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51 Best & Fun Things to do in Minnesota

The North Star State is home to a ton of activities ranging from winter sports to mountain hiking to urban excursions.

As Minnesota residents for over 10 years, we’ve got you covered with the real list of the best things to do in Minnesota. Minnesota is truly a hidden gem in America. I may be biased as I’m Minnesotan born and raised. But I’ll never hide my passion for my home state.

It’s the North. It’s the “L’Étoile du Nord” or the “North Star State” for a reason. It’s the true beauty of Minnesota and the great people that make it a destination that should be on any person’s bucket list for traveling the United States.

Table of Contents

Outdoor Things to do in Minnesota

Love the great outdoors? You are in good hands being in Minnesota. There are plenty of outdoorsy things to do in Minnesota.

Tettegouche State Park

raging waterfall at Tettegouche State Park

One of my favorite state parks in all of MN is Tettegouche State Park. This state park is located along Lake Superior and is one of the best ways to see the shoreline on the North Shore.

Tettegouche State Park is full of things to do including hiking, swimming, and photography. On a clear day, it’s amazing to take photos that capture the outstanding views of Lake Superior.

Another bonus is that Tettegouche State Park is home to Bear Island. To get there, you have to take a ferry across Turtle River from the park office (they are free).

Once you arrive at the other side, you’ll meet a very unique experience. You will most likely be one of the only people there, and it’s simply an amazing place to hike and explore without crowds.

I would actually recommend camping out on Bear Island for a night or two — just make sure to take plenty of supplies, wet weather, and safety gear with you in case things go wrong!

There are many options for activities just minutes away from Tettegouche State Park. Once you get back to the shoreline, it’s a good idea to visit the nearby town called Grand Marais.

It’s a beautiful place, with a sort of edge-of-the-world feel that sits on Lake Superior’s shore. It’s home to things like fishing, hiking, and kayaking, as well as the densest population of Ph.D. holders in the country.

Visit Minnesota’s North Shore

North Shore Minnesota Scenic Byway

The North Shore scenic drive is a reference to the shoreline coast in Northern Minnesota along Lake Superior just past Duluth. The North Shore is made up of several small towns, including Grand Marais, Two Harbors, and Silver Bay.

There are many things to see and do here for people of all ages and interests: hiking trails, waterfalls on Lake Superior; bike roads through pine forests or savannas; historic sites such as:

The North Shore deserves its own writeup completely on the top things to do, as this is home to some of the best state parks, waterfalls, fall colors, wildlife habitats, and campsites in Minnesota.

There are plenty of iconic landmarks and trails to enjoy, as well as the aforementioned outdoorsy activities along the North Shore of Lake Superior, such as the Split Rock Lighthouse, Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, the Gunflint Trail and so much more. Like what you are hearing? Check out these other best things to do in Duluth, Minnesota.

See Related: Best and Fun Things to do in Iowa

Hike the Superior Hiking Trail

aerial view of the North Shore of Minnesota

The Superior Hiking Trail is a 211-mile (340 km) backpacking trail in Northern Minnesota. The Superior Hiking Trail is also known as the SHT, and it’s a perfect setting for those looking to enjoy nature, get some exercise and have adventures along the way.

When you’re hiking in this state, you can typically expect things like quiet trails that are often out in the unspoiled wilderness, and not crowded at all. You’ll also find things like campgrounds close to your trailhead, which you can use if you’re planning on staying overnight during your hike.

You’ll also find things like water and restroom facilities along the way. Water is important because it can get hot on the trail, and you’ll want to stay hydrated.

Restroom facilities can be important for the same reason, especially if you are on a longer hike and things start to get messy. At the end of the day, this is a great place to come and experience true peace and quiet, as well as things like adventure and fresh air that you won’t find in a crowded city.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Rochester, Minnesota

Visit the Boundary Waters Canoe and Camping Area

red canoe in Boundary Waters Canoe in Minnesota

The BWCA is one of my personal favorites to completely get off the grid and explore the wilderness. I absolutely love the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. It’s best done on a beautiful 3-day canoe trip and camping excursion.

The BWCA is one of my favorite places to visit in Minnesota because it offers an incredible wilderness experience. You don’t need to own a canoe, as there are numerous sites that rent them out.

If you decide to go, I highly recommend going during Labor Day weekend because it’s just generally a great time there as the mosquitos have calmed down a bit and the weather is tremendous.

It’s always fun to go around that time of year and it’s an experience you won’t forget. Even if you don’t have the time to explore in a canoe, make sure to stop and visit Gooseberry Falls State Park (pictured in this piece) on your way into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area!

It’s about a 45-minute drive from Duluth down the Superior Hwy. 1 and it’s absolutely worth the stop! Gooseberry Falls State Park is free to visitors and is one of the best tourist attractions in Minnesota that just can’t be missed, particularly in Autumn!

The falls are everything you want in a beautiful waterfall: tall, roaring, majestic, and surrounded by trees dressed in fall foliage with plenty of hiking trails and outdoor recreation.

See Related: Cascade River State Park

Rent a Houseboat or Canoe at Voyageurs National Park

aurora borealis over a houseboat at Voyageurs National Park

While home to numerous, breathtaking state parks, Voyageurs National Park is Minnesota’s only National Park. It’s a place to experience the real outdoor adventure of wetlands, pine trees, and serene lakes that do not have a boat wake.

Just calm, crystal clear waters. One of the most popular things to do in Voyageurs National Park is to rent a houseboat. Since there are so many waterways and interconnecting lakes, it’s a spot that warrants a way for you to cruise through the lakes without having to “rough it up” by camping.

Of course, if you are a camping enthusiast, this will be a great spot for you. It’s a unique national park given how “North” it is relative to the rest of the continental United States.

Voyageurs National Park is on the Canadian border and offerings some of the best northern outdoor pursuits and adventures that anyone could ask for, making it one of the best Minnesota attractions to visit.

See Related: Best National Parks to Visit in November

Pretend You’re in the Mountains at Lutsen Mountain

scenic view at Lutsen Mountains Minnesota

Minnesota is not known for having a ton of rocky or mountainous terrain – in fact, it’s known for being the opposite, but believe it or not, you can find some excellent skiing resorts. Lutsen Mountain is the most well-known since it’s a ski resort that feels just like a mountain in Northeast Minnesota along the North Shore scenic drive.

It’s a right of passage to ride the gondola for residents of this fine state (we don’t have many gondolas at all). While you are in this part of Minnesota, make sure you go on a classic cross-country skiing adventure.

Visiting in the summer? No problem. This is still a great spot to visit during summer since the mountain has an alpine slide and a golf course. The mountain is located conveniently along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Lutsen, Minnesota which is just 15 minutes south of the iconic Grand Marais.

Consider staying at Lutsen Resort, which offers a great alpine lodge feel and shuttles you right to the mountain. Watch our view of the Lutsen Mountains from our YouTube channel to get a visual experience of the mountain.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Hinckley, Minnesota

Glacial Lakes State Park

Lake at Glacial Lakes State Park

If you are looking for some cool things to do in Minnesota that won’t break the bank, check out Glacial Lakes State Park. This place features a massive lake best known for fishing, boating, and other water sports.

The site also has an abundance of hiking trails so you can hike to a scenic lookout where you’ll get some nice views of the lake.

See Related: Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Free Things to do in Minnesota

Visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

giant cherry and the spoon - Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

This is one of the quintessentially Minnesotan spots of the Twin Cities where you can see iconic landmarks like the Cherry and the Spoon as well as great views of the Minneapolis skyline.

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is located adjacent to and is a part of, the Walker Art Center which is one of our favorite museums in all of the Midwest and is another fun thing to do in Minnesota.

See Related: Best Things To Do in Maple Grove, Minnesota

Check out the State’s First City, Stillwater

blue waters under the bridge at Stillwater, MN

Stillwater is a great charming small town to visit. The town features amazing shopping and rich history (it’s Minnesota’s first city after all!).

If you enjoy the outdoors, you’ll be able to find a nice park or greenway along the Saint Croix River. The 25-mile-long trail is one of many lovely things about Stillwater, with its natural setting offering great views of the city’s downtown and St. Croix River Valley.

The small old town will definitely surprise you with things to do, things to see, things to eat, and things to buy! Check out the downtown shops, boutiques, and antique stores for clothing, gifts, or home decor.

The restaurants have something for every palate – Mexican food, pizza places, hot dogs, and a brewery are just some of the options. Check out these best things to do in Stillwater, Minnesota if you like what you are hearing.

See Related: Best Things to do in Otter Tail, Minnesota

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis Institute of Art aerial view

The Minneapolis Institute of Art is a museum for contemporary and modern art. The museum has one of the largest collections in the United States when it comes to 20th-century art, as well as vast collections of Asian, African, and pre-Columbian art. It’s centrally located in Minneapolis and is completely free and open to the public.

Inside the museum, you can see works by legends such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Renoir, and Monet as well as educational exhibits.

