What makes Minnesota a great summer destination? A not-so-subtle clue is apparent in the state’s nickname: Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota is home to abundant lakes, which means there are countless opportunities for swimming, fishing, boating, and picnics on the shore. This Midwestern state also offers big cities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul that are thriving centers of art, cuisine, music, and sports. The deep woods in the north are a scenic wonderland offering natural peace away from the buzz of city life. Book a stay at one of many Minnesota vacation rentals for your summer getaway. That said, check out the most noteworthy cities in Minnesota.

1. Minneapolis

watching a baseball game

Minneapolis offers something for everyone, making it the perfect summer stay for you and your family or friends. Music lovers can catch a concert with the Minnesota Orchestra during its exciting Sommerfest held in the city, while sports fans can cheer on the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

Summertime means outdoor dining, and Minneapolis has a plethora of rooftop and patio dining options that let you enjoy a warm summer evening over a plate of delicious food. Enjoy rooftop drinks and lawn bowling at Brit’s Pub, or relax with Sunday brunch and views of the downtown skyline at Union.

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2. St. Paul

capital building in St. Paul

Minneapolis’s twin city, St. Paul is another great city getaway. If the kids are itching for a day away from your vacation home, then stop by Como Park Zoo and Conservatory to view giraffes, zebras, lemurs, and other creatures. The zoo also features carousel rides and mini golf.

Be sure to also see the impressive state capitol building. In fact, St. Paul offers a lot of impressive buildings, including Victorian structures along Summit and Grand Avenues. If you prefer the scenery of nature, then boat rides on the Mississippi River are available.

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3. Duluth

lighthouse off the coast of Duluth

To experience the world’s largest freshwater lake, then book a vacation in Duluth. This medium-sized town sits on Lake Superior and offers lakeside parks for swimming and picnics by the water. Brighton Beach even has barbecue grills if outdoor summer cooking is on your to-do list.

Stop by the Maritime Museum for exhibits about the lake and its history or to view giant ships on their voyage to the ocean. For a memorable summer evening with family or your significant other, the city’s Lakewalk offers the opportunity for a relaxing stroll along the lake.

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4. Bloomington

amusement area at Mall of America
Source: Flickr/Colin Anderson

One of Bloomington’s main attraction is the gigantic Mall of America. This world within a town boasts hundreds of stores that appeal to people of every age and taste. The mall’s Nickelodeon Universe is a great place to take the kids on exciting Nickelodeon-themed rides. The LEGO Imagination Center features huge structures made from these iconic little bricks, and it is a great place to help your kids stimulate their imagination.

Also be sure to check for special events at the mall, as celebrities such as Taylor Swift have stopped by here in the past.

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5. Bemidji

Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox
Source: Flickr/mexican 2000

If your dream summer vacation is a small town that offers lots to do in the middle of nowhere, then Bemidji is the choice for you. Referred to as the “Birthplace of Paul Bunyan” and the “First City on the Mississippi,” this picturesque town offers plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. Lakes in the area are great for swimming and fishing, while the nearby Chippewa National Forest, Itasca State Park, Lake Bemidji State Park, and Big Bog State Recreation Area provide hiking trails and wildlife viewing. Be sure to try the craft beers at Bemidji Brewing Company before ending your day.

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6. Shakopee

ride at Valleyfair Amusement Park
Source: Flickr/Beatnik Photos

Shakopee is big on family fun. This small town is home to Valleyfair, which provides over 100 acres of summer activities. Hop on board bumper cars, roller coasters, and other rides for fast-paced action. Particularly suitable for summer is the park’s Soak City, where guests of all ages and cool off with water slides and pools.

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7. St. Cloud

golden flowers in bloom
Source: Flickr/Sharon Mollerus

Located right in the heart of Minnesota, St. Cloud is home to special summer events such as the free “Summertime By George” festival. This fun family event has live music, artisans, and good food and drink. There are also kid-focused activities available. Park your car and hop aboard a trolley to get to the festival.

Be sure to check out the Paramount Center for the Arts, which features changing exhibits, a visual arts studio, gift shop, and even summer art camps. Nearby Clemens Gardens offers the chance for a relaxing evening stroll along brick pathways past gorgeous flowers and shrubs.

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8. Grand Rapids

small waterfall
Source: Flickr/ShaLynn Wren

Hundreds of lakes in the Grand Rapids area beckon to boaters, swimmers, and fishermen, but this small town is also home to several historic sites. Grand Rapids was the birthplace of Judy Garland, and the Judy Garland Museum provides exhibits devoted to the life and work of this iconic actress and singer, including her original work permit. Fans of the “Wizard of Oz” will find plenty of memorabilia relating to the film as well.

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9. Rochester

statue of men at Mayo
Source: Flickr/Michael Hicks

A fun way to see the sites in Rochester is to hop on board one of the classic trolleys. See Amish country, breweries, and the Mississippi River while enjoying the ride. Among the city’s most famous sites is the Mayo Clinic, one of the nation’s most famous historic hospitals. Fun hands-on exhibits and educational events await your kids at the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

An evening of drinks and delicious food at Twigs Tavern & Grille is a great way to end the day. The restaurant includes a beautiful award-winning outdoor patio complete with umbrellas and a fire pit.

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10. Grand Marais

paddling on Lake Superior
Source: Flickr/Stone Harbor

A vacation rental in Grand Marais puts you in a gorgeous natural setting along the shores of Lake Superior, complete with rocky beaches, lighthouses, and nearby forests. The area’s natural beauty makes it a great place to get out the paddle board or kayak for a day on the water. The town is practically surrounded by Superior National Forest, which makes the area a great place to view wildlife.

Grand Marais is not all outdoor recreation. In town are plenty of options for good food, as well as art venues such as Betsy Bowen Gallery.

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