Meet Minnesota, a Midwestern state in the United States that borders Canada and Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. While this state boasts museums and culture, it houses over 10,000 lakes, offering picture perfect nature endeavors. One of its most prominent mountain ranges is Eagle Mountain, standing at 2,301 feet. While this state offers the perfect hiking landscape, it also contains cute towns that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Here are the seven cutest small towns in Minnesota to visit.
Beach TownsCheck out Minnesota's Most Charming Beach Towns
1. Grand Rapids
On the Mississippi River and full of Minnesota nature lies Grand Rapids. This rural, picture-perfect town is family-friendly and has been a cute destination for couples and fishermen for over 100 years. Better yet, there are 1,000 lakes around the Grand Rapids area, making for cute and relaxing getaway spots. Visit Bass Lake, Bowstring Lake, or Caribou Lake. Home to popular species of fish like rock bass, yellow perch, and sunfish, they are an angler’s dream come true. While Grand Rapids has dozens of parks to explore within town, if you really want to explore nature, take to their trails, like Masabi Bike Trailhead. Spanning over 28 communities and 150 miles of paved pathways, see lakes, ponds, creeks, and local wildlife. In the town’s core, explore its history by visiting Itasca County Historical Society and Forest History Center.
At the tip of Lower Lake and making up the South Lake Minnetonka region resides Excelsior, a quaint suburban town founded in 1853 by New York colonists. Its downtown neighborhood offers a warm small-town vibe and is rich in history. Order takeout at Maynard’s Restaurant, perhaps some of their famous waffle fries, and set up a picnic at one of the Lake Minnetonka beaches. There are two in total, with one being more family-friendly including picnic benches, a playground, and a tennis court.
One of the town’s modes of transport were trolleys, and they have kept them around for tourists to ride on. Do not miss this historic experience of touring the town’s main streets, farmer’s markets, and museums.
3. Grand Marais
Right against the shores of Lake Superior near Sawtooth Mountains, explore Grand Marais, an area known for its vast nature landscapes and folk culture. Grand Marais offers the cutest camping adventure you will ever experience. Grand Marais Campground and Marina is a part of their recreation area and boasts 300 camp sites, beaches, pavilions, bathhouses, and more. Whether visitors set up a tent or rent an RV, drop-ins are allowed, providing instant access to Lake Superior and Sawtooth Mountain.
Need a treat? Hop into town for the best donuts in the world. World’s Best Donuts on 10 Wisconsin Street serves the donut of your dreams with miraculous icing patterns and unique flavors. Try a Banana Cream Bismark with white frosting or a Maple Bacon Long John. They also offer donut kabobs, with mini donuts sitting on a skewer.
Lanesboro’s neighboring river is Root River and has a tiny population of 723 people, but these elements are not the only things that make this town cute — it contains Commonweal Theater and 60 miles of winding valley trails: Root River State Bike Trail. Since 1989, this venue brings people old-fashioned plays, like Hamlet, and cheesy comedies, like Women in Jeopardy! Visit 208 Parkway Avenue North and see what is playing while you are in town. The Root River State Bike Trail contains 42 miles of paved avenues. Find abandoned railroads, wooden bridges, and local wildlife. All paths are wheelchair accessible.
While Lanesboro has much to offer in nature, tourists will not want to miss exploring its cute downtown core full of boutiques, stores, and galleries. At Lanesboro Arts, admire over 70 pieces from local creators or participate in workshops! With the area being a native Amish community, take a horse carriage ride and get to know the community on a more intimate level.
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With South Dakota as its neighbor state, Pipestone, Minnesota has an uproarious history. It contains the Pipestone Monument, a protection method for the pipestone quarries back in 1937. It contains walls of red stone and a trickling waterfall. For a cute yet historical place to stay, then book a room at Calumet inn, which has been a functioning hotel since 1888. Inside is a popular restaurant and antiques on display. Explore nature off the beaten path and visit Split Rock Creek State Park. While it resides in Jasper, it is still within Pipestone County. Walk down the sandy paths and peruse the lakes full of walleye, sunfish, perch, and bass. In the summer, set up camp and swim at the beach.
Not a confident fire-chef? Head back to town and enjoy one of the top-rated restaurants, Stonehouse Quarry Lounge. On the menu they offer: salmon club sandwiches, Reubens, and rib eye, to name a few.
Picture a main street lined with warm, cobblestone buildings, unique local shops, and bushy maple trees, all beside the St. Croix River. The river is abundant with walleye, sauger, and northern pike, and spans for 115 miles. Being so close to the river, this town offers cute and peaceful boating, park, and nature experiences. Some popular marinas to launch boats at include Boomsite Marina and Wolf Marine. Additionally, rent paddle boats from Brown Dog Paddleboard Co. at 15150 Square Lake Trail North. The closest state parks are Minnesota State Park and Wisconsin State Park. Since Stillwater is so close to Wisconsin, tourists can access both easily.
Nothing pairs better with lake life than wine and beer. Stillwater offers several wine and brewery tours. Get a rustic experience with 7 Vines Vineyard and sip by the glass near a wood-burning fireplace. Or opt for Forge & Foundry Distillery where customers can try blends made with local ingredients.
Ever imagined escaping the hustle and bustle of life by living in a cave? Well, while one cannot live in Niagara Cave in Harmony, Minnesota, visitors can certainly tour it! Niagara Cave is only a short distance from the town’s core, and it is a once in a lifetime experience. Take an hour-long tour and discover an underground maze of stalagmites and stalactites. The guided tour is a mile long and gives participants a chance to uncover 450-year-old fossils, underground streams and waterfalls, and unique rock formations. The cave was discovered in 1924 and became accessible in 1934.
Additionally, the town core is a hub for Amish furniture shops and delectable eateries. Many restaurants serve baked goods, salads, craft beer, and wine.
River TownsDiscover the 5 Most Charming River Towns in Minnesota
Each of these towns are cute and boast unique experiences to create lifelong memories, but how to decide which is the cutest? Will it be Excelsior’s beaches, or will it be Harmony’s historical cave? No matter which town visitors may choose, they will experience a mixture of breathtaking nature and cute small-town vibes that will make you want to call each town home.