Minnesota is known as the ‘North Star State’ because it is situated at the north-east tip of the US bordering Canada. Minnesota Road Trip Destinations are innumerable and exploration is never ending.
It has more than 1,000 lakes and is therefore also known as the ‘Land of 1,000 lakes’, however, the most popular sobriquet for the state is, ‘The Gopher State’ named after the striped gopher squirrel found here and it has become a mascot of the Minnesota University also.
So let’s begin our road trip covering most of the attractions of the state!
But before that, check out the mini summary of Mini Apple’s road trip destinations in the below slides:
- 1 Mini-Apple & Neighboring Road Trip Attractions…
- 2 Grand Rapids & Neighboring Road Trip Attractions
Mini-Apple & Neighboring Road Trip Attractions…
The capital city is St. Paul, the largest city is Minneapolis, and close by is another renowned city, named Hastings. The starting point of the road trip could be any of these, they are just 20-minutes drive away from one another.
We start from Minneapolis, also known as Mini-Apple as it is similar to the Big-Apple, the city of New York. Together with St. Paul, the cities are known as ‘Twin Cities’. Minneapolis covers a lot of Minnesota Road Trip Destinations within the city so before heading out, it deserves a little exploration of its own.
Minneapolis’ best attractions you shouldn’t miss:
When visiting with family, one of the most sought after places is the Nickelodeon Universe situated in the Mall of America complex which hosts around 520 retail outlets. The Nickelodeon Universe is an indoor amusement park with 5 roller coasters and several thrills and family rides for visitors of all ages. There are kiddie rides also for the younger folks. The park is themed on the Nickelodeon Characters and is a fun place for families.
The visit to Minneapolis can’t be complete without going to its most famous food place named Lynhall. It is a one of a kind place bringing together most aspects of social life such as local vendors, market incubators, community dining, and bakeries. The place is a unique experience.
Another attraction of the city is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden displaying close to 40 exhibits in the floral park outdoor area including the iconic, ‘Spoonbridge & Cherry’ exhibit. It could be a short stop on your road trip for a few pictures and some recreation.
Next on our list are the Minnehaha Falls & the Como Park Zoo And Conservatory. The 53ft tall Minnehaha falls owe its popularity to H.W. Longfellow and is situated at the confluence of the Mississippi river. It is one of the most photographed sites in the entire state and is visited by close to a million visitors every year. The sound of lapping and waving water is a treat to the ears and the sight is spectacular. The place is an escape to nature and a lovely relaxation point. You can bike, hike, stroll in the park and enjoy its beauty. In winter when the falls are frozen, you can even go behind them which looks like a frozen snowy white curtain.
Como park zoo and conservatory, on the other hand, is a paradise for fauna. You can find many varieties of animals including Polar bears, Arctic fox, Anacondas, Flamingos, Bisons, Gorillas, Penguins, Seals, Snow leopard, and others! Further, there are children’s swings and rides and a Giraffe feeding area. So take your young ones to meet the young ones of the animals and have a lovely day full of smiles and laughter.
And last but certainly not the least on our list of Minneapolis attractions is Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Although it is not within the city, it can be reached by a 30-minutes road journey. It is a 1,200 acre horticulture garden with breath-taking flower displays that change every season, be it winter, spring, summer, or fall and full of Tulips, Magnolias, Marigolds, and Roses. There are so many beautiful flowers to look at that it feels like being in a mini Keukenhof, Amsterdam.
Minnesota Road Trip Destinations: One hour drives from Minneapolis
It’s time to look at a few Minnesota Road Trip Destinations outside of Minneapolis. There are several attractions within a one-hour drive in various directions from the city of Minneapolis. Each is worth exploring. So let’s look at them one by one.
Attractions towards the north-west :
The first one on our list is the Munsinger-Clemens Gardens, just one hour away by road, towards the northwest of Minneapolis. These are botanical gardens on the banks of the Mississippi River and have flower-lined paths for strolls or biking amidst natural beauty in the shades of tall pine trees. It has rose vines and many outdoor fountains.
