Minneapolis is a great place but sometimes you just need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There are tons of fun day trips from Minneapolis where you can get a breath of fresh air and experience that small town charm.
If you’re into food, nature, museums, or craft breweries, then you’ll love my list of the best day trips from Minneapolis. Minneapolis’s location near the state border makes it the perfect base for touring both Minnesota and the nearby state of Wisconsin.
As a Minneapolis local who loves exploring the Midwest, I’m here to help you find the best day trips and weekend getaways, whether you’re a local too or a traveler.
Oh, and before we dive in, be sure to bookmark my list of the best things to do and see in Minneapolis!
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11 Best Minneapolis Day Trips
Duluth is a popular destination on the shores of Lake Superior, and one of the best day trips from Minneapolis. This small city in Northern Minnesota has a big personality. You can watch 1,000-foot ships pass under the Aerial Lift Bridge at Canal Park and smell over 3,000 rose bushes in Leif Erikson Park.
For an outdoor adventure, try mountain biking along Duluth’s many single-track trails or kayaking on Lake Superior. You can also soak up the sun at Duluth Park Point Beach. When you’re hungry from exploring the outdoors, Lincoln Park Craft District offers plenty of local food options, as well as breweries and cideries. It’s also a great place to buy some unique Duluth souvenirs!
If you’ll be visiting Duluth in the winter, you must check out Bentleyville’s Tour of Lights from late November to just past Christmas for spectacular light displays along Lake Superior. Duluth is also a great place to get picturesque winter views in general. Try driving along Skyline Parkway, a 25-mile byway where you can see the full city from end to end and the shoreline.
Redwood Falls, MN
Redwood Falls is a gorgeous little city west of Minneapolis full of natural beauty. It’s home to a number of parks, like Alexander Ramsey Park which has been nicknamed the Little Yellowstone of Minnesota. There are plenty of hiking trails and outdoor activities you can do here. Redwood Falls is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature and bask in the fresh air.
Families will also love the Redwood Falls Aquatic Center, a large water park and pool. There are also several historic sites you can visit, like the Gilfillian Family Estates and the Redwood County Historical Museum.
👉 Local Tip: Visit Redwood Falls between mid-June to early July and you can go strawberry picking at Hilltop Harvest!
New Ulm, MN
New Ulm is a small city named after Ulm in Germany. Its German heritage is showcased throughout the city. One example is the Glockenspiel Clock Tower, which is one of the few free-standing carillon clock towers in the world. The bells chime the time of day too. Each year, New Ulm also celebrates Oktoberfest and the Bavarian Blast.
Founded by a German immigrant in 1860, August Schell Brewing Company is the second oldest family-owned brewery in the U.S. You can tour the brewery and stroll the gardens where they even have peacocks. There’s plenty of German cuisine to be found here as well. Veigel’s Kaiserhoff is the oldest restaurant in the town and serves traditional German fare, along with some American food.
One of the best day trips from Minneapolis for literature fans is Pepin, the birthplace of Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder. This charming town has quite a few places dedicated to the author. There is Laura Ingalls Wilder Park, a small park that’s home to the historical Pepin Depot Museum. Little House Wayside Cabin is a replica of the quaint house featured in the book.
At Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum you can learn more about Wilder’s life, as well as the town’s history. But the author isn’t the only reason to visit Pepin. You can also ride in a hot air balloon with Lesmeister Balloon Company and enjoy the public beach on Lake Pepin, the largest lake on the Mississippi River.
🚗 How to Get There: If you have a car, you can drive over to Pepin easily, which will also make getting around Pepin a breeze. But if you’ll be visiting without a car, you can rent one through Discover Cars.
Stillwater is a quiet city on the St. Croix River and the birthplace of Minnesota. Rated one of the top 10 prettiest towns in America by Forbes Magazine, it’s a photographer’s dream day trip. You can take a relaxing cruise down the St. Croix River in a gondola or view the city from the sky in a hot air balloon.
History buffs will also love Stillwater. The downtown Main Street area is in the Stillwater Commercial Historic District, where you can shop and dine in the historical buildings. Also make sure to check out Lift Bridge Brewing Company, which features Minnesota’s oldest operating taproom. It’s also the seventh largest craft brewery in the state.
For families, Teddy Bear Park is a cute and fun place to spend some time with your kids. Plus, it’s only a block from Main Street, which has several restaurants and an ice cream shop. Apple picking at Aamodt’s Apple Orchard would also be a fun activity. The orchard also has a goat farm and wagon rides.
