Day trip advice: Twin Cities, Minnesota
April 26, 2011 10:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to St. Paul, Minnesota I'll have a bunch of free time and a rental car. I would love recommendations for a day trip!

I don't have any trouble finding things in the Twin Cities (since I'll have GPS), but I will have some entirely free days, when I would be open to driving somewhat far from the city if there is something interesting to see... Like a park, or a cool small town, or some other fun activity. Just trying to avoid going stir crazy at the hotel!
posted by ReeMonster to Travel & Transportation around United States (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
These are in the cities or barely outside:
Fort Snelling
MN History Center
Como Zoo
Walker Art Center
Science Museum of MN

For day trips:
I'd also try Stillwater (1/2 hour east of St. Paul) if you like antiquing or walking along the St. Croix River, Canon Falls/Welch Village (approx. 1 hour south) if you like biking or canoeing. And if you're really ambitious, Duluth (I've made a day trip out of it, though a very long one, and I'm from the Twin Cities. Plan on it being 8-12 hours though).

That's all I can think of at this hour, but there is more.
posted by deinemutti at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2011

I would recommend the MIA, second Walker Art Center, and if you can, check out Uptown/Hennepin Ave South. Also, if it's good weather, Saint Anthony Main and Father Hennepin Park/the Stone Arch bridge are really nice.
posted by medea42 at 11:21 PM on April 26, 2011

Response by poster: Great picks, thanks! And if anybody knows of other trips that are like an hour or more away, let me know..
posted by ReeMonster at 11:52 PM on April 26, 2011

Best answer: Can you be more specific about what's your top priority? There's a fun small town and a beautiful park of hikes and waterfalls within easy reach. There's plenty more depending on your interests and how much time you're willing to spend.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:07 AM on April 27, 2011

Response by poster: No priorities. I just know the cities themselves but wanted to know of things that are further away and thus might not show up on a typical list of attractions for the Twin Cities.. your suggestions are great Tungsten.. just might check them out, thanks!
posted by ReeMonster at 1:21 AM on April 27, 2011

If you're a book-person, check out Uncle Hugo's/Uncle Edgar's, an independent used bookseller specialising in horror/mystery/science fiction/fantasy. Stillwater is a good day-trip distance away, as others have mentioned, but you're willing to go that far there's western Wisconsin at your fingertips, or try south and hit Red Wing, which is on the Great River Road if you just like driving through beautiful scenery, stopping at little antique shops, or just soaking up small town culture.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:46 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lot of great State Parks within an hour (or hour and a half). Afton State Park is pretty rad, it's a hilly, wooded chunk of land on the St. Croix river. Banning State Park and Interstate (so-called because it's got a Twin Park thing going on with a park across the river in Wisconsin) State Park, both north of the city, are also really gorgeous. Here's some MN state park info.

It's more like a 2-hour drive, but Duluth is really worth driving to. It's a gorgeous, interesting port city that really doesn't look like it belongs in the Midwest. And everything north of Duluth along the north shore of Superior is wonderful, although at that point you're talking a pretty seriously long drive.
posted by COBRA! at 5:27 AM on April 27, 2011

Another vote for Stillwater. Good food, antiques and bookstores. It's a lovely little town to walk around for a day.
posted by deadcrow at 5:28 AM on April 27, 2011

Another 2- hour trip would be to southern MN - the Harmony/Preston/Lanesboro area. There's a big Amish community, a nice bike trail, Niagara and Mystery Cave, and general awesome small towniness. The drive in southern Minnesota is incredibly gorgeous in spring/summer - tons of big green valleys.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:52 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The world's largest ball of twine is a little over an hour west of St. Paul, and the Spam museum is a couple hours south. I'm not sure either of those is really worth making a trip for, but if you end up going in those directions, they might be interesting places to stop.
posted by Vibrissa at 6:16 AM on April 27, 2011

I'll second Uncle Hugo's!

