The Top 35 Bucket List Destinations in Minnesota

Published on August 10th, 2021

Minnesota is a great state to visit. Whether you prefer museums, amazing natural sights, or delicious food, there is something for you in this wonderful place. That said, choosing what to do can be overwhelming. This is where a Minnesota bucket list comes into play. 

Making a checklist will help ensure you see the things that are most important to you. Additionally, creating such a list will help you figure out which things you absolutely must do while in the state. 

Of course, it helps to have a starting place. This article can be just that, by providing plenty of bucket list ideas for your trip to Minnesota. 

Minnesota bucket list

What is a Bucket List?

Wondering what exactly a bucket list is? It is a collection of places to visit and things to see before you pass away, or “kick the bucket.” It can be one long list that covers every single life goal you have, or you can do what we do and split your list into smaller sections including travel bucket lists for all the places you plan to visit. 

Today we are going to work on creating a travel list for your time in Minnesota. By going over this Minnesota bucket list, you should be left with plenty of great ideas for a personalized to-do list of your own.

Voyageurs National Park

— Bucket List Vacations: Minnesota’s National Parks —

Some of the best bucket list items are national parks sites. There are hundreds of these all over the country, and the ones in Minnesota are just as bucket list-worthy as any others. From historic sites to gorgeous natural parks, you’ll find it all in the Gopher State. 

#1. Grand Portage National Monument

At Grand Portage National Monument you can travel back in time to learn about the partnership between the Grand Portage Ojibwe tribe and the North West Company during the North American Fur Trade. Immerse yourself in history at the train depot that was reconstructed to give visitors the experience of actually visiting the depot during its heyday, and listen as a drum echoes over Lake Superior.

#2. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Located in the middle of the city, this recreation area is a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It offers opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, and more. Additionally, the visitor centers present a wealth of information on the river and the area, making this an excellent place to learn more about the mighty Mississippi. 

#3. Pipestone National Monument

The red pipestone found at the site of Pipestone National Monument has been quarried by Native Americans for many, many generations. As the name suggests, this stone is ideal for creating pipes and is quite unique. The grounds here are considered sacred to many, as the smoke from these pipes is said to carry prayer to the Great Spirit. Visit this amazing NPS site to learn more. 

#4. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

For more river fun, head to the Saint Croix National Riverway. This is the ideal place to do some paddling or simply sit on the shores and reflect. The NPS site encompasses over 200 miles of clean, clear water that is surrounded by a lush forested landscape. Be sure to check out the scenic cliffs and glacial potholes while you’re there!

#5. Voyageurs National Park

An enormous 218,055-acre natural area, Voyageurs National 

Park is a gorgeous place that offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure. Cliffs, wetlands, forests, streams, and lakes provide homes for a wide variety of plants and animals, meaning there is something new to discover around every corner.

Minnehaha Falls

— More Minnesota Bucket List Experiences —

Need more ideas? Fortunately, there are plenty to be had. The museums, foods, and sights listed below are sure to fill your days in Minnesota with plenty of fun and excitement. Pick and choose the ones that are best for you. 

#6. Tour Historic Homes

Do you love to check out historic homes? Lucky for you, Minnesota has a lot of them. Not only that, most of the historic homes available for tours happen to be mansions, making them even more interesting to see and learn about. 

Some favorites include: 

  • Mayowood Mansion 
  • Glensheen Mansion
  • James J. Hill House

#7. Check Out Minnehaha Park Falls

Minnehaha Park is a super popular destination for those spending time in Minneapolis. The main attraction within the park? The impressive 53-foot waterfall. It’s surprising to see such a beautiful bit of nature in the middle of the city, and we highly recommend seeing it for yourself. 

#8. Discover Tettegouche State Park

Want to escape the city entirely? Tettegouche State Park is one of our favorite Minnesota state parks, and that’s saying something, considering how many fantastic ones there are. Be sure to go on a hike, seek out the gorgeous High Falls, and enjoy the lovely Baptism River. 

#9. Hike Superior Hiking Trail

Speaking of hiking, another wonderful place to experience hiking in Minnesota is the Superior Hiking Trail. This is a 310-mile trail that follows the ridges overlooking Lake Superior. The views are fantastic, and the forests that the trail travels through are magical. 

#10. Admire Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis is one of the best places in the country to see art. One of our favorite art spots in the city is the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Here you can find a large variety of art, meaning there is something to please everyone. Better yet, the museum is 100% free!

#11. Learn at Mill City Museum

Another wonderful museum in the Twin Cities, Mill City Museum is the perfect place to go to learn about the history of the area. It is located next to ruins of the old mill, offers fantastic views of the river, and plays host to a wide variety of interesting exhibits. 

#12. Cruise North Shore Scenic Drive

Some of the most beautiful sights the state has to offer can be seen along North Shore Scenic Drive. This stretch of road runs through Superior National Forest and gives drivers a chance to check out Lake Superior, lighthouses, adorable towns, and more. 

#13. See Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Located along the aforementioned North Shore Scenic Drive, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is well worth a stop. Here, you can see a lovely little lighthouse set atop a rugged cliff. This is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the US, and once you see it you’ll understand why. 

#14. Attend Minnesota State Fair

A highly anticipated event, the Minnesota State Fair is well worth experiencing. This is an enormous event with all kinds of booths, crafts, vendors, competitions, rides, and of course, fair food. In fact, there’s so much to see, you might want to plan on visiting for two days!

#15. Step Back in Time at Jeffers Petroglyphs

Home to around 5,000 sacred rock carvings, Jeffers Petroglyphs is the perfect place to step back in time and learn about Minnesota’s past. The petroglyphs are easily viewable and tell stories of long ago in ways that a history book simply cannot. 

