9 Cool Things to Do in Minnesota

A trip to Minnesota may not be at the top of your to-do list for the USA, but if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, and love to hike and canoe, you’ll soon realise the state is totally underrated. Shoppers, music lovers and artists are also drawn in by the opportunities to indulge their passions, and there’s plenty for history lovers too.

The amount of things to do in Minnesota rivals the more famous Utah, Arizona and California. There are over 10,000 lakes, more cycling trails than you’ll ever manage to pedal, and stunning scenery.

Minnesota borders Canada, and they share the Border Waters, a beautiful area of the world untouched by humans with strict rules to stop it being so. You’re not even allowed to take camera equipment, they’re trying that hard to preserve it.

The North Star State is under appreciated – here are just 9 reasons why you should go and explore Minnesota.

Welcome to Minnesota

1. Get hiking

Pack the walking boots and get your hike on in the Cascade River State Park. Like most parks you’ll get your fill of greenery and wildlife, but this one has an incredible waterfall too. The best views you’ll get of Lake Superior are from the top, and it’s definitely worth the trek.

Lake Superior is the biggest freshwater lake in the world, great if you want to try your hand at fishing while you’re there. 

2. Party at First Avenue

Minnesota’s capital city Minneapolis is a great city for creatives. Art installations, organic eateries and grungy clubs line the streets. The Mississippi River runs right through it.  

If that wasn’t cool enough, the city was also the birthplace of the ‘Minneapolis Sound’.This was a revolutionary music style led by the legendary Prince that mixed funk rock with synth pop. The music video for Purple Rain was filmed at the city’s ‘danceteria’, First Avenue, which is reason enough to head there to party. When I went, about a month after his death, there was an all night Prince party. I’m imagining that happens quite a lot.

Lake in Minnesota

3. Visit Bob Dylan’s cribs

Riding on the waves of musical glory, the next place to visit on a Minnesota tour is the city of Duluth and Bob Dylan’s old stomping ground.  

Another music mastermind, Bob is from this seaport city and, if you take a tour, you can stop by the artist’s first home before heading to Hibbing, where he lived as a teen. Just so you know, some of the locals are a bit angry with him for not being prouder of his roots. He has been known to pretend he’s from elsewhere. Not cool, Bob.

4. Visit the Mall of America

Everything in the US is bigger so you know that when we say Minnesota is home to the largest mall in the country, it has to be huge.  

The Mall of America is just outside Minneapolis in a suburb called Bloomington. You’ll no doubt find any shop your heart desires here, but this gigantic building also houses the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park and the Sea Life Aquarium. This is possibly the only place you can combine your love of underwater life with underwear shopping. 

5. Get creative at Grand Marais

Getting a little more rustic and rural, Grand Marais is right in the north of the state and only 30 miles from the Canadian border. It’s a small city with a population of around 1000 and is the ideal place to pack away the boots and bring out the brushes.  

This lakeside location is a creative hotspot, pulling in those searching for a little inspiration. Different workshops take place every day, offering everything from pottery to poetry, so you can release your inner arty demon. There’s a whole community of creatives up here, all living the artist’s dream.

Minnesota craft beers

6. Get brewing

Who knew Minnesotans were such beer buffs? Turns out they love the dark stuff and, in Duluth and Grand Marais, you can easily drop into a craft brewery. Staff there will show you how the stuff is made before letting you guzzle away. 

Voyageur Brewing Company deserves a mention thanks to the tasty brews and cool atmosphere in the bar. Dedicate at least a few hours so you can enjoy a good sample of the menus – rude not to.   

TheVikre Distillery makes many of its own ingredients for it’s cocktails and you’ll see their spirits bottled up throughout the rest of the state. You can get a gin taster flight here, so you can try as much of their work as possible.

Back near Minneapolis in Roseville, the Bent Brewstillery combines the best of brewing and distilling and has come up with some innovative creations that you won’t find anywhere else. Swig of local moonshine, anyone?

7. Take a boat trip

Whatever boat you want to float you’ll find it in Minnesota.  

One of the best places to explore by water is Lake Superior. You can see the Split Rock Lighthouse and learn about all the shipwrecks that lurk beneath on a guided cruise. Keep your eyes peeled for the eagles and falcons too. 

A little further north is where you’ll find the famous and sacred Boundary Waters canoe area. You’ll need to get a pass to access it, and only a few are given out a day, so book in advance.

8. Glensheen Mansion

Just for the chills and thrills, and the chance to inject a little spook into your trip, check out Duluth’s Glensheen Mansion. This super posh and very prim home was once the scene of a grim and gruesome murder. For many years the staff weren’t allowed to talk about it, but they soon realised it was the main draw and now you can rely on any of them to dish the dirt.

Tours take place every day so you can wander around the 1908 home and hear stories about the Congdon family and their tragic end. Make sure to go on the tour that includes the trip up to the carriage room – nowthat gave me the heebie-jeebies.

9. Go wild

Autum River, Minnesota

With all the forests and lakes, you can’t go to Minnesota without getting close to some furry creatures.  

In Ely you can visit the North American Bear Centre, learn about their behaviour and catch a few ecology exhibits. They have three rescued bears there, and you can watch their daily feeds.

Nearby there’s the International Wolf Centre where you can see the pack going about their day. In May 2016 a fresh litter of cubs was born, so cute!

Exploring Minnesota

If you’re planning on road tripping round Minnesota, you’re going to have a great time. Watch out for those deer though, and bears, and boars, ox and badgers. Be prepared to stop, never swerve.

Oh and make sure to drive up the Great North Road, it’s stunning!