The museum also has many sculptures on display and sketches such as Rodi’s celebrated sketch of what would become “Rodin’s Thinker”, as well as a bronze sculpture of two elephants that were made from a mold of Hadrian’s original in ancient Rome.

If you want to learn more about the Minneapolis Institute of Art, watch our YouTube video covering everything you need to know about the museum. While you are visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Art, make sure you stop at Eat Street for some of Minneapolis’ best restaurants.

See Related: Best Museums in the USA

Minnesota State Capitol

Minnesota State Capitol Building at Night

Go see the “L’Étoile du Nord” for yourself. It’s simply sitting right there in the lobby and main rotunda of the Minnesota State Capitol, in Saint Paul; the other half of the Twin Cities.

Yeah, Minnesotans have a ton of pride over our North Star, and you’ll see it everywhere, particularly in this grand old building.

The Minnesota State Capitol is an excellent free thing to do as you can tour it at any time. Check out the Supreme Court Chambers and get some awesome views of downtown St. Paul from the top floor.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Chaska, Minnesota

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul

Palm trees at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Como Park Zoo is a completely free zoo and conservatory located in Saint Paul. It’s a great activity to do with kids. Plus, the Como Park Zoo is centrally located between Minneapolis and St. Paul so it’s easy to access if you aren’t staying on the St. Paul side.

For a free zoo, there are a ton of great animals to see such as polar bears, lions, tigers, flamingos, and gorillas. During the summer, the zoo hosts an enchanted butterfly garden.

There’s nothing like being surrounded by bright blooms and hundreds of dainty, vibrant butterflies wafting around you.

The conservatory is filled with plants from across the world, and it’s fascinating to see the changes these plants go through over the course of a year. Como Park Zoo also features a pretty decent fairground, and the park itself is the perfect place to throw a pigskin or frisbee or settle down for a picnic.

Given that it’s so kid-friendly and completely free, it gets very busy so plan accordingly.

See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Minnesota

Get Lost at Franconia Sculpture Park

huge sculpture at Franconia Sculpture Park

Another sculpture park? Why not?! We love art here in the North Star state! Franconia Sculpture Park is a play on alt-art and modern sculptures. It’s completely free and always open.

Franconia Sculpture Park is located in Shafer, Minnesota, which is just over an hour’s drive from Minneapolis which makes it a great day trip.

Franconia Sculpture Park is a great place to walk around and lose yourself for the day. The park features over 200 creations that are sure to inspire and impress.

Since it’s a sculpture park, you can expect things like massive things in the ground, things made of metal objects, and things that will make you say “huh?” and wonder “why?!” If nothing else, it is an interesting spot to see things free of charge.

Check out these other reasons why you need to visit Franconia Sculpture Park.

Minnehaha Falls and Minnehaha Regional Park

torrential waters at Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis

Looking for things to do in Minneapolis with kids? Minnehaha Falls and the nearby park is a local favorite. The waterfall consists of two levels, the upper falls, and the lower falls.

The Upper Falls are only one mile away from downtown Minneapolis but provide a stunning view all year round of nature running wild. The lower falls are just a short hike from the top and are perfect for kids to splash around in. Be sure to bring your bathing suit!

Minnehaha Park is a great place to visit in Minneapolis and you’ll have a blast even if you are visiting by yourself.

See Related: Best Waterfalls in Minnesota

Unique Things to do in Minnesota

These are the more unique and attractions that are specific to Minnesota culture.

Learn About Milling at the Mill City Museum

Mill City Museum in Minneapolis

One of the most important historic landmarks in the Twin Cities is the Mill City Museum. This is a true symbol of historic architecture and industry in Minneapolis.

The museum is a centerpiece and tribute to what made Minneapolis, well, Minneapolis; flour milling, as well as the other industries that surrounded the hydropower plant from Saint Anthony Falls right nearby. It’s a great area of Minneapolis, so check out these top hotels in the Mill District of Minneapolis.

The flour mill was operated by Washburn-Crosby along with several others in the area, which eventually became General Mills, yes, that General Mills.

There are a ton of great things to do in this area, which I will now coin as the unofficial Minneapolis riverwalk.

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

Explore Lanesboro, MN

commercial district with parked cars at Lanesboro, Minnesota

Lanesboro is one of Minnesota’s most charming small towns. The town is located just an hour and a half or two hours from the Twin Cities, making it an excellent day trip from Minneapolis. The city is home to plenty of outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, rock climbing, and much more.

Plus, Lanesboro is home to some amazing hotels and bed and breakfast spots along with an excellent main street with great food, breweries, and museums.

The Root River runs along the main downtown giving it a unique charm and a calming environment. In addition, there are plenty of trails that run along the Root River.

