100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota!

  • Post last modified:January 6, 2023

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If you’ve never been to Minnesota, you need to add it to your bucket list. Unless you like cold, don’t make your visit between mid-November and mid-March! If you have been to Minnesota, no matter how often, there are more places to see and things to do! Even if you live here, you may be surprised at some of the places referenced here. So, here are 100+ reasons to love Minnesota!

100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota!
“Most photographed place in Minnesota!”
You will see the above in MANY photo displays in Minnesota!

You may disagree, but you will certainly see this in nearly every display of photographs from around the state! The picture shows Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior, about 45 miles northeast of Duluth. Just one reason among the 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota! To start things off, here’s a link to another post with my work-to-date on the Twin Cities.

This post includes links to other Minnesota posts in this blog. While “stand-alone” content is sometimes preferred, links to other websites occur throughout the post. The article remains a work in progress as Minnesota is my home state, and I’m STILL discovering new places, attractions, and activities! (You are visiting an early draft of this post! Mostly, the links to individual areas are not complete.)

This map shows the sections of the state referenced in this set of posts.

Here are the sections corresponding to the numbers:

1 – North Shore of Lake Superior
2 – Northern MN
3 – West Central
4 – East Central
5 – Twin Cities
6 – Southwestern
7 – Southeastern

The lines are drawn roughly to indicate sections, but each post may somewhat overlap as well!

The RED lines are Interstate Highways, the BLUE lines are the section dividers, and the thin black lines show the county borders.

A word about Minnesota lakes

The state’s slogan, “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” came from a speech by a professor at the Minnesota State Fair in 1874. The unofficial slogan and the phrase on the license plates started in the 1920s. By the official designation that a lake must be 10 acres or more, there are 11,842 lakes. However, by other definitions, there are 14,380 lakes. Wisconsin claims to have more lakes than Minnesota, but they don’t have a size definition. Using that criteria, Minnesota has over 20,000 lakes. (By the way, 10 acres equals about 9 American Football fields.)

Let’s get into the 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota!

One of the truly great of the 100+ reasons to love Minnesota is the North Shore area of Minnesota near Lake Superior. While this article will include pictures, here’s a link to more information about that area. For many, however, it’s fishing and other water recreation. There are about a dozen or more “lake communities” here in the state. More on that is below.

Areas of the state

North Shore of Lake Superior area – Many of the 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota!

100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota
Here’s the North Shore!

In my opinion, the North Shore continues to be the best part of the state for tourism. There are many of the 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota here on “The Shore!” I’ll have a link to a post specifically about the North Shore. But here’s a picture from the shore.

Above on the