15 Best Day Trips from Minnesota

Known as the “Land of 10,00 Lakes” it is no wonder that the state brings in nature enthusiasts from near and far to admire its scenery. 

Add in historical monuments, restaurants, and a variety of attractions and you may never want to leave! 

The state is the 12 largest in the country so it’s understandable that picking a destination to visit can be overwhelming. 

Here’s a list of 15 awesome places to help narrow down your search: 

1. Duluth

Located on Lake Superior, this seaport town is a popular town for its stunning views and waterfront vibes. 

Go for a stroll down the Lakewalk, a boardwalk that runs along the iconic lake and passes many different shops and restaurants. 

Watch the sunset over the water as ships sail into the harbor. 

Enger Park is the perfect place to have a picnic, walk amongst the gardens, and climb the stairs of the Enger Tower for the amazing views of Lake Superior. 

Known as the most popular historic site in Minnesota, The Glensheen Mansion has 39 rooms and 12 acres of land to explore. 

Don’t have enough time to see everything? Hop on a helicopter for a birds-eye view of the lake and all of what Duluth has to offer, including attractions like the aerial lift bridge. 

The city is also the birthplace of the famous singer, Bob Dylan! 

2. Lanesboro

This quaint little town is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike. 

Fly fishing is a popular sport here and guided trips and supplies can be bought at Root River Rod Co. 

Visit the Lanesboro History Museum to see how Norwegian culture influenced many aspects of the town’s history. 

Stop by Another Time Ice Cream Parlor for rich, creamy flavors or the Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe for decadent sweets like their famous blueberry scone. 

Want to make your day trip into a weekend? Reserve a room at the Stone Mill Hotel and Suite and turn back time as you walk through halls that reflect the history of what once was. 

The hotel has been transformed for many different purposes in the last 100 years and relics from the building’s past lives are displayed for all to marvel at. 

3. Des Moines

Cross over into Iowa to visit the state’s capital city and explore Iowan lifestyle and history. 

The State Capitol is free to visit and tours are available at no extra cost. The dome here is actually lined with gold! 

Admire the 31 sculptures that are spread out across the 4.4 acres that make up the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. 

El Bait Shop is a beer lover’s heaven with more than 260 beers available on tap! 

No trip to the midwest would be complete without a visit to a local farmers market. 

The Downtown Farmers’ Market is hosted in the summer and winter seasons, bringing a variety of local shops together into one place to shop around. 

Plan an August trip to visit the Iowa State fair where you can go on rides, watch animal-based competitions, and eat guilty pleasures like the fried snickers bar. 

4. Ely

Named after Michigan miner, Samuel Ely, the town was once a thriving location for miners until its last mine shut down in 1967. 

Since then Ely has become more of a secret oasis for outdoor activities. 

The small town is not the most popular of cities but this just means you won’t be bothered by a crowd. 

With over a million acres of forest to explore and endless miles of canoe and kayak routes, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will constantly have you coming back for more. 

Howl with the wolves at The International Wolf Center where you can get up close and personal with the herd. 

No matter what you decide to do, keep your eyes out for one of the 160 species of birds that inhabit the area. 

5. Stillwater 

This picturesque town is a world favorite but don’t let crowds stop you from enjoying its riverside charm. 

Founded in 1839 as a simple logging town, much has changed over the centuries adding to the town’s rich history. 

The best way to learn more about the town is by taking one of the Historic Walking Tours that are available daily. 

Stillwater is known for its many artists. Murals line the walls of downtown and sculptures are displayed randomly. 

Have lunch on the St. Croix River by booking a boat excursion through Stillwater River Boats. 

Sip wine at St. Croix Vineyards which has won more than one hundred rewards, both national and international. 

Before you leave, stop by Staples Mill Antiques where you can hunt for hidden gems inside an old grain mill. 

6. Apostle Islands

Established in 1970, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore park includes 21 islands. 

The Lakeshore Trail is on the mainland and is accessible by foot. 

The trail is mostly flat and totals out at about 5 miles making it suitable for all skill levels. 

Along your travels, you will come across a bunch of sea caves to look down into. If you’re lucky you may even spot some kayakers heading in to investigate! 

Bring your own boat or schedule a tour through Apostle Island Cruises to venture off and around the other islands. 

A fan favorite is Devil’s Island where you can see how the erosion caused by wind and water has created the magnificent sea caves that border the island. 

There are trails available on just about every island so if you have time and access, I highly suggest you get out there and explore! 

7. Alexandria

With an abundance of outdoor activities and attractions,  Alexandria is fun for the whole family!

Learn about the town’s natural history at the Runestone Museum Foundation. 

Stand tall for a picture next to the 28 ft Viking statue that was built back in 1962. 

Channel your inner child with a visit to Casey’s Amusement Park. Here you can race through different go-kart tracks, mini-golf with friends, and eat fried foods

Partake in one of the activities available at Alexandria City Park, like swimming, fishing, baseball, and more. 

Check the calendar at Andria Theatre for a chance to catch one of the five, wonderful shows they host yearly. 

