As the home of Prince, sticky notes and the Mall of America, Minnesota weighs in as one of the most underrated states in the U.S. The Land of 10,000 Lakes caters to any and all outdoor personalities who don't want to sacrifice big city buzz with serene natural escapes. When you explore the Twin Cities, Lusten, Duluth and Brainerd, you'll discover that the makings of "Minnesota nice" may refer to more than just its winter-braving residents.
The Twin Cities consist of Minneapolis and St. Paul, bordered by the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. Beyond unlimited restaurants and serving as hotbed for higher education, the double whammy of cities is an arts capital that trumps all other Midwest destinations besides Chicago.
Check out a performance at the Guthrie Theater, which is the largest regional playhouse in the country. Keep the culture rolling at the Walker Art Museum, housing modern art, new-age media and the famous "Cherry in the Spoon." To catch a world-class concert, First Avenue paints the outside wall full of every star-worthy musical act that has played there, ranging from Public Enemy to U2 to Radiohead.
Minneapolis is considered the most bike-friendly city in the country. Locals admit where it lacks in ideal weather, it makes up for in flat topography. If you're an urban cyclist, you can find an array of bike paths weaving throughout the city center and surrounding metropolitan? area.
The only thing that most newcomers know about Minnesota is the Mall of America, and with good reason. Located in Bloomington, this mecca for shopaholics is the size of 78 football fields - that's 9.5 million square feet. There are more than 400 shops, Nickelodeon Universe - which is a giant indoor amusement park, and an overwhelming amount of food courts.
Minnesota State Fair
If you're here during the summer, you seriously do not want to miss the Minnesota State Fair, the largest 12-day event in North America. Brace your belly for deep-fried delicacies, almost all of them with a stick. With 300 concessionaires and 450 different foods, this bonanza wins the tastiest yet unhealthiest (that's why it's so darn good) food you've eaten in a while. We're talking deep-fried walleye on a stick, corn roast and of course, the melt-in-your-mouth donuts.
A nature lover's playground, Lusten Mountains make for an active family getaway no matter the season. Escape for a long weekend of snowboarding and skiing. Take advantage of more than 1,000 acres of 95 runs packed with powder waiting to be shredded. The Lutsen Mountains, where the annual snowfall comes in at 9.5 feet , boast Nordic skiing, dog sledding and sleigh rides. Yes, you heard right. The ski season spans from November into mid-April, which is longer than most other regions in the Upper Midwest.
When spring rolls around, visitors embrace the North Shore of Lake Superior, where hiking, biking and wildlife viewing are all popular pastimes. Superior National Golf Course, regarded as a top course in the state, lets you choose between 27 holes of champion golf on three unreal platforms - canyon, river and mountain.
Located at the westernmost point of Lake Superior - the world's largest freshwater lake - Duluth is another four-season wonderland. Without a doubt, the vast shoreline becomes the focal point for any trip to this coal capital. Locals and visitors alike love cruising across Minnesota's North Shore Scenic Drive, a stretch of breathtaking lakefront vistas that lead to the Split Rock Lighthouse. Built in 1905, the Aerial Lift Bridge makes for a neat sight, as the giant cargo ships pass from the canal entrance to Duluth Harbor.
Along the edge of Lake Superior, visitors can take an afternoon jog on the winding Lakewalk Path, rife with stunning views. Discover the secluded waterfalls, 45 miles of snowmobile trails and abundance of wildlife, including bear, salmon and moose.
Brainerd Lakes Area
A quiet wood cabin along the lake is calling your name. This is exactly what you'll find in the Brainerd Lakes Area, a short two-hour drive north of the Twin Cities. Similar to the other destinations in Minnesota, Brainerd catapults outdoor activity into another stratosphere. With access to top-notch fishing, boating, biking and kayaking, you can make your trip to this lake-filled city one for the books. One thing unique about Brainerd is the Brainerd International Raceway, the largest racetrack in the Midwest. Events such as NASCAR K & N Pro Series, Thunder at the Lakes and Muscle Car Series drag racing can all be found here. In August, the best drag racers on the plant compete in the Lucas Oil Nationals.