Dakota Indians first named this land “minisota,” meaning “land of sky-tinted water,” when they settled here more than three centuries ago. Today, Minnesota is still known for its breathtaking scenery, with magnificent forests, beautiful prairieland and sparkling blue lakes dotting the state.
Two major geographic features define Minnesota’s importance on the North American continent: the Mississippi River headwaters and the shoreline of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake. The Mighty Mississippi springs from a small spring-fed lake in Itasca State Park and winds its 700-mile path through Minnesota before flowing south to the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can walk a stone path across the source of the Mississippi to ensure a long and happy life, according to American Indian legend.
From Duluth to the Canadian border, the 150-mile Highway 61 along Lake Superior’s coast has been named an All-American Road for being “a destination unto itself.” A multitude of state parks, scenic overlooks, waterfalls and the Split Rock Lighthouse provide fantastic photo opportunities – whether you’re traveling by auto, bicycle or motorcycle or hiking the North Shore scenic trail.
Two national monuments – Grand Portage on Minnesota’s northeastern tip and Pipestone National Monument in its southwestern corner – preserve the state’s rich American Indian and fur-trapping heritage. Twenty-six state historic sites document the growth of Minnesota, including the boyhood home of aviator Charles Lindbergh, the estate of the Mayo brothers (of Mayo Clinic fame) and the original Main Street of author Sinclair Lewis.
Outdoor recreation opportunities include Voyageurs National Park, the only water-based national park in the country, where exploring by boat is preferred; and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a region with 1,300 lakes where motorboats are prohibited and travel is by canoe. Additionally, 76 state parks, 58 state forests and two national forests provide camping, hiking, biking and scenic driving experiences for visitors of all ages.
In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Mall of America, the largest enclosed shopping and entertainment complex in the U.S., offers plenty of excitement for all ages. With 520 stores, 50 restaurants, 14 movie theaters, SEALIFE Aquarium, Nickelodeon Universe Amusement Park, free live concerts and events, attractions and salons, Mall of America entertains more than 42 million visitors each year. And there’s no sales tax on clothing or shoes in Minnesota, making it a shoppers’ paradise!
Scores of theaters, museums and galleries define the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area as an arts haven whose influence extends throughout the U.S. and the world. The Minnesota music scene is legendary, launching such native superstars as Bob Dylan and Prince. The Walker Art Center is one of the nation’s top modern art institutes, and the Weisman Art Center, designed by Frank Gehry, sparkles on the University of Minnesota’s Mississippi riverfront campus.
Minnesota visitors have many diverse attractions available to them. Cruise on a Mississippi riverboat, canoe in an unspoiled wilderness, attend a world-class concert or enjoy watersports and golfing at a north woods resort. Experience why Minnesota is renowned as a land blessed by Mother Nature!
Don't leave without tasting...
Our tasty state fish, the walleye; you’ll find it prepared in many delicious ways. In St. Paul, the Tavern on Grand touts itself as the place to dine on walleye.
You might be surprised by...
The Minneapolis/St. Paul area has more theatre seats per capita than any place outside of New York City. Companies include the Tony Award-winning Guthrie Theater and the Children’s Theatre Company. Broadway touring shows play at the Ordway Center in St. Paul and the Historic Orpheum and State Theatres in Minneapolis. Examples of excellent theatre around the state include the Commonweal Theatre Company in Lanesboro, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji and the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona.
Top photo opportunities
- The restored 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse, on a rugged north shore cliff in Two Harbors, with a spectacular view of Lake Superior
- Itasca State Park, where you can walk across the mighty Mississippi River when it’s still just a gentle stream
- The 18-foot-tall lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, and his trusty companion, Babe the Blue Ox, in the town of Bemidji
- The Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture—of a giant silver spoon and bright red cherry—in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
- National Eagle Center, Wabasha.
The Walker Art Center is internationally renowned for its contemporary art collection, exhibits, performances, films and programmes with leading art world figures. Adjacent to it is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, one of the largest urban sculpture parks.
- Akeley, the only place you can sit in the hand of lumberjack Paul Bunyan
- The 55-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant statue on Interstate 90 in Blue Earth
- The World’s Largest Mosquito statue in Effie
- The World's Largest Prairie Chicken statue in Rothsay, honouring local efforts to preserve this species (the statue weighs nearly 9,000 pounds)
- The large walleye statue in Garrison, on the shore of Lake Mille Lacs
- The largest ball of twine made by one man, displayed inside a gazebo in the town of Darwin.
Bring home wild rice! The grain is naturally abundant in shallow lakes and streams in northern Minnesota. Traditionally, wild rice is hand-harvested from a canoe, a method Minnesota’s Ojibwe Indians have been using for centuries.
Mall of America, the largest shopping and entertainment centre in the U.S., has more than 520 stores, 50 restaurants, 400 free events annually, an amusement park, aquarium, 14 film theatre screens and many other activities. Best of all, Minnesota has no sales tax on clothing and shoes.
In Stillwater, on the St. Croix River, several Victorian mansions are now cosy B&Bs, and there are a couple of historic inns in town, too. Browse through antique shops and a winery, and enjoy a paddleboat river cruise. In the evening, dine at excellent restaurants, followed by a ride on the river in the Gondola Romantica.
History happened here
In the 1930s a gangster-friendly St. Paul Police chief’s ‘leave-your-guns-at-the-border’ policy spawned an era when the city was a safe harbour for the likes of John Dillinger, Ma Barker and Baby Face Nelson. This story is told on the popular St. Paul Gangster Tour.
Take your pick from canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, exploring Voyageurs National Park by houseboat, mountain biking at Cuyuna State Recreation Area, fishing on one of the 10,000 lakes—or, come winter, dog sledding or ice fishing.