This land of 10,000 lakes with blistering winters is filled with natural beauty that includes lakes, waterfalls, and forests, coupled with open minded friendly people. At least where I visited. Visiting over the summer was gorgeous, lovely weather, people spending time outdoors, and plenty to explore in my relatively short visit. Minneapolis is a really cool, unique, hip city with tons of art, parks, and greenery. The North Shore is a beautiful adventure, perfect for a road trip and camping.

My Favorites

1. Minneapolis

Cherry on a Spoon Fountain

Highlights: Museums, art, music, parks, lakes
Suggest Staying: 3-7 days
Stay Around: Uptown, Warehouse District, or Northeast Arts District
Internet: Strong
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What a unique major city, unlike any other I’ve visited. Another potential up and coming hipster city that I’m always in search of, Minneapolis seems much more progressive than its neighboring Midwestern cities, and also bigger. While Minneapolis resembles places like San Francisco, Austin, Portland, and Washington, DC, it maintains a uniqueness about it. Artsy, friendly, and so much nature including green spaces, parks, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers all within the city limits. There’s a long music history, in part enhanced by Prince’s presence, and feeling of creativity. At least in the warmer months when the weather is nice. I really enjoyed spending time in this beautiful city exploring, relaxing, and taking in all of its offerings. And for those of you not familiar, the legendary musician Prince grew up, lived, and recorded music here. Eventually moving to Paisley Park which you can tour.

See & Do

  • Sculpture Garden. Must see. It’s free, really cool sculptures including the cherry on a spoon fountain, and views of the city skyline.
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art. Large, free art museum, worth a stop in.
  • Northeast Arts District. Small little neighborhood with a strip of shops and restaurants where I stayed.
  • Uptown. Trendy commercial district. High energy nightlife. Very cool area.
  • Warehouse District & North Loop. Really cool neighborhood with old factories converted to apartments. You’ll find some markets.
  • Cedar-Riverside. Another nice little neighborhood.
  • Linden Hills. Nice residential area with green spaces, co-op grocery store, and farmer’s market.
  • Kenwood. Another nice neighborhood with several lakes and parks.
  • Midtown Global Market. International market with food from all over the world.
  • Minnehaha Park. Large park with concessions and a large waterfall.
  • Nicollete Island. In the heart of the city, you can walk or drive and take a nice short stroll around this little forest island.
  • Murals. Located in central Downtown you’ll find Prince and Bob Dylan murals easily discoverable on Google maps.
  • Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. Takes you along the lakes and rivers in the northern part of the city, offering a nice little drive and areas to stop and relax. This links up with the Great River Road Scenic Byway.
  • Guthrie Theater. Performing arts events are held here, but on any day you can tour part of the building for free. The endless bridge observatory offers nice views of the city.
  • Mill City Museum. Old flour mill turned into a park.
  • House of Balls. Funhouse, art, sculptures. I didn’t get here, but the reviews are great, and it’s free with suggested donation.
  • State Fair. I happened to visit during the state fair at the end of August which was a pretty big event. You can park nearby and shuttle over to avoid the craziness of parking.
  • Mall of America. The largest mall in the country, complete with indoor amusement park. Just south of Minneapolis in Bloomington. Worth checking out, especially if you have a car.
  • REI Flagship. If you’re an outdoor buff or just love REI, they have a huge flagship store in Bloomington, just south of Minneapolis.
  • University of Minnesota. College campus worth driving through or meandering around.

Food & Drink

  • Good Day Cafe. Really good breakfast place. A little farther out that happened to be near where I was staying for my first night.
  • Hai Hai. Located in the northeast, this place has spectacular Vietnamese food.
  • Northeast Tea House. One of my new favorite tea shops. Great selection and high quality teas. Come in for a single serving to sit or take away, or sample a few. It’s very serene. Has a matcha mill which is used to grind up the tea leaves into matcha powder which preserves the freshness of the tea for longer. I think this might be my preferred place for matcha.


  • St. Paul. Very close to Minneapolis, the reason this area is dubbed the twin cities. Downtown and Grand Ave around Summit Hill.
  • Paisley Park Studios. Prince’s home and recording studio. Now open to the public, you can actually take a guided tour (several options). It’s so worth it. I’m not a huge Prince fan, but if you’re into music, this is a must see. Really interesting and you’ll learn things about Prince you never knew. What a remarkable talent. They noted he played all 20 something instruments on one of his albums! Read the details on the website, you can’t really take in anything and your cell phone will be locked in a pouch for the first part of the tour, but then you can take pictures at the end. So don’t leave it in the car. Cost: $48+.
  • Wayzata. Nice little town along the lake that was recommended to me at breakfast one day. It’s small with shops and restaurants with some boating activities. A bit upscale. If you have some time and want to get out of the city, this might be a nice little adventure.
  • Great River Road Scenic Byway. I explored most of this in Wisconsin which you can read more about in that post.