Check out these guides specific to Lanesboro to learn more about this amazing small town:

View the Historic Architecture of the Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse overlooking a hill in the ocean

The Split Rock Lighthouse is a really big deal. I’m not just saying that. It’s really the iconic shot of Northern Minnesota that paints a picture in your head of the pure bliss of being Minnesotan…the majestic lakefront, thick pine trees, and alone, resolute lighthouse, guiding ships away from the rocky coastal shoreline.

Split Rock Lighthouse was a vital lighthouse for safely guiding ships coming into Duluth. Now it’s a great historical landmark, museum, and state park.

See Related: 15 Best Things to Do in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

Take a Guided Tour of Old World Saint Paul via Summit Ave

historic mansion with green garden

Ah, Saint Paul, the “other” Twin City. Saint Paul doesn’t get as much love as it should but that’s how residents like it. As many locals will tell you, Minneapolis is where you want to work and have a night out, and Saint Paul is where you want to live.

Summit Avenue is one of the most well-known streets in the state. It’s home to the longest stretch of Victorian and Edwardian-era houses in the country, and it’s where the Governor’s mansion resides amongst the rows of mansions from “old” money.

It makes you feel like you are stepping back to the Great Gatsby days. Oh, speaking of Great Gatsby, right nearby Summit Avenue is the birthplace and childhood home of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Perhaps, that’s where he got some of his inspiration in writing the Great Gatsby.

There are plenty of great Summit Avenue walking tours that you can join to see the right spots, learn some history, and have a little fun along the way.

See Related: Best Tours in Minnesota

Minnesota State Fair – The Great Minnesota Get-Together

Minnesota State Fair from the Gondola

The Great Minnesota Get-Together, otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair, is a staple of Minnesotan life and it’s one of the things to do in Minnesota that will surely make a lasting impression. The Minnesota State is held for 12 days every year beginning on the second Tuesday in August and ending on Labor Day.

There are tons of things to do at the Minnesota State Fair – the fair features all things summery: food (much of it fried and on a stick), drinks (beer), countless things to buy, livestock, rodeos, live acts, live music, fairground rides, and tons of other things to see and do, including the famous Minnesota State Fair Lottery!

The Minnesota State Fair is an institution – there are a ton of things to do here and it’s one of the things to do in Minnesota that you simply cannot miss.

Everything is bigger at the state fair and you will see things here that you simply won’t find anywhere else in Minnesota (or the rest of the US) unless it’s located on a farm or some regional fair (which just isn’t the same as The State Fair).

See Reared: Best Things To Do in Hibbing, Minnesota

“Go Up North” to Brainerd

Paul Bunyan replica in Brainerd

Do as the locals do, right? If you’re a Minnesotan, you know the lingo of “going up North.” Brainerd is a staple for the Minnesota Northwoods and cabin life.

There are several lakes and towns surrounding the greater Brainerd area with towns like Nisswa and a bit further north of Walker, Minnesota.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Brainerd.

Lake Harriet and the Bandshell Park

Castle-like bandshell at Lake Harriet - Minneapolis

Lake Harriet is one of Minneapolis’ top lakes. Minneapolis is known as the city of lakes with plenty of options, but Lake Harriet is a bit different. This lake features an amazing rose garden as well as a massive castle-like bandshell that features live concerts and events.

The lake is nestled in Minneapolis with close proximity to Edina and the historic Linden Hills neighborhood. There’s no shortage of water sports that you can do at Lake Harriet – you can rent sailboats, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. Check out our full YouTube video highlighting some scenic views and the history of Lake Harriet.

See Related: Best Parks in Minneapolis

Go on a Brewery Crawl in either Saint Paul or Minneapolis…or Both!

glasses of beer raised for a toast

Speaking of doing as the locals do, Minnesotans absolutely love their beer. There are over 10,000 lakes in this state, which means a ton of freshwater. Plus, Lake Superior is one of the cleanest freshwater lakes in the world. This translates into VERY good beer.

There are a ton of great breweries all over the state, in all shapes sizes, and locations, but if you are limited to the Twin Cities, plan a brewery crawl around Northeast Minneapolis or around St. Paul.

Let’s lobby for a new Minnesota nickname of the “Land of 10,000 Breweries” because there will be no shortage of options while you are in town.

Hey, why not just tour both cities? Here are our guides on the breweries in these two Twin Cities:

See Related: Best Breweries in Duluth, Minnesota

National Eagle Center in Wabasha

aerial view of the great river road at Wabasha Minnesota

Want to see true patriotism in a life form? The National Eagle Center is home to bald eagles (yeah, our iconic national bird that you’ll see on every “true” patriot’s clothes or pickup) that you can meet close and personal.

