Best Things to Do in Minnesota for a Fun-Filled Vacation

Minnesota, or the North Star State, as it is sometimes called, is home to more than 10 000 lakes. It is also a state with plenty of things to do related to history, culture, and nature.

Whether you are a solo or family traveler, we have listed the most exciting things to do in Minnesota this year.

Here we take a look at things to do in all seasons.

Things to do in winter

Things to do in Minnesota in the Winter
Minnesota in Winter

Minnesota is surely a state to visit in winter. It has everything to offer, from slopes and cross-country skiing to winter festivals.

1. Ski, slopes

Minnesota has many downhill slopes and skiing areas where visitors can enjoy winter sports.

Skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing are available in many parks, such as Giant Ridge in Biwabik, Northeast Minnesota, or Three Rivers Parks, in Maple Grove, St Paul area.

2. The Northern Lights

You do not need to travel to the Artic circle to watch the Northern Lights (or Aurora borealis). Many adventurers and photographers travel to Minnesota for this particular purpose.

Minnesota is one of the best places to watch aurora borealis, in particular in Cook County.

Northern Lights in Minnesota
Northern Lights

Its vast skies in conjunction with its northern location make Cook County a top place to watch the Northern lights.

  • Best season to watch the Northern lights: late fall or winter
  • Hot tip to find them: check dedicated aurora borealis forecasting websites and look for a KP range from 4 to 9 in Cook County locations.
  • Follow the dedicated Google map routes issued by Cook County.

3. St Paul’s winter festival

This is the oldest winter festival in Minnesota but also in the US, dating back to 1886.

Historically created to showcase all the beauties of Minnesota winters, nowadays, the festival’s main feature is still the ice carvings and snow sculpture creations.

The ice carvings competition dates back to 1886 as well. On average, 17 snow blocks compete for the main prize.

St Paul’s festival includes the Fire & Ice run, a run (or walk) of 5 k, 10k, 15k, or 20k.

In parallel, there is an ice-fishing tournament, running from January to February, and allowing all fishermen in local Minnesota waters to participate with their catch.

Things to do in spring

Spring in Minnesota is perhaps the most enjoyable time to hike, but also to discover farmers’ markets, and flower shows.  

Here are three options for road trips.

1. Follow movies’ storylines

Many American movies feature Minnesota, either as their decor or in their storyline.

One fun thing to do in Minnesota is following the trail of the film.  

  • “Purple Rain”, 1984: featuring Prince, filmed entirely in Minneapolis.
  • “Grumpy Old Men”, 1993, filmed entirely in Minnesota, including fishing scenes done at Lake Rebecca, Rockford.
  • “Catch Me If You Can”, 1990, mostly shot in St Cloud
  • “Fargo”, 1996, filmed in Minneapolis and Brainerd
Best things to do Minnesota in Spring
Things to do in Minnesota in Spring

2. Discover Artsy communities

You can explore Grand Marais, a community that is a center for all art lovers.

In this artsy community where painters gather every day, there are many workshops, exhibitions, and events taking place all year round.

Spring is the time for the “North shore readers and writers festival”, a biennial event taking place in Grand Marais.

Don’t forget to visit Artist Point, with its lighthouse on the lake.  

3. Enjoy the food and flower blooms

The Apple Blossom drive in Southern Minnesota is a farmland drive scenic way, high above the Mississippi river.

You can buy fresh apples, apple cider, and even pumpkins along the road. There are panoramic views along the way, across Great River Bluff State Park.

4. The opening of the fishing season

Fishing in Spring in Minnesota
Fishing season in Minnesota

Take spring and the opening of the fishing season to try catching your dinner in one of Minnesota’s numerous lakes.

It is easy to check out which lake best suits your needs. No license is required as long as you are a Minnesota resident.

Minnesota is a unique destination for trout fishing. It comes with regulations and seasonal restrictions just make sure to check all details before your trip.

Things to do in summer

There are over fifty state parks in Minnesota, giving visitors ample choice for nature walks, hikes, but also water sports in summer.

Minnesota in Summer rafting
Things to do in Minnesota in Summer

Let’s check out some of these activities together.

1. Rafting adventures

There are several exciting locations to practice white water rafting in Minnesota.

