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20 Best Day Trips from Minneapolis & St. Paul (Twin Cities)

20 Best Day Trips from Minneapolis & St. Paul (Twin Cities)

Which are the best places to visit while in Minneapolis? Well, this is a detailed guide to the best day trips in Minneapolis and Saint Paul that you must check out. It will help make your stay or visit even more adventurous.

“For me, going to Minneapolis is like going to Mecca.” – Stephan Pastis

Well, Stephen was right. If you’re looking for a city that religiously prides in its attraction sites, Minneapolis is the place.

There are many best day trips you can take from Minneapolis, Minnesota!

One of the best day trips is to head up to Duluth for some outdoor adventure or a history tour. Another best day trip is to go and see the Mall of America in Bloomington, which has many shops and attractions.

You could also visit the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, which lets you get up close and personal with animals like elephants and giraffes.

Serving as Minnesota’s largest city, it has more to offer than you could ever imagine.

Speak of diverse and unique cultures, awesome people, natural features, and finger-leaking foods from state-of-the-art-restaurants, you’ll get it all here.

Also, if you wish to visit some other sites outside Minneapolis, there are numerous awesome sites around the city.

This means that you can never run out of awesome places to go for day trips from Minneapolis.

Minneapolis artwork

If you want to make your trip as smooth as possible, you should also make sure that you use the best tour booking sites.

This will help prevent disappointments during that important tour.

So, which are these sites that you shouldn’t miss?

Best Day Trips from Minneapolis

If you live in Minneapolis or you are visiting the Twin Cities for a few days, here are some of the best day trips to get away from the cities and explore Minnesota at your own pace.

Red Wing, Minnesota

The World's Largest Boot in Red Wing, MN

Ever heard or worn Red Wing shoes? This is an iconic boots collection that was first handcrafted in 1905.

Chief Redwing, a chief of the Mdewakanton, was the inspiration for these shoes. The extensive range of footwear alludes to town’s history.

It will take you less than one hour to drive to the town from Minneapolis. Some of the most exciting attractions include:

  • Numerous museums like Alliveo Military museum dedicated to the US military
  • Anderson Center at Tower View
  • Red Wing Marine museum

The Red Wing Shoes Museum and Store is dedicated to the shoes and traces the company’s origins and growth over time.

These museums bring to light the town’s illustrious history. You will also enjoy hiking the tracks that will lead you to Barn Bluff.

Barn Bluff is where you will get breathtaking views of the city’s beauty in its entirety and remains one of the top tourist attractions in the area.

Red Wing offers the most charming historic downtown in Southeastern Minnesota by far.

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

See related: 30 Cheap Places to Travel [Ultimate Guide]

Lake Minnetonka

Lake Minnetonka Aerial in Autumn

The name “Lake Minnetonka” comes from the Native American term for a glacial lake that once existed in this area. You can start this day trip by taking a scenic drive to the lake.

Next, rent a boat and cruise around the water to see all of the luxury homes.

Don’t forget your hiking shoes because you will want to trek through the woods and see the serenity that is so unrivaled by other places!

Alternatively, head to Excelsior, Minnesota, which is located along Lake Minnetonka. The lake is a popular destination for fishers, and there are two beaches where you can swim.

In the winter, visitors may enjoy an incredible show of snow castles with ice slides, statues, and subterranean attractions. These are our favorite things to do in Excelsior, Minnesota.

The nearby Minneapolis Landscape Arboretum is also a great place to admire the beautiful flowers at the beautiful gardens of the state.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these other best things to do in Lake Minnetonka.

See Related: 20 Best Things To Do in Rogers, Minnesota

Stillwater, Minnesota

Stillwater, Minnesota

If you’re looking for a right and quiet place with a serene environment to spend with your family, Stillwater is one of the best places to visit in Minnesota.

Why family?

All the features in the town favor family activities and rated one of our top Minnesota family vacations.

