Make the most of your time in the Twin Cities with this guide to the most incredible day trips from Minneapolis! You won’t want to plan your visit without this!
Minneapolis, the largest city in Minnesota, is a vibrant metropolis that is packed with unique things to see and to. The city is known for its modern skyline punctuated by architectural landmarks like the Guthrie Theater and the iconic Foshay Tower.
Visitors also flock to the city’s world-class cultural institutions like the Minneapolis Institute of Art the historic Hennepin Theatre District. You can easily spend days exploring all the highlights of Minneapolis, but it’s also worth taking a day trip outside the city.
You can really immerse yourself in the nature, history, and culture of the surrounding area with any of these amazing day trips.
Check out the panoramic views from Barn Bluff in the beautiful town of Red Wing, or admire the historic buildings in the German town of New Ulm. Stroll along the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, or have a picnic in a lakefront park in the quiet city of Stillwater.
Whether you’re looking for adventures out in nature or peaceful retreats to small towns, these day trips from Minneapolis will leave you with a new appreciation for the American Midwest.
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12 Best Day Trips From Minneapolis
From hiking through the pristine wilderness on the Red Cedar State Trail, to checking out the historic Main Street in Taylors Falls, here are some of the best day trips from Minneapolis!
If you don’t already have a car in Minneapolis, it’s a great idea to rent one. That way you can explore the area at your own pace and have some freedom and flexibility.
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 25 miles
- Driving time: 32 minutes
Nestled along the scenic banks of the St. Croix River, Stillwater, Minnesota, is a picturesque town with charm and historic allure. Founded in the mid-19th century, Stillwater has a well-preserved downtown area that transports visitors back in time with its Victorian architecture, cobblestone streets, and charming boutiques.
The iconic Lift Bridge, connecting Minnesota to Wisconsin, stands as a testament to the town’s rich transportation history, while the riverfront parks and walking trails offer breathtaking views of the water and surrounding bluffs. Teddy Bear Park is a local favorite that features enchanting teddy bear-themed playgrounds and delightful picnic spots that are perfect for families.
Stillwater’s welcoming community hosts various events throughout the year, including the popular Lumberjack Days and vibrant Fourth of July celebrations, attracting both locals and tourists to partake in the festivities.
The town serves as a gateway to the St. Croix Valley, offering opportunities for hiking, boating, and exploring the surrounding natural beauty. Visitors can embark on a scenic paddleboat cruise along the river, meander through the charming vineyards and wineries, or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverwalk while savoring the town’s warm hospitality.
A must-visit is Lift Bridge Brewing Company, a craft brewery known for its innovative and flavorful brews. The brewery provides a welcoming space where locals and visitors alike can savor unique beers in a charming riverside setting.
Stillwater is a gem on the St. Croix River that makes a quick and fun day trip from Minneapolis.
Be sure to try all these fun things to do in Minneapolis before you explore outside the city!
- Distance from Minneapolis: 159 miles
- Driving time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Another one of the best day trips from Minneapolis is Duluth, a charming city on the banks of Lake Superior.
The best attraction in the area is Duluth Park Point Beach which stretches along the narrow and scenic Park Point peninsula. Duluth Park Point Beach has a seemingly endless stretch of sandy shoreline on Lake Superior that is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, picnics, and leisurely strolls.
With the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge in the distance and the soothing sounds of waves breaking on the shore, Park Point Beach encapsulates the serene beauty of Duluth’s waterfront.
The Lakewalk, a scenic pathway hugging the shoreline, provides breathtaking views of the lake and connects visitors to Canal Park, a bustling district filled with shops, restaurants, and maritime attractions.
Another highlight of Duluth is the surrounding forests, parks, and trails. Enger Park and Tower offer panoramic vistas of the city and the lake, while the vast Superior National Forest and the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness beckon adventure seekers to explore the rugged wilderness.
The city’s cultural scene thrives with museums like the Duluth Art Institute and the Great Lakes Aquarium, showcasing the region’s artistic and natural wonders.
Duluth also hosts numerous events throughout the year, from the Tall Ships Festival to the vibrant Homegrown Music Festival, adding to its appeal as a destination that seamlessly balances outdoor adventure, cultural exploration, and historic charm.
3. Lake City
- Distance from Minneapolis: 71 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Situated on the shores of Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi River, Lake City, Minnesota, exudes small-town charm and natural beauty that is perfect for a day trip.
This idyllic community, often referred to as the birthplace of water skiing, offers visitors a peaceful retreat with its picturesque setting and friendly atmosphere. The scenic Lake Pepin, surrounded by rolling bluffs and verdant landscapes, provides a serene backdrop for a variety of recreational activities.
Visitors can explore the Great River Road, which winds through Lake City and offers stunning views of Lake Pepin. The road also offers access to charming local shops, cafes, and historical sites.
The city’s marina buzzes with activity during the warmer months, as boating enthusiasts take to the waters to enjoy the scenic beauty of Lake Pepin.
