Is there anything better than a Minnesota summer? Warm weather, cool lakes and plenty of things to see, do and experience—for many, it’s the best time of the year! Since coming out of our quarantine days, many are eager to get out there and seize the summer. From local craft brews to cruising the lakes in a pontoon, here’s our guide to having the best Minnesota summer ever.

 

17 Fun Things to Do in Minnesota in the Summer

Summer in Minnesota is short but oh-so-sweet. The Land of 10,000 Lakes only gets about three months of hot, sunny weather each year, so Minnesotans have become pros at making the most of it! With plenty of green spaces to explore, unique events and things to do, watersports galore and more, Minnesota does summer up right. While this list could stretch from Minneapolis to Moorhead, we’ve narrowed it down to 17 of our favorite things to do in Minnesota in the summer. 

 

Minnesota State Fair

Visit Saint Paul for the Minnesota State Fair

They don’t call it the Great Minnesota Get-Together for nothing! The massive Minnesota State Fair attracts more than 2 million people annually, and tops many a Minnesota bucket list for travelers and locals alike. This year’s fair will be from Aug. 26-Sept. 6 (Labor Day) and will be jam-packed with food, beer, rides, live music, attractions and more. Minnesotan-favorite menu items and attractions include:

  • Taking in some live music at the Grandstand
  • Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies & milk
  • Viewing the crop & seed art at the Agriculture-Horticulture Building
  • Deep-fried cheese curds
  • Checking out the butter sculptures in the Dairy Building
  • Pronto Pups

 

Minnesota Beer

Grab a Minnesota-Brewed Beer

Minnesotans love their craft beer! The state is home to more than 200 breweries, each with their own special take on grain, hops, yeast and water. From funky flavored brews to loyal renditions of traditional styles, there’s something for everyone among Minnesota’s breweries. Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • Surly Brewing Co., Minneapolis
  • Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Duluth
  • Bauhaus Brew Labs, Minneapolis 
  • Summit Brewing Co., Saint Paul
  • Dangerous Man Brewing Co., Minneapolis
  • Lift Bridge Brewing Co., Stillwater
  • Fair State Cooperative, Minneapolis
  • August Schell Brewing Co., New Ulm
  • Fulton Beer, Minneapolis
  • Bad Habit Brewing Co., St. Cloud
  • Indeed Brewing Co., Minneapolis
  • Starry Eyed Brewing, Little Falls

 

Lake Itasca

Head North to the Headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park

A visit to the headwaters in Itasca State Park is easily one of the best things to do in northern Minnesota, especially in the summertime. The mighty Mississippi starts its 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico within this 32,000-acre sanctuary. If you’re looking for fun outdoor things to do in Minnesota, Itasca State Park is chock-full of ‘em: 

  • Take a hike across 49 miles of trails
  • Rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboard or rowboat and spend the day on the water
  • Take a boat tour of Lake Itasca
  • Walk across the Mississippi River headwaters
  • Climb the Aiton Heights Fire Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the park

 

Minnesota Lakes

Get Out on One of Over 10,000 Lakes

Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that Minnesotans are big on lake culture—it’s kind of our thing! Minnesota is known for its many gorgeous lakes and all the fishing, watersports, boating, camping and relaxing they inspire. A quintessential Minnesota summer always includes a few “days at the lake!” Find your own personal lakeside heaven at one of the top lakes in Minnesota:  

  • Lake of the Isles
  • Lake Vermilion
  • Lake Minnetonka
  • Bde Maka Ska
  • Lake Pepin
  • Lake Superior

 

Minnesota Lighthouse

Hike Around a Lighthouse

Speaking of cool places to visit in Minnesota, have you ever seen a real lighthouse in person? Minnesota has several awe-inspiring, picturesque lighthouses gracing our shores. These lakeside beauties often hit lists of must-see places in Minnesota, usually in tandem with their nearby parks and hiking trails. Why not take a day trip to one of these spots?:

  • Split Rock Lighthouse
  • Grand Marais Lighthouse
  • Two Harbors Lighthouse
  • Duluth North Pier Lighthouse
  • Minnesota Point Lighthouse

