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Superior National Forest

10 Top-Rated Attractions in Minnesota (2023)

Minnesota, the state of the Twin Cities, is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in the American Midwest. From the mesmerizing lakes in the North Country to the stunning marble exterior of the State Capitol in St. Paul, there is natural and cultural beauty brimming in the state of Minnesota. You can explore the wilderness of Minnesota, or you can decide to explore the many cultural attractions the state has to offer, like the outstanding Munsinger Clemens Gardens in St. Cloud and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. From wandering down the magnificent hiking trails to paddling the waterways and making your way down the ski hills, there is much to explore in this beautiful state. With over 10,000 lakes, Minnesota is known as the state with unlimited things to do.

10 Top-Rated Attractions in Minnesota

Here are the top-rated attractions in Minnesota that you simply cannot miss.

1. Superior National Forest & Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The Superior National Forest is known for its pristine and untouched lakes and rivers. The forest covers large areas of northeast Minnesota. The town of Ely is also home to the International Wolf Center, and it is one of the best places to use as a base to explore this serene and unspoiled landscape. Meanwhile, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is located inside the forest and is famous amongst the paddlers in the US and Canada. The place is located along the boundary between the two countries, and it is an excellent area for indulging in backcountry canoe and kayaking trips, along with fishing.

This remote place is known for its wilderness and natural beauty. You can spot many bears, wolves, and moose here. The Superior National Forest is spread over three million acres, out of which 445,000 acres of nearly 700 square miles are made up of pristine water.

The campers’ dream park here is home to over 1200 miles of canoeing opportunities, countless campsites, and isolated hiking trails. It is also home to many vacant islands that can be accessed with a boat.

And the best part is that you can experience the beauty of this great Minnesota outdoors regardless of the weather or time of year. Even during the winter season, this place is a popular place for long-distance skiing and ice fishing.

2. Paddle Voyageurs National Park

The Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is one of the most beautiful national parks in the Midwest. The park is a pristine wilderness location that brings together an abundance of natural beauty and history. The park is primarily a backcountry park and can be accessed by water or air. It is an excellent place for boating, fishing, canoeing, and many other outdoor activities.

The remote location of the park makes it perfect to see many rare wildlife in the area, including moose, loons, bears, and many others. Historically also this area was important during the fur trade when the French-Canadian Voyageurs used to travel these waters in their huge birch bark canoes. It is this abundance of water surrounding this national park that has made it a hot favorite amongst Minnesota residents and visitors for boating.

The park was established in 1975 in the northern part of the state that is centered on the Kabetogama Peninsula. The Voyageurs National Park has many notable natural landmarks, including the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, Kabetogama Lake, Kettle Falls, and Rainy Lake. It is a popular destination for year-round outdoor recreation. During the summers, it is one of the most popular places for boating in Minnesota. Kayaking, canoeing, and houseboats are very popular in and around the park.

There are several guided boat tours available that let you explore the many natural and beautiful features of the park. It is also a great location for fishing, hiking, and camping. During the winters, many of the hiking trails here are turned into snowmobile routes.

Adventures by boat and by land are aplenty at Voyagers. You can also find some of the best camping grounds in Minnesota dotting the waterfront of the park. There are several visitor centers located conveniently around the park.

3. Sights along the North Shore Scenic Drive

The North Shore Scenic Drive located near Duluth offers some of the most breathtaking sights in Minnesota. The North Shore Scenic Drive follows along the north shore of Lake Superior from Duluth all the way up to Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada. Along this scenic route, you will find some of the most beautiful state parks in Minnesota.

These include Tettegouche, Split Rock Lighthouse, and the Grand Portage State Park. Rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and some of the most stunning views of the never-ending Lake Superior can be seen on this long drive.

There are many recreational activities you can indulge along this way, including mountain biking, fishing, boating, skiing, ice-fishing, and snowshoeing throughout the long Minnesota winters. For those who don’t want to drive down this route, there is the 300 plus mile Superior Hiking Trail that takes you along the Minnesota shoreline and can only be explored on foot.

4. International Wolf Center

The International Wolf Center is one of the most visited attractions in Minnesota. This unique center is located near Ely, and it is an educational center that supports and also promotes the survival of wolves. The center has many hands-on exhibits, demonstrations of various wolf tracking methods, and all other types of information on wolves can be found here.

