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Road trips from Minneapolis

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Best Road trips from Minneapolis

Best Road trips from Minneapolis
Minneapolis | Photo Credit – Chad Davis

If you get a bit bored in the twin cities, the below-mentioned road trips from Minneapolis are perfect for both day trips and long road trips. Being the largest city in Minnesota it makes a great base for road trips. Although, the city offers an abundance of cultural attractions and leisure activities, however, road trips are the best if you get tired of the stunning modern metropolis and want to explore somewhere new.

The drive along the enchanting Mississippi River makes the road trips quite scenic. So, without further ado let’s get started with this list of best road trips from Minneapolis.

1. Duluth, MN

Best Road trips from Minneapolis
Duluth, MN Aerial Lift Bridge | Photo Credit – Ron Reiring

For an easy and eventful getaway, Duluth is perfect for road trips from Minneapolis. The drive takes around two hours and along the way  Banning State Park. makes for a good stop.

Located along the northern shore of Lake Superior, Duluth is a natural beauty with tons of fun activities to be a part of. It is also full of historic charm. Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center and Lake Superior Railroad Museum display the long maritime history.

For some absolutely stunning views of Lake Superior, North Shore Scenic Drive is famous. The views include the beauty of the majestic Sawtooth Mountains, waterfalls, and beaches, making the 148-mile drive along Highway 61 absolutely scenic.

To take a relaxing walk along the shoreline of Lake Superior, Canal Park is full of beautiful walking and biking trails. It also offers beautiful views of the famous Aerial Lift Bridge.

For kids, the Great Lakes Aquarium home to Lake Superior Zoo and Duluth Children’s Museum is a fun place. Spirit Mountain Adventure Park is another attraction for younger members. The park has an enormous “jump pillow” along with downhill mountain biking, an alpine coaster, ziplines, chairlift rides, disc golf, and much more.

Lastly, Split Rock Lighthouse located in Two Harbors is one of Minnesota’s best-known landmarks. Here you can learn about the 1910 origins of the lighthouse and gain a peek into lighthouse life and also get some wallpaper material pictures.

2. Red Wing, Minnesota

Best Road trips from Minneapolis
Downtown Red Wing, Minnesota | Photo Credit – Tony Webster

Because of its conveniently close location, Red Wing is one of the most famous options for weekend road trips from Minneapolis. The town is especially famous among music lovers.

Barn Bluff is the most famous viewpoint in the town. It provides a gorgeous view of the town along with the beautiful Mississippi River. The Memorial Park is another spot from where you can soak in the beautiful view of the town.

The town also offers a bunch of river cruises which make for a great evening activity. The Pearl of the Lake, Rusty’s Red Wing River Rides, and Magnolia Blossom Cruises are some of the best options.

The Red Wing Marine Museum, The Pottery Museum of Red Wing, and The Goodhue County Historical Society are some of the unmissable when in town.

Bay Point Park and Colvill Park are some of the green areas to relax, picnic, take a walk or maybe play volleyball.

Lake Pepin, also known as the birthplace of waterskiing is another prime destination for visitors of Red Wing. You can opt for a relaxing 70-mile drive along the lake. Fish, swim, boat, or just simply relax are other things you can opt for.

3. Brainerd, MN

Best Road trips from Minneapolis
Sunset View of Gull Lake | Photo Credit – Jess R.

For city dwellers, a retreat is quite important, and for that what’s better than a road trip from the city of Minneapolis to the Brainerd Lakes area. It has one of the best vacation lakes in Minnesota. Usually, the drive just takes around 2.5 hours, you can make it longer by stopping for breaks at Grand Casino Mill Lacs and St. Cloud.

Located along the Mississippi River, the town of Brainerd is known as the “Minnesota’s Playground.” The reason is that it has an abundance of nature trails, events, public parks, and beaches. The most famous trial is Paul Bunyan State Trail. It is famous for being the longest Minnesota state trail and also the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country. During summer it’s famous among runners, cyclists, hikers, and rollerblades, and in winter too the trail is buzzing with activities.

If you’re visiting in August, the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals is the main event held at Brainerd International Raceway. Here you can view some of the fastest dragsters in the world.

