Explore Minnesota | Exploring the Midwest Episode 7

Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Jody Halsted

Unfortunately Minnesota Tourism was unable to join me for this episode of the broadcast. So I recruited 3 fabulous Minnesota travel writers to join me today.

Stacy Brooks is a freelance journalist and blogger who grew up in Duluth and currently lives in the Twin Cities metro area.  Her writing has been published in Midwest Living, Minnesota Monthly, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and she blogs about food and travel at tangledupinfood.com.

Lisa Baker is a mom of 2 wonderful kids living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. She is always seeking great deals and better, affordable ways of enjoying life with her family. After her first child was born in 2008, she created her blog “Twin Cities Frugal Mom” to share deals and freebies, tips for saving money, fun things to do on a budget in Minnesota and around the Midwest.

Susan, the voice behind This Big Wild World adventure travel blog, believes that life is better with adventure. Her mission is to help you discover your sense of adventure by sharing tips, resources and destination guides from close to home in Minnesota and all around this big wild world. 

Downtown St. Paul and Mississippi River at sunset_Ernesto Ruiz

Minnesota Misconceptions

I lived in the twin Cities for 10 years and traveled throughout the state for my job. I spent time ‘up North’ in the summer at lakes houses and in the winter snowmobiling (ok, I only did that once). Minnesota is a state that embraces the outdoors.

Misconception 1: It’s cold all the time.
It’s really not! Summer in Minnesota is amazing!

Misconception 2: It’s all outdoor adventure.
Minnesota has some vibrant urban areas!

Misconception 3: Not a lot for families.
There are so many terrific family entertainment options – both indoor & outdoor!

Winter lanscape scenics of West Bearskin Lake along the Gunflint Trail, Minnesota

Things to See & Do in Minnesota

Wide open spaces

Itasca State Park/headwaters of the Mississippi

Mankato – Minneopa State Park is known for live bison as well as waterfalls that are easy to access

Voyageurs National Park – Over 1/3 of the park is only accessible by water!

Join the Minnesota State Park Passport or Hiking Club – Earn a stamp at each of the 75 state parks and recreation areas. It’s a fun way to explore the state and enjoy our incredible state parks!

Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness certified as International Dark Sky Places:

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and Voyageurs National Park (VNP) are new places certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in 2020. Spanning more than 1 million acres, the BWCAW is the largest place in the world to earn International Dark Sky Sanctuary certification. Voyageurs National Park also joined the ranks as a newly certified International Dark Sky Park, offering primetime night sky viewing.

According to the IDA, BWCAW and Voyageurs hail some of the darkest skies in the Midwest. Minnesota’s dark sky certification endeavors are part of a larger regional initiative encompassing Superior National Forest (including the BWCAW), Voyageurs National Park, Grand Portage National Monument and numerous Minnesota state forest lands. Starry skies are just one of the great reasons why Northern Minnesota was recently featured as one of Travel + Leisure’s 50 best places to travel in 2021.

Try chasing Northern Lights

Off the beaten path destinations

Spam Museum, Austin, Minnesota
Photo courtesy of Lisa Baker @Twin Cities Frugal Mom

Austin is 2 hours south of the Twin Cities and my family visited here for the first time in October. There is SO much to do here for free or on a budget. We loved the famous SPAM museum (which is free!), the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center (also free), the Hormel Historic Home, and the cozy hotels including the NEW Cobblestone Suites hotel we stayed at.

Walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River – At Itasca State Park, the Mississippi River starts as just a small stream. Walking across it is right of passage for any Minnesotan!

Eating in Minnesota

The Jucy Lucy debate since the 1950s. A hamburger stuffed with cheese. Matt’s Bar Jucy Lucy and The 5-8 Club Juicy Lucy, located within a few blocks of each other in Minneapolis.

Diverse food scene in the Twin Cities. Mexican, East African, Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodia, Ecuadorian…

Visit ‘Eat Street’ and Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. Or try Hmong Town Marketplace in St. Paul.

Minnesota defining food: Walleye

Birthplace of Minnesota

Stillwater This is the birthplace of Minnesota! It’s beautiful and quaint, and they have so much going on year-round. Right now they have “Wintertime in Stillwater” with a light-show every night downtown that you can walk through for free. In the summer you can walk along the St. Croix River or even ride a gondola or riverboat. We love eating at Leo’s Grill for 50s style ambiance and food (burgers and malts!). 

Photo courtesy of Stacy Brooks @Tangled Up in Food

Minnesota Highlights in 2021

North Shore scenic drive along MN-61

Iron Range road trip – the north shore of Lake Superior gets all the love but this area is truly breathtaking and offers something for anyone.

Superior Hiking Trail – A ~300 mile long backpacking trail that stretches from the border of Canada to Wisconsin along Lake Superior

The Twin Cities – not just the Mall of America, which we’re known for, but so many museums, attractions, and parks…I’m part of a “Hiking Minnesota” Facebook group where I’ve learned about hidden waterfalls, caves and canyons right here in the Twin Cities.

Get your Minnesota travel guide at ExploreMinnesota.com

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