Beyond that, Wabasha is a great city to visit along the Great River Road. While you are in town, check out these other top things to do in Wabasha.

Learn about Minnesota’s Military History at Fort Snelling

US flag at the old military fort at Fort Snelling State Park

Fort Snelling is located along the Mississippi River, literally adjacent to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. There’s a chance if you are flying into town, you can spot it while you are landing.

The fort was constructed in 1819 by the US Army as a trading post, bordering contested territory between the US and British-held Canada, shortly after the War of 1812. When Minnesota achieved statehood in 1858, the Army transferred it to the State of Minnesota.

Fort Snelling is now part of the National Park Service and has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. It’s home to a museum and the old fort has been preserved to show what life was like for the garrison back in the day. Reenactments are also hosted every year, with a live drill, musketry, and light artillery making a terrific boom!

Visit the International Wolf Center

father and child timber wolf Voyagers National Park

Who doesn’t love wolves? I mean we love our Timberwolves (not so much the basketball team that perennially lets us down). Timberwolves are well-known throughout the state and are frequently spotted in Northern Minnesota, particularly at Voyagers National Park.

At the International Wolf Center, you can get up close and personal in learning more about these fascinating animals, the conservation efforts led throughout the state, and what huge impact wolves have on the health of our environment.

The center is located up north in Ely, Minnesota, which is a great small lake town right at the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Like what you are hearing? Check out these other top things to do in Ely while you are in town.

Explore Great River Road

aerial view of the great River Road in Minnesota

Great River Road is one of the most scenic drives in all of America. This drive spans over 500 miles along the Mississippi River. The drive takes you through some idyllic small towns and several sights. Some things to check out are the Stone Arch Bridge (the start of Great River Road in Minneapolis), Lock & Dam 1 (where you can spot a number of native bird species), and Lock & Dam 2 (which has a massive waterfall).

The drive is beautiful in every season and the sights you’ll see are worth it. The Great River Road is a true gem of Minnesota. Every year visitors come here to cruise up and down the river and Lake Pepin through Hastings, Red Wing, Frontenac, Lake City, Wabasha, and Winona.

You don’t need a boat to experience these riverfront towns. The drive is just as good, if not, even better than boating. Each city along Great River Road boasts its own uniqueness, history, and charm.

Want some of our guides on these cities? Learn more during each of our stopovers in these great cities from our YouTube videos on these locations like our full Great River Road trip and scenic drive.

Visit a Scandinavian Sister City such as Lindstrom, Minnesota

street art from Lindstrom, Minnesota

One of my favorite day trips from Minneapolis is heading to Lindstrom, Minnesota. This small town located just slightly over an hour from the Twin Cities is a Swedish sister city (twinned with Tingsryd in Sweden) and is home to many Scandinavian-themed restaurants and shops.

Lindstrom is also the home of one of my favorite things to do in Minnesota, which involves enjoying a Swedish pancake along with Swedish coffee and even an apple pie.

There are so many things to eat in this small town that you’ll never run out of things to try while visiting Lindstrom. Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Lindstrom, Minnesota.

Minnesota Marine Art Museum

tables and chairs In front of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum Building

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum located in Winona, Minnesota is a great place to visit when driving through the city or even makes for a great day trip from Minneapolis.

The museum features local and regional artists and you’ll find things like handmade jewelry, pottery of all kinds, oil paintings, and wood carvings. It’s truly another hidden gem being that the museum also features legendary artists like Picasso, Monet, and Chagall in their collections.

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum is a must-visit on things to do in Minnesota, especially if you appreciate art. You can also take in breathtaking views of the Mississippi River from their museum overlooking the Mississippi Riverfront.

Spot a Moose on the Gunflint Trail

moose walking in snow in Northern Minnesota

Gunflint Trail is a must-see destination on your way up North. National Geographic has deemed the Gunflint Trail as one of the best national parks to visit in America for nature lovers.

At this park, you’ll find things like an 1885 lighthouse and an 1850’s chapel, but most importantly – moose! There’s a good chance you’ll spot one of these creatures on this trail through untouched wilderness.

See Related: Where to Stay in Minneapolis

Fun Things to do in Minnesota

Walker Art Center

front view of the Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center is a very well-known modern art museum across the nation and even the world. This photogenic museum of many angles has some of the best exhibits of modern art you can find anywhere in the world.

The museum is wildly interactive as well. You’ll find yourself dipping into audio, video, and sculpture-based art at each exhibit. In the summer, the Walker features mini-golf on the roof of the museums, boasting excellent views of the Minneapolis skyline.

