Known as the “Land of 10,000 lakes,” Minnesota is one of the most spectacular states for untouched, natural scenery and breathtaking beauty. If you want to visit Minnesota, you will likely want to experience a variety of urban and rural landscapes across the state. From the historic Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to the 11,842 lakes that are scattered throughout the state, Minnesota is a haven waiting to be discovered.
We have been fortunate to experience Minnesota on a couple of different occasions and we are looking forward to a return visit at the end of September for the 2016 Ryder Cup to be held at Hazeltine Country Club, just outside of Minneapolis. Hopefully, this event will help put the rest of Minnesota on the map and the thousands of golfing enthusiasts will have some time to explore other parts of the state that offer amazing attractions.
Explore The Land of 10,000 Lakes
Although I have heard Minnesota referred to as “The North Star State,” it is almost exclusively known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” for obvious reasons. Minnesota is the northernmost state in the United States, perhaps indicating the reason for the aforementioned antiquated nickname. Regardless of the reasons, I prefer referring to a state because of its natural landscapes.
We are delighted to collaborate with Kirsten Stillman, who has shared her thoughts on her top 5 reasons to visit Minnesota. There are undoubtedly a lot more reasons to explore Minnesota but perhaps this will inspire you to explore the state for yourselves. Let’s take a look at what Kirsten has to say about Minnesota.
Minnesota is home to the brave that survive the snowy and cold winters (they get colder than Antarctica, I’m not even joking) and the truly hot summers. Despite the adverse weather conditions, the locals are deemed “Minnesota nice” and it’s honestly true.
If I could have a sixth category for why you should visit Minnesota, it would be to interact with the friendly locals. Nowhere else in the country will you meet people like Minnesotans.
A Rocking Arts Scene
With an infusion of $500 million from private donors and foundations, Minneapolis experienced an arts boom that named it best art district by USA Today in 2015 and other publications.
Northeast Minneapolis is a hub for the best and brightest artists that host galleries, studios, and performance spaces in the historic and industrial buildings in the area. One of my personal favorite spots is the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which has free admission and plenty to see to occupy your afternoon.
If theater is more your style, Minneapolis has the second-most seats in the nation which offers a variety of shows for kiddos and adults alike. Plus, with all the restaurants, shops, breweries, and hidden treasures scattered around the area, there’s always something for everyone in the vibrant center of this community.
Camping and State Parks
Ever heard a story about the most epic camping trip? It probably happened in Minnesota. With 67 state parks and 62 state forest campgrounds, Minnesota is perhaps most famous camping-wise for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or the “Boundary Waters” to the locals.
Lakes, streams, and beaches are carved out from left behind glaciers and more wildlife than you can handle frequently populate the area. Tamer camping options are available elsewhere in the state, but if you opt-in to the full experience and glory of truly roughing it in the Boundary Waters, make sure to do serious research, respect the nature, and acquire any permits you may need for fishing or camping in certain areas.
Shopping to End All Shopping
Stop everything. No, I mean it. Take an entire day to enjoy the luxuries of shopping in the largest shopping mall in the Unites States. With visitors from all over the world, the Mall of America is the epitome of retail therapy.
Built where the Metropolitan Stadium once hosted Vikings football games, the ever-expanding MOA hosts four levels of shops and boutiques, including plenty of Minnesota-specific “tourist” stores to pick up Midwest cheese or a Minnesota-themed alpaca sweatshirt.
And the best part, in the center of the mall, where the players used to beat each other to a pulp in the name of the game, stands the country’s largest indoor theme park for you and the kiddos.
Nickelodeon Universe gives the mall a sense of light-heartedness with joyful screams as children whiz overhead on a rollercoaster or barrel down a tunnel to make a splash at the end of the log ride.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, other gems include Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, a mini-golf course, a “lobby” area for celebrity visits and signings, and other seasonal attractions.
Super Cute Cities and Need To See Spots
Every state has hidden gems, but a stop in Minnesota without seeing some of the cutest little cities will leave your visit bereft of the wonder that is Minnesota.
Starting with the oldest and founding city of Stillwater, there is a wonderous mix of old-world charm and modern convenience; make sure to visit Arcola Mills and the old granary silo-turned coffee shop.
In iconic Duluth, see the North Shore as you’ve never seen it before with a trip to Gooseberry Falls, adventures along Lake Superior, tours of the Glensheen Mansion (site of the famous Congdon murders), hidden gems in every corner of the picturesque downtown, and take a picturesque walk along the famous Aerial Lift Bridge.
Minnesota State Fair
“The Great Minnesota Get Together” draws crowds from all over the country and for good reason. It’s been named the best State Fair by USA Today in 2015, and the second largest State Fair in the United States only placing second to the State Fair of Texas, which runs twice as long. Minnesota’s State Fair runs for 12 days through late August and ends on Labor Day in September.
Some notable exhibitions include a lumberjack competition/show, booths showing off everything from ethically sourced Alpaca products to stunning local artists showing off their work. Local radio personalities vie for the crowd’s attention with on-air guest spots and the free swag (all the free swag from everyone!). Even the car dealers showing their newest models and Harlequin Romance vie for attention with free swag. My favorite part, however, is the food.
The trademark of the fair is the deep-fried food on a stick; so if you want it, it’s most likely there! You want alligator deep-fried and on a stick? You got it!
You want a Twinkie deep-fried and on a stick? Yup, or how about fruit or cream cheese-stuffed olives? Yup – all deep-fried and on a stick! Definitely an experience anyone – foodie or no – will not want to miss.