To cool down during the warm Minnesota summers, Gull Lake is quite a cool spot. It’s especially famous among wakeboarders, water skiers, tubers, fishers, and of course swimmers. In winters, the annual Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza is along held here.

Last but not least you can experience a Mini Himalaya as well as a Pioneer Village, numerous rides, and one of the largest antique shops within Minnesota at Paul Bunyan Land, a local amusement park. The rides include a carnival-style Ferris wheel and Merry-Go-Rounds. Kids love this place.

4. Madison, Wisconsin

Best Road trips from Minneapolis
Madison, Wisconsin | Photo Credit – Jordan Richmond

The “city of lakes” undoubtedly makes a great option for road trips from Minneapolis. Being the capital of Wisconsin, it is home to its largest state university and the capital building. The city has a beautiful and vibrant cultural scene along with numerous first-rate museums and art galleries.

 Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, Taliesin and Monona Terrace along with Wisconsin State Capitol are blessings to the eyes of people who enjoy beautiful architecture.

Chazen Museum of Art,  The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Arboretum and Geology Museum (University of Wisconsin), Wisconsin Veterans Museum, The Madison Children’s Museum are some of the famous and must-visit museums of the city.

For activities like hiking, biking, or even simply relaxing, the Blue Mounds hills in Southern Wisconsin are quite popular owing to their stunning beauty. It is also a great area for camping.  The Cave of the Mounds including large caverns, stalactites, and stalagmites is another beautiful spot.

To view Amur tigers, African lions, reticulated giraffes, red pandas, alpaca, and other cute animals,  Henry Vilas Zoo is a favorite among tourists and especially among younger visitors.

The unusual House on the Rock is a must-visit. It contains more than 3,200 windows and the world-famous 218-foot-long Infinity Room, which projects over a cliff like a knife. The gardens here are also worth some time.

5. Wisconsin Dells, WI

Best Road trips from Minneapolis
Wi Dells | Photo Credit – Gary Paakkonen

The water park capital of the world is a top pick if you’re looking for family-friendly road trips from Minneapolis. Along with the largest concentration of water it also has an abundance of theatres and museums.

The Dells which includes Lake Delton is a hub of fun activities like ziplining, skiing or simply live entertainment.

One of the best things to do in Wisconsin is explore via a take a boat tour on the famous Original Wisconsin Duck boats. To beat the heat you can also splash into the Wisconsin River and Lake Delton or just simply enjoy a drive through four miles of wilderness.

Noah’s Ark Water Park is the largest water park in entire America. It is made to entertain people of all ages and also has dry activities like an arcade and 4-D theatre. It’s quite easy to spend the whole weekend here. Another famous but indoor waterpark is Kalahari Waterparks. It includes fun attractions like the lazy river raft ride, Flowrider, the wave pool, and the winding Zig Zag Zebra waterslide. For a combination of both, Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park includes indoor and outdoor water parks and theme parks all in one.

As mentioned above the city has an abundance of theatres and the most famous of them all is the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater. During a single 90-minute performance, it shows a combination of magic, live entertainment, and comedy.

H.H. Bennett Studio, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Museum of Historic Torture Devices, and Mr. Marvel’s Wondertorium are some of the famous museums here.

6. Grand Marais

Best Road trips from Minneapolis
Sailing in Grand Marais | Photo Credit – Ryan Fonkert

To the north of the Twin Cities along with Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County lies the harbor town of Grand Marais. Being surrounded by natural beauty, the town is full of breathtaking scenery. You might think that this small town is not worth being included in the list of road trips from Minneapolis but don’t let its size fool you. Known as American’s coolest small town it is full of lovely art scenes and many fun adventures.

If you love walking, you will love being here. Most of the places are in close proximity to each other and hence walking is a great option to explore it.

The lighthouse here is a major attraction. This square pyramid-style constructed structure is located on the outer end of a breakwater. Lighthouse is still operational and the view from the top of it is amazing. The original keeper house onshore is now the main museum of the Cook County Historical Society and features exhibits on the culture, history, and industry of the area. 

You can also explore the area via water. Renting a canoe or kayak is quite easy and guided tours are also offered. To see waterfalls, hills, rivers, creeks, and some incredible wildlife hiking is also a great option.  The Superior Trail is the most popular one as it covers both the Pincushion Mountains and the Devil River.