Spending 4 to 5 hours here can rejuvenate you for what lies ahead in the trip, after which you can hit the road for another hour along the scenic drive and reach the North Shore on the banks of Lake Superior. Here you can bike, swim, fish, golf, or take to the waters by canoeing or pedaling. You may even enjoy the walking along the rocky cliffs and beholding the wilderness and streams plunging on the waterfalls. You can visit the Great Lakes Aquarium to see the fish and wildlife or even hit the beaches here. Similar attractions can be enjoyed at the Sibley State Park situated on Lake Andrew and 2-hours away from the city of Minneapolis if we take another route and skip visiting the North Shore.
Attractions towards the north-east:
These attractions were towards the north-west but what if we head towards the north-east? We will end up at the Interstate State Park situated at the bank of St. Croix River, after 1 hour of road journey. Here you can relax on the excursion boat and enjoy the diverse wildflowers in the spring. In autumn you may enjoy the resplendent hues of red, yellow, and orange setting the forest ablaze. There are hiking trails and camping grounds for the summer months and glacial potholes for winter.
Attractions towards the south:
For those who want to drive towards the south of Minneapolis, there are several attractions in that direction as well. A 1 hour road journey from Minneapolis down south takes you to the Cannon Falls city, known for water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and river rafting.
For those wanting to have a longer road trip can choose to drive another hour and reach the Forestville Mystery Cave State Park or the Great River Bluffs State Park, depending upon the routes you opt. On your way, you can take a short stop at the cities of Hastings or Rochester just to have a peek or a meal but that is totally up to you.
The village in Forestville has been converted into a 19th-century village so you may want to wind your watches back in time when you visit the place. There are tours into the dark caves that can bring out the explorer in you or scare the bejesus out of you, so you decide what kind of experience you want. These caves have underground pools and unique stalagmites and flowstone formations. But if you are not looking for adventure and just want some solitude and are up for some bird watching, hit the Great River Bluffs State Park that overlooks the Mississippi River and is known for its scenic views.
So these were the attractions around Minneapolis, there are several others towards the north around Grand Rapids City, as explored below…
Grand Rapids & Neighboring Road Trip Attractions
Next set of Minnesota Road Trip Destinations are situated near Grand Rapids.
The state park has a 13-mile long river gorge in the rocky area which was a hurdle for the earlier European explorers and led them to divert their direction to reach Minnesota. Here you can find stone houses of the olden times and the swinging bridge, a suspension bridge, there is only one other such bridge in the entire state of Minnesota. This park has beheld a long history of canoeing traders including that trading fur in the 1800s. History and nature buffs will enjoy this place.
Spirit Mountain Recreation Area, on the other hand, is known for its ski trails in winter but in summer it also offers mountain biking, camping, and an adventure park with a track ride in a kart in the middle of the forest.
Another 1-hour road journey from the recreation area along Lake Superior takes you to the Split Rock Lighthouse & Gooseberry Falls. The lighthouse was built after 29 ships got lost in Lake Superior in the 1900s and reside on a 133ft high cliff. Now it is used for field trips and the amazing sunset views from the top.
Located nearby is the Gooseberry Falls State park inviting scores of nature lovers each year. Apart from all the attractions of a state park, one highly sought after attraction is ‘Aurora watching’ or having a glimpse of the resplendent green-yellow northern lights in the night sky.
Close to 2 hours from Grand Rapids to the west takes you to Itasca State Park & headed towards north takes you to Voyageurs National Park at the Canadian border. Both offer hiking trails and camping grounds for those who want to get close to nature and away from the city din. Adventurists may enjoy kayaking or canoeing in the lakes and have an enjoyable time with families, friends, or even solo.
So the state has a lot to offer to everyone and it can take up to 2 weeks to cover the state to its fullest, you may skip a few attractions here and there but still have a wonderful and rejuvenating trip. If you want to know about the top budget activities to do in Minnesota, then check out our dedicated sampling.
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