Photo courtesy of Alyssa Hei/Explore Minnesota
Once overlooked, Minnesota has caught both national and international attention in recent years for everything from its burgeoning capital city to its charming small towns. Whether you visit for bike-friendly Minneapolis, the solitary nature of the Boundary Waters, or the hiking along Lake Superior,… there’s simply no escaping the draw of this Midwest gem.
What to know before you go to Minnesota
Minnesota has something to offer during every season. Summer means boating and lounging at the lake, while winter is all about ice fishing, skijoring, and dogsledding. Fall brings apple picking and cider tastings, and spring is the start of patio season at any bar or restaurant with outdoor space. For some extra excitement, time your visit to the famed Minnesota State Fair, which runs annually from late August to early September.
Most visitors who fly into Minnesota will pass through the Minneapolis–St. Paul airport. Once on the ground, Ubers and Lyfts are plentiful, as are car rental options—apps make paying for parking a cinch. (To avoid a ticket or tow when you’re driving in winter, be sure to pay attention to parking restrictions when storms roll through.) Both cities also have good bus systems, as well as light-rail trains that connect their downtown areas with hubs like the Mall of America and the MSP airport.
In the past few years, Minnesota—particularly the Twin Cities and their surrounding areas—has exploded onto the national culinary scene with a range of exciting new chefs and restaurants. Still, visitors shouldn’t miss such classic staples as cheese curds, tater tots, and the Jucy Lucy (a cheeseburger with cheese inside the meat instead of on top; order it at Matt’s Bar & Grill in Minneapolis for the original experience). Additionally, Minnesota loves its farmers, so anything raised locally or caught in a nearby lake is a must. If you go to brunch, know that Bloody Marys here come with what’s called a “beer back,” meaning a shot of suds on the side.
In Minnesota, with its abundance of farms and quirky local foods, eating your way through the state is a worthwhile cultural pursuit. Breweries and distilleries are big, too, as are museums that focus on Native American history. Thanks to a range of state-funded resources, artists have been drawn to Minnesota, and you’ll find galleries, museums, and local music almost everywhere you turn. Also, “Minnesota Nice” is definitely a thing, so don’t hesitate to ask locals for directions or a favor if you need one.
Anyone who travels to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and doesn’t spend some time on the water—especially the Boundary Waters or the vastness that is Lake Superior—would be remiss. Even if you’re not a city person, Minneapolis and St. Paul are also must-sees, as is Duluth. Then there’s the Mall of America—a sight to behold, if nothing else.
The thing that most visitors to Minnesota mess up is packing for the weather. Temperatures drop to well below zero in February but can soar to more than 100 degrees in summer thanks to the state’s central-continental location, so be sure to bring the right gear.
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Cinnamon Janzer is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist who writes broadly about cities, culture, economics, and travel. Originally from North Dakota, she reports on (and from) the Midwest any chance she gets. Read more about her at cinnamon-janzer.com.