The official nickname of Minnesota is the North Star State in part because it is home to the northernmost spot in the continental US. There is a lot to love about Minnesota, including a myriad of opportunities to spend time outdoors. Yes, there are plenty of gorgeous parks and lakes to see, but what about sled dogs or the largest fair on the continent? Whether you are looking for an exciting way to experience the great outdoors or would prefer to chill with a microbrew or a fried taco on a stick, Minneapolis truly has something for everyone.
You don't have to travel to Alaska or Greenland to get a glimpse of the aurora borealis. The Northern Lights are quite visible from Minnesota. There are plenty of places to see them, too. In Cook County, they're visible along with the Milky Way over Lake Superior. From Voyageurs National Park along the Canadian border, you might catch a glimpse of a meteor shower, too. Or, head to the Northwest Angle, the northernmost point in the continental US. When planning a trip to Minnesota, it is worth scheduling time to see this natural wonder.
Not only can you glimpse the Northern Lights from Voyageurs National Park, but there are also plenty of ways to spend your days, too. With more than 215,000 acres to explore, this park provides opportunities for fun on both the land and water. There are four large lakes and 26 smaller lakes featuring lakeside cabins, houseboats, and camping areas. Swim, fish, hike, or canoe then take a hike on the more than 110 miles of trails. During the winter months, you can enjoy ice fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or cross country skiing.
The Minneapolis State Fair happens every year at the end of summer. This 12-day-long festival takes places at the Fairgrounds in St Paul and has everything you need to feel like a kid again. More than 1.5 million people visit the fair every year, making it the largest in North America. Enjoy the rides, play games, but, most importantly, come hungry because there are so many delicious things to try. Not only will you find things like sandwiches and pies, but there are also a whole bunch of fried treats to discover, like battered and fried pickles, feta bites, and even tacos on a stick.
For a more urban, metropolitan experience, stop by the twin cities, Minneapolis and St Paul. This diverse area has upscale dining and accommodations as well as theaters, art galleries, and a bustling craft brew scene. Stop by a brewery or take in a show for an intimate date night. If you prefer the outdoors, don't worry. There are also dozens of parks and trails in and around the cities, so you are never far from a hike, zipline, or riverfront view.
On the north shore of Lake Superior is Gooseberry Falls State Park. It is centered around the Gooseberry River and includes viewing access to the upper, middle, and lower Gooseberry Falls. This is a great place to take photos and soak in the natural surroundings. There are hiking trails, paved bike trails, and even a wheelchair-accessible trail to take guests to the main viewing area. In the winter, this is a perfect place to ski, ride a fat bike, snowmobile, or snowshoe.
Park Point is located on a long, narrow piece of land extending into Lake Superior and Superior Bay just outside of Duluth. There is a lot to do here, but perhaps the most popular activity is the swimming beach where visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, volleyball, and picnic areas. Hiking trails are also available, and new boat launch was recently installed to help people get out on the water with their canoes, kayaks, and other boats.
If you thought you had to travel all the way to Alaska to see a dog sled race in the US, you will be happy to hear that Minnesota has its own race every year. The Beargrease Dog Sled Race is a 400-mile long trek along the north shore of Lake Superior. It acts as a qualifier for the world-famous Iditarod in Alaska and has been held every January since 1980. The race is quite an event and spectators can expect to find a variety of food and drink specials, silent auction, a cutest puppy contest, and much more.
Minnesota is often called the "Land of Ten Thousand Lakes," and one of the best ones to visit is Leech Lake. It is located in the northcentral part of the state in the southern part of the Chippewa National Forest. Leech Lake is the third largest lake in the state and is one of the best spots for fishermen. It is home to some of the best muskie and walleye fishing in the entire Midwest. The lake boasts 195 miles of shoreline made up of several bays that give it an intimate feel. There are a ton of places to stay, including lodges, hotels, and campgrounds right along shores. This is a great summer retreat for fishing, hiking, shopping, and golf and a perfect place for skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.
You might think that you are not a mall person, but you have never seen a mall like this. The Mall of America is located in Bloomington, a suburb just south of Minneapolis-St Paul. It is the largest mall in the US and, while it has plenty of shopping and dining options, the special attractions are what make this mall a must-see. Nickelodeon Universe is a theme park in the center of the mall with roller coasters and character-themed rides. Stop by the Crayola Experience to learn about the chemistry and creativity that goes into making crayons then visit the Sea Life aquarium where you can see sharks, stingrays, and more.
Sometimes, the best way to see a new place is to head out for a long drive. In Minnesota, one of the most beautiful road trips is the St. Croix Scenic Byway which follows the St. Croix River along the Minnesota and Wisconsin border. The southernmost part of the Byway starts near Minneapolis. As you drive farther north, the landscape shifts from rolling hills and sweeping views to rocky cliffs and dense woods. This trip is great any time of year, but it is particularly beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing.