Minnesota is in the upper Midwest but has unrivaled opportunities for outdoor recreation, in every season. It’s known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” but there actually are 11,842 lakes more than 10 acres in size in Minnesota.
Minnesota offers broad access to free outdoor activities such as walking paths, and public access to beaches and waterways. The state has more than 700 miles of paved bikeways, more than in any other state. Minnesota has approximately 20,000 miles of snowmobile trails and also offers thousands of miles of hiking trails in 66 state parks and along Lake Superior’s North Shore. A top destination for outdoors sports enthusiasts is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northeastern Minnesota. Approximately 1.3 million acres in size, it extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park. The BWCAW contains over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 15 hiking trails and approximately 2,000 designated campsites. Over two dozen canoe outfitters at the edge of the BWCAW provide canoeing and camping gear, food and cooking supplies, permits and route planning, advice and expertise.
Duluth, the largest inland freshwater port in the world, is the gateway to Lake Superior’s scenic north shore, about a one-hour drive to the BWCAW and 2.5 hours to the Canadian border. A contemporary city teeming with history and spirit, Duluth is Minnesota’s largest city outside of the Twin Cities area. The center of activities is the waterfront. At Canal Park, an aerial lift bridge rises to let ships enter the harbor. A retired ore carrier, the William A. Irvin, offers tours, and the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center tells details of Great Lakes shipping, including tragic shipwrecks. Sightseeing cruises explore the harbor itself. Other sightseeing options include the Lakewalk boardwalk, Bayfront Festival Park with a season of outdoor concerts, the Great Lakes Aquarium, and history and children’s museums.
Throughout the state, anglers catch walleye, panfish, pike and trout. Fishing guides or launch services can help visitors learn the local tricks and hot spots. Minnesota ranks 11th in the U.S. in the number of golf courses and first in the nation for golf courses per capita. The Minnesota Golf Association counts 508 golf courses in the state, of which 351 are daily fee/semi-private, 83 are municipal and 19 are resort. Nearly 90 percent are open to the public.
One of the biggest attractions is the Mall of America in Bloomington, near Minneapolis, which is the nation’s largest retail and entertainment complex. The mall is the size of 78 football fields—9.5 million square feet—and home to more than 520 shops; the Nick Park at MOA, the nation’s largest indoor family amusement park; and Underwater Adventures Aquarium, a 1.2 million gallon walk-through aquarium.
Minnesota offers the full range of resort choices, from simple log cabins in the woods to luxurious lodge suites with all the amenities and comforts of a modern hotel. The same goes for campgrounds, from rustic tent sites on remote public lands, to fully developed resort-type campgrounds with full services for RVs, and everything in between.
The 229-mile Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway runs between International Falls and the North Dakota border west of Hallock, primarily along Highway 11. Minnesota boasts 19 other scenic byways around the state, offering a wide variety of scenic, historic and cultural highlights.