Top 10 Best Day Trips From Minnesota

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From the headwaters of the Mississippi to the birthplace of Bob Dylan and the Greyhound bus line, there's a lot of Americana to be found just a few hours from ... read more...

  1. Lake Pepin is the largest lake on the Mississippi River. It is home to incredibly diverse flora and fauna and serves as an important water filter that reduces sediment and other pollution flowing downstream. The Lake Pepin area is historically and culturally important, providing a home to humans stretching back for over 12,000 years. The lake has provided great inspiration to famous authors and visual artists, as well as to the many thousands of travelers who visit each year.

    Discover the intriguing combination of a popular foodie haven nestled amongst the picturesque scenery of Lake Pepin, famed for its beauty and recently gaining a reputation for its food offerings. From tea rooms to sandwich restaurants and pastry shops, there’s something to suit every taste around the shores of Lake Pepin. If you’ve got an abundance of time on your hands, jump aboard the Pearl of the Lake paddle-wheeler that will ferry you from Lake City to other towns, meaning you can enjoy unbeatable views from the water and have the freedom to visit more than one lakeside destination. Come here and enjoy your day trip to this place!

    Location: Minnesota and Wisconsin, United States

    Distance from Minnesota:
    226 miles
    Travel time: 3 hours 53 minutes
    TripAdvisor Review: 106 reviews

    Lake Pepin

  2. Afton State Park is one of the best day trips from Minnesota. The Afton State Park is located along the banks of the St. Croix River in Hastings, where it provides a beautiful and rugged outdoor recreational area that is very popular among hikers and runners. The undulating landscape means that many of the trails are quite challenging and many runners come to the park to train for races. Families can have fun walking the Prairie Walk Interpretive Trail is often covered with wildflowers in spring and will lead you through several contrasting habitats. You can pick up trail maps at the Visitor’s Center.

    This area along the St. Croix River is about a half-mile walk from the parking area. The picnic area features a shelter, fire rings, and pedestal grills. The swimming beach is adjacent to the lower picnic area. It is located in a shallow, calm section of the river, and is marked with buoys in the summer. Stairs along the river trail allow access to this sand bar below the Trout Brook delta when the river is at or below normal levels. Current land use practices have greatly improved the quality of this former trout stream. Trout currently do not use the stream due to the silt that covers the stream bed. Standing along the brook you can see the railroad bridge, the lower trail crossing, and a number of wood duck boxes.

    Location: Minnesota, United States


    Distance from Minnesota: 190 miles

    Travel time: 3 hours

    Tel: 1 651-201-6780

    Hour: 8:00 AM - 22:00 PM

    Fee: $35 per person

    TripAdvisor Review: 113 reviews

  3. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a 1000-mi footpath carved by ancient glaciers running from Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls near the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park in Wisconsin's famous Door County. The trek follows the terminal moraine of the glaciers that pushed into the upper midwest thousands of years ago – that's the outermost edge of the grave debris that glaciers push in front of them as they grind over rocks, hills, and other features.

    The Ice Age Trail
    was conceived of by Milwaukeean Ray Zillmer over 70 years ago as a way to not only create a uniquely Wisconsin backcountry thru-hike but also to connect several communities along the way, including Cornell, Cross Plains, Delafield, Hartland, Lodi, Manitowoc-Two Rivers, Milton, Slinger, St. Croix Falls, Verona, West Bend, and Whitewater. As the route traverses the moraine, it sometimes meanders into areas west of the moraine, including the Driftless Area in southwestern Wisconsin. Those towns are great jumping-off points if you want to hike a section of the Ice Age Trail for a day trip, or places to resupply if you plan to join the 100 "Thousand-Milers" – or people who have completed the entire trek.

    Location: Eagle, WI 53119, United States


    Distance from Minnesota: 475 miles

    Travel time: 7 hours 17 minutes

    Tel: 800-227-0046

    Hour: 6:00 AM - 23:00 PM

    Fee: $150 per person

    TripAdvisor Review: 156 reviews

  4. Eau Claire got its start in the middle of the 19th century and was able to leverage its position at the confluence of two important rivers, the Eau Claire and the Chippewa, to dominate the local logging industry for decades. These days, much of that industry is gone, though the riverside location continues to offer some pretty views and fun waterborne activities, like rafting and tubing, in nice weather.

