When ranked by area, Minnesota is the 12th largest U.S. state and is nicknamed the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” It’s a geographically diverse state, with productive farmland and deciduous and evergreen forests. Minnesota gets a lot of snow—making it a paradise for those who love outdoor winter activities.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Minnesota Bucket List Destinations
- Spring and Summer Bucket List Ideas for Minnesota
- Fall and Winter Bucket List Ideas for Minnesota
- Kid-Friendly Bucket List Ideas for Minnesota
- Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Minnesota
- Minneapolis Bucket List Ideas
There’s a lot to see and do in Minnesota, and we will have a difficult time describing the most popular attractions in less than 2,000 words. Make sure you read our entire list since many activities and attractions could be placed in several categories.
Minnesota Bucket List Destinations
Have you been wondering how to create a bucket list? Most would advise you to include items and places that are easily accessible, as well as those that seem a bit out of reach. And, of course, if you are creating a travel bucket list, add Minnesota to it. You won’t be disappointed.
1. Voyageurs National Park
National Parks typically make the top of our state bucket lists. But, surprisingly, even though Minnesota is an outdoor lover’s paradise, there is only one National Park in the state.
Voyageurs National Park is located in north-central Minnesota. Even though the park technically covers 218,000 acres, water accounts for 84,000 of them. This means that you need to take a boat to reach the park's center.
Wildlife is plentiful in Voyageurs National Park, as it is the home to wolves, eagles, loons (the state bird), and moose.
For those who wish to escape from society for a while, Voyageurs National Park is a great place to visit. It doesn’t receive very many visitors compared to other National Parks in the country, so it is a great place to socially distance yourself from others and unplug.
2. Itasca State Park
Not surprisingly, Itasca State Park has a lot of lakes. In fact, the 32,000-acre park has more than 100 lakes within its borders, making it the perfect place for fishing, swimming, hiking, camping, and relaxing. It is also the home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Learn more about this landmark by visiting the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center.
3. Split Rock Lighthouse
Located on the northern shore of Lake Superior, you will find the Split Rock Lighthouse. This lighthouse is a National Historic Landmark and has been restored to look as it did in the 1920s.
Learn what it was like for lighthouse keepers and their families by touring the lighthouse and surrounding grounds. The area also includes picnic grounds, camping spots, and other points of interest for travelers.
Spring and Summer Bucket List Ideas for Minnesota
Minnesota is beautiful all year round, but make sure you take plenty of insect repellent if you are visiting in the spring and summer. Minnesota’s unofficial state bird is the mosquito. And while this is a favorite joke for Minnesota natives, these pests can undoubtedly affect your trip.
Here are some popular places to spend your time in Minnesota.
4. Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive
As you travel from Duluth to Grand Portage, you’ll see Lake Superior on one side of the car and the Sawtooth Mountains on the other. This 142-mile journey will take you near breathtaking cliffs, pristine Minnesota beaches, and waterfalls.
There’s a lot to see and do along your journey, so you could spend several days along the route. Participate in golfing, rock climbing, or hiking during the summer or snowshoeing or dog sledding in the winter. In addition, there are plenty of state parks along the route for you to explore.
5. Quarry Hill Nature Center
Quarry Hill Nature Center is located in Rochester, and the staff plans a lot of educational and entertainment opportunities for visitors. The Nature Center is housed in a 329-acre park with lots of trails. Visitors can rent cross-country skis and snowshoes during the winter.
6. Minnehaha Park
Located in Minneapolis, Minnehaha Park is one of the city’s oldest recreation areas. It is best known for its 53-foot waterfall and beautiful gardens.
Besides enjoying the beauty of nature, visitors to Minnehaha Park can visit historical sites, such as the Longfellow House, the Princess Depot, and the John H. Stevens House. In addition, art lovers and selfie-takers would enjoy the unique sculptures scattered throughout the grounds.
Fall and Winter Bucket List Ideas for Minnesota
Do you hate winter? Maybe it’s because your only experience with snow is with the ugly slush that appears an hour after snow falls in your urban area.
If you want to experience a magical winter wonderland, visit Minnesota during the winter. You may become a winter-lover after all.
