesota since it’s just outside Duluth rather than in the middle of a suburb. If you’re living in Duluth, you can sneak off to Spirit Mountain for an afternoon of skiing. The 22 runs allow beginners, intermediate skiers, and pros the time of their lives.

Moreover, Spirit Mountain is also a hot spot for freestyling, with four freestyle areas: Shark Park, Spirit Park, 18-Line, and Lone Oak Tow Park.

If you want to enjoy the terrain at night, you can go to Spirit Mountain from Wednesday to Sunday till 8 p.m. Check out Get Your Guide for other fun activities to do in Duluth while you’re there for skiing.

See Related: Minnesota Distilleries to Visit

16. Duluth

Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Duluth is a port city filled with incredible history along Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in North America and one of the largest lakes in the world. There are some great things to do in Duluth, such as visiting the Lake Superior Zoo, going on a boat cruise, and exploring all the different museums.

Beyond the museums and outdoor activities, be sure to check out the state parks located just north of Duluth, like Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park (located on the Gooseberry River), and Tettegouche State Park.

If you want some fun things to do in Duluth while you are in town, go to Canal Park, where you’ll find some fun nightlife and excellent views of the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. There are plenty of nearby hotels in that area, so you’ll have no shortage of options to stay and play with the nightlife.

Duluth is a city filled with tons of activities; here are some other attractions and things to do in the area:

See Related: Rental Cabins in Minnesota

17. Lake Superior

Lake Superior Shoreline of Tettegouche State Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Lake Superior is North America’s largest freshwater lake and is the largest of the four iconic Great Lakes. The Minnesota-Ontario border marks the division between Lake Superior and Ontario’s second-largest body of water. One island is included in the American part.

During periods when ice blocked the natural drainage to the sea, landslides upstream produced islands. When the ice melted, waves surged into the valley to form three small islands formerly high points in a larger plateau stretching to Lake Michigan. North, South, and Middle Islands are their names.

The preferred way to see the beauty of Lake Superior is by doing a North Shore road trip driving along the lake in Northern Minnesota and stopping at all the natural attractions the state has to offer such as the Split Rock Lighthouse, Grand Marais, the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, and Superior National Forest.

If you’d like to stay on the lake, check out these top cabins on Lake Superior.

18. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory Interior
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is one of Minnesota’s best places to visit, and it is completely free. The zoo has an amazing array of animals and an amusement park where the kids release their energy.

The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory operates with the help of donations and grants. It provides care to more than 1,500 animals! You can see polar bears, lions, cheetahs, and gorillas.

The best time of year to visit the Como Zoo and Conservatory is between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and it is open Monday through Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Since it is a free tourist attraction, try to visit during the week or in the morning to avoid crowds.

See Related: Places to Visit in Iowa

19. Grand Marais

Grand Marais, Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Grand Marais, originally named after French Aristocrat François Xavier Martin d’Hastrel, is a charming town set along the shores of Lake Superior in Cook County. With just over 1,500 people, this tiny town packs a punch and is consistently one of our favorite towns to visit.

Our favorite thing about Grand Marais is its vast outdoor attractions and outdoor recreation opportunities, including a number of nearby lakes that are great for boating, fishing, camping, hunting, skiing, and snowmobiling. It’s also one of America’s top spots for the Northern Lights.

In addition, Grand Marais as well as proximity to some of Minnesota’s most iconic parks, such as Superior National Forest, Grand Portage, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Cascade River State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Tettegouche State Park.

If you plan on visiting Grand Marais, be sure to stop by Artist’s Point to take in the lake’s natural beauty. The town has plenty to offer with its amazing antique shops, craft breweries, and classic Minnesotan food. If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out our favorite Gunflint Trail resorts, worth staying at least once in your lifetime.

See Related: Places to Visit in the United States

20. International Wolf Center

Wolf inside a Animal Sanctuary

The International Wolf Center is a scientific and educational center for wolf research. The “ambassador group,” which consists of five wolves from various species that reside within the Superior National Forest, is the main attraction at the center.

Visitors can safely watch wolves from this large observation window that encircles the middle. Before returning, you must view the real-time video of the wolves in the area. Start at the visitor center at Ely, and during your visit, check out these other things to do in Ely, Minnesota.

21. Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park in Fall

Itasca State Park is an iconic state park in Minnesota that locals truly love. The best time to visit this place is during fall or winter, as navigating through the deep snow during other seasons may be hard.

Also, you will have better views of the frozen lakes throughout the park during these two periods. Itasca State Park has been operating for over a century and is Minnesota’s oldest state park. It is in Minnesota and covers 32,000 acres of land with over 100 lakes.

Itasca State Park is a 46,000-acre state park in Minnesota that occupies the headwaters of the Mississippi River. It has old-growth forests, ancient lakes, towering pines, and 49 miles of hiking routes. I

At Douglas Lodge, you can sit back and relax with a cup of coffee while watching local wildlife, which includes a variety of birds, including loons, cormorants, grebes, hummingbirds, finches, and warblers.

Drive across Wilderness Drive to appreciate big Northwood pines or the beautiful Bohall and Nicollet hiking trails. This makes for one of the best weekend trips in Minnesota for outdoor adventures.

In the winter, you can take on cross-country skiing if you brave the cold and snowy weather. The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. if you need some directions and guidance on your visit.

22. Downtown Minneapolis

Aerial View of Minneapolis Skyline
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Located in the center of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis is the must-visit destination for city life. As the culture capital of the state, there are plenty of great neighborhoods and options for all types of visitors to explore Minnesota’s finest art, food, entertainment, and nightlife experiences.

The downtown area is home to many of the city’s attractions, including Minnesota’s premier shopping district, Nicollet Mall, neighborhoods such as North Loop, multiple lakes (it’s called the City of Lakes for a reason), manicured parks, iconic professional sports stadiums, restaurants, and perennially underrated museums.

One of those must-visit locations is the Minneapolis Institute of Art (watch our full YouTube video touring the museum). If you love modern art, make a stop at the Walker Art Center for some contemporary art exhibits as well as a rooftop mini-golf course in the summertime.

Of course, no trip to Minneapolis is complete without visiting the Spoonbridge & Cherry at the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The city features several beautiful places on the National Register of Historic Places that you should visit while in town, including the Stone Arch Bridge and the Foshay Tower, some of Minnesota’s most famous landmarks.

There are a number of guided tours of the city that you can go on to see the best tourist attractions and historic places. We’d suggest a walking tour along the Mississippi River, which will offer a chance to visit another great landmark, the Mill City Museum. If you love the great outdoors, hike through Minnehaha Falls Regional Park to get a chance to see the Mighty Mississippi at the ground level.

See Related: Top-Rated Hotels in Minneapolis

23. Saint Paul

Aerial View of Summit Avenue at Sunrise
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Saint Paul is known as the capital of Minnesota. Saint Paul needs “Minnie,” and “Minnie” needs Saint Paul. Without each other, there would be no Twin Cities. Both cities contrast nicely against each other. Minneapolis has a modern bustle, while Saint Paul has a rich history and old-world charm.

Like many places in Minnesota, Saint Paul is an underrated place to explore for plenty of outdoor activities. Paul is also located on the Mississippi River and contains many landmarks, such as waterfalls, rivers, biking trails, and parks. Check out this list of our top St. Paul parks.

Take in the local history through a guided tour of Summit Avenue, which features the Governor’s Mansion, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s boyhood home, incredible Victorian-era architecture, and plenty of great restaurants.

If you have time, visit the Wabasha Street Caves to learn about the city’s role during the Prohibition Era or cheer on the Minnesota Wild, the state’s NHL hockey team.

24. Pipestone National Monument

Trail and Plants in Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone National Monument is a beautiful park that protects the source of pipestone, a soft stone that can be carved and has indigenous roots. The park contains about 500 quarries and has over 100 free-standing carvings, making it a great place to visit as a family.

The best time to visit Pipestone is spring or summer, as the green grass and flowers provide a beautiful contrast against the white stone. The national monument is located in Southern Minnesota in the small town of Pipestone.

Pipestone National Monument is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the natural beauty of Southwestern Minnesota, which contrasts nicely with piney Northern Minnesota.

Which Minnesota attractions are on your must-see list? Let us know! We can help you create an itinerary by using our free itinerary generator or plan your next adventure in this great state.

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