Minnesota might not be the first place that comes to most people’s minds when thinking of vacation destinations, but the North Star State has an incredible variety of towns, cities, and wilderness areas full of culture, activity, and natural beauty sure to delight any and all who visit.
Whether you are a local Minnesotan or from out of state (or country, for that matter), here are ten of the very best places for a weekend getaway in Minnesota.
10 Best Weekend Getaways in Minnesota
St. Paul’s Harriet Island and The Covington Inn
Want to escape the urban bustle of the Twin Cities without actually leaving the city limits? Consider booking your weekend getaway aboard The Covington Inn, a towboat-turned-B&B bobbing gently on the Mississippi River just off of St. Paul’s Harriet Island Park. Stay in one of the Covington’s four nautically elegant staterooms and enjoy the view of St. Paul’s skyline from its spacious, open deck. Enjoy a gourmet breakfast in the boat’s comfortable salon before disembarking to explore the adjacent park. Along with being a quiet and scenic spot for a stroll, Harriet Island Park often hosts festivities such as Minnesota’s annual Irish Fair, Twin Cities Veg Fest, frequent 5Ks, and more. The attractions and rich history of St. Paul await just across the bridge should you want to venture away from the island for a day excursion.
Designated by the Minnesota Senate in 2009 as the “B&B Capital of Minnesota,” Lanesboro has no shortage of picturesque small town charm to offer those who visit. Located in the heart of Bluff County in Southeastern Minnesota, Lanesboro feels like a hidden gem where art and nature flourish and time moves a little slower than it does elsewhere. Outdoors enthusiasts can grab a canoe, kayak, or tube and float down the majestic Root River, while those who prefer to stay on dry land can bike along the Root River State Trail, rated one of the best trails in the state. Lanesboro also boasts a thriving art scene, and its visitors can find an abundance of opportunities to experience visual and performance art through art galleries, the Commonweal Theatre Company, a live radio show broadcast, independent film screenings, and more.
Nestled in the bluffs along the St. Croix River, the town of Stillwater serves as a perfect spot for a weekend getaway during any of Minnesota’s four distinct seasons. With its natural beauty and historic architecture, Stillwater combines rustic river town charm with an unending list of things to see and do. Visitors can glide down the river on a gondola, dine at the plethora of restaurants with patio and rooftop seating open during the warmer months, sample the local wineries and breweries, and explore eclectic antique and boutique shops along Stillwater’s historic downtown Main Street. All who visit can tell that Stillwater is a town full of heritage and heart, making it one of the best places you can go for a weekend getaway in Minnesota.
Kavanaugh’s Sylvan Lake Resort
Kavanaugh’s is a beautiful and fun four-season resort with something to offer everyone. This family-run resort demonstrates true “Minnesota Nice” hospitality with quality amenities and plenty of options for activities, making it an excellent spot for a getaway from daily life. Those who stay in the resort’s cabins, cottages, and suites have direct access to the crystal-clear Sylvan Lake and its rolling, wooded shore. Resort guests can partake in water sports, boating, and fishing in the warmer months, or stay active cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing during the winter. Kavanaugh’s is situated along 4,400 feet of trails, so there is no shortage of paths to explore. Visitors can head into the town of Brainerd for more opportunities, finding adventure in racing speedways, zip lines, mountain biking trails, and even the Safari North Wildlife Park. For those who enjoy a slower-paced activity, Brainerd is ranked among the top 50 world golf destinations. A bonfire back at Kavanaugh’s is a perfect end to an evening, especially when one can hear the call of loons in the background.
Grand Marais is a harbor village along the North Shore situated between the Sawtooth Mountains (who knew Minnesota had mountains?) and Lake Superior. It’s the perfect place to visit whether you want a weekend full of activity or you want to do nothing besides relax and take in the scenery. Grand Marais has a thriving arts community, and you can feel the creativity in the air as you stroll along the harbor and experience the abundance of fun restaurants, shops, and galleries the town has to offer. Grand Marais marks the entry point to the Gunflint Trail for those who want to explore this 57-mile National Scenic Byway. The trail leads through the rolling hills of the Superior National Forest and features spectacular sights of lakes, waterfalls, cliffs, and more. Make your stay whatever you want it to be when you visit this unforgettable North Shore haven.