 

Minnesota Hiking

Experience Minnesota’s Beautiful North Shore

The North Shore (of Lake Superior, that is,) is one of Minnesota’s most beloved summer vacation destinations. It’s one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota (and one of the best places to visit in Minnesota, period,) thanks to its gorgeous outdoor spaces. The lake and the woods are the main attractions here, of course—here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy the natural splendor of the North Shore: 

  • Hike the 256-mile Superior Hiking Trail
  • Take the family camping on the lake at Grand Marais Campground
  • Bike the paved Gitchi Gami Trail
  • Go fishing dockside or out on the lake
  • Rent a kayak and get your paddle on
  • Hit the green at one of the North Shore’s many golf courses

 

Minnesota Museum

Beat the Heat at a Museum

If you love discovering new things and learning about art, history, science and more, you’ll love Minnesota! Our museums are among the best things to do in Minnesota if you have special interests (like the life and music of Prince, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books or the history of SPAM) and are world-class in their collections. Plus, they have air conditioning! Here are some of the best museums in the state: 

  • Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • Science Museum of Minnesota
  • Paisley Park
  • Red Wing Shoe Store & Museum
  • Minnesota Marine Art Museum
  • Historic Fort Snelling
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
  • SPAM Museum
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum
  • Walker Art Center
  • Charles Lindbergh House & Museum
  • Great Lakes Aquarium

 

MN Summer

Go South and Visit Niagara Cave

Let’s talk about one of the best things to do in southern Minnesota: Visit Niagara Cave! One of the top-ten rated caves in the country, guided tours of this impressive 200-foot-deep limestone cave are an educational and adventurous outing perfect for families. The caves also boast a 60-foot waterfall, an underground river, a gemstone mining sluice, a wedding chapel, stalactites, stalagmites, fossils, plus a 10-acre picnic ground and a new 18-hole mini golf course. 

 

MN State Park 

Visit One of 67 State Parks

Looking for the best places to go in Minnesota to scratch that outdoorsy itch? Our State Parks should top your list! Minnesota is home to 67 beautiful state parks, each one a unique gem of our state’s indigenous wildlife, foliage and natural wonders. Here’s our top ten parks in Minnesota: 

  • Interstate State Park
  • Lake Maria State Park
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park
  • Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park
  • Itasca State Park
  • Minneopa State Park
  • Maplewood State Park
  • Crow Wing State Park
  • Grand Portage State Park
  • Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

 

MN Summer

Catch a Minnesota Twins Baseball Game at Target Field

Go Twins! Minnesotans love their sports teams, and the Twins are no exception. Target Field, located in the heart of Minneapolis, is a Twin Cities gem. Take in a game, grab a hot dog (or some more gourmet eats from local and celebrity chefs) and a cold Minnesota beer, and relax in the stands. Affordable tickets are available for certain sections, making this a great summer outing for the whole family. 

 

[IMAGE – Image of this fun thing to do in Minnesota.

Witness the Pristine Beauty of a National Park

Thought we were done with parks? Think again! We weren’t kidding when we said Minnesota is home to heaps of gorgeous green spaces. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is proud to have six of the U.S.’s National Parks within its borders. Like any of the other parks on this list, these sites are ideal for hiking, biking, wildlife watching and more. 

  • Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
  • Pipestone National Monument
  • North Country Scenic Trail
  • Grand Portage National Monument
  • Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
  • Voyageurs National Park

 

MN Summer

Visit the Mall of America

The Mall of America is truly a sight to behold. The country’s largest mall contains a theme park with indoor roller coasters, a wedding chapel, an aquarium, a movie theater, a comedy club and more, in addition to the traditional retail stores (over 500 of them) and dining options. It even has its own zip code! While the mega-mall might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s simply a rite of passage to visit the MOA at least once, whether you’re a tourist or a dyed-in-the-wool Minnesotan.