Did I mention Alexandria is home to 11 lakes? Each beautiful in its own ways, you can’t go wrong watching the sunset over any of the bunch. 

Lake Carlos is the largest of the lakes and makes for the perfect place to set up camp for the night. 

8. Shafer

This quirky town deserves a visit for the Franconia Sculpture Park alone! 

Created in 1996, the park brings man-made work and nature together to inspire guests to think “outside of the box”. 

The museum is 50 acres with scattered pieces of artwork all throughout. 

You will be amazed as you ponder upon sculptures much unlike one another, but all with a vision of community and collaboration. 

There is also an ever-changing gallery that provides insight into a variety of artistic styles. 

The park can even be rented out for events so you can have a one-of-a-kind wedding surrounded by famous pieces of art. 

9. Bay Lake

The area of land that makes up the Bay Lake Township is a little under 30 miles so it’s safe to say this is a small place to visit. 

However, don’t let its size fool you, there is plenty to do along the stunning lakefront! 

 Not to mention the fact that Bay Lake itself is nearly 2,400 acres. 

Enjoy some of the finest Bass fishing in all of the country or kayak to your heart’s desire in the vast waters. 

After you have worked up an appetite, head over to Zig’s Restaurant for a quick dinner and views of the golf course located at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Resort. 

Spend a night in one of the cozy cabins or rent a boat to get out on the water at the Woodland Beach Resort.

10. Bloomington

To all of my shopaholics and proud partakers in retail therapy, this one’s for you. 

The main attraction in Bloomington is the Mall of America, America’s largest indoor mall. 

The mall not only has every store you can think of but it is also home to a theme park, aquarium, adventure course and so much more. 

You can easily spend an entire day here but be sure to stop at one of the many restaurants to stay energized. 

Shopping not your thing? Opt for a visit to Minnehaha Falls where you can appreciate nature and swoon over a Native American love story. 

Richardson Nature Center is both indoors and outdoors providing diverse views on the state’s wildlife. 

Inside you can visit with the local birds like raptors and eagles. 

Head out back to walk along the wooden bridge trails that take you through forests and marshlands. Keep an eye out for wildlife in action! 

11. Itasca State Park

Known as Minnesota’s oldest state park, Itasca has been drawing in nature lovers since 1891. 

With over 100 lakes and 32,000 acres to explore, it is no wonder why people have spent weeks at a time at this iconic park. 

Start your day with a cup of coffee at Douglas Lodge and relish over the idea that the lodge has been opened since 1904. 

Be on the lookout for wildlife like deers, black bears, porcupine, and more. Wolves have even been spotted from time to time. 

49 miles of trails are at your disposal. For one of the most scenic experiences take the Aiton Heights Fire Tower Trail and climb the 100 steps up to breathtaking views. 

Many plan their visit during the fall season to see the vibrant colors of the foliage at its peak. 

12. St. Paul

Take in some of the State’s history when you visit St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota. 

The Minnesota History Center is overflowing with information on the events that made Minnesota what it is today. 

Stare in awe at the architectural genius that makes up the Cathedral of Saint Paul. 

Walk down memory lane aka Summit Avenue where you can admire the brick mansions and historic landmarks that line the street. 

Dixie’s on Grand is a great place to unwind over some  New Orleans inspired foods and live jazz. 

For a unique shopping experience, you have to visit Grand Avenue. The local shops are unusually mixed and make for an interesting day of store hopping. 

Don’t forget to swing by the capitol building! 

13. Two Harbors

Originally known as a factory town, Two Harbors has evolved into a popular tourist destination thanks to its prime location along the bays of Burlington and Agate. 

Try some authentic Minnesotan coffee, and trust me there’s a difference, at Louise’s Place before heading out on your adventure. 

Visit Split Rock Lighthouse State Park to see one of the most photographed lighthouses in all of North America. 

Although beautiful, the building of this lighthouse is meant to commemorate the many lives lost due to shipwrecks in the aggressive waters. 

Explore the near 1,700 acres that make up Gooseberry Falls State Park and spend your day in awe of each level of waterfalls. 

Watch the sunset over Stoney Point as the vibrant colors of the sky bounce off large rocks that border the waters. 

14. Biwabik

This quaint little town has activities to enjoy all year round, many of which can be found at the #1 rated, family-friendly Giants Ridge Ski Resort. 

Enjoy winter sports of all kinds from snow tubing to cross country skiing. 

In the warmer months, the resort changes gears sporting two well-acclaimed golf courses and a few mountain bike trails. 

After a day of physical activity, relax your muscles and your mind at the spa located right on site. 

There are also 3 restaurants and a food court to grab a quick bite after a busy day. 

15. Grand Marais

The picturesque town of Grand Marais is located along Lake Superior and best explored by foot to take in all the area has to offer. 

Many artists have relocated to the area to promote their work amongst the dozen art galleries that pepper the streets. 

Take a trip down to the peninsula that is Artist’s Point. Admire the views of the water and the Grand Marais lighthouse. 

But most importantly, don’t miss a chance to try a donut from The World’s Best Donuts…and the name of this donut shop is no exaggeration.