Itasca State Park
36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN 56470, USA
Photo courtesy of Leslie Hough/ Explore Minnesota Tourism
Itasca State ParkNamed for its lake—which serves as the starting point for the Mississippi River—Itasca is the oldest state park in Minnesota and the second oldest in the U.S. behind Niagara Falls. During the summer, locals flock here for hiking, camping, fishing, and exploring the unique ecosystem, which features a lot of old growth. History buffs can visit the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center, which features interactive, outdoor displays about the river, while those eager for a good meal can grab a table at the Douglas Lodge, open from May to October. A new amphitheater is currently under construction and there’s free Wi-Fi in certain parts of the park, but here it’s really about spending the day at the beach or picnic grounds, then watching the stars put on a show come evening. In the winter, it’s worth planning a visit around the park’s candlelight event, when you can snowshoe on trails illuminated by candles and warm up around a bonfire with marshmallows and hot drinks.