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Eau Claire, WI
Eau Claire is a hip city with great bars and fine dining. It’s also one of the best weekend getaways if you have a few days to spare because there’s so much to do here. Live music, craft breweries, and museums are just a few of the things Eau Claire has to offer. Don’t miss out on the Blue Ox Music Festival, a three-day Bluegrass and Americana festival in June.
The city is also great for outdoor activities like kayaking and canoeing on the Eau Claire River. You can also bike along the Chippewa River State Trail. In the winter, you can enjoy cross country skiing in one of the various parks in Eau Claire.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? With so much to do in Eau Claire, you may want to spend a night here. If so, I recommend the Lismore Hotel, a high-rated hotel that’s located right by the Chippewa River.
Lake Minnetonka, MN
Distance from Minneapolis: 40 to 50 minutes | Google Maps
Lake Minnetonka is a huge lake just west of Minneapolis. It’s a great day trip from Minneapolis if you’re short on time since it’s less than an hour’s drive away. It’s surrounded by many towns that boast small town charm. Plus, there are several parks to enjoy here like Lake Minnetonka Regional Park, a lakefront park with a playground, swimming pool, biking, and hiking trails.
If you’ll be visiting in the winter and want to try ice fishing, Seton Lake on the southeast corner of the lake is a great spot to fish for catching bluegills, crappies, bass, and northern pike. A bit south from the lake, you can also check out the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, which is a 1,200-acre horticultural garden and arboretum.
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Red Wing, MN
Red Wing is a bit over an hour southeast from Minneapolis. If you love good views, you have to check out He Mni Can Barn Bluff. The Prairie Trail offers a 0.55-mile scenic hike, with overlooks at both ends of the trail. You can get spectacular views of the Mississippi River on one side and Red Wing on the other from the top of the 340-foot bluff.
In the winter, you can go skiing or snowboarding at Welch Village, which has more than 50 slope trails. You can also catch a glimpse of a bald eagle along the river or in Colvill Park if you’re there during migration season (December through March). In the mornings and evenings, eagles soar and dive for fish, and during the day they perch on tall trees on the riverbank.
Shoe fans will want to visit the Red Wing Shoes Museum, where admission is free. It showcases a huge boot, as well as the history of the shoe company. The museum is inside of the flagship Red Wing Shoes store in downtown Red Wing.
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A tiny village in Wisconsin, Grantsburg is the perfect day trip for nature lovers. This village is known as the Gateway to Crex Meadows, which is the largest wildlife area in Wisconsin. It’s a great nature preserve for wildlife watching in the pristine wilderness. Grantsburg is also considered a Bird City in Wisconsin, which focuses on fostering healthy bird communities.
When you visit the Cheese State, you have to try some cheese! At Burnett Dairy Cooperative in Grantsburg, you can buy over 100 varieties of handcrafted cheeses, as well as frozen yogurt and ice cream. They also sell craft beer, wine, and gifts from neighboring food companies.
👉 Local Tip: Wisconsin is the best place in the U.S. to get cheese curds (my favorite food in the Midwest!). The really good cheese curds are squeaky when you chew them. It sounds weird at first but you’ll know what I mean once you try them. And make sure you try cheese curds both fresh and deep fried!
The highlight of Austin is the Spam Museum. Even if you have no interest in the canned meat product, learning about its history is actually pretty fascinating. Plus, admission is free so your wallet will thank you too (unless you decide to splurge in the Spam shop!).
Austin is also home to a few other interesting museums, like the Rydjor Bike Museum and the Mower County Historical Society. You can also find a few craft breweries, like Gravity Storm Brewery, where you can bring in food from any of the restaurants on Main Street. The city also has quaint architecture that’ll remind you of an old-school small town in America.
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Lake City, MN
Lake City is a scenic beauty in Southeastern Minnesota. It lies on the shores of Lake Pepin, which is the widest lake on the Mississippi River and is right on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. It’s the perfect place to visit if you love lake activities, like ice skating, ice fishing, sailing or water skiing.
It’s also where you want to be if you’re a fan of fall foliage. A drive around Lake Pepin on Highway 61 or anywhere on the country roads will provide spectacular views of the changing seasons. You can also hike in Hok-Si-La Municipal Park for views of the lake and surrounding bluffs.
👉 Local Tip: If I didn’t make it clear already, fall is one of the best times to visit this gorgeous little city! Not only is the weather crisp and the foliage beautiful, but the city also hosts five weeks of fall festivities, including apple harvest celebrations and Halloween fun.
That’s it for my guide on the best day trips from Minneapolis! Whether you’re a Twin Cities local or a visitor, there are plenty of great day trips to keep you busy.
And if you’re in the Twin Cities and need more things to do, make sure you check out my guide on the best things to do in Minneapolis!