Visitors to the International Wolf Center can learn about the natural history of wolves by observing the resident wolf pack at the center. There are also a wide variety of programs and other wonderful visitor experiences that help you learn more about wolves, including Geocache Adventures, Wolf Photography Workshops, and even overnight visits for groups of eight or more. However, these have to be scheduled before your visit.

5. Shopping at the Mall of America

The Mall of America is another famous attraction in Minnesota. Located on the outskirts of St. Paul in the suburb of Bloomington, the mall opened its doors in 1992, and it is one of the biggest malls in the country even today. There are over 500 shops and dozens of restaurants, the mall is also home to theaters, hotel accommodation, and many other amusements for visitors.

It is estimated that over 400 events are happening at this mall every year, ranging from the Minnesota Viking fans celebrations to dance parties and musical events. There are many stay and shop packages also available that you can book with the nearby hotels in this area.

The mall is located just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and over the years, it has earned a reputation of being of the best kids’ destinations in the state. In fact, children can easily spend the entire day at the full-scale theme park Nickelodeon Universe here or check out the ocean on your trip to the Sea Life Aquarium.

6. Minnesota State Capitol Building

Built over 1896 and 1905, the Minnesota State Capitol Building has recently been renovated to restore this historical building back to its original glamor. Apart from extensive repairs carried out to the marble exterior and restored furnishings of the interior, the renovations were carried out between 2013 to 2017. More public space and better accessibility for visitors were also added to the structure during the renovations.

There are guided tours available that take place every day of the week, and you can take self-guided tours of locations like the Rotunda, the Governor’s Reception Room, and the second ‘Grand’ floor. On the main entrance of the Capitol, The Quadriga is a magnificent four-horse chariot statue in gold that is a hot favorite with all the visitors and a popular photography spot.

7. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

The Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is a popular family attraction in Minnesota. This is the perfect place to spend an entire day of fun for all ages. It is also budget-friendly as the entry is free, but donations are encouraged to help with the upkeep and functioning of the zoo.

The zoo is home to a variety of animals from all over the world, including monkeys and polar bears. One of the most popular animal interactions here is feeding the giraffes, and visitors of all ages can feed these gentle giants some Romaine lettuce right from their hands.

The zoo recently underwent an expansion of $20 million, during which a new Como Harbor exhibit was added. This is going to be a new home for otters, penguins, and two giant octopuses.

Apart from the zoo, there is a lot more to see in the park. While here, make sure you make a stop at the conservatory to check out a variety of heat-loving plants. A visit to this beautiful glass building will make you feel like you have stepped right into the tropics. The Sunken Garden is also another exhibit you must check out. This is a colorful area full of many beautiful and fragrant plants that continuously change throughout the seasons and is an excellent place for clicking pictures.

8. Munsinger Clemens Gardens

The Munsinger Clemens Gardens is located in St. Clous, and it offers some of the best summertime delights in the state. The Munsinger Gardens is home to around 80,000 annual plants, all located inside a set of trees, swings, fountains, benches, and ponds. The Clemens Gardens is well known for having over 1100 rose bushes, along with an all-white garden devoted to just beautiful hit flowers and flowering shrubs.

Every other Sunday in the summer, there is a Music in the Gardens event that takes place here, along with the annual Art Fair in the Gardens, which is a popular event that features many artists and musicians from all over the state.

9. Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

The Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is another top-rated attraction in Minnesota. It is located 20 miles northeast of Two Harbors on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The park is home to the famous Split Rock Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1910 to keep Lake Superior shipping safe. Visitors can take a tour of the lighthouse, the keeper’s house, the foghorn building, tower, and light.

There are many hiking options in the park that take you through the forested landscape, pebble beaches, and you get to see some incredible views of the shoreline. In the winters, the hiking trails at Split Rock are designated for fat tire biking. There is also a cart-in campground here, where some of the sites actually offer personal views of the lighthouse.

10. Minneapolis Institute of Art

Perhaps one of the most famous attractions of Minnesota is the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). The MIA plays host to over 7100,000 visitors annually, and it is home to a wide range of art and other attractions. This is another budget-friendly attraction to explore in Minnesota as entry is free. The collection at this magnificent structure features over 89,000 artworks, and there are many permanent and temporary exhibits that cover everything from ancient artifacts from all over the world to American modernism.

There are many installations at MIA, out of which the Korean and Japanese art, decorative art, and textiles exhibit are very popular. The Doryphoros, one of the four surviving Roman copies of an ancient Greek sculpture, is another popular attraction here. There are free daily public tours, family programs, as well as a four-day Art in Bloom festival that takes place every year in spring.

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