For instance, the Teddy Bear Park of Stillwater is excellent for kids.

You will also enjoy spending time linking Minnesota and Wisconsin by visiting the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge.

If you are looking for more activities, these are some of the best things to do in Stillwater.

See Related: Best Things to do in North Dakota

Hudson, Wisconsin

Things to do in Hudson 1

Speaking of Stillwater, let’s talk about the Stillwater equivalent on the other side of the river in Wisconsin…. Good ole’ Hudson, Wisconsin.

If you want to visit Wisconsin from the Twin Cities, it doesn’t get much easier than Hudson.

The number of activities here is countless.

From the antique spots, retail therapy, and getting a view of arts from seasons of St. Croix gallery, you’ll get all you need. The gallery has the best artworks from over 160 national and local artists under one roof.

You can also stop at the lakefront beach, which has a wide assortment of leisure activities.

The picnic shelters, a playground, and a band that hosts events are but a few examples of the amenities available. The majority of these activities take place throughout the summer, making it ideal for family as well as business trips.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Hudson, Wisconsin.

See Related: Best Lakes in Minnesota

New Ulm, Minnesota

New Ulm, Minnesota Main Street

If you’ve never been to Germany, visiting New Ulm is as good as touring the country. It resembles the city of Ulm found in Germany after German immigrants planted their seed here and founded the town.

Thanks to the foreign influence that made this town’s culture into what it is today.

From the Bavarian style clock towers to the epic Oktoberfest celebration, if you are a fan of all things Germany, this charming town attracts thousands of visitors from around the entire state of Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.

If it’s your first time visiting the town, you will think that nothing good can come out of it as it’s tranquil. The locals mind their own business, and everyone was incredibly friendly.

Don’t pack your bags yet. Wait for summer, and the city suddenly bursts into life. The locals will be sitting out of their homes, sharing a unique German beer produced by the Schell Brewery.

The best attraction site for decades has been and will always be the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.

Here you get to see masterpiece records produced by music legends, Bob Dylan being one of them.

See Related: 13 Best Breweries in Wisconsin: Craft Beer & Taprooms

Lindstrom, Minnesota

Coffee Pot Tower in Lindstrom Minnesota | Things to do in Lindstrom

Lindstrom is one of Minneapolis’ unique day trips and is a great way to see a true Scandinavian sister city in Minnesota.

Despite its reputation as a tiny town, Lindstrom has a number of things to see. The tiny retail and cafe establishments that line Main street are the finest in town. Their charisma can’t be escaped.

It is also known for its recreational opportunities including fishing, hiking, biking, swimming, and golfing.

While you are in town, be sure to stop by Franconia Sculpture Park.

Franconia Sculpture Park in Fraser, Minnesota is a sculpture park that is best visited during the summer.

Over 50 sculptures on 12 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds make up this sculpture park. Outdoor totems, mounted plates, large-scale abstracts, and portable wall pieces are among the many sculptures on display.

There is also an organic garden at Franconia Sculpture Park that produces vegetables for the restaurant.

We suggest making a day trip that encompasses Lindstrom, Franconia and Taylors Falls in one trip (we’ll get to that shortly).

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

Taylors Falls, Minnesota

Minneapolis bridge

Whether it’s winter or summer, the fun in Taylor Falls never fades.

It’s, therefore, an excellent spot to visit if you are an outdoors person. And, it will only take you about thirty minutes from downtown Minneapolis.

The falls are surrounded by pristine “mountain-like” sceneries that are monumental during the winter season. The mountains pile up snow to make skiing slopes.

People gather from all over the country to come and have a good time in the snow. It’s no doubt that it’s the right destination for winter day trips from Minneapolis

Guess what! It’s even better during the summer season. You can take a journey to Interstate State Park where you’ll get some of the best hiking trails and even rock climbing in the entire state.

There are many areas to explore, like Lake O’Dallas, and St. Croix River.