There is a model railroad museum...(they have ridonkulous hours though)

There is Chatterbox Pub. Pretty good food and you can check out board games to play at your table...and they have nintendo's set up with games to check out on the menu...kinda cool. (Yes, I'll have the 1942 with a side of Super Contra) They have 3 locations in the Twin Cities

Oops, just actually read the want stuff out of the cities. Go check out Interstate State Park near Taylor's Falls. Gorgeous. And on the way out there check out the Franconia Sculpture Park

When are you coming? If it is between May 21st and June 19th you could go to the Chippewa Valley Renaissance Faire. It is relatively new (compared to the one in Shakopee) but still loads of fun. It is near Eau Claire, Wisconsin about an hour and a half drive from the cities. Along the way you could stop at Crystal Cave
posted by ian1977 at 6:45 AM on April 27, 2011

I'd second DingoMutt, I love Lanesboro and the Root River trail. Lanesboro is a cute little town right on the trail and there are a bunch of places to rent kayaks or tubes to go down the river or rent bikes and ride the trail. There's a pie shop just out of downtown on the trail. Keep that in mind.

Another park recommendation is Forestville and Mystery Cave. They are actually two little parks pretty close to each other. I've always wanted to catch the cave tour.

If you're coming in Summer, there are small town festivals somewhere pretty much every weekend. I love small town festivals.
posted by advicepig at 7:13 AM on April 27, 2011

I used to live in MSP and did Duluth as a day trip a number of times. Drive up, walk along the lake, visit some galleries, have lunch, see the rose gardens, and come back. If you don't mind some extra driving, see how far north of Duluth you can get along the lakeshore before you need to go back. It's an extra hour or so up to Tettegouche State Park, but it's a beautiful drive. Betty's Pies is a pretty good lunch stop if you go farther north.

Stillwater is also great. It's probably what I miss most in the area.
posted by BlooPen at 7:30 AM on April 27, 2011

I'd have to go with Duluth over Stillwater, but all the suggestions here are great.
posted by look busy at 7:34 AM on April 27, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, this is overload in such a great way thanks.. I'm an east coaster and know next to nothing about the mid-west, so I'm really looking forward now-
posted by ReeMonster at 10:45 AM on April 27, 2011

You could see the Abbey at Lake at St. John's University, and then head up to Holdingford, while listing to a Prarie Home Companion. Have a beer at the municipal bar. Hike the Lake Wobegon Trail or go fishing. If you want to swing by my uncle's dairy farm, MeMail me.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:39 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should drive to Ellsworth (cheese curd capital of Wisconsin) and sample fresh off the line curds. If for no other reason than to get a "no one curd eat just one" bumper sticker.
posted by Sheppagus at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2011

1.5 hours east is Leinenkugel's brewery in Chippewa Falls, WI. Great tour, huge gift shop with free beer samples, neat little town to poke around in.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:57 PM on April 27, 2011

If you like college campuses, you might consider going to Northfield -- home to both Carleton College and St. Olaf. It's a cute town to walk around and both campuses are fun to explore.

Seconding the Leinie's brewery. If you're in the mood for a longer drive to get to a brewery, the folks at Brau Brothers Brewing are incredibly friendly. It's in Lucan, MN (pop. 220) which is sort of in the middle of nowhere but would give you an opportunity to drive through some pretty and "typical" Minnesota countryside and towns. If you go, call the folks at Brau Brothers in advance -- they're not big enough to do regular tours and all that (or weren't the last time I went) but were happy to do so if they know you're coming.
posted by Wisco72 at 5:58 PM on April 27, 2011

posted by Demogorgon at 8:26 PM on April 27, 2011

Hell's Kitchen is a must-try.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:31 PM on April 27, 2011

*sighI I miss Minnesota.

If you visit St. John's University, make sure to buy some bread.

The Minnesota Historical Society runs the History Center, right between downtown St. Paul, the Cathedral, and the state capital building. Awesome gift shops. Afterwards, eat at Cosetta's. Drive up historic Summit Avenue, then go one block south and stop at Penzey's spices. Eat at the Blue Door Pub or the Chatterbox.

Skip Minneapolis entirely *evil grin* except for a Twins game at the great new stadium. Or cross the river back to Minnesota andd see a St. Paul Saints minor league baseball game.

When are you going? If it's late in the summer, you could go to the State Fair to eat deep-fried cheese curds and then throw them up after going on one of the giant-rubber-band rides!!! *swoon*

If you can get in, tour the Surly Brewery.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:27 PM on April 29, 2011

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