  • Safety. I’ve always heard Minneapolis and St. Paul have high crime. I personally didn’t experience or observe anything that would make me think that, but I can imagine in some of the more run down, lower socioeconomic areas, one might be inclined to think that. I still have a hard time understanding how this could be, but maybe it’s closer to the downtown area. My research had me thinking it was like Detroit, but I didn’t get that vibe at all. The surrounding neighborhoods outside the downtown were very nice and people were quite friendly. So my advice here is to research neighborhoods yourself to make sure you’re staying somewhere safe, maybe through hotel or AirBnB reviews, or just Google. I don’t think you’ll have any issues finding a good area to stay in. Many of the neighborhoods listed above are lovely. I tend to prefer being outside of the downtown where it’s quieter and parking is easier. I did put in my notes to avoid staying in Midtown and Philips (Lake St, Hiawatha St.), though visiting Midtown during the day was fine. St. Paul seemed a bit sketchier to me, though research indicated it was generally safer.

2. North Shore

Gooseberry Falls

Highlights: Waterfalls, beaches
Suggest Staying: 3-5 days
Stay Around: Two Harbors or Goosberry Falls State Park
Internet: Weak
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I only discovered this area just before my visit to Minnesota and so glad I did! It’s a great scenic drive I’d say about 2-3 hours in length up the shore of Lake Michigan starting from Duluth up through Grand Marais. Along the way you’ll find cute little towns, state parks, bays, beaches, and waterfalls. Camping is the best way to experience the North Shore in my opinion. So break out your tent, RV, camper, or hammock!

See & Do

  • Duluth. Gateway to the North Shore. A nice little city in its own right. Great place to gather supplies and check out the town for an afternoon, it’s very walkable. There are some really cool attractions there such as Canal Park, Lakewalk, downtown, and Fitger’s. Inside Fitger’s complex is a hotel and also shops, restaurants, and breweries. I really liked Trailfitters and Duluth Kitchen Co.
  • Two Harbors. Small town with all the amenities. Great place to explore or make your home base.
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park. My favorite attraction along the North Shore. Even if you’re not doing the North Shore, but you’re nearby, say in or near Duluth, definitely check this place out! It’s not a single, but triple set of waterfalls. You can hike along the trail and walk along the rocks. There’s a loop trail most people don’t realize, so you can break away from the crowds and get views on the opposite side which make for great pictures of the lower, mid, and upper falls. There is some more to the park, but this is the main draw. You can also camp here at the large campground, though read up on the amenities. The bathrooms seemed kind of basic, but there were more facilities at the visitor center. Get there early to get parking as this place can get crowded due to its popularity.
  • Beaver Bay. Neat little town with amenities, marina, and beaches. Meander around Beaver Falls along the river under the bridge. There’s not a clear trail to get down there, but easy enough to figure out, and you’ll likely have it all to yourself. Glen Avon Falls is nearby.
  • Silver Bay. Another nice little town with amenities and beaches, such as Black Beach.
  • Palisade Head. Spectacular views of the bays and Lake Michigan. Popular spot for rock climbing.
  • Tattegouche State Park. Take this short (or extended) hike to High Falls and Two Step Falls. There is also Cascade Falls. You can camp here. Parking lot fills up fast.
  • Cross River Falls. Large falls in Schroeder.
  • Temperance Falls. Large falls by Temperance River State Park. Also find Hidden Falls.
  • Lutsen. Mountain ski area.
  • Cascade Falls. Located at Cascade River State Park.
  • Grand Marais. I think this is the largest town along the North Shore (not counting Duluth), with shops, restaurants, and a marina. If you’re looking to really get away and don’t mind long drives to other parts of the shore or plan on staying in one place, this would be a nice option where you wouldn’t really need to go anywhere else. You can catch the historical Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway here which goes up through the woods. I didn’t explore much. Grand Marais is pretty far north from where the bulk of the attractions are.

Food & Drink

  • Northern Waters Smokehaus (Duluth). Oh man this place is good. Sandwiches and excellent smoked fish. I was able to take some smoked fish with me. I will be ordering smoked trout in the future from this place. Skip the line, order online.
  • New London Cafe (Duluth). Very good breakfast.
  • Cedar Coffee Company (Two Harbors). Healthy food and good drinks with outdoor seating.
  • Lemon Wolf Cafe (Beaver Bay). Great little cafe with outstanding grilled smoked herring. I typically don’t like herring, but this was fantastic. They have burgers, salads, and other things too. Really friendly, cool owner and chef.
  • Angry Trout Cafe (Grand Marais). Stellar restaurant with amazing fish and bratwurst, among other things. Right on the water with outdoor seating, just on the edge of town.


  • Accommodations. Book well in advance, especially in summer, as things fill up fast! I had to book two different campgrounds over the course of a few days due to availability. Gooseberry and Tattegouche are most centrally located. If you’re looking for a town, Two Harbors is probably your best bet (you can camp here too), or if you don’t mind driving, Duluth and Grand Marais are also good options. Gooseberry is about an hour from Duluth.
  • Internet & Cell Reception. Cell reception is good in Duluth and pretty good in the towns along the shore. Otherwise it’s spotty, but sticking fairly close to the main scenic road and highway seemed to be pretty good.
  • Canada. If you keep driving north, you’ll arrive in Canada, Thunder Bay being the closest big city. This is a great jumping off point to Michigan’s rugged Isle Royale National Park which offers pristine nature and potential opportunity to see the northern lights.

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