See Related: Best Things to do in Willmar, Minnesota

Shop Until You Drop at Mall of America

MOA Mall of America Logo Sculpture
Mall of America

Malls are not quite what I personally look for when visiting a destination. However, in the North Star State, it’s different. Indoor malls were actually invented here.

That’s probably not all that surprising considering how cold it gets in the winter. So why not double down on that and build the largest mall (that comes with an indoor amusement park) in the entire country here? Sure…

Mall of America is not just a mall – it’s practically its own ecosystem. There are a ton of unique things to do beyond shopping, like get married (yes, there’s a chapel), bar and restaurant hop your Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville-heart out, beat an escape room, shoot your friends in laser tag, race go-carts, or check out one of the world’s largest indoor amusement parks in the form of Nickelodeon Universe.

Mall of America is a top thing to do with kids as they can let out all of their energy at spots like SEA LIFE at Mall of America (an indoor aquarium) and the Crayola Experience (an interactive playpen of crayons, yeah you heard that right).

Heck, you may need some time at Margaritaville after… If your kids have next-level energy, consider staying at the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park adjacent to the mall.

See Related: Delta Airlines Reviews

See Broadway Quality Theater at the Guthrie Theater

Gold Medal Flour signage at night at Guthrie Theatre Minneapolis

People might not know this, but right after New York and Chicago, the Twin Cities is the most important hub for professional and amateur theater in the country.

The Twin Cities reliably presents excellent theater in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The most well-known spot is the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, which was rebuilt in 2006. The rebuild is a towering modern complex overlooking the mighty Mississippi River and the iconic Stone Arch Bridge.

There are plenty of great theater options playing here and even photo opportunities in the city. The Guthrie Theater is strategically located right next to the Mill City Museum so you can double up on a museum tour with a night at the theater.

What’s not to love about that?

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Minneapolis?

Purify Yourself in the Depths of Lake Minnetonka

sunset view at Lake Minnesota

As Prince famously said, “purify yourself in the depths of Lake Minnetonka.” That may not be totally purifying these days, as Lake Minnetonka is one of the most populated and busiest lakes in the state, which unfortunately does mean more pollutants.

That doesn’t mean that Lake Minnetonka isn’t worth visiting. The lake is massive and a number of channels connecting the various bays mean that you can totally get lost, forget the city, or escape the crowd.

Lake Minnetonka is worth visiting in summer or winter. In winter, the lake is a haven for ice fishing. In the summer, the lake is filled with festivals and activities. Both Wayzata and Excelsior are well-known towns located right on the bay of Lake Minnetonka that host many of these events.

Check out these guides on these epic Lake Minnetonka towns:

Visit Paisley Park Museum

artworks on the walls of the Paisley Park museum

Speaking of Prince, if you are a fan or want to take a trip down memory lane, be sure to visit Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Prince’s estate is now a museum and it’s an interesting place to visit and get into the mind of one of Minnesota’s greatest musical talents.

I mean, where else can you see Prince’s iconic purple chair? Paisley Park is Prince’s former home and recording studio where he famously held late-night parties.

Paisley Park is now converted into a museum where you can explore his studios and office and take a glimpse of the more private side of this genius of pop.

Eat a Juicy Lucy Burger

a juicy lucy cheese burger with a bite

The Twin Cities were the birthplace of the Juicy Lucy burger. In case you didn’t know, a Jucy Lucy in Minnesota is a cheeseburger with cheese stuffed inside the meat patty itself.

While there are tons of restaurants repping this delicious Americana food item, the title of creator is hotly contested between Matt’s Bar (who spell it Jucy) and The 5-8 Club (who spell it Juicy), as both joints claim that they are the true founding fathers of this delicious concoction.

No matter which one you visit, you’re gonna have a meal to remember with a Jucy/Juicy Lucy!

Grab a Drink Atop Minnesota’s First Skyscraper, The Foshay Tower

Foshay Tower in Minneapolis
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Foshay Tower is an iconic piece of the Minneapolis skyline. The stone-built tower with a red and white spire was the first real piece of the action in the Minneapolis skyscraper skyline game.

The tower has now been converted to The W – Minneapolis, which makes for a superb place to stay, as it’s centrally located downtown and features some additional activities on-site, like the top floor.

At the top, there is a bar and observation deck that gives you great views of the buildings and the modern metropolis that surrounds you, the perfect accompaniment to a prohibition-style cocktail.