If you are liking what you are hearing? Check these best things to do in Taylors Falls, Minnesota.

See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Minnesota

Lake Pepin & Lake City

Frontenac Minnesota view of Lake Pepin

The beautiful lakeside city of, well shocking, Lake City is home to a culinary food lover’s paradise in the form of Lake Pepin.

From excellent craft breweries to tea rooms to pizza restaurants that line the lake, this is a great day trip to enjoy one of Minnesota’s largest lakes.

Beyond that, this city is known to be the birthplace of water skiing.

Alternatively, take a trip on the famous Pearl of the Lake paddle-wheeler from downtown for an unforgettable journey back.

This ferry has a fantastic view of of Lake Pepin and other towns nestled along the Great River Road.

In the winter, this become a bit more of a quiet city, unless you’re into snowmobiling and ice fishing.

Want to learn more about this town? Read our full post on the best things to do in Lake City.

See Related: When is the Best Time to Travel to Puerto Rico? (Ranked)

Lanesboro, Minnesota

Things to do in Lanesboro, Minnesota

Lanesboro, Minnesota is situated along the Root River in Southern Minnesota.

If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip from Minneapolis, take drive an hour southeast from the Twin Cities to reach this scenic destination.

Lanesboro is a relaxing, yet outdoor filled day trip that is filled with cyclers. You can bike along the legendary Root River for miles.

The historic district of Lanesboro is known for its charming bed and breakfasts, fine dining and clean, small town charm. This beautiful city has the perfect blend of Americana with its forested countryside and brick laid main street.

This was one of my favorite day trips I’ve been on in a while.

Read our full post on the best things to do in Lanesboro.

See Related: Best Things to do Around Lake Minnetonka

Duluth, Minnesota

Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth

Duluth, known as the the Lake Superior port city, is one that has a ton of culture and history.

It’s a longer day trip that you might want to consider staying a night or two since you won’t want to miss the nearby state parks, awesome Duluth restaurants.

There are a ton of great breweries in Duluth if you are a fan of nightlife and drinking. If that’s your thing, you’ll need to stop by Canal Park for a bar crawl or a night out on the town.

For history buff, check out the Depot Museum, the Glensheen Mansion and these other top Duluth museums to round out your culture trip.

Minnesota does not have a lot of large-scale beaches; hence locals have Duluth Park Point Beach and Lakefront Park in their hearts. It’s the best place to go to unwind by Lake Superior during the weekend or holidays.

It’s located at the end of Minnesota Avenue in Duluth, a two-hour drive from Minneapolis.

This beach is an ideal place for swimming and recreation activities. Not only that, but it also has a volleyball pitch for beach volleyball and a few grills.

It is filled with people during the summer, making it ideal for visiting during this time to mingle with the locals.

If you move further north, you will find some of the best state parks in the area, including Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls for stunning scenery that embodies true Northern Minnesota culture.

These parks are suitable for hiking and camping. During winter, the park is turned into snowboarding dunes.

Check out these best hotels in Duluth to book your trip.

Like what you are hearing? Check out these best things to do in Duluth, MN.

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Chippewa Falls is a charming town located in southwestern Wisconsin near the Minnesota border.

From 1867, the Leinenkugel Brewing Company is affiliated with Chippewa Falls. It is the United States’ seventh-oldest brewery. Cook Rutledge’s Mansion is a young ten years old, but it provides a colorful look at early timber barons’ opulence.

You may go to Olson’s and have a picnic in Irvine Park, one of Wisconsin’s lovely parks. The city is located an hour and a half southeast on I-94.

It is at the banks of Lake Wissota and Chippewa River in the state of Wisconsin, near Madison.

If you are looking for an outdoor day trip, make sure you stop by the Red Cedar River and the Red Cedar State Trail for excellent riverside hiking trails.

Check out these other top things to do in Wisconsin (besides cheese and beer).

