Known as “the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Minnesota offers picturesque views and countless opportunities for water sports. From large cities to quiet towns close to lakes and state parks, Minnesota is home to numerous unique communities. You can visit St. Paul or Minneapolis for a weekend of big city culture and shopping. Book a stay at a Minnesota vacation rental today. Here’s a look at the eight best weekend getaway spots in Minnesota.

1. Bloomington

Source: Facebook/Morning dew in Bloomington Minnesota

A weekend away in Bloomington is all about spending time at the Mall of America. You might not think a mall could take up an entire weekend, but this mall is the largest in the United States, offers more than 300 stores, hosts more than 300 events per year, and has an amusement park in the center to keep your kids excited. The food court sits on the fourth floor, although there are sit-down restaurants, such as the Rainforest Cafe, throughout the mall. Enjoy shopping at all your favorite stores, including Williams and Sonoma, Eddie Bauer, and Macy’s. There’s even a movie theater, the Theatres at Mall of America, and a mini-golf course, Moose Mountain Adventure Golf.

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2. Grand Marais

Source: Flickr/Pete Markham

Situated on the shores of Lake Superior, Grand Marais is a popular vacation destination throughout the year. Enjoy the lake and soaking up the sun in the summer months. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society offers a look at what life was like in the past, and it’s a great place to spend an hour on a rainy afternoon. In the winter months, snow bunnies flock to this town for its location near Lutsen, a popular ski resort. When the weather is warm, have dinner at the Angry Trout Cafe, and choose a table on the outside patio to enjoy the lake views.

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3. Pipestone

Source: Flickr/tinyfroglet

Breathe in the fresh air and pack a camera to take plenty of photos of some cool rock formations while staying at a vacation rental in Pipestone. Take in the natural beauty and learn more about Native American life at the Pipestone National Monument. This park was once a quarry for American Indians. The Circle Trail runs for less than a mile, and you can see the Quartzite Cliffs and plenty of wildlife, such as deer and scampering squirrels. Tour the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers museum to see the largest peace pipe, and learn more about the tradition and skill of making these pipes.

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4. Ely

Source: Flickr/Sharon Mollerus

Head north and almost into Canada for a getaway in Ely, and enjoy some downtime in nature. Your kids can see wolves and learn more about conservation efforts to protect them at the International Wolf Center. The center offers adventure programs, such as the chance to see wolves at night, how to survive in the wilderness, and dogsledding. Then take a tour of the Dorothy Molter Museum. This woman was a local legend and ran a resort in the area in the early 20th century, making her a pioneer. Take your bike to pedal around the backroads, or bring hiking boots to explore on foot.

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5. Taylors Falls

Source: Flickr/Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Start your visit to this town right with a boat ride hosted by Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours. This tour spends a couple of hours meandering along the St. Croix River, and you can see some gorgeous rock walls, bird life and wildlife, and dense, lush forests. Try to find a seat on the open-air top deck in warm weather. If you prefer exploring the river on your own, Taylors Falls Canoe and Kayak Rental can set you up with equipment. Older family members can enjoy an afternoon touring the Wild Mountain Winery and sampling their selections. Bring a bottle back to your vacation rental to serve with dinner.

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6. New Ulm

Source: Facebook/New Ulm, Minnesota

When you arrive in town, you might notice the 102-foot monument to Hermann the Cheruscan. He was a Germanic chieftain who ruled the area, and this monument dates back to the late 1800s. The entire family can climb to the top and take in the views from the observation deck. Another local favorite is the New Ulm’s Glockenspiel clock located in the downtown area. The 37 bells chime throughout the day, and at certain times, special melodies ring out. Kids love watching the dancing figurines around the clock. At the end of the day, stop by Veigel’s Kaiserhoff, a locally-owned restaurant that’s known for its ribs and German decorating scheme.

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7. Fergus Falls

Source: Flickr/USFWSmidwest

Fergus Falls is a great spot for a relaxing weekend of exploring the natural world. Start with a visit to the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Prairie Pothole Region offer frequent programs that help visitors understand the delicate ecosystem of this area. While hunting is allowed during hunting season, you’re best off hunting new bird species with a pair of binoculars. For a day hike, the Central Lakes Trail is an easy walk. The town offers a few cute shops to get in a little retail therapy, including The Bric and Biffley’s and Book Mark.

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8. Walker

Source: Flickr/Greg Gjerdingen

Locals refer to Walker as the City by the Bay with its location on the shores of Leech Lake. Chuck Emery Guide Service is ready to take your family out on a small boat for a day of fishing. He knows all the best fishing holes so your kids can make their first catch. Adults can spend an evening at the Northern Lights Casino. This small facility offers games of chance and a restaurant for a sit-down meal.

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