Weekend Getaways Near Minneapolis
Stillwater, Minnesota: 27 miles east of Minneapolis
Historic Stillwater lures Twin Cities locals and vacationers to the scenic banks of the St. Croix River. Get cozy in a Venetian gondola powered by a staw hat-clad gondolier. Back in town, visit Main Street for one of the state’s most popular stretches of stores selling vintage wares and collectibles, then dine at Marx Fusion Bistro for Caribbean, Italian-American and Asian eats with a wine bar. Settle down for the night in Ann Bean Mansion, once the estate of a lumber baron. One of its five rooms has an oversize copper soaking tub; another has a ladderleading to a tower with scenic views.
Red Wing, Minnesota: 56 miles southeast of Minneapolis
Have your camera handy for the size 638½ work boot at Red Wing Shoe Company Museum and Store, a must-stop in the town known for hand-crafted leather kicks. The store’s main floor includes dress shoes, work boots and hiking boots; the basement is stacked with outlet bargains. Take your own boots-a-walking up Barn Bluff along the scenic Mississippi river or to Pottery Place Antiques, where a museum educates visitors about Red Wing's historic role as a pottery town. The Port serves the town’s most elegant dinners, with seasonal entrees such as locally raised and braised Duroc pork. Just upstairs in the St. James Hotel, a blend of 19th-century elegance and 21st-century comfort await.
- Visit Winona
Winona, Minnesota: 116 miles southeast of Minneapolis
Head to the Winona County History Center and learn how the area boomed in the late 1800s, then take a walking tour of downtown's stained-glass masterpieces and ornate banks. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum displays art reflecting life on rivers, lakes and oceans. Experience one of those waterways for yourself at Lake Winona, a great spot for a leisurely afternoon of reading, strolling the pathways or paddling a rented kayak. Head into the bluffs on the outskirts of town for a meal of pork ribs with a smoked peach chipotle sauce or bacon-black truffle macaroni and cheese at Signatures Restaurant. Sleep at Alexander Mansion Historic Bed and Breakfast, where CD players hide in phonographs and the innkeepers make amazing frittatas.
Duluth, Minnesota: 155 miles northeast of Minneapolis
If you're feeling motivated, get up early to see the sunrise lighting up the lake in sherbet shades of orange and pink at the 7.3-mile Duluth Lakewalk. No worries if you don't roll out of bed in time: Sara's Table Chester Creek Cafe will still be waiting with cranberry-wild rice French toast and other vegetarian-friendly breakfasts. Walk out to the lighthouse at the end of the North Pier or tour the William A. Irvin freighter, both in Canal Park. Or, head to Jay Cooke State Park’s 50 miles of trails and the swinging bridge over St. Louis River rapids. Listen to local bands while enjoying craft brews and wild rice burgers at Fitger’s Brewhouse. At the South Pier Inn on the Canal, second-floor rooms facing the canal give the best views of ships passing under Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge.
Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota: 130 miles north of Minneapolis
With more than 450 lakes in the Brainerd region, trips here are all about the water. Prep for four-hour guided fishing trips with Walleye Dan by eating delicious handmade scones and drinking a cup of strong joe made from beans roasted at StoneHouse Coffee and Roastery in Nisswa. Or rent a kayak from Cycle Path & Paddle to explore 25 miles of natural shoreline at the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (Cuyuna is also a mountain biker's paradise). Regionally inspired foods, such as beer-battered walleye tacos and bison meatloaf sliders, fit right in with the early 1900s log cabin design at Nisswa's Sherwood Forest. At Grand View Lodge, three golf courses, a spa, water park and lake activities like paddleboard yoga and boat tours keep everyone in the family entertained.
Lanesboro, Minnesota: 120 miles southeast of Minneapolis
Some visit for the cycling: Lanesboro stands at the heart of the area's paved multi-use trails, including the 42-mile Root River Valley Trail and the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Trail (rent a bike at the Little River General Store if you don't have your own). Others come for the art: The professional Commonweal Theatre offers comedies, family-friendly shows and musicals in a 200-seat house, and Lanesboro Arts showcases the works of local artists. Burgers, flaxseed pancakes and anything made with farm eggs rule at Pedal Pusher's Cafe and Coffee Bar, and special Saturday dinners showcase ingredients that are grown locally. The owners of Habberstad House, a100-plus-year-old B&B, serve a hearty breakfast.
- Semva Art Gallery
Rochester, Minnesota: 84 miles southeast of Minneapolis
Downtown spots like University Square and shops along Broadway Avenue provide a day's worth of shopping. Semva Art Gallery, which brings together the works of regional artists with paintings, photography, mosaics, metalwork, jewelry, blown glass, sculpture and fiber arts, is an especially popular stop. Learn about the Mayo family’s legacy (the world-renowned Mayo Clinic is based in Rochester) while touring Mayowood Mansion, the 100-year-old, 38-room country home overlooking the Zumbro River Valley. Later, opt for the fresh water Canadian walleye and a slice of Bunnies coconut cake at the Canadian Honker, then spend the night where presidents and royalty have slept at historic Kahler Grand Hotel.