Artsy, quaint, and quirky, Northfield is a fantastic destination for a weekend trip to Minnesota. Northfield blends the old and new, celebrating its heritage while encouraging new ideas, especially when it comes to the arts. Visitors can find a lively music scene, countless eclectic shops, sculpture works scattered around town, and delectable cuisine. While walking along the sidewalks, make sure to look down and read works of poetry inscribed right into the concrete as part of the Sidewalk Poetry Project. The Goodsell Observatory and the Cowling Arboretum afford visitors a chance to get close to nature. And if you’re looking for big energy and festivity, consider visiting Northfield during its Defeat of Jesse James Days, an annual outdoor heritage festival celebrating local citizens thwarting a gang of bank robbers in 1876. The celebration is one of the largest outdoor celebrations in Minnesota, and the reenactment of the attempted robbery is something you have to experience for yourself. Northfield is a small town bursting with sights, sounds, and experiences that can’t all be experienced in one weekend, so you’ll have to plan a return trip.
(Read more on Northfield: Take a weekend off in Northfield)
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) encompass the sprawling area of wilderness straddling the US and Canadian border. Stretching one million acres with 1,200 miles of canoe routes, the Boundary Waters remain untouched by civilization. Cell phones don’t work in most of the BWCA, so you might as well leave them behind and enjoy being unplugged and off the grid. Experience the serenity of looking out across impossibly clear water or seeing the night sky unclouded by urban pollutants. The BWCA features more than 1,000 lakes, rivers, and streams connected by trails called “portages.” Those who venture into the Boundary Waters can set up a main camp and make day trips hiking or portaging, or can keep moving camp and make their own loop through the wilderness. Your trip is entirely up to you. National Geographic Traveler magazine named the Boundary Waters one of the “50 Places of a Lifetime,” and it’s no wonder why. More than 250,000 people visit the BWCA each year, making it one of the most visited wilderness areas in the United States. A common motto told to those embarking on a Boundary Waters trip is: “Take only photos, leave only footprints.” Whether you stay for a weekend or a week, you’ll surely leave the Boundary Waters with memories of indescribable beauty and adventure.
Red Wing is a unique small town full of character and class, famous nationwide for its world-class craftsmanship. The renowned manufacturers Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing Stoneware are both based out of the town, and each have a free museum that visitors can attend and learn about the company’s craft and history. Yet there’s plenty more to this town than boots and pottery, especially for those interested in outdoor activities. Visitors can hike Barn Bluff and experience incredible views of the town and the Mississippi River from its summit, bike the Cannon Valley Trail, and watch for bald eagles along the river. Those in town for the weekend should also consider staying at the St. James Hotel, a historical and elegant hotel along the river with 67 enchanting Victorian guest rooms and four dining options. With its historic architecture and points of interest, gorgeous surroundings, and distinct character, Red Wing is a spot that can entertain anyone.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is located along the Superior Hiking Trail in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and is one of the most photographed and visited spots in the state. And for good reason. The highlight of the park is the century-old Split Rock Lighthouse, which sits atop a 130- foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior. Along with getting an incredible photo op, visitors can tour the lighthouse, the oil-house, the fog-signal building, and the light keeper’s house. Wandering away from the lighthouse, visitors can walk the shore at Pebble Beach, hike past scenic waterfalls, and climb to the Split Rock River Overlook to take in the view of Lake Superior and the river valley spread below. Trails, waterways, and campgrounds abound, and those who spend a weekend getaway at the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park will have no shortage of places to explore and admire. (The Split Rock Lighthouse sitting atop a tall rocky cliff overlooking Lake Superior at the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, one of the best places for a weekend getaway in Minnesota)
For those who want a more urban adventure for their weekend getaway, Minneapolis is the city that has it all. With three professional sports stadiums, top music venues, and a regional theater scene to rival Chicago’s, Minneapolis always has an event or performance to entertain and amaze visitors. Minneapolis has numerous art, science, and history museums that you could easily spend a full day exploring. View contemporary visual arts and design exhibitions at the Walker Art Center, then step outside and wander through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and see the iconic “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture piece. Or consider visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Art to experience over 89,000 works of art spanning 20,000 years of history. Minneapolis is a foodie paradise, and you’ll be sure to find something to please every palette with the city’s countless dining options. Visitors can take a brewery tour of NE Minneapolis, as well as experience a number of local distilleries and craft cocktail lounges across the city. Stroll through Loring Park, the Central Park of Minneapolis, or walk the Stone Arch Bridge, a pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River. Stay in a one-of-a-kind Airbnb, one of the upscale hotels at the center of downtown, or even stay on an island on the Mississippi at the historic Nicollet Island Inn. Whatever you’re looking for in your Minnesota weekend getaway, Minneapolis is sure to have it and more.
Want to learn more about these locations and all that Minnesota has to offer? Check out www.exploreminnesota.com for more information.
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