Visit Minnesota – Our Thoughts
We have nothing but amazing things to say about Minnesota. Our first visit was during the depths of winter which apparently you have to be hardy souls to survive. However, we had a great time and I would encourage everyone to visit Minnesota during winter at least once.
No one’s kidding when we say Minnesota winter’s aren’t for the weak.
The snow and frigid cold temperatures can either hinder or help your experience. If you are looking to spend all your time outdoors, perhaps visiting during the heart of winter isn’t the best time. But Minnesota is a state that you can experience indoors as much as outdoors, especially given that Bloomington is home to the Mall of America.
Winter is a perfect time to experience all of the great things indoors, whether it is a little retail therapy or perhaps visiting one of the many museums scattered across the state.
We spent time exploring Minneapolis outside for a few hours during the winter and despite the cold conditions, we enjoyed visiting the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and St. Mary’s Basilica which is one of the most architecturally beautiful landmarks across the state in my opinion.
A return visit to Minneapolis over the Memorial Day weekend offered a very different look at the state. We had the opportunity to spend more time outdoors exploring Minnehaha Falls and also passing through the city of St. Cloud during our epic road trip through the Dakota’s and down to Minneapolis for TBEX North America 2016.
There is a lot more to experience in Minnesota than you might imagine. Yes, the Twin Cities are amazing and well worth spending considerable time visiting but as Kirsten highlighted, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Minnesota. We can’t wait to return at the end of September for the Ryder Cup which in itself is an awesome experience, at least based on our previous trips in 2012 to Medinah in Chicago and 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland.
From the retail adventures to be had at the Mall of America to the gorgeous untouched shorelines of Lake Superior, Minnesota is a state that should be classified as a hidden gem that everyone should visit at least once.
Thanks to Kirsten for sharing her thoughts on why Minnesota should be a state you should consider visiting on your next travels around the States
You can follow Kirsten at the following social networks:
Facebook – Still Kirsten
Instagram – Still Kirsten
We would also like to thank Jenna Kvidt from Wander The Map and Ashley Ryan from Pure Wander for sharing some of their favorite images of Minnesota! I’m sure you are salivating at the sight of that amazing food from the Minnesota State Fair.
Have you visited Minnesota? If so, what are your experiences? Are you intrigued by exploring the Mall of America or perhaps one of the 11,000+ lakes that are on offer around Minnesota?
Ok this is the second week I am struggling to find the link up! 🙁
Are you a member of our Weekend Wanderlust Facebook group? Here it is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/weekendwanderlust/
If not, I strongly recommend that you join for the latest news! We have changed how we are doing the weekly link-up. We are no longer doing a link-up as such, rather we are hosting a ‘Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party’. What does that mean to you? Well, each week we will post a thread in the FB group and you can add your link directly to that thread. From there, we encourage everyone to comment and share across social networks the posts or at least those that interest you. You will still gain the benefits of traffic and exposure from this group which now has over 1,100 members.
I hope this all makes sense but feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions.
Like Lolo I have been missing the linkups too. That’s kind of a bummer since not all of us have fb ?. Thanks for the update tho.
Here is another option that you have! Feel free to add a comment each week on one of the admins posts and continue to add the Weekend Wanderlust badge to your post as you always did. One of us will then add the post to the FB group (if you don’t have access) and then you will still gain the benefits of the exposure from the blog link-up. The only difference is the actual link-up lists will not be displayed on each admins page.
I’m sorry for the inconvenience but the link-up organization we previously used changed their pricing structure and we couldn’t financially justify renewing our annual contract.
I would love to explore all the lakes. But I must admit, I will stick to visiting Minnesota when it isn’t winter. Since living in Chicago for the last five years, I’ve decided Illinois winters are bad enough for me.
I spent time in Minnesota this summer on the Minne-Roadtrip through Owatonna, Faribault, and Northfield and totally fell in love with these small towns. Oh, and cheese curds! Who knew they would be so freaking good. I would like to go back and explore more small towns and state parks. This is a great list with reasons for every traveler to visit MN. #WeekendWanderlust
Minnesota isn’t a state I would normally consider visiting when I think of the USA but this post is pretty convincing 🙂
I’ve been once and knew about all the lakes and the fun of Minneapolis. I did not know about the art scene there though! Guess I need to go back!
What a terrific summary of all the wondrous sights, sounds, and experiences that Minnesota has to offer! I’ve been to Minneapolis and surrounding areas a few times, and agree – there is SO much natural beauty and the people are incredibly friendly. I think since the summers there are so short, the natives REALLY take advantage of the warm seasons there. Summertime there is truly heavenly and the CHEESE CURDS are my FAVORITE. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. =)
Safe travels for the Ryder Cup at the end of September!!! You are going to have an amazing time!!!
Nice Job capturing Minnesota in all its beauty and what it has to offer. I grew up in Minnesota and it’s a great place. I like how you captured the overlook of Stillwater, one of my favorite places to hang out with friends on a weekend! And who could miss the state fair, went for 40 years and it’s spectacular 🙂
Excellent article. I grew up in Ohio so I know that sometimes the Midwest gets a bad wrap. There are amazing places to visit too. I always had a river canoe for as long as I could remember and going to Voyagers has been near the top of my bucket list for some time. If I could go in the fall when the leaves are changing it would be mind blowing. There are good spots to be found in Minny for sure.
We felt very privileged to experience Minnesota during the Fall season because the colors were out of this world! We have also visited Minneapolis in the heart of winter and that of course is a completely different experience with all of the snow and freezing conditions. Definitely a state we always look forward to returning to to explore more.