 

MN Summer

Pick Your Own Berries at a Local Farm

Looking for Minnesota day trip idea? Why not visit a pick-your-own berry farm and come home with a bounty of sweet, delicious berries? This is a great, affordable activity for folks of all ages. Whether you’re picking blueberries or strawberries, you’re sure to have a delightful time filling up your baskets. Here are a few notable PYO-farms across the state:

  • The Strawberry Basket, Monticello
  • Blueberry Fields of Stillwater, Stillwater
  • Blueberry Summer U-Pick Farm, Saint Cloud
  • The Berry Patch, Forest Lake
  • Spectrum Farm Strawberries, Carlton

 

MN Summer

Experience Lutsen in the Summer

The Lutsen Mountains on the North Shore are known for their skiing, but they have a lot to offer in the summertime, too! With multiple resorts to stay at and plenty to do, it’s worth a trip to “the Basecamp of Adventure” this summer! Here are just a few of the activities Lutsen offers in the warmer months:

  • Alpine Slide
  • Summit Express Gondola rides
  • Hiking & biking trails
  • Canoeing 
  • Golfing 
  • Outdoor pool & hot tub

 

MN Summer

Go Biercycling With 12 of Your Favorite People

What-cycling? Biercycling! A biercycle (AKA a party bike, beercycle, pedal pub or pedal crawler) is a 12-person pedal-bike that offers groups the opportunity to bike around a city while holding conversations (and oftentimes, beers!), listening to music or a tour guide, and generally having a good time. Biercycling is offered in several major Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Stillwater and others. It’s an awesome activity for larger groups, though if you’re an extroverted couple (or multiple couples,) you might enjoy the fun of getting thrown together with a group of strangers and seeing where the bike takes you!

 

Minnesota Waterfall

Explore Minnesota’s Breathtaking Waterfalls

Second only to our lakes, Minnesota’s waterfalls are deeply beloved and utterly magical. These beautiful falls enchant tons of visitors every year with their thundering waters. Take an afternoon to pack a picnic and visit one of these Minnesota waterfalls. Don’t forget to take some photos in front of the falls before you leave! 

  • Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis
  • Shadow Falls, Saint Paul
  • Ramsey Falls, Ramsey Park
  • Wolf Creek Falls, Banning State Park
  • Gooseberry Falls, Gooseberry Falls State Park
  • High Falls, Tettegouche State Park
  • Vermillion Falls, Hastings
  • Minneopa Fall, Mankato
  • Minnemishinona Falls, North Mankato

 

Minnesota Drive-In Theater

See a Drive-In Movie

Drive-in movie theaters are a nearly-extinct vestige of times past, when families would pile into the station wagon and head to the wide, open field of the drive-in to take in a picture, sound blaring over the car radio. Luckily for the movie-lovers and nostalgia-chasers among us, Minnesota is home to six fabulous drive-ins! Your kids will be delighted by the novelty of the drive-in concept, and you’ll love the walk down memory lane. 

  • Elko Drive-In, Elko New Market
  • Vali-Hi Drive-In, Lake Elmo
  • Starlite Drive-In 5, Litchfield
  • Long Drive-In Theater, Long Prairie
  • Verne Drive-In, Luverne
  • Sky-Vu Drive-In, Warren

 

What to Pack for Summer in Minnesota

While summer is undoubtedly the best time to go to Minnesota, it can present some challenges. Summer high temperatures average in the mid-80s, with temperatures as hot as 114℉ possible. We also experience thunderstorms, tornados, high winds and other inclement weather from time to time. While you’re excitedly brainstorming your Minnesota vacation ideas, don’t forget to add these essentials to your packing list: 

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 and up)
  • Other sun protection items like sunglasses, hats, etc.)
  • Swimsuit, flip-flops or sandals, and a beach towel
  • Umbrella

Host Your Summer Event at Earle Brown Heritage Center

Whether it’s a wedding or a work event, summer is the perfect time to gather for any reason. At Earle Brown, we have beautiful event spaces both indoors and outdoors. If you’re looking for an extraordinary Minnesota venue to host your next event, request more information today!