Minnesota may not be a state that is on most people’s bucket lists, but it absolutely should be! This Midwest state has tons of beauty everywhere, from dazzling lakes and rivers to magnificent buildings and bridges.
The hardest part about visiting Minnesota is deciding exactly where to go! So here’s a list of the 13 most beautiful places to visit in Minnesota to help you figure out some fantastic places to see and explore!
Split Rock Lighthouse
Probably one of the most famous Minnesota landmarks, Split Rock Lighthouse is located outside Two Harbors along the North Shore of Lake Superior.
The lighthouse was built in 1910 after a terrible storm wrecked almost 30 ships in Lake Superior several years prior. It quickly became a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Visitors can spend several hours exploring the lighthouse and state park, including the visitor center and gift shop, the lightkeeper’s house and buildings, various hiking trails, and of course the lighthouse itself. Take a quick trip up the 32-step spiral staircase and see the original 1000-watt lantern bulb that still works!
Itasca State Park
Itasca State Park is most well known for containing the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Hundreds of thousands of people travel here yearly to say they’ve walked across the mighty Mississippi.
However, this park has so much more to offer than just the Mississippi River. As the third most-visited state park and also the oldest, Itasca’s 32,000 acres has over 100 lakes, lots of hiking trails and campsites, and excellent birding and wildlife sightings. For the history buffs, the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center and Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center offer lots of information on the natural and cultural history of the area.
Minnehaha Regional Park
One of Minnesota’s most spectacular waterfalls is located right in the heart of Minneapolis. Minnehaha Regional Park is a wonderful recreational site with stunning gardens and landscapes, walking and biking trails, historical sites, and plenty of family activities such as a volleyball court and a disc golf course.
However, the main attraction is the stunning Minnehaha Falls, a 53-foot waterfall that cascades along Minnehaha Creek which then empties into the Mississippi River. Visitors can view the waterfall from various points and along trails of varying difficulty, which makes it an ideal location for just about everyone to enjoy. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon at this lovely spot.
The Cathedral of St. Paul
The Cathedral of St. Paul is one of the most famous landmarks in the Twin Cities and in the state. Construction began in 1907 and went on for years, with interior work continuing for decades. In 1974, it was put on the National Register of Historical Buildings.
Visitors can either attend one of the daily masses or schedule a guided tour for the chance to see the stunning interior of the cathedral.
Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis
The Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis is a great place to take a stroll and get some fresh air. Originally constructed in 1883 as a railroad bridge, it used to transport 80 passenger trains a day in and out of Union Station. Today, it’s owned by the state and the park board and maintained as a pedestrian and bike path.
Visitors can view St. Anthony’s Falls from the bridge as well as the surrounding mill district. The bridge connects Father Hennepin Bluff Park and Mills Ruin Park/West River Parkway, which are also great areas to explore.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and spend some time in nature, make your way north to the Canadian border and explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Comprised of over a million acres, this remote forest is best explored by water.
The BWCAW is a stunning place but does take some planning. Permits are required, and you’ll need to be prepared to camp in remote areas that are far from services. There are various outfitters and guides that can help you plan your trip.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry Falls is a stunning state park along the North Shore of Lake Superior. With 5 waterfalls, a beautiful gorge, beach access to Lake Superior, and Civilian Conservation Corps log and stone structures, this is a must-see area for visitors.
For avid hikers and bikers, the Gitchi-Gami State Trail also crosses through Gooseberry Falls State Park. This in-progress project will eventually span 86 miles of paved trail for non-motorized use from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. The section through Gooseberry Falls is 17.6 miles and is the longest completed section to date.
Voyageurs National Park
The only national park in Minnesota and also one of the least visited national parks in the country, Voyageurs is a water wonderland. It has over 218,000 acres of forest, lakes, streams, and wetlands. Much like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, this park is best seen from the water.
In the summer, visitors can take a boat tour and get an up-close look at the beautiful scenery while also trying to spot wildlife. You can also rent kayaks and canoes and venture out on your own and do some camping. Houseboats are also very popular here, and there are various rentals available for those who want a bit more luxury on the water.
The North Shore Drive
What’s a visit to Minnesota without a road trip up the North Shore? Rent a car and tackle the 154-mile drive along Route 61 from Duluth to Grand Portage at the Canadian border. This is an absolute must-do adventure for any visitor to Minnesota.
Along this drive, there are 8 state parks, dozens of waterfalls, the Split Rock Lighthouse, wonderful hiking trails, delicious restaurants, and fantastic hotels and lodges. And don’t forget Lake Superior – the views of the largest Great Lake are breathtaking at every turn.
If you want to experience as much as possible, this road trip is best conquered over several days.
Port of Duluth
The Port of Duluth has so much to offer visitors. It is a working harbor that sees about 900 ships a year. The historic Aerial Lift Bridge is a unique engineering feat that is a feature of the port. See if you are lucky enough to catch a ship coming in and see the bridge lift!
If you want to get a view of Duluth from the water, check out a boat cruise. When you get hungry, there are also dozens of places to eat and drink in Canal Park. Hit up a few of the local establishments and find your new favorite place.
Grand Portage State Park
Grand Portage State Park is a small state park but it has a lot to offer. It borders Canada and is also the only state park inside an Indian Reservation. Visitors can learn about the Ojibwe people through interpretive displays around the park.
Grand Portage is also home to the tallest waterfall in Minnesota, High Falls. There are three viewing decks to take in all the splendor, and the hike to see them is an easy one-mile round
trip. For those who want something a little more challenging, the Middle Falls Trail is 4.5 miles round-trip and gives hikers a more remote experience.
Grand Marais is a wonderful community along the North Shore. It offers stunning views of Lake Superior, excellent restaurants and hotels, a thriving art scene, and lots of outdoor activities for the whole family. It makes a great base for those who are driving the North Shore or who just want a more small-town getaway.
From Grand Marais, visitors can go hiking, fishing, kayaking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and so much more. In town, there’s a community theatre, golf course, a brewery, and an art gallery.
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
Just south of St. Paul, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is a beautiful river park that offers some peace and quiet just outside the city.
Canoeing, kayaking, and boating are popular activities, and birdwatching is also great here.
There are also some hiking and biking trails for those who’d rather keep their feet on land.
Minnesota is an underrated state with so much to see and do. These 13 beautiful places are great choices for any visitor to this Midwest state. Come and see what it has to offer!
Guest Post Written by Stef from Open Road Odysseys