Minnesota Zoo

entrance signage at Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo is amazing because it’s a lot different than a typical zoo. This zoo features a ton of Minnesota-based wildlife like lynxes, wolves, and bears.

Want an even better experience? Rent a bike and use it to cruise around the zoo. The Minnesota Zoo is a great place to see animals in their natural habitat, but the things about this zoo that separate it from others are Bear Haven & Wolf Woods.

The new addition of Barnum’s Cafe and Farm will also be a great stop for you as a visitor. It’s a restaurant that will give you the chance to grab some delicious food and then wander around an authentic farm where animals roam free.

You can eat in the barn or even lay outside on the grass and watch kids play with pigs, goats, chickens, and more. The Minnesota Zoo is not cheap and is a bit out of the way if you are pressed for time. It’s located in Apple Valley, Minnesota which is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Minneapolis.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

christmas lights shining at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is a celebration of all things floral. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, first opening its doors in 1993. To get a true taste of the Arboretum’s beauty you need to visit during springtime when all things floral are blossoming.

One of the most popular things to do is to stroll through Lake Johanna – the lake features multiple bridges like The Island Bridge and the Ramble Bridge which is covered by trees.

If you are a nature lover, then this should go on your things to do in Minnesota list. Check out these top things to do in Victoria while you are in the area.

Science Museum of Minnesota

fossils and relics at  Science Museum of Minnesota

We’d recommend the Science Museum to any visitor to Minnesota with kids. You’ll get the entire facts on the science of short-lived life, like four-generation mutations, and the simple fact they’re not so simple.

Or, you learn more about the history of boating along the Mississippi River and Lake Superior. Or even learn about dinosaurs in full detail and their presence in Minnesota before the glacial melt.

And don’t forget the GIANT astronaut! This museum makes for a great thing to do with kids in Minnesota as they’ll get to learn and there are interactive activities that allow them to get that energy release fix in.

See Related: Best Museums in Minnesota

North American Bear Center

Wet black bear at North American Bear Center, Ely, Minnesota

As a massive fan of bears, this is like heaven on earth for me. The North American Bear Center is located in Ely, Minnesota, and features an amazing collection of all things bears.

The center is like a zoo with fewer animals but more to do in terms of educational tours. When you visit the North American Bear Center you can get up close and personal with the bears without having to wear heavy gloves or be behind enclosed glass.

The North American Bear Center is a great place to observe and learn about the bear population in Minnesota as well as the conservation efforts for these tremendous creatures.

Glensheen Mansion

front facade of Historic Glensheen Mansion

The Glensheen Mansion is located in Duluth and is a massive display of architectural beauty. The mansion was built in 1905 for the wealthy Congdon family, who made their money from lumber imports.

The Glensheen Mansion is now considered by ghost hunters as one of the most haunted places in all of Minnesota. Witnesses have reported things such as lights turning on, doors opening by themselves, things being thrown around, and music playing. It’s by far one of the best museums in Duluth, Minnesota to visit.

James J. Hill House

Front of historic James J. Hill House in Saint Paul, Minnesota
McGhiever, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

James J. Hill was one of the wealthiest men in America during his time. His house, located on a hill overlooking downtown Saint Paul and the Mississippi River is simply an amazing piece of architecture.

If you’re looking for things to do in Minnesota, this mansion is not one to miss out on, as it provides unique insight into what life was like for some of the wealthiest people in America during the late 1800s.

Minnesota History Center

Minnesota History Center building

The Minnesota History Center is located in downtown St. Paul and offers things to do in Minnesota featuring everything from exhibitions, hands-on activities, and a large vault of historical relics that have been preserved for generations to come.

There are a lot of things to learn about Minnesota’s history at this attraction and its hands down one of our top things to do in Saint Paul.

The Frederick A. Weisman Art Museum

aerial view of the Weisman Art Museum

The Frederick A. Weiman Art Museum is located at the University of Minnesota and is another free thing to do in Minnesota. It features over 6,000 paintings and sculptures from artists around the world.

The Frederick A. Weisman Art Museum features Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque paintings along with many other different exhibits that are worth checking out.

Tour the Mayowood Mansion

The front entrance and stairs to the Mayowood Mansion

Chances are that you’ve heard of the historic Mayo Clinic. Well, the Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, is the estate of the founder of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. This is one of the best museums in all of Rochester.

The great thing about this attraction is that it’s free, not too far from Saint Paul and it features an art gallery, a twenty-room mansion, nature trails, and more The Mayowood Mansion is tailored for things to do in Minnesota with families, groups, and even solo visitors looking for things to do in Rochester.

This is one of Southern Minnesota’s top attractions to visit. Check out these top things to do in Rochester while you are there.

