7 Places to Visit in Minnesota in Summer

Updated July 28, 2020
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Summer 2020 has been a little different this year. People have had to find ways to enjoy all that Summer has to offer, while also adhering to the “new normal” as they say, and practicing social distancing. Minnesotans only get a few months of perfect weather, and we love to capitalize on that. We’re very fortunate to have such beautiful outdoors to explore and visit. Surely in the land of 10,000 lakes and the Mall of America, there must be some things to do in Minnesota. So, let’s talk about some of the best, can’t-miss-it places to visit in Minnesota in summer.

places to visit in minnesota in summer

Visit Duluth and the Northshore

If you’ve never taken the drive up to the Northshore, or at least Duluth, then you are missing out. Situated along the shores of Lake Superior, our largest Great Lake, are some of the most gorgeous views, most delicious foods, and some good old fashioned Midwest fun. Duluth is nestled in the harbor where you can see close-up some of the biggest ships and barges you’ve ever seen. Almost every hotel there has a view of the massive lake or the gorgeous bay.

With local breweries, distilleries, and all-around good food, there’s no way you could be bored in Duluth. Take a stroll to get some ice cream and view the barges come in under the lift bridge. Obviously, during the pandemic, much of the music and beer festivals and events like the annual Grandma’s Marathon have been canceled, but there’s still plenty more to do and see in Duluth while staying safe.

If you feel like driving a little farther north, venture past Duluth, and on your way to the Northshore and Grand Marais, make some stops at some of the most beautiful overlooks of Lake Superior, plus the infamous Split Rock Lighthouse. The Northshore boasts amazing spots to hike, camp, or rent a cabin or Air Bnb. A bonus is it’s usually quite a bit cooler up there, so you can get a break from the humid city air this summer.

Catch a Movie at Vali-Hi Drive-In

Yes, a drive-in still exists in Minnesota! Six to be exact. But one stands above the rest, and that’s Vali-Hi Drive-in in Lake Elmo. It’s not too far from city limits with only about a 30-minute drive from Minneapolis. Going to the drive-in is a super fun thing to take your family to or your partner for an entertaining date night. It’s also something that can easily adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

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They are only allowing half capacity right now, with one spot between cars, and limiting people visiting concessions. All you need is a battery-powered FM radio (if you don’t want to kill your car battery), some cozy blankets or pillows, some tasty snacks and drinks, and get ready to relax. They always play a double feature, rain or shine. They update their showings frequently, so check their website for more info!

Take a Day Trip to Stillwater

Stillwater is located on the St. Croix River and has won many accolades, including Top 5 Midwest Towns to Visit Now and is one of the Top 10 “Prettiest Towns in America” as selected in Forbes Magazine. Wow! It is a gorgeous historic town that makes for a great local getaway or just a simple day trip to the sites. Visitors can take a historical walking tour, learning about one of our state’s oldest river cities.

They can grab a bite to eat and have a little picnic right alongside the St. Croix. They can watch the lift bridge, take in the fresh air, and maybe venture to one of the local wineries or breweries for a flight or grab a bottle to go for your picnic!

For the outdoorsy folks, there are numerous bike trails and sight-seeing on foot. Stillwater’s website recently announced that both their newly renovated historic Lift Bridge & the tail end section of the St. Croix Crossing Loop Trail are now open to the public. The St. Croix Crossing Loop trail actually crosses over the lift bridge from Stillwater, heads into Wisconsin, and loops back across the St. Croix, taking you back up the scenic trail along the river back to Stillwater. It sounds like the perfect day to spend in one of the most beautiful parts of the state.

taylors falls

Taylor’s Falls Scenic Boat Tours

Taylor’s Falls is a small town also on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin that is similarly historic and beautiful. They are known for their beautiful Taylor’s Falls, which you can view by hiking the trails, or taking one of their scenic boat tours. Their scenic boat tours have been able to shift a few things to adhere to state guidelines regarding COVID while still providing a beautiful experience for every guest.

Guests will practice good hand hygiene and social distancing. Masks will be required on the lower deck after the July 24th state-wide mandate, and the upper deck will be mask-optional as long as social distancing is practiced.

There is also the age-old argument that the Wisconsin side of the river there is better than the Minnesota side. We won’t get involved in the dispute, but we can say that each side has it’s own perks. The Minnesota side of the falls has the boat tours, a much higher scenic point, and easy access to the ice cream shop right across from the parking lot. Now, the Wisconsin side though showcases beautiful trails, and a gorgeous landscape carved out by glaciers, complete with incredibly large glacial holes and craters.

Wheel Fun Rentals at Bde Maka Ska

The great thing about living near the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis is that you don’t even need to own a kayak to be able to enjoy all the lakes have to offer! You can simply visit Wheel Fun Rentals at Bde Maka Ska. They offer the following rentals:

  • Kids Bike
  • Mountain Bike
  • Tandem Bike
  • Canoe
  • Single Stand Up Paddleboard
  • Group Stand Up Paddleboard
  • Kayak
  • Double Kayak
  • Pedal Boat
  • Double Pedal Boat

You can also rent a dry bag or a locker to keep your belongings safe and dry while you can simply have fun and not have to worry! You can pay by the hour or pay for a half or full-day. Either way, it’s an incredibly affordable, fun thing you can do by yourself as a couple or even with the kids. There are parking lots and street parking nearby, so you don’t have to venture too far to pick up your bike or boat. If Bde Maka Ska is a little too busy for you, venture on over to Lake of the Isles or Cedar Lake for a nice leisurely paddle, pedal, or row. Pack a little picnic, bring a little cooler, and float around for a few hours—bring your sunscreen!

Local Camping

With traveling by plane and across state lines becoming less appealing during the pandemic, more and more people have opted to enjoy some local vacations. One of the best ways to do that is by camping in our beautiful state! Whether you have an RV, camper, or just a tent—the options are endless for beautiful places to stay all across Minnesota.

You don’t even have to travel too far to get some excellent camping in Minnesota. You can head out west to Lake Maria or Sibley State Park, or east to Afton or Interstate State Park. They all allow camping via RV, camper, or tent. Currently, state guidelines can only have one tent per campsite, but there may be exceptional circumstances for those in the same household. Pack up the car with your tent, some sleeping bags, and plenty of food, and you can have your very own vacation within 2 hours of the cities. That’s pretty convenient!

Hike One of the Many State Park Trails

Along with our 10,000 lakes, Minnesota has 67 state parks and 23 state trails. If your neighborhood or local walking path is getting too dull, then invest in a state parks pass and visit any of the best state parks and trails in Minnesota. You can head to the highly-rated Itasca State Park, Afton State Park, Tettegouche State Park, Fort Snelling, and more. You can even venture across the Wisconsin border and head to Willow River State Park or Kinnickinnic State Park. Note that a state parks pass is required to visit any of these parks. However, the park ranger stations are closed, so purchase your passes in advance online.

As you can see, you don’t have to spend the summers cooped up at home, getting bored with your living room or patio. Pack a lunch, lather on the sunscreen, and venture right out your front door to any of these amazing spots in Minnesota. Even if you just get some take-out from your favorite Twin Cities restaurant and take it to eat down by the Mississippi River—your options are endless. We live in a beautiful state with beautiful attractions. Enjoy the outdoors and see all that Minnesota has to offer.

Summer in Minnesota is also a time when a lot of people choose to move. Weather is fairly predictable, and they want to go into the fall and winter in a nice new space. Moving may not be as fun as catching your favorite movie at the drive-in, but at Bigos, we can make it easy for you. Check out our available listings here, and call us to schedule a showing!

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