14 of the Best Day Trips from Minneapolis

The following is a guest post by Via Travelers, a modern travel blog focused on helping you learn the best travel tips, hacks and itineraries to travel the world.  As a local expert, Kyle’s pleased to bring you his take on the best day trips from Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is a well-known city, the largest in the state of Minnesota in fact. Bordering Saint Paul, the lesser known state capital, the  Mississippi River weaves through Minneapolis the city, giving it a unique outlook.

Though there are many nature-based tourist attractions in the city (like the Minneapolis riverwalk), life is fast in Minneapolis.

Because of this, residents of the city (and travellers, for that matter) love to go on day trips to surrounding towns in and around Minnesota (including visiting neighbouring Wisconsin), on the hunt for a great time.

This guide is packed full of the very best day trips from Minneapolis – we’ve got the ideas, all you need to do is jump in the car and get exploring!

Photo credit: Bill Hickey, Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

Our Guide to the Best Day Trips from Minneapolis

The following are 14 places which are awesome destinations for best day trips from Minneapolis.  With so many varied destinations in easy reach of the city, it’s time to load your car and head off on an adventure.

  1. Red Wing – Jam-Packed with Nature and History

Red Wing is a beautiful city which is 1-hour away from Minneapolis – it is an ideal location for your day trips. You might even recognise the name of the city; Red Wing Shoes that are very famous all over the US were named after the town (which was itself named after Chief Red Wing, one of the leaders of the Mdewakanton).

There are many tourist attractions and activities in Red Wing. If you love history, you can explore the museums there. There is even a museum which is dedicated to Red Wings Shoes! It is the best place to learn how the company evolved over the time.

If you enjoy hiking, then there are also many tracks there; the most famous place for hiking is Barn Bluff. There, you can view the entire town including Mississippi River and city traffic (trust me, it’s more scenic than I’m making it sound!)

Photo credit: Red Wing
  1. Taylors Falls – Incredible Natural Beauty

Taylors Falls are just 50 minutes’ drive from the city of Minneapolis. The area is surrounded by pristine mountains which makes it a must-do from Minneapolis. You can enjoy various outdoor activities there, both in summer and winter.

In summer, people love to visit the Interstate Park where there are incredible mountains, rivers, and lakes. They’re prime for exploration as a day trip from Minneapolis.

In winter, you can enjoy skiing at Wild Mountain, where you’ll find many others testing their skills on the snowy slopes of the mountain.

Also, you should not miss Lake O’ the Dalles hiking trail and St Croix River Dalles hike when you visit Taylor Falls!

  1. Stillwater – Family Friendly Travel

Stillwater is a beautiful town which is only half an hour away from Minneapolis. It is a beautiful location, best for day trips from Minneapolis, especially for families.

The Teddy Bear Park of Stillwater is a famous playground where you can take your kids for a joyful time – the teddy’s are seriously gorgeous!

Some of the other famous tourist attractions in Stillwater include the Lift Bridge. It was built in 1931 and links both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Photo credit: Discover Stillwater
  1. New Ulm – Germany In Situ

New Ulm is considered the counterpart of the German city, Ulm. As you would expect, there is a strong influence of German culture on this fabulous city.  Though it is known to be a quiet city, it still has numerous attractions for tourists and is well worth a day trip from Minneapolis.

If you stroll through streets of the city in summer, you will see many locals sitting outside and enjoying German beer and the Bavarian style clock towers will ring the toll of Glockenspiel chimes.

The Schell Brewery of New Ulm is very famous among both locals and tourists, for good reason.  It’s a great spot to learn about beer and sample one or two of your own.

Another famous tourist attraction in the city is Minnesota Music Hall of Fame where you can see the instruments used by music legends like Bob Dylan and Prince!

  1. Bemidji – A Top Pick of our Day Trips from Minneapolis

Bemidji is a beautiful town which is undoubtedly deserves a spot on this list.

The beauty of the town attracts thousands of tourists every month – will you be amongst them?

Popular amongst families, the town is home to the Headwaters Science Center, where you can enjoy a wide range of animals and learn about natural history.

Some other famous spots in Bemidji include the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Bemidji is also an ideal place for art lovers. The famous Sculpture Walk has series of sculptures built by various artists during last 20 years and is well worth a visit.  Be sure to have your camera at the ready!

Photo credit: Visit Bemidji
  1. Owatonna – History in Action

Owatonna is a beautiful small town which is only one hour away from Minneapolis. It is a beautiful place and intriguing as you can still witness how the town’s history is preserved. When you’re planning your day trips from Minneapolis, you should be sure to include Owatonna – it provides a great insight to how earlier generations used to live.

If you plan to travel to Owatonna between May and September, then you should visit the Village of Yesteryear.  There, you will see 15 different original buildings, including a general store and city hall. Every building will transport you back to the olden times!

For animal lovers, the best place to visit in Owatonna is the Reptile Amphibian Discovery Zoo where you will learn all about their animals and get up close and personal with them too.

Finally, if you’re in the area mid/late August, be sure to pop along to the Steele County Fair for serious fun and lots of yummy food.

Photo credit: Visit Owatonna
  1. Alexandria – Boozy and Brilliant

Alexandria is located two hours away from Minneapolis. It is a beautiful town that has a lot to offer, including historical sites and leisure activities. It is a great option and amongst the best day trips from Minneapolis!