The Lake City Historical Society Museum is another popular attraction, where visitors can delve into the area’s rich history and maritime heritage. The charming downtown area of Lake City showcases a blend of historic architecture and modern amenities, creating a welcoming environment for both residents and tourists.
Lake City is an excellent day trip destination for those looking to experience the beauty of Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River Valley.
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4. Red Wing
- Distance from Minneapolis: 55 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour
Located on the scenic bluffs of the Mississippi River, Red Wing, Minnesota, is a top day trip destination in southeastern Minnesota. The historic downtown, with its brick storefronts and vintage architecture, invites exploration of eclectic shops, art galleries, and charming cafes.
Visit the Red Wing Pottery Museum to learn about the city’s artistic legacy or the Red Wing Shoes Museum to learn about the craftsmanship and innovation of the iconic Red Wing Shoes brand.
The towering Barn Bluff, a prominent landmark overlooking the town, provides panoramic views of the Mississippi River Valley, rewarding hikers with a picturesque backdrop of riverboats and bald eagles. It’s a must-see in this small town!
Red Wing is also popular for outdoor activities, with Frontenac State Park just a short drive away. This park features hiking trails, birdwatching opportunities, and stunning overlooks of Lake Pepin, adding to the city’s appeal for nature enthusiasts.
The Red Wing Marina buzzes with activity during the warmer months, offering a scenic spot for boating and fishing. No matter what time of year you visit, Red Wing has so much to offer!
5. Quarry Park and Nature Preserve
- Distance from Minneapolis: 70 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Quarry Park and Nature Preserve, located in St. Cloud, Minnesota, is a sprawling 684-acre oasis where the remnants of a historic granite quarry have become a modern recreation destination. The park is home to over 20 abandoned quarries, some filled with crystal-clear water, offering a unique landscape for visitors to explore.
The stunning scenery includes rugged rock formations, wooded trails, and serene quarries that beckon hikers, birdwatchers, and nature enthusiasts. The park’s crown jewel is the iconic Quarry 11, a picturesque swimming quarry with clear blue waters and sandy beaches, providing a refreshing escape during the summer months.
The area also showcases the region’s geological history through interpretive exhibits and educational programs. Visitors can learn about the quarrying industry that shaped the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The park’s diverse ecosystems support a variety of plant and animal life, making it an excellent spot for wildlife observation.
Whether hiking, swimming, or simply enjoying the tranquil surroundings, Quarry Park and Nature Preserve offers a harmonious blend of history, geology, and outdoor adventure in central Minnesota.
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6. St Paul
- Distance from Minneapolis: 12 miles
- Driving time: 20 minutes
St. Paul, the capital city of Minnesota, is a vibrant metropolis known for its rich history, diverse culture, and thriving arts scene. The city’s architecture reflects its past, with historic neighborhoods like Summit Avenue showcasing well-preserved Victorian homes and the iconic State Capitol building standing as a testament to the state’s political significance.
St. Paul’s dynamic cultural landscape is evident in the numerous theaters, museums, and galleries, such as the historic Fitzgerald Theater and the Science Museum of Minnesota. The Cathedral of Saint Paul, with its impressive dome and stunning architecture, is a prominent landmark that adds to the city’s skyline.
With a bustling events calendar, including the Minnesota State Fair and the Winter Carnival, St. Paul embraces its reputation as the “Saintly City,” offering a unique blend of historical charm, cultural richness, and modern amenities.
History buffs can learn about the town’s history on a walking tour, and music lovers can immerse themselves in St. Paul’s vibrant live music scene. Be sure to check out intimate jazz clubs like the Vieux Carré or larger venues such as the Xcel Energy Center. Whatever your interests may be, St. Paul is sure to entertain!
7. Taylors Falls
- Distance from Minneapolis: 51 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour
In the midst of Interstate State Park, one of Minnesota’s oldest state parks, you can find the incredible Taylors Falls. This tiny town by the St. Croix River on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border is renowned for its striking natural beauty.
The iconic Dalles of the St. Croix, a dramatic rock formation formed by the river’s currents, stands as a testament to the region’s geological history. Visitors can explore hiking trails that wind through the park, providing breathtaking vistas of the river and the surrounding landscape.
Taylors Falls itself is a charming town with a well-preserved Main Street that is lined with quaint shops, cafes, and antique stores. The Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours offer a leisurely cruise along the St. Croix River, providing passengers with an opportunity to marvel at the picturesque cliffs and wooded shores.
In the winter, the area transforms into a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts, with opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing.
Taylors Falls, with its combination of natural splendor and small-town appeal, is one of the best day trips from Minneapolis.
8. Red Cedar State Trail
- Distance from Minneapolis: 71 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
One of the most fun day trips for nature lovers is the Red Cedar State Trail, located in northwestern Wisconsin. This iconic trail meanders for nearly 15 miles through picturesque landscapes, following the course of the Red Cedar River.