Owatonna, Minnesota

You shouldn’t leave Minneapolis before you visit Owatonna. If you can, give it one hour, and you will not regret it. It’s only an hour away from the city. You can make it your first stop if you don’t know where to go from Minneapolis.

It has historic sites that preserve the fascinating small beginnings of the town. This takes you back to the old ages and gives you first-hand experience of how the earlier generations used to live here.

The village of yesteryear is one of the most fascinating areas to visit, and it’s a lovely place to wander away. The best lunch places in this area serve great food. You can always dine at one and enjoy exquisite low-cost meals.

If you love animals, Owatonna still got you covered. The Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo is the perfect premier reptile destination. The zoo hosts animals such as snakes, crocodiles, turtles, and a vast array of amphibians.

The park is also an incredible spot for surprise birthdays.

If your kid is an animal lover, organize a unique birthday experience that she/he will live to remember.

See Related: Best Museums in Duluth, Minnesota

The National Scenic Byway of Great River Road

Great River Road

One of the best things to do in Minnesota is a tour of the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.

The most enjoyable type of excursion along the Great River Road is to go by motorcycle, as it will undoubtedly provide you with a lot of enjoyment.

Don’t have one? No problem.

This National Scenic Byway is one of the better drives in all of Minnesota and features the best type of scenery Minnesota has to offer such as glacial bluffs, the Mississippi River gorge, Lake Pepin, and small-town charm.

There are several cities along this fun day trip from the Twin Cities that you can stop along, including Red Wing (already mentioned), Lake City, Hastings, Frontenac State Park and so much more.

See Related: Best Restaurants in St. Paul, Minnesota

Alexandria, Minnesota

Alexandria, Minnesota

Owatonna is not the only historical city in Minnesota. Alexandria has also made a name for itself when it comes to history and outdoor activities.

Take note that a one-day trip is not enough to visit every tourist destination. Plan to stay for at least three days.

During this period, make sure you cover every area of the town, including the Runestone museum, which has one of the most extensive collections of Native American artifacts.

If you’re a wine lover, you can visit the Carlos Creek Winery, the official wine of Minnesota fun. There are loads of leisure activities from live music and ventures to beautiful Tuscany.

As the city of numerous kinds of world-class and tasty wines, it would be fair enough if you buy a few wines or join the wine club.

Trust me; there are goodies that come with the membership.

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

Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester Minnesota Skyline

If you’re in the mood for a city with a small-town feel, Rochester is perfect. It’s Minnesota’s third-largest city and is home to the legendary Mayo Clinic.

The city they found is one of contrasts, with natural beauty unmatched by any other community in Minnesota. The Zumbro River, which has stood still for hundreds of years, is one of those elements that creates the distinctiveness and majesty that makes Rochester such a special place to visit.

The best time to experience this beauty is during summer or when the fall turns into autumn.

If you want the best of both worlds, visit during Rochester Artwalk in November and Minnesota Bicycle Festival in June.

Thanks to the Mayo Clinic, Rochester is home to some amazing art galleries and museums. Make sure you stop by the Mayowood Mansion during your visit and these other top museums in Rochester.

It’s best to stay at an Airbnb rental for this best day trip because you get the best of both worlds—a mini-vacation and more space than your packed hotel can give.

Plus, renting out homes is becoming more popular every year, so you will definitely find what you’re looking for on here. If you enjoy hotels, check out our list of the top Rochester hotels to stay at.

Be sure to make a stop and check out one of these top things to do in Rochester.

Quarry Park and Nature Preserve

Fall in Minnesota

Just one hour from Minneapolis is the Quarry Park and Nature Reserve in Waite Park of Stearns County, Minnesota.

The park, which covers 683 acres, includes all of the beautiful natural features and wooded areas. As a result, it’s ideal for people that enjoy being outside.

Open prairie and wetlands are some of the plants you’ll see in the region. They also have artificial features, such as high mountains surrounded by rock debris.

You’ll enjoy seeing white-tailed deer and a variety of birds in their natural habitat, and you’ll be delighted to see these animals in their purest form.

For individuals who value solitude and quiet, this is a fun day trip from Minneapolis. Plus, you can’t beat the fresh air!

Like hiking? Here are some of the awesome hiking options near Minneapolis.

Long Day Trips from Minneapolis (2-Days or Potential Weekend Trips)

Bemidji, Minnesota

Lake Bemidji Minnesota

How can we forget such a beautiful town?

Bemidji had to make it to the list of the best places to visit in Minnesota. We’ll tell you why.

First, Bemidji has made a record as the town that gets thousands of families visiting every month. Thanks to the Headwater science deals with collections of live animal exhibits.

You can be assured to get some of your beloved animals’ exhibits and collections here. Besides that, the center has a rich understanding of natural history.

If you have a place for art in your heart, Bemidji should also take place in your heart. All the art lovers gather here to take breathtaking looks at sculptures produced by artists from all over the world, for the last two decades.

In Northern Minnesota, you get some of the best sunsets possible.

Make sure you stop by the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox to cross this famous landmark off your Minnesota bucket list.

See Related: Best Things to do in Nisswa, Minnesota

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Water Park Slide

How’s it feel to swim in that frigid water splashing up your back, and the sun beating down on Mother Earth? Or, what to escape the cold and pretend you are in a tropical destination?

Well, you will get all your answers at Noah’s Ark waterpark.

It will take you 3 hours to road trip to Noah’s Ark waterpark from Minneapolis. The waterpark, established in 1979, has risen to become the one of the most significant waterparks in America.

It offers two endless rivers, two massive wave pools, and four water play areas for kids. It also includes an indoor water park… Because it’s in Wisconsin rather than everyone loving the cold, it’s no surprise it’s one of the finest locations for weekend escapes from Minneapolis.

Other things to do in Wisconsin Dells include dining, shopping, organizing birthday parties, and events.

See Related: Minnesota vs Wisconsin

The Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

Kayaking in the Apostle Islands

A ride of around 3.5 hours from Minneapolis, lands you here. The Apostle Islands are only over five years old, but new surprises keep coming every year.

It’s no doubt that this park has a great future. You can be part of the evolution if you pay it occasional visits.

The unique natural formations take place in Lake Superior.

To the locals here, it’s where water, sky, and land converge to create one of the most beautiful scenes. The natural resources combined with cultural resources just bring out the best of this spot.

As a visitor, you can decide to go hiking, paddling, or cruising in the great superior river. You can also visit the mainland caves or camp in the secluded campsite.

But before you come here, check with the camp authorities if the conditions are favorable.

See Related: Best Things to do in Wabasha, Minnesota

Grantsburg, Wisconsin

Camping in Wisconsin

Grantsburg is an ideal location for a nature lover. Located in northern Wisconsin, it will take you not more than 2 hours to reach here.

The environment is filled with wetlands and marsh that cover an area of around 24 miles. The bushes are not thick, which makes it the perfect habitation for birds like fowls and sandhill cranes.

You can still do some awesome outdoor activities like hiking and canoeing. The rentals are also in abundance.

In a nutshell, this is the perfect place for soul-searching as you get to know more about nature. Always carry a camera to take photos of the breathtaking beauty of the fascinating fauna and the unique birds.

See Related: 9 Things to do in Two Harbors, Minnesota

Final Thoughts: Best Day Trips in Minnesota

Life in Minnesota is hidden in these small cities that many people shun when looking for perfect destination sites.

The result is that they don’t get to experience fun as it ought to be.

Lucky you, you now have the secret.

You’ve got a list of the best day trips from Minneapolis. And, it’s only right that you make your visit more enjoyable by trying out some of these sites.

Related Minnesota Guides

Other Notable Day Trip Guides

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