  • Around Duluth and Lake Superior: companies such as Swiftwater Adventures cater to everyone, even those without experience, as each embarkation has its in-raft guide.
  • Near Sandstone, on the Banning State Park Kettle River: Hard Water Sport offers white water rafting and ice climbing (in winter). White-water Rafting trips take place from mid-April through September. Kayaking is another possible thing to do, depending on the water levels at Kettle River.

2. Canoe & Boating

There are plenty of locations in Minnesota to practice canoe or boating.

Visiting Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park

For example, you could explore some of the following:

  • Superior National Forest Park: the whole area is perfect for fishing, canoeing, and camping.
  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: this is a pet-friendly canoe experience and location. If you are a dog owner, you can experience the wilderness and all the lake activities with your furry friend(s). There are dog-friendly hotels and canoe rentals allowing the dogs to come on board with you.
  • Nisswa lake park, Central Minnesota: you can rent a boat from several businesses, such as Lake Fun Rentals or Boats & Beyond.
  • The Lake County and Gooseberry Falls State Park areas: visitors can plan camping trips, hikes, and water sports.

3. Festivals

Minnesota counts notable musicians in its history, such as Bob Dylan, born in Duluth, and Prince.

There are some cool music festivals worth attending each year in Minnesota.

  • The Bayfront Blues Festival
  • One of the largest blues festivals in the Upper Midwest area: it takes place in Duluth, usually in August.
  • The Twin Cities Jazz Fest takes place in June, in St Paul.
  • The Minnesota Original Music Festival

This festival happens through July, with free concerts, workshops, and events, scattered around multiple venues in St Peter, Southern Minnesota.

Things to do in the fall

Autumn is short in Minnesota but packed with colors, flavors, and a good choice of things to do.

1. Visit Minneapolis

You should visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art, with more than 100 000 artworks, from Gauguin to Japanese or Korean art galleries, Islamic works, and Himalayan kingdoms artworks.

This is one of the largest museums in the United States. It comes with a free entrance, which makes it a good thing to do for chillier spring days.

Minnesota autumn things to do
Minnesota fall

Split into several floors, there are also many temporary exhibitions.

Or rent-a-bike to visit the city. The city has more than 150 e-bikes sharing services.

You can go through to ‘Stone Arch Bridge’, an old railway service turned into a pedestrian bridge, with stunning panoramic views over Minneapolis.

2. Immerse in the natural fall colors

You can follow one of the “rainbow routes”.

From the glowing fall foliage of the North Shore of Lake Superior (one of the 15 All American Drive in the country) to Chippiwa National Forest, there are plenty of drives to choose from.

Closer to the city, you could also hike or bike the Mississippi river to take in the beautiful fall colors

Things to do with children

Minnesota with kids things to do
Visiting Minnesota with kids

Minnesota is a fun state to visit with your family and children. Besides nature, there are kids favorite activities to do.

1. Visit the largest candy store

Minnesota’s largest candy store is a family business, run for forty years and also known as Jim’s Apple Farm.

They have a huge choice of candy, caramels, and chocolates, some of them with very original tastes, and from around the world.

  • Where to find it: 20430 Johnson Memorial Drive, Jordan, MN 55352

2. Explore the Great Lakes Aquarium or Sea Life

Great Lakes Aquarium is a fun family thing to do in Minnesota, based in Duluth.

You could easily spend 3 hours there, with exhibits appropriate for kids of all ages. Showcases focus on freshwater species relevant to Duluth and the North Woods.

Sea Life, located in Mall of America, is the largest aquarium in Minnesota. Its 300-foot -long tunnel underwater will please the whole family. Crocodiles and giant sharks are also on show.

3. Participate in the Hot Dog Nite festival

This culinary event takes place in Luverne, Southern Minnesota, every July since 1960.

Local businesses grill and distribute over 15 000 hot dogs, free for all. The festival also includes street dancing, bike racing, and musical events.

In Conclusion

Minnesota is a fun state to visit in all seasons, whether you are into water sports, winter sports, cultural events, or gastronomy. There is a wide range of things to do for the whole family, and all budgets.

So, what are you waiting?

Would you head to Minnesota on your next holiday?

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