    In recent years, Eau Claire has earned something of a hip reputation reminiscent of Portland or Austin back in the day, with a handful of great bars and restaurants, a decent live music scene, and some inspired choices for an overnight stay. Work up an appetite paddling the local water trails or cycling along the Chippewa River State Trail before heading to Hooligans for a classic midwestern steak house and supper club experience, or taking in a show at the Acoustic Cafe. Eau Claire, Wisconsin, could probably lay claim to being “The Indie Capital of the Midwest,” but trademarking that would be far too corporate a move for this independent-minded university town. Instead, Eau Claire, located at the confluence of the crystal clear Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers, goes its own way and encourages everyone who visits to come along for the ride.

    Location: Wisconsin, United States
    Distance from Minnesota:
    250 miles
    Travel time:
    3 hours 50 minutes
    TripAdvisor Review:
    204 reviews

  5. The Chippewa National Forest, located in the heart of northern Minnesota, is a celebration of seasons, culture, and the environment. Come explore the big lakes, big pines, and all the Forest has to offer. The Chippewa National Forest was the first national forest established east of the Mississippi River in 1908. Originally known as the Minnesota National Forest, the name was changed in 1928 to honor the original inhabitants. Today, the Chippewa Forest and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe share goals and offer visitors a chance to experience Anishinabe culture and learn about the past from prehistory to the early logging era and Civilian Conservation Corps days.

    The vast Chippewa National Forest covers a large swath of the north-central part of the state. The forest contains 21 developed campgrounds, 41 miles of paved bike trails, 43 miles of unpaved bike trails, 160 miles of hiking trails, 298 miles of non-motorized trails, 380 miles of snowmobile trails, 68 dispersed camping locations, 20 miles of horse trails, 83 boat accesses. The Norway Beach Visitor Center, four miles east of the forest's headquarters at Cass Lake, occupies a historic 80-year-old lodge and is a good place to pick up maps and learn about the forest's flora and fauna. It's a protected wilderness that offers visitors the chance to hike, bike, swim, and fish. Don't forget to pack bug spray – ticks can be prevalent in Minnesota.

    Location: Beltrami counties, Minnesota, United States
    Distance from Minnesota: 87 miles
    Travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes

    Tel: 1 218-335-8600

    Hour: At all days

    Fee: $14 to $26 per person
    TripAdvisor Review: 247 reviews

  6. Chippewa Falls is a city located on the Chippewa River in Chippewa County in the northwestern part of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It is the birthplace of Seymour Cray, known as the "father of supercomputing", and the headquarters for the original Cray Research. It is also the home of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, the Heyde Center for the Arts, a showcase venue for artists and performers; Irvine Park, and the annual Northern Wisconsin State Fair.

    For thousands of years, the Chippewa River was a water highway through a wilderness of forests and swamps, traveled by Ojibwe people, Lakota and others. More recently, Indians guided European explorers up the river and around the Falls. But there are plenty of indoorsy activities to enjoy, too, like paying a visit to the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, which has been part of Chippewa Falls since 1867. It's the seventh-oldest brewery in the United States and you can taste the suds yourself at their Leinie Lodge tasting room. That's not all there is for history buffs, either. The Cook-Rutledge Mansion is a fun glimpse at the glamor of the lumber baron lifestyle. Or you can just pick up some ice cream from Olson's and have a picnic in Chippewa Falls' pretty Irvine Park.

    Location: Chippewa County, United States
    Distance from Minnesota:
    255 miles
    Travel time: 4 hours
    TripAdvisor Review: 536 reviews

  7. A quiet city full of hidden gems, New Ulm is named after its German counterpart, Ulm, which also served as the inspiration for much of the culture that can be found here. The city is known for its German heritage and its historical sites and landmarks dating back to the Dakota War of 1862. If it’s your first time visiting the town, you will think that nothing good can come out of it as it’s tranquil. The locals mind their own business, and everyone was incredibly friendly.

