Minnesota. The Land of 10,000 Lakes. This midwestern state may not be top of mind when it comes to places to visit, but believe me, time spent in Minnesota is well worth the effort. Below are my suggestions for 8 things to do in Minnesota.

I spent a summer in college living and working in the great state of Minnesota. I had an internship with WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and I lived with a local family near beautiful Belle Plaine. To say I had a blast that summer would be an understatement. Years later, I think of my time in Minnesota with great fondness. Luckily, the experiences I had many years ago can still be had today.

Note: my time in Minnesota was spent in the summer. Winter is a whole different animal that I know nothing about. If I ever do spend time there in the winter, ice fishing will be at the top of my bucket list. For this list of 8 things to do in Minnesota, I stuck with mostly summertime activities.

Spend time with the locals

This is a good rule of thumb no matter where in the world you travel to. Like most places, local Minnesotans know the best places to eat and explore. But unlike some other places, those same locals are just as likely to take you along or invite you into their home to enjoy a meal and some company. Midwestern hospitality is alive and well in Minnesota and the locals could not be more friendly.

The other reason I recommend you spend time with the locals is so that you can hear, enjoy and experience the Minnesotan accent…which is awesome. The further north you go (or the drunker the local is), the stronger the accent will be. If you immerse yourself enough, you may leave with a slight accent yourself and never say moon quite the same again.

Get out on the water

Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. There are also plenty of rivers to be found so getting out on the water is basically a requirement during the summertime. And I highly recommend you do so. One of my favorite activities was canoeing in Northern Minnesota. I went with locals, of course. But renting a canoe is easy enough. You could also go kayaking, SUPing, water skiing, wakeboarding, etc. Options abound.

canoeing and fishing
Canoe. Or fish. Or do both. Just use the lakes as much as you can.

With so many lakes, it would be a shame not to go fishing (or at least eat some local fish). Every Monday night, we enjoyed freshly-caught, beer-battered walleye. Uncle Spit (yes, that was what we called him) was both the fisherman and the chef. But every now and then, someone else would contribute to the day’s catch. It was my favorite night of the week.

Explore the Twin Cities

Every weekday, I carpooled with my host family from the rural countryside to the booming metropolis of Minneapolis. I was an intern at WCCO-TV where I gave station tours, helped with off-site shoots and got to know this state and its residents in a unique way. The station is located right in the heart of downtown. After work, I would meet up with my co-workers to experience various happy hour menus. My lunch hours were spent wandering city streets and strolling through city parks. Or shopping at Target, which is headquartered there. Minneapolis is a wonderful city and one you should definitely explore.

Minneapolis skyline
Minneapolis is worth some exploring time.

If you get bored, you can always head on over to the state capital, Saint Paul. I love the historic homes in Saint Paul and exploring them is a treat for the eyes.

Don’t forget the small towns

You don’t want to spend all of your time in the city. Trust me. There are so many small towns dotting this state that deserve a piece of your time. Like I mentioned, I stayed with a family near Belle Plaine. (I actually stayed on a farm and the nearest neighbor was miles away. It was glorious.) Belle Plaine is not large. With around 6,600 residents, there is not a lot to do. But its BBQ Days were a highlight of my summer. There was a parade, polka dancing, a bull run and so much tasty food.

Many small towns around the state host similar fairs and festivals. I suggest you check out at least one or two. You will not be disappointed.

Take in the Minnesota State Fair

I haven’t actually experienced the state fair myself. My internship ended before the big event. However, we spent months prepping for it because the state fair is the biggest thing to happen in Minnesota every year. R was lucky enough to visit the Minnesota State Fair during her quest to visit all 50 states. Here is what she had to say about the experience:

I ate fried cookie dough, saw two lumberjacks race each other to cut down a tree using chainsaws, and listened to Sturgill Simpson, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard (may he rest in peace) sing. It was, all in all, a magical evening.

R
Minnesota State Fair highlights
Highlights from the Minnesota State Fair. And yes, deep fried cookie dough is delicious.

Get outside

Minnesotans excel at recreation. They are not afraid to have fun and to use the great outdoors to its full potential. Almost daily, we rode quads along the trails near the farm. If this sounds like fun, you will be happy to know that there is no shortage of places to ride in Minnesota and there are plenty of well-known trails and places to rent ATVs. If you are lucky, you will have a local connection. But if not, do not let that stop you.

Hiking is also fun, although you should probably call it nature walking. The highest point in Minnesota is Eagle Mountain, which is just 2,301 feet above sea level. Even if you climb to a peak of some sort, the thick trees are probably going to block any sort of view you would have. So stick to leisurely strolls where you can enjoy the nature around you. Or better yet, get on a bike!

Note: do not go outside without putting on a very thick layer of bug repellent. The mosquitos are huge and vicious.

Go to a game

A Minnesota Twins game was my very first major league baseball game. I have no idea who they played, but I will never forget that experience. The stadium is easy to get to from downtown and the fans are loyal. If baseball isn’t your thing, there is always the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Minnesota Twins logo
Catching a Minnesota Twins game is whole lot of fun in the summer.

I would be remiss if I did not mention hockey somewhere. Hockey is one of the most, if not the most, popular sports in Minnesota (it probably has something to do with all of those lakes). Try not to miss a Minnesota Wild game if possible. There are also plenty of lesser-known teams and games to enjoy as well.  

Mall of America

Yes, the Mall of America is a tourist trap. Thankfully, it is big enough that you can avoid those pesky tourists for the most part. I recommend you check out this behemoth if

  • You like amusement parks and want to ride a roller coaster.
  • The weather is bad (as it can sometimes be in Minnesota) but you want to get some exercise. If you circle an entire floor, that is one mile. Circle the next floor and you have walked two miles. It is a good way to get some exercise while people watching and window shopping. And it is free!
Mall of America is one of the things to do in Minnesota
The Mall of America is not for the faint of heart. But it can be a great place to kill some time if the weather is bad.

Conclusion

If you are waiting to visit Minnesota, stop waiting. If you are thinking about visiting Minnesota, stop thinking and go. Or if you are wondering what to do in Minnesota, well, use the list above and go have a good time. Minnesota is a beautiful and fun state with a lot to do. I recommend you visit soon.