What to do when I visit Minnesota? (by Ketan Deshpande)
“What can we do” or “is there anything we can do or see” or “what are the top activities we can do as a family there” are some of the questions we get often from our friends that are not familiar with life in the mid west states. You can also find these types of questions on social media like Facebook, Google+ and even Quora where tourists seek information about activities, attractions and places to visit in Minnesota. I think a lot of these questions are a result of the perception many have about Minnesota, that it is always “cold” or the uncertainty about if they will find anything of interest once they get here. Most questions are about about “is it always cold there” or “what do you do during the bitter winters”. I must admit that the house arrests we face during the harshest time of the winter are real for sure but they are short lived, for the most part. Well let me tell you that we have now lived in this great state for 15+ years and have learned quickly that perceptions are not always accurate and reality can be a sweet surprise. Hoping to shed some light on the options one has to enjoy their short or long stay in the state of Minnesota.
Let’s first address this perception about Minnesota, it not always cold here. I know “cold” is a relative term however Minnesota like many other mid-west states has four primary seasons, spring, summer, fall and the infamous winter. Minnesota winters can be very cold (and the house arrest by the weather feeling you get) and get more press than the most beautiful seasons such as spring, fall and hot summers. Yes, Minnesota does have hot and humid summers.
Minnesota fun facts (by Ketan Deshpande)
Before we get into the top things to do in Minnesota here are some fun facts about Minnesota that may come as a surprise to some.
- Minnesota is home to 17 fortune 500 companies, which includes UnitedHealth Group ranked as the sixth largest company on the list
- Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shore line, more than any other state in the country, you can thank the 11,842 lakes in the state for this fun fact.
- Mall Of America continues to be one of the largest shopping malls in the country
- We have more golfers based on percentage of the population than any other state
- Minneapolis has one of the longest skyway system which stretches to 52 blocks, in winter you can avoid the cold and never leave the skyways if you wanted to.
- Roller blades were invented in Minnesota.
- Rice cakes were invented in Red Wing Minnesota
- USNews comprehensive survey ranked Minnesota 3rd in the country, best states in the country report
- State ranks 9th in the country for renewable energy generation and use
- Minnesota is home to the America’s best hospital, Mayo Clinic
Things to do by Ketan Deshpande
The above question can result in a blog post that will be hundreds of pages long and hence I will break the things to do in to a few categories.
Nature lovers (top 4 places to visit by distance from down town Minneapolis)
- Boundary Water Wilderness. Located 6 to 8 hours north of Minneapolis past Duluth, close to our friends in Canada. Like the name suggests if you love adventure, nature and don’t mind unplugging from civilization then this one is for you. Be prepared to walk, hike, canoe, etc. to get there but once you are there you will be greeted with natures beauty that only few have seen. Typical visit lengths are 5 to 7 days at a minimum.
- Duluth-North Shore. Located 3 to 4 hours north of Minneapolis. Duluth offers a lot for everyone in the family. Bring your camera and comfortable shoes. Views of lake Superior, famous Ariel Lift Bridge and large cargo ships are must to do. Once you are there you have to take the scenic road and take in the beauty of Duluth, fall colors is the biggest attraction here. Attention arresting beauty is the only way to describe the north shore especially during fall season. Before you start your scenic drive, take some time to experience the opulence of Glensheen Mansion. Along the way you can stop at the Gooseberry Falls and iconic Split Rock Lighthouse. Visits to coal mines is another option you can consider.
- Forestville/Mystery Cave. Located approx. 3 hours southwest of Minneapolis. Forestville is a village that has been restored to its original condition in 19th century. A great place to take kids of all ages to experience how life was like in the 1900’s. Mystery Cave is for the enthusiasts and adventurers, Minnesota’s longest known cave, 13 miles have been discovered and counting. The park is a great place for camp sites, a great way to experience nature above and below the ground.
- Munsinger and Clemens Gardens. Located on the shore of Mississippi River and approx. 2 hours north west of Minneapolis is a place that will mesmerize you. St. Cloud, Minnesota is home to well manicured gardens, filled with thousands of flowers. Great place for family picnics, completely free to enter. This is another location that frees you from the typical tourist destinations. (post by Ketan Deshpande)
- Mall of America. Located very close to the Minneapolis airport it is one attraction in Minnesota that is well known around the world. Home to a in door theme park, numerous stores, and restaurants. It is the size of a small city under one roof.
- Como Zoo. Located within 30 min. of Minneapolis is another great attraction. Attractions include zoo, conservatory, carousel, lake Como, golf course and pool. Park location also offer camping opportunities. Park receives over 1.9 million visitors every year. Zoo does have limited outdoor space and summer is the busiest time for them, rest of the year the zoo also finds itself in the bitter cold winters arrest like all other Minnesotans.
- Science Museum. Located in the heart of the city is the Minnesota’s Science Museum. Founded in 1907 the museum covers topics in technology, science, mathematics and natural history. Suitable for families and kids of all ages.
- Minnehaha Park and Falls. Located minutes from the hustle and bustle of down town Minneapolis is this gem of a attraction. Fall in love with this falls and take the hiking trail all the way where the Minnehaha Creek meets the Mississippi river. Park offers camping, biking, canoeing and hiking opportunities. The Minnehaha Creek trail has many wading spots for families and kids to enjoy.
- Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Located is the heart of the city is Minnesota’s iconic landmark sculpture Spoon Bridge and Cherry. Recently renovated, art lovers in your family will appreciate this attraction. Renovation resulted in the addition of a family friendly play area which should keep the young ones busy for sure.
- Valleyfair-Minnesota’s amusement park Now that you have seen all these attractions you are wondering what more there is to do in Minnesota. Well located 20 min. south west of Minneapolis is a place that I am very sure that the entire family will enjoy for sure. Valleyfair is home to thrill rides, kids rides and a large water park. Thrill seekers paradise for sure. Tell me more you said … how does one of the longest zero gravity zone courtesy of The Wild Thing, the Steel Venom is all screams, the Corkscrew is a short ride but is just a hoot. (post by Ketan Deshpande)
If you visit in late August then you will be able to attend the Minnesota State Fair at the state fair grounds, termed “The Great Minnesota Get-Together”. It is the largest state fair in the country by daily average attendance. Over 1.9 million people attended the 2016 state fair, over 10 days.
These are my favorite places to recommend and visit when we have company but Minnesota is state of many beautiful and fun things to do and places to visit. So, the next time if someone says “we are not sure if there is anything we can do in Minnesota”, show them this list and have them pick out a few places to experience the great state of Minnesota.
The author, KetanDeshpande, lives in Minnesota and writes about a variety of topics in his blog such as global economy, market and industry trends, successful strategies for businesses, and others. Leveraging his global strategic leadership experience from the manufacturing industry to offer insights in to how businesses can meet the sustainable growth and profitability goals.
Ketan Deshpande is also passionate about sustainability and renewable energy; he curates and shares latest updates in his blog posts. Recently the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency(SMMPA) of Litchfield, Minnesota, endorsed Ketan Deshpande for an energy conservation project.
This blog also features memorable events, travel experiences and his favorite places to visit in the great state of Minnesota.