    Thanks to the foreign influence that made New Ulm’s culture into what it is today. Don’t pack your bags yet. Wait for summer, and the city suddenly bursts into life. Strolling through the beautiful, historic district on a summer’s afternoon, don’t be surprised to see people sitting outdoors enjoying German beer, listening to the toll of Glockenspiel chimes ringing from Bavarian-style clock towers. If you’re interested in sampling some of the local brews, head over to the reputable August Schell Brewery, or for a different kind of day trip, pay a visit to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, which commemorates some of the country’s greats like Prince and Bob Dylan.

    Location: Brown County, Minnesota, United States


    Distance from Minnesota: 186 miles

    Travel time: 3 hours 15 minutes

    TripAdvisor Review: 703 reviews

  8. Best known as the birthplace of Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pepin is a pretty town on the banks of the Mississippi River, which serves as the border from Minnesota. You can, of course, learn more about Wilder's life at the replica of the famous Little House in the Big Woods which serves as a museum.

    By the mid-17th century, the French had begun to send expeditions into Wisconsin via the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. King Louis XIII of France is believed to have granted a huge piece of land in the Upper Mississippi River Valley to two brothers, Etienne Pepin de la Fond and Guillaume dit Tranchemontagne. But Pepin is also just a hop, skip, and jump from Tiffany Bottoms, Prairie State Natural Area, and Nelson-Trevino Bottoms, each excellent place for hiking, canoeing, and birdwatching. Or stick around town for the Pepin Public Beach, the Depot Museum that taps into the city's railroad history, and the sailing school and marina. There are great views of the water from the Buena Vista Park Overlook, as well as a nearby wine trail and the local Villa Bellezza Winery.

    Location: Pepin County, Wisconsin, United States


    Distance from Minnesota: 238 miles

    Travel time: 4 hours 10 minutes

    TripAdvisor Review: 1982 reviews

  9. Owatonna is one of the best road trips from Minnesota. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 14.62 square miles; 14.53 square miles is land and 0.09 square miles is water. The oldest part of the city is on a low-lying area on the eastern bank of the Straight River, extending towards the south from Maple Creek. The city has grown in all directions and now lies on both sides of the river, as well as above the ridge north of Maple Creek.

    Conveniently located about one hour from Minneapolis, the settlement of Owatonna is a gateway into the past and a fascinatingly preserved example of its small-town beginnings. It's an excellent day trip for those interested in seeing how people of generations past might have lived. A seasonal favorite with families and travelers alike is the Village of Yesteryear attraction, open between May and September and exhibiting 15 buildings ranging from the city hall to a general store. Step back in time as you wander from building to building, or, if you want to experience a more modern attraction, drop by the Reptile Amphibian Discovery Zoo to learn about the fascinating animals.

    Location: Steele County, Minnesota, United States


    Distance from Minnesota: 223 miles

    Travel time: 3 hours 40 minutes

    TripAdvisor Review: 3483 reviews
  10. Top 10


    Duluth, known as the Lake Superior port city, is one that has a ton of culture and history. It’s a long day trip that you might want to consider staying a night or two since you won’t want to miss the nearby state parks and awesome Duluth restaurants. There are a ton of great breweries in Duluth if you are a fan of nightlife and drinking. If that’s your thing, you’ll need to stop by Canal Park for a bar crawl or a night out on the town. For the history buffs, check out the Depot Museum, the Glensheen Mansion, and these other top Duluth museums to round out your culture trip.

    Minnesota does not have a lot of large-scale beaches; hence locals have Duluth Park Point Beach and Lakefront Park in their hearts. It’s the best place to go to unwind by Lake Superior during the weekend or holidays. It’s located at the end of Minnesota Avenue in Duluth, a two-hour drive from Minneapolis. This beach is an ideal place for swimming and recreation activities. Not only that, but it also has a volleyball pitch for beach volleyball and a few grills. It is filled with people during the summer, making it ideal for visiting during this time to mingle with the locals. If you move further north, you will find some of the best state parks in the area, including Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls for stunning scenery that embodies true Northern Minnesota culture.

    Location: St. Louis County, Minnesota, United States


    Distance from Minnesota: 143 miles

    Travel time: 2 hours 30 minutes

    TripAdvisor Review: 74511 reviews

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