History lovers should visit Runestone Museum whilst in town.  There you will see an extensive collection of Native American artefacts as well as items used by the Vikings.

For leisure activities, we recommend you head to the Carlos Creek Winery. Breathtaking scenery along with music and wine will make your visit to Alezandria memorable, for sure. If you have the time, I recommend that you book a tour to see how the wine is grown and made in the region.

Photo credit: Explore Alex
  1. Jeffers Petroglyphs – Uniquely Native American

If you want to learn about Native American history (and we suggest you do), Jeffers Petroglyphs is the perfect day trip from Minneapolis. On these native prairie lands, you will see large slabs of flat rocks that exhibit Native American carvings. It provides a great insight into how Native American people used to live in times gone by.

If you love adventure, then there is one additional thing you just have to try out whilst you’re at the Jeffers Petroglyphs site.  We recommend you pend your day trip learning about the survival skills of Native Americans – it’s both fun and informative!

Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society
  1. Grantsburg – A Must-See Day Trip from Minneapolis

Grantsburg is located in North Wisconsin, close to the St. Croix River. It really is one of the best day trips from Minneapolis if you’re keen to immerse yourself in nature.

The wetlands and marshes of Grantsburg are full of bushes and wildlife such as hill cranes, fowl, otters and more!  There you can explore the area on your self-guided driving tour which covers 24 miles. Not only can you can decide on your own pace, you also get to watch flora and fauna and have a whole heap of fun!

There are also numerous canoe rentals and hiking trails in Grantsburg.

With so many amazing outdoor activities, Grantsburg makes for an amazing day trip from Minneapolis.

Photo credit: Tony Webster
  1. Hudson – Lakeside Entertainment

Hudson is a beautiful river town in Wisconsin. It is the most popular destination for tourists coming to Wisconsin in summer, as visitors stroll along the edges of water and enjoy many other activities.

If you love shopping, then downtown is the area you’ll want to head straight to. There you’ll find many spots where you can buy world-class antiques. You can also buy incredible works of arts from the infamous Seasons on St. Croix Gallery.

Lakefront Park is another popular spot you should visit during your day trip. There is a playground and beautiful beach beside the lake and  on Thursday evenings, bands even play live music!

  1. Mantorville – A Blast From the Past

Mantorville is a beautiful town which became famous for its theatre activities in the mid-1970’s. At that time, people from Minneapolis would gather on the banks of the Zumbro River to enjoy theatrical presentations. Mantorville was a tiny village at that time, but it would attract huge crowds of theatre lovers.

Mantorville has retained its charm, and its rich pioneer history still attracts thousands of tourists to the historic township. The historic stagecoach inn stop is also very popular among visitors that come along with their families.  Inside the inn, you’ll find Hubbell House is the most popular dinning spot in Mantorville; it is one that we highly recommend. It was built in 1857, and ever since people have enjoyed visiting to sample high-quality local cuisine.

Photo credit: Mantorville
  1. Lake Pepin – A Foodie’s Paradise!

Lake Pepin is a great destination to add to your list of the best day trips from Minneapolis; it is where you can enjoy breathtaking scenery and popular cuisines at the same time.

It has been popular for its natural beauty for a long time and now the increasing number of high-quality eateries are making it even more popular.

On the shores of Lake Pepin, you can find pastry shops, sandwich restaurants and tea rooms.  If you’re looking for something delicious (and who isn’t?), this is where you’ll find it.

If you have time, then don’t miss the ferry ride from Lake City to its neighbouring towns. Onboard the Pearl of the Lake, a modern-day replica of the grand riverboats that traveled on the Mississippi River in the 1800s, you will get to see beautiful views of the water and stop at different destinations on the lakeside.

  1. Red Cedar State Trail – Nature-Loving Day Trips from Minneapolis

The Red Cedar State trail is in neighboring Wisconsin state, and it is believed to be the best preserved crushed-limestone trail anywhere. It starts from Menomonie and continues for almost 15 miles, through forested countryside and amazing scenery.

It is barely one hour away from Minneapolis making it a great nature-lovers option to your best day trips from Minneapolis.

Red Cedar River flows along the Red Cedar State Trail, running into another river known as the Chippewa River.  You can paddle down the rivers by kayak, you can cycle next to it or even do both in a fantastic combo!

Tourists consider it the best place to escape from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.  There, you’ll get to see stunning scenery and enjoy nature, all whilst being conveniently close to the city.

Photo credit: Red Cedar Hoffman
  1. Excelsior – Something For Everyone

A small town located on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior is half an hour away from Minneapolis.  Famous for its boutiques and bistros around Water Street, many tourists also come here to enjoy swimming and play games on the beach.

If you’d prefer, you can also go on a bicycle ride on Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail.

Photo credit: Three Rivers Park District

Isn’t it time you checked out the best day trips from Minneapolis?

With so many varied, worthwhile day trips right on the doorstep of Minneapolis, the question isn’t whether you’ll head of the city but where and when.

Which towns and cities within our list of best day trips from Minneapolis will you visit first?

Load up your car and hit the road for a weekend of fun and adventure!


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If you\'re in Minneapolis, MN, pack up the car and take a road trip to one of these 14 spots! Gorgeous towns and unique spots - they\'re all within two hours of the city.

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