Grand Portage National Monument is also worth visiting.

7. Door County, WI

Cave Point | Photo Credit – Bryan Vincent

If you’re looking for idyllic Midwest road trips options from Minneapolis, Door County it is. The drive takes approximately 4.5 hours but you don’t have to be behind the wheel all the time. You can choose to make some stops at places like Green Bay.

With more than 300 miles of shoreline, Door County is a favorite of many. It has no shortage of things to do as it offers year-round activities.

Being home to 53 beaches, it has ample places you can soak the summer sun at. For activities like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, Cave Point County Park is perfect. If you’re not afraid of heights, you can jump from the cliffs into the Devil’s Bathtub. You can also find camping options for every interest.

Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay is where you can gain knowledge of the region’s rich maritime history. You can also spotlight the life and influence of local fishermen, ship captains, and lighthouse keepers.

Door County allows fishing all year-round. The variety of your prey tends to differ as in summer you can catch smallmouth bass, salmon, walleye, and in winter you can enjoy the activity of whitefish.

Hiking is another famous year-round activity. 19 unique county parks, hiking trails are available and the most famous one is Ahnapee Trail as it features tons of natural beauty.

8. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa | Photo Credit – David Wilson

Road trips from Minneapolis are full of fun and entertainment and this one is especially entertaining. Des Moines owing to its status of Iowa’s capital city is infused with sculpture parks, botanical gardens, and a thriving shopping and dining scene.

WaterWorks Park is a hub of activities like running, biking, bird-watching, fishing, and intramural athletics. Boat rentals are also available to spend some time in water. It is also a popular place to cross-country ski or snowshoe. If you want to simply relax, then to it’s the perfect spot.

Hoyt Sherman Place is an important aspect of the Des Moines community. Shows, performances, and special events are quite common at this historic venue. Next, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden has beautiful carefully planted collections. Salisbury House and Gardens is a hub of history. Guided tours are also available here.

Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, and Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens are some of the other explore-worthy options in the city.

9. Chicago

Chicago | Photo Credit – Adam Courtemanche

If you want your list of road trips from Minneapolis to include modern attractions, luxurious retail shops, and high-end recreational areas, then this one is for you.

Along the shores of Lake Michigan lies the city of Chicago. From the vibrant arts scene, numerous cultural attractions, excellent shopping, and interesting architecture, this city has it all.

For some adventure head to The Navy Pier an amusement area and Chicago’s most popular tourist attraction. There is a 150 ft Ferris wheel and a historic carousel as well as gardens, shops, restaurants, concert venues, and parks.  Chicago Children’s Museum is also located here. For water adventure, various Cruise ships leave from here on various sightseeing excursions.

Along the edge of Lake Michigan, is the famous Lincoln Park, a six-mile stretch of green space. It is home to the lovely Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country. To enjoy the outdoor space there are playing fields, bike trails, jogging paths, and beaches and for some sightseeing, there are a number of significant statues, Augustus Saint Gaudens’ Standing Statue of Lincoln being the most famous one.

For a detailed explanation of attractions in Chicago, check out things to do in Chicago.

10. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh | Photo Credit – alisa

This is one of the longest road trips from Minneapolis as the drive takes around 13 hours. But the effort is worth it because Pittsburgh has something for everyone.

Firstly, it is home to four Carnegie Foundation museums. The Museum of Natural History is the most famous one. It has exhibits exploring dinosaur fossils, the science behind the discovery and understanding of the earth, animal life, and much more. The museum is not just for adults, it has attractions for kids too. Discovery Basecamp, interactive exhibits, Bone Hunter’s Quarry are some of the favorites. Carnegie Science Center, The Andy Warhol Museum, and the Mattress Factory are some other museums where you’ll find plenty to explore.

Pittsburg is also home to one of the country’s largest fountains. It is located in Point State Park and symbolizes the birth of Ohio.

Next, for outdoor enthusiasts, Downtown Pittsburgh offers various hiking trails and some of them even lead to beautiful waterfalls. In summer, you can also try kayaking in the river. For some fun, you can visit The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Here you can find many animals like Masai giraffes, lions, rhinoceroses, African elephants, and zebras. In winters, you can even play with a flock of penguins.

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