See Related: Best Breweries in Rochester, Minnesota

Explore Red Wing, Minnesota

aerial view of the cityscape in Red Wing, Minnesota

Red Wing is a top destination for anyone taking a Great River Road trip. Red Wing is a charming city that’s historically filled with culture and history.

The long history of Minnesotan settlements throughout the years has left the area with a wide variety of architecture that can be found in the Old Town of Red Wing. The downtown area has plenty to see with vintage neon signs, lively bars, cafes, and more.

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

See Related: Best Things to do in Alexandria, MN

Wander Downtown Minneapolis

Night lights at Minneapolis Minnesota

Well, it’s downtown for a reason. It could be called a tiny little “floralopolis” to start off, but it’s big and have you covered for things to see and do.

Here you’ll find a giant ice rink, a theater, museums, a cafe, a record store, an elevator, museums, a mall, a bank, and stunning, hip, street art. It’s also one of the greenest downtowns in America, in terms of plant life and public transportation.

Downtown Minneapolis has several sweet spots beside the Foshay Tower that make for great landmarks to visit such as Nicollet Mall, the skyways, and the Mary Tyler Moore statue.

Check out these other best things to do in Minneapolis.

Watch the sunset at Lake Bde Maka Ska

man kayaking Bde Maka Ska Minneapolis with skyline view

Formerly known as Lake Calhoun, hanging out by Bde Maka Ska (pronounced buh-day muh-ka skah) is one of my favorite things to do in Minneapolis as you can relax, watch the ducks swim around, take pictures, or catch one of the three annual festivals, like the Aquatennial.

And if you’re lucky enough to score a parking spot right next to the lake, you’ll get a view that most people don’t get, as the sunset reflects off the buildings from downtown Minneapolis.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

blue green waters at Artist Point, Grand Marais, Minnesota

I mentioned it earlier, but Grand Marais deserves a second mention. It is one of my favorite cities in the entire state. It’s home to the famous Gunflint Trail which is a gorgeous scenic highway and drive, and it’s located right on Lake Superior.

In Grand Marais, you’ll find things like Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, a lighthouse, plenty of parks to visit with kids, and many things for adults like Voyageurs Brewing Company, where you can sample some of Minnesota’s best beers.

Grand Marais has the feel of “Maine” but it’s a “lake port” town that serves lutefisk rather than lobster. There’s a lot to do in Grand Marais, and it’s a great place for iconic Minnesotan activities like ice fishing, moose spotting on the Gunflint Trail, cross-country skiing, and hiking the Superior National Forest.

It’s also a famous retreat for writers! Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

See Related: Best Minnesota Road Trip Ideas

Explore Lake Pepin

Frontenac Minnesota view of Lake Pepin

Lake Pepin is a great destination for things to do in Minnesota and it’s quite close to the Twin Cities, only about an hour or so away. Lake Pepin is located just south of Lake City, Minnesota on Highway 35.

It’s home to things like Lock & Dam 4 where you can see historic ships stored when they’re not being used and places like Lake City Winery and Estate, which is a great place to stop for wine tastings.

Lake Pepin is also home to the Patty Johnson Bridge which was built in 1929 and connects Wisconsin with Minnesota, as well as Hok-Si-La Park and Campground (formerly known as Calhoun Beach State Park). Like what you are hearing? Check out these other best things to do in Lake City, Minnesota.

See Related: Best Things to do in Wisconsin

Visit Northfield, Minnesota

Northfield Arts Guild Gallery art exhibits

Northfield, Minnesota is a town in Southern Minnesota where things to do in Minnesota are unapologetically Minnesotan. The historic city of Northfield holds is home to the 1870s Oak Hall Mansion and the 1793 Red Wing Trading Post which is a cultural center, serving delicious foods like Natchitoches or Jambalaya.

The Northfield region also hosts the Northfield Cate House, a mansion built in 1894, and the 1857 Odd Fellows Hall which is now a bakery. Northfield, Minnesota is also home to the Peace Garden State Historic Site and the legendary First National Bank, known for the Jesse James shootout. The things to do in Northfield are almost endless for activities in south-central Minnesota and you’re sure to have a blast.

Final Thoughts: Best Things to do in Minnesota

If you’re looking for things to do in Minnesota, the state will never disappoint you. We’ve spent hours compiling lists of places worth visiting and things with which to engage your free time that will make any day an adventure.

Our goal is to help people enjoy their stay or passage through Minnesota by providing them with things they can enjoy at no cost, fun activities, and sites worth seeing. If you are interested in learning more about what we offer on our blog so far, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

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