The trail begins in the city of Menomonie, winding its way southward through woodlands, prairies, and wetlands. As it traverses diverse ecosystems, the trail provides an immersive experience for hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts. Along the route, users can appreciate the tranquility of the riverbanks, observe local wildlife, and enjoy the changing scenery with each season.
One notable highlight of the Red Cedar State Trail is the historic Irvington Trestle, a former railroad trestle that spans the Red Cedar River. This picturesque structure offers stunning views of the water below and is a cool landmark for history buffs to check out.
Whether for a leisurely stroll, a vigorous bike ride, or a peaceful day of wildlife watching, the Red Cedar State Trail provides an accessible and enjoyable outdoor experience for travelers in the beautiful Chippewa Valley region.
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- Distance from Minneapolis: 26 miles
- Driving time: 30 minutes
Chaska is a lovely city in Carver County known for its small-town atmosphere, rich history, and modern amenities. The city’s historic district, with its red-brick storefronts and classic architecture, exudes a timeless charm.
Chaska is also home to the iconic Chaska Curling Center, a world-class facility that gained prominence during the 2018 Winter Olympics as the training ground for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Olympic Curling teams.
Beyond its sports legacy, Chaska offers residents and visitors a variety of recreational opportunities, with picturesque parks, walking trails, and access to the Minnesota River Valley providing a natural escape. You can also check out the nearby Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, an oasis with meticulously curated gardens, diverse plant collections, and immersive nature experiences.
Chaska’s commitment to the community is evident in its vibrant events and festivals, including the annual River City Days celebration, which brings residents together for live music, parades, and family-friendly activities. Thanks to its strategic location southwest of the Twin Cities, Chaska is a desirable place for a day trip in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
10. Lake Minnetonka
- Distance from Minneapolis: 24 miles
- Driving time: 36 minutes
Lake Minnetonka is another one of the best day trips from Minneapolis! Located just west of Minneapolis, Lake Minnetonka is a jewel of natural beauty and a popular day trip destination.
Spanning over 14,000 acres, it is one of the largest lakes in the state and is characterized by its numerous bays, inlets, and islands. Lake Minnetonka has long been a playground for boating enthusiasts, offering a picturesque setting for sailing, water skiing, and fishing.
Its shores are dotted with charming lakeside communities, each with its unique character and attractions. Excelsior, Wayzata, and Minnetonka Beach are among the towns situated on the lake. Any of these locations is the perfect place to base yourself for your day trip to Lake Minnetonka.
The lake is also home to miles of scenic hiking trails and biking trails along its shores. The historic Steamboat Minnehaha, a restored paddlewheel boat, offers narrated cruises, providing a nostalgic journey across the lake. In the winter, the frozen expanse transforms into a hub for ice fishing, snowmobiling, and ice skating.
With its blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and lakeside communities, Lake Minnetonka remains a beloved destination for those seeking both outdoor activities and lakeside relaxation in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
11. New Ulm
- Distance from Minneapolis: 96 miles
- Driving time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
New Ulm, Minnesota, is a fascinating city full of rich cultural heritage. The city is renowned for its iconic Hermann the German monument, a towering symbol that commemorates the area’s German heritage and the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
Visitors can explore the historic downtown district, filled with charming shops, restaurants, and the Glockenspiel clock tower, which hosts daily musical performances depicting the town’s history.
New Ulm’s cultural pride is also showcased in its numerous festivals and events, such as Oktoberfest, which attracts visitors from near and far to partake in traditional German festivities.
The Schell’s Brewery, one of the oldest family-owned breweries in the country, is a must-visit for beer enthusiasts seeking a taste of local craft brews and a glimpse into the region’s brewing history.
Another fun activity to try in New Ulm is visiting the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. The museum honors and celebrates the state’s rich musical heritage by showcasing the accomplishments and contributions of renowned musicians across genres.
New Ulm is a popular destination full of historic sites that make an epic day trip from Minneapolis.
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12. Afton State Park
- Distance from Minneapolis: 32 miles
- Driving time: 40 minutes
Located just under an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities in Minnesota is Afton State Park, a beautiful place to get out in the fresh air. Spanning over 1,600 acres, the park offers a diverse landscape, featuring rolling prairies, lush woodlands, and dramatic river bluffs.
The park is also a popular destination for hiking and birdwatching, with numerous trails winding through the varied terrain, providing breathtaking views of the river valley below. In the winter months, the park transforms into a winter wonderland, attracting cross-country skiers and snowshoers who can explore the snowy landscapes along the groomed trails.
The St. Croix River, which borders the park, provides opportunities for water-based activities such as fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. The park’s campgrounds offer a serene setting for those looking to immerse themselves in nature overnight.
With its convenient location, diverse ecosystems, and recreational offerings, Afton State Park stands as a popular retreat for both day-trippers and those seeking a peaceful outdoor getaway in the heart of the Midwest.
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