7. Ice fishing
If fishing is one of your favorite hobbies, you should add ice fishing to your bucket list. You might enjoy the experience more if you hire a guide to help you with your equipment (and to clean your catch)!
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8. Dog sledding
One website recommends visiting Ely to experience dog sledding in Minnesota. Ely is also home to the International Wolf Center. Check out this organization’s website to see the live cams.
9. Ice Castles
Ice Castles is currently located in five states, including Minnesota. The Ice Castle exhibit is professionally designed and features LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, and fountains.
Kid-Friendly Bucket List Ideas for Minnesota
Your kid will love visiting Minnesota, and they’ll sleep well each night from spending so much time in the great outdoors.
While all of the items on our list so far would make suitable kid-friendly activities, here are some more to consider when traveling to Minnesota with your children.
10. Great Lakes Aquarium
You may have been to major aquariums across the country, but this site celebrates freshwater creatures from the Great Lakes region and throughout the world. You’ll enjoy seeing fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
11. North American Bear Center
This nonprofit museum is small, so it would be appropriate for younger children. It features an indoor and outdoor viewing of four black bears.
The staff also runs daily educational programs to teach you about these incredible animals. The North American Bear Center is located in Ely.
12. Mall of America
The Mall of America has over 520 stores, but visitors to this giant mall do more than shop. The mall also has an indoor amusement park, aquarium, movie theater, arcades, mini-golf, virtual reality experiences, and specialty shops and restaurants. So even kids who don’t like to shop will enjoy visiting this mall.
Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Minnesota
Nothing frustrates readers more than if their favorite food or restaurant for a given region doesn’t make it on a “best of” list. We tried our best to come up with some of the bucket list foods and restaurants that Minnesota has to offer, but it is a big state. There’s too much to pick from for such a small list.
Our apologies, in advance, for the restaurants we didn’t include.
13. The Fair on 4
Since our previous section ended with a mention of the Mall of America, we thought we would begin this list with an eating establishment you can visit while at the mall.
The Fair on 4 features high-end fair foods, such as hand-dipped corn dogs, house-battered cheese curds, and Blue Horse pizza. This restaurant/entertainment venue also has ax throwing, a go-kart track, and craft beers.
14. Wild Rice
Wild rice is Minnesota’s “state grain." It is used in everything from burgers to pancakes. Research which restaurants in your area serve the best wild rice soup, which is the local’s favorite way to eat this item.
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With all of those lakes nearby, you would be wasting an opportunity if you didn’t eat the catch of the day while visiting Minnesota. Try the trout (which locals pronounce “troat”).
16. Swedish meatballs
Scandinavian culture has undoubtedly left its mark on the Minnesota food scene, and so try Swedish dishes while visiting Minnesota. But, of course, if you have eaten at your local Ikea, you already know that the traditional partner to all respectable Swedish meatballs is lingonberry jelly.
Minnesotans love their beer, and the list of the best breweries in Minnesota is pages long.
Minneapolis Bucket List Ideas
Are you traveling to the Twin Cities? Take time to explore some of the fun neighborhoods and try the local restaurants.
Here are some of the other bucket list items for Minneapolis/St. Paul.
18. Chain of Lakes Regional Park
There’s always something happening at the Chain of Lakes Regional Park. With miles of biking trails along beautiful lakeshores, this is a great place to go for exercise. Enjoy live music along Lake Harriet or visit a family-friendly beach. Check out the Aquatennial festival each July. You can also rent kayaks or bring a picnic lunch.
19. Minneapolis Institute of Art
Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) is home to more than 90,000 pieces and is one of the largest art museums in the United States. Wander through the different galleries: Arts of Africa & the Americas; Contemporary Art; Decorative Arts, Textiles & Sculpture; Asian Art; Paintings; Photography and New Media; and Prints and Drawings.
20. Mary Tyler Moore Statue
Fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show will love to see the Mary Richards statue in downtown Minneapolis. The show's opening credits feature Mary Tyler Moore (Mary Richards) throwing her hat up into the air in celebration of living the good life as a single woman in Minneapolis.
We Know Our List Is Incomplete
Please let us apologize for not including your favorite Minnesota activity on our list. There’s certainly a lot to do in this beautiful state.