Wabasha and Lake City, Minnesota: 87 miles southeast of Minneapolis
After a morning stroll along the Mississippi river, learn about resident eagles through hands-on exhibits and programs at the National Eagle Center. Six miles south of Wabasha sits Lark Toys, one of the largest independent toy shops in America, where the biggest draw is the hand-carved carousel; go for a spin on an otter, flamingo, dragon-riding wizard or a reindeer with antlers. Nosh Restaurant and Bar, Lake City’s upscale dining spot on Lake Pepin, offers fabulous views and impresses with its seasonal and sophisticated Mediterranean-influenced cuisine. About 14 miles south of Lake City, spend the night at Wabasha’s Turning Waters Bed, Breakfast and Adventure, which offers organic breakfasts, dreamy bathrobes and guided kayaking tours.
Decorah, Iowa: 154 miles southeast of Minneapolis
Come for the award-winning beers—such as those from Decorah's Toppling Goliath Brewing—and stay for the welcoming town and gorgous nature scenes. Explore the Upper Iowa River in a rented kayak, canoe or tube from OFF The Driftless Wellness and Adventure Company, or bike the Trout Run Trail, an 11-mile paved loop around town with artwork and a trout hatchery along the route. In town, head to Water Street for local ingredients on the hot food bar at Oneota Community Food Co-Op, or start a special meal with an artisan cheese plate at Rubaiyat. Rest up at the tasteful Hotel Winneshiek downtown.
- Muddy Waters
Wisconsin's Great River Road: 157 miles from Minneapolis
Between La Crosse (the starting point for this weekend getaway) and Prescott (the last stop before driving back to the Twin Cities), you'll find enticing river towns sure to lure you off the Mississippi-lined route. Start with a ride on the La Crosse Queen, a paddle-wheeler departing on daily cruises from La Crosse. An hour's drive from La Crosse, find Pier 4 Cafe and Smokehouse in Alma. One step above a river shack, it serves the tangy sauces and smoky flavors of Memphis-style BBQ but overlooks Alma’s Lock and Dam No. 4. Spend the night in one of four restored buildings with river views at Hotel de Ville before continuing on to Stockholm's Maiden Rock Apples, Winery and Cidery to try a sweet Honeycrisp Hard. Round out the roadtrip in Prescott, with live jazz and three decks overlooking the St. Croix and Mississippi at Muddy Waters Bar and Grill.
Northfield and Faribault, Minnesota: 44 miles south of Minneapolis
Visit these two towns for both scenic strolls along the Cannon River and boutique shops and cafes in Victorian downtowns. Start the day with homemade pastries and fair trade coffee at Goodbye Blue Monday before wandering the shops, galleries and boutiques in the red-brick buildings (many dating from the late 19th century and early 20th century) along Northfield's Division Street. Try The Sketchy Artist for funky gifts. In nearby Faribault, explore a trail in the 750-acre River Bend Nature Center or tour the Faribault Woolen Mill (it's the nation's only factory still making blankets from raw wool). For dinner, enjoy local blue cheese on a burger at The Depot Bar & Grill. Spend the night in the porch-wrapped, periwinkle Historic Hutchinson House B&B.
- Stockman House
Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa: 132 miles south of Minneapolis
Just 10 miles apart, these neighbors have distinct personalities. Stop at the Surf Ballroom and Museum, where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson played their final gig before dying in a plane crash just a few miles from Clear Lake in February 1959 (big names still perform at the venue). In Mason City, tour Frank Loyd Wright's Stockman House, then dine on melt-in-your-mouth steak in the cozy Northwestern Steakhouse. The world’s only surviving Frank Lloyd Wright hotel, the Historic Park Inn Hotel, is an easy choice for an overnight stay.
- Hermann Monument
New Ulm, Minnesota: 96 miles southwest of Minneapolis
New Ulm was a German utopian settlement in the 1850s, and for beer lovers, it's still the perfect spot. Plan your getaway for the annual Oktoberfest celebration, when beer from the 155-year-old Schell's Brewery flows (or swing by the historic brick mansion for lagers, Pilsners and weekend tours throughout the year). Climb the winding, 99-step staircase to the top of the Hermann Monument for sweeping views of the town and surrounding river valley. Try traditional German foods and the specialty ribs at Veigel's Kaiserhoff before checking in to a local hotel or B&B.
Mankato, Minnesota: 82 miles southwest of Minneapolis
Rich in scenery, agriculture and outdoor rec, this state college town appeals to families, bicyclists and anyone seeking a laid-back weekend getaway. Take a guided paddling tour on the Blue Earth River with Bent River Outfitter; catch a summer concert at Riverfront Park; let the kids harvest fabric vegetables at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota; and trek to southern Minnesota's largest waterfall in Minneopa State Park.
St. Cloud, Minnesota: 66 miles northwest of Minneapolis
St. Cloud, up the Mississippi River from the Twin Cities, hums with a youthful vibe as home to several colleges, rocking concerts at Lake George, Beaver Islands paddles, and back-to-nature granite quarries anchoring scenic parks. Bicyclists should head to the paved Lake Wobegon Trail, which leads to the small towns and rolling countryside that helped inspire fictional Lake Wobegon from the radio show “Prairie Home Companion." Or if paddling is your jam, rent or put in your own kayak or canoe below the dam and University Bridge and head into the Beaver Islands where you may nab a rustic island camping spot (first to arrive gets it) or continue 15 miles downriver to Clearwater for a two- to three-hour trip. Other highlights of St. Cloud: Restaurants serving global fare, hikes and floats in Quarry Park and Nature Preserve, and strolls in the beautiful Munsinger and Clemens gardens.