#16. Have a Blast at Canal Park 

A visit to Canal Park is a must while in Duluth. Not only is there plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment offered, you’ll also get the opportunity to see the aerial lift bridge. This bridge uses a unique system to raise up for ships to pass under it. There was only one other bridge like it ever constructed in the US. 

#17. Take in the Beauty of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

There’s something magical about surrounding yourself with beautiful flowers. That is exactly what you can do in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Take in the colors of nature and breathe in the beautiful scent of flowers as you wander this incredible place. 

#18. Go Underground at Soudan Underground Mine State Park

Soudan Mine was Minnesota’s first iron ore mine. It opened in 1882 and closed in 1962. Today, the mine is used for educational tours and is an amazing place to visit. Not only will you learn about iron mining, you’ll also be learning about a very important aspect of Minnesota history. 

#19. Paddle Around at Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Easily one of the most calming places in the country, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a must-visit location for the most adventurous travelers. Here, you will find an incredibly expansive canoeing area with gorgeous views and even better sunsets. 

#20. Stroll Marjorie McNeely Conservatory

In addition to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden mentioned above, we also highly recommend making time for Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. This beautiful place is chock-full of some of the most beautiful plants we’ve ever seen and the landscaping is just wonderful. 

#21. Have Fun at the Mall of America

The Mall of America is one Minnesota attraction everyone knows about. This is because the place is absolutely amazing. The place boasts 2,869,000 (yes, that’s nearly three million) square feet of shopping, dining, and entertainment. This includes an entire indoor theme park, several wonderful eateries, and just about any store you can think of. 

#22. Spend a Day at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary 

Animal lovers will adore a visit to the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is operated by the American Bear Association and is the perfect place to see black bears go about their daily business. There’s even an option to enjoy breakfast with the bears if you like!

#23. Marvel Over Devil’s Kettle Falls

Devil’s Kettle Falls is a unique waterfall, because part of the water from these falls drops to a rock and then seems to disappear. This phenomenon has been puzzling hikers and geologists for a very long time. Though there are theories about where the water goes, to this day, nobody is 100% certain. 

#24. View Birds at National Eagle Center

Eagles are some seriously fascinating creatures. Learn all about these amazing birds and see some with your own eyes at the National Eagle Center. This is the perfect place for bird enthusiasts to spend a day!

#25. Find Falls in Niagara Cave

Caves are always fascinating to see, but Niagara Cave is particularly amazing. Here you can watch underground streams and waterfalls as they shape the cave’s rock formations before your very eyes. After your cave tour, be sure to stick around for mini-golf, gemstone panning, and more. 

#26. Wander the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden

We mentioned above that Minneapolis is a great place to see art. Another awesome place to do that? The Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden. Even the art center building is a work of art, and the sculpture park is home to the famous “cherry-on-a-spoon” piece. 

#27. Be Awed by the Minnesota State Capitol Building

Though it isn’t technically an art center of any kind, the Minnesota State Capitol Building in Saint Paul is essentially an art piece in and of itself. The architecture of this historic building is gorgeous, and the self-guided audio tour offered at the capitol can’t be beat. 

#28. Have a Family Day at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

Como Park is easily one of the best parks in the state and has a number of excellent attractions. One of our favorites is Como Park Zoo. Everyone enjoys a zoo day, after all, and admission to this particular zoo is free (though a donation is requested). 

#29. Plan for the Saint Paul Winter Carnival

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is a fantastic event, and might just be our favorite winter event in the entire country. This festival features an awesome drive-through ice sculpture display, an ice fishing tournament, a run, and more!

#30. Take a Photo of Stone Arch Bridge

No trip to the Twin Cities area is complete without snapping a photo of the Stone Arch Bridge. Be sure to find a good angle and get a picture of this famous bridge of your own before you leave. 

#31. Climb the Hermann Heights Monument

Known by the locals as “Hermann the German” this monument is a replica of a statue in Germany. The history behind the statue is very neat, and guests are allowed to climb to the top of the structure for a pretty awesome view of the surrounding area. 

#32. Snap a Picture with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox

Most people know about Paul Bunyan and his pet ox Blue, and many people are aware that he is a very popular character in Minnesota. What many people don’t know is that you can actually get a photo with these two characters while in the state. Go on a drive to find these two friends!

#33. Gain Knowledge at the Lake Superior Marine Museum

Maritime history of the Great Lakes area is a fascinating subject, and the Lake Superior Marine Museum does a fabulous job of telling this story through engaging exhibits. The knowledgeable staff are happy to answer questions, and the free admission is an added bonus. 

#34. Meet Wolves at the International Wolf Center

Yet another great place to do some animal viewing, the International Wolf Center is a very cool place to visit. Not only will you make some new wolf friends here, you’ll likely learn a thing or two about them as well. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to chat with staff and observe these amazing animals. 

#35. Find Animal Friends at Quarry Hill Nature Center

Last on our list is the Quarry Hill Nature Center. Yes, this is another place to see animals, and we absolutely recommend doing that while here. However, the nature center is also a fantastic place for a hike or a picnic. 

Clearly, Minnesota is a fantastic place to explore. The only problem we can see is that trying to see all of the things on your Minnesota bucket list in a single trip requires a lot of moving around.

Luckily, a Minnesota RV rental can help with this by providing you with a comfortable place to stay as you hop from one location to the another. You’ll be able to cook, sleep, and shower no matter where you land, and you’ll never have to repack your suitcase to make a move!

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