Minneapolis, Minnesota is an exciting city featuring museums, cultural events, and a great food scene. Whether you book a loft in the downtown area or a cozy house in the suburbs, staying at one of many Minneapolis vacation rentals will put you in the heart of all the action. When you’re looking for a weekend full of hiking, sightseeing, or just exploring a small town, venture out from the big city to nearby towns and communities. As you begin to plan your trip, start with these seven notable weekend getaway spots near Minneapolis.

1. Walker

Walker
Source: Flickr/Greg Gjerdingen

Located on the shores of Leech Lake, Walker is sometimes referred to as the City by the Bay by locals and visitors. Several public launches make it easy to take your own boat and spend your days fishing, boating, and waterskiing. Those without boats can enlist the services of Chuck Emery Guide Service. This local fishing guide takes small groups out onto the lake and finds the best fishing holes so you can enjoy a fish fry back at your vacation rental in the evening. The Northern Lights Casino is a small place, where the older members of your family can see if they can get lucky with the basic casino games before enjoying a meal at the sit-down restaurants.

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2. New Ulm

New Ulm
Source: Flickr/Mac H (media601)

Whether you have a little German blood in your family or not, a weekend in New Ulm leaves you feeling a little more connected to the German culture. Take small kids downtown to see the New Ulm’s Glockenspiel. This clock features 37 bells and chimes on the hour. At noon and a couple of other times a day, special music plays. As the clock strikes the hour, the base opens and figurines dance around it. Next, you can see for miles when you climb the 102-foot monument to Hermann the Cheruscan, a Germanic chieftain. When you reach the top of the monument, check out the scenery from the observation tower.

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3. Ely

Ely
Source: Flickr/Sharon Mollerus

Almost to the border of Canada in northern Minnesota sits the small town of Ely. Take your kids for a visit to the International Wolf Center. When you leave, expect to know a lot more about wolves. This small center helps to care for the local wolf population and works to teach visitors about the need for conservation. The center has a few wolves under its care that you can see, and it often offers programs to get outside and learn more about the natural world. The Dorothy Molter Museum shares the history of this unique woman. In the early 20th century, Molter ran a local resort and was known for the root beer she made on the property.

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4. Grand Marais

Grand Marais
Source: Flickr/Andrew Smith

With its premier location along the shores of Lake Superior, Grand Marais is a small resort town that thrives throughout the year. Find a vacation rental with a dock and launch your own boat for a weekend of fishing. The town offers a small beach to splash in the water and work on your tan. If you find yourself faced with a rainy afternoon, stop by the Gunflint Trail Historical Society to learn more about the local area by viewing its collection of artifacts. In the evening, get a table on the patio of Angry Trout Cafe to watch the sunset over the lake. Nearby, Lutsen is a ski resort that brings visitors to this town in the winter months.

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5. Pipestone

Pipestone
Source: Flickr/tinyfroglet

Pipestone is a great place to relax or get outside and explore the unique rock formation that the area is known for. This area was heavily influenced by the Native Americans that once called it home, and a great way to start your holiday is with a trip to the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers museum. See the largest peace pipe, and learn more about the art and tradition of pipe making. Afterward, slip on your sturdy walking shoes for a day at the Pipestone National Monument. The Circle Trail takes you past the Quartzite Cliffs on a paved trail that runs less than a mile. While in the park, see the remains of the Native American quarry.

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6. Fergus Falls

Fergus Falls
Source: Flickr/USFWSmidwest

Unwind and breathe in the fresh air with a weekend away in Fergus Falls. To learn more about the natural world and the local ecosystem, start your trip with a visit to the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center. Check the schedule to see if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Prairie Pothole Region are offering a program that provides a unique perspective on the ecology of the prairie wetlands during your stay. There are trails to explore in the park surrounding the center, where you can see birds, minks, wolves, and other wildlife. In the evening, take a stroll in the downtown area to check out shops, such as The Bric and Biffley’s and Book Mark, and grab a bite to eat at the Pizza Ranch with its Wild West theme.

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7. Taylors Falls

Taylors Falls
Source: Flickr/Greg Gjerdingen

Hit the river when you escape to Taylors Falls for a weekend. The best scenic tour in town is the St. Croix River. Your family spends a couple of hours floating along the river, taking in the sheer rock faces, birds, wildlife, and rich forested area. If you visit in the spring or summer, try to get a seat on the top deck for amazing views. Later, rent a kayak to go back and explore the areas you want a better look at with a rental from Taylors Falls Canoe and Kayak Rental. The Wild Mountain Winery offers tours and wine samplings for the adults in your group.

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