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Did You Know…?

  • The ice palace at St. Paul’s 1992 Winter Carnival was 15 stories high, a world record.
  • The state that claimed 10,000 lakes has 11,842 measuring at least 10 acres.
  • The Mall of America is the size of 78 football fields.
  • Wild rice, indigenous to the state’s waters, is really a grass seed.
  • Minnesota has one recreational boat for every six residents, more than any other state.

Land of Bunyan

The Minnesota of folklore is the land of the giant woodsman Paul Bunyan, reflecting the fact this is a state gifted with abundant forests. Also blessed with thousands of lakes and plentiful wildlife, the state seems made for the outdoors lover.

However, for others, the mention of Minnesota conjures new images: the Mall of America or the Guthrie Theatre, its Scandinavian heritage or the Winter Carnival in St. Paul.

Put simply, the state has broad appeal because it combines the charms of Midwestern friendliness, sophisticated cities and vast tracts of untouched nature.

Historically, the state is the land of French fur trappers, Native American traders and the hardy Swedes who came to help tame the northern wilderness. Today, it is a place that combines the charms of midwestern friendliness, sophisticated cities and vast tracts of untouched nature.

It has broad appeal across travel personality types with the Mall of America and Mystic Lake Casino accounting for much of its middle-of-the-road popularity. The mall, as the largest retail and entertainment complex in the country, encompasses a seven-acre theme park (Camp Snoopy), entertainment venues and hundreds of retail stores. The Casino at Mystic Lake, about 25 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul, is one of the largest Indian gambling facilities in the U.S.

The Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) are large and varied enough to suit travelers who like to sample city life. Long reputed to be among the most livable urban areas in the country, they boast splendid architecture, both old and new; a cultural feast of art, music and theater; friendly people, and safe, secure streets.

Fortunately, the world of Paul Bunyan and Babe is still there for the traveler who enjoys breathtaking northern scenery, clean air and lots of freshwater lake activity. Particularly in the state’s northeast section, visitors can imagine they see the same vistas viewed by the early French explorers who came in search of game, fish and fur. The Mississippi River begins its long journey at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, near Bemidji.

In the southern part of the state, Minnesota turns into prairie country, where the rich black soil produces an abundance of grains, soybeans and great sweet corn.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Rent a cabin on a lake, and indulge in water sports to your heart’s content.
  • Stay at the Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast Inn in Two Harbors. It is a working lighthouse, and as a guest, you would be an assistant lighthouse keeper — this is for real — and deemed a “registered keeper of the light” while staying there.
  • Participate in the ice fishing contest or play softball in the snow at the Grumpy Old Men Festival, in February, in Wabasha.
  • Choose your bluegrass event: the Winter Bluegrass Weekend in Plymouth, in February or March; the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival in August at St. Cloud; Minnesota Flatpicking Guitar and Duet Championships, in September at the state fair.
  • Compete in the mashed potato wrestling competition — and eat lots of potatoes — at the Potato Days Festival in Barnesville.  Or,  join the Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run (5K or 10K) at Icebox Days in International Falls, and take a little time out for the frozen turkey bowling. Or, for charity, race down a hill in Burnsville carrying a mattress.
  • Go whitewater kayaking or rafting on any of many rivers. The number of good choices is mind boggling. Other outdoor activities available according to the season include camping, hiking, hunting, rock climbing, snowmobiling, tobogganing, waterskiing.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Visit the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, part of the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. It is described as the world’s largest collection of goodies ever hawked by a quack.
  • Look for bald eagles. A prime nesting area, with about 180 pairs, is the Chippewa National Forest, but the eagles are also in a number of other parks and wildlife refuges and have been extending their range even to the Twin Cities area.
  • Go fishing (with a license) on any number of those thousands of lakes or on the state’s rivers. You will be pleased at how uncrowded Minnesota’s waters are.
  • In late January/early February, attend the oldest and largest winter festival in the U.S., the St. Paul Winter Carnival, world-famous for its ice palaces, created most winters beginning with the first carnival in 1886.
  • In Stillwater, board the Minnesota Zephyr Dinner Train for a return to the glory days of yesteryear (in this case, the 1940s). Dining and saloon cars cross the scenic St. Croix valley while a costumed staff serves an elegant five-course dinner and you are entertained by the strolling Zephyr Cabaret.
  • Attend the annual traditional powwow honoring the Dakotah in Mankato. The event features dancing, drumming and a moccasin game tournament, and more.

Things to do for Authentics

  • For the best scenery, drive the roadway hugging Lake Superior in the northeast of the state. Spectacular is the word. (But there are other choices: The state counts 22 designated scenic byways.)
  • The community of Mora is a showplace of Swedish culture: shopping, food, architecture. Locals offer a gracious welcome.
  • Shop, or just gawk, at the Mall of America in Bloomington outside Minneapolis.
  • Visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, home to three rescued eagles that cannot be returned to the wild.
  • For history buffs, visit the Northwest Company Fur Post in Pine City, a reconstruction of an early 19th century trading encampment.
  • Eat foods made with wild rice, then stock up before heading home. Wild rice, a food native to North America, is especially abundant — and still available in the wild — in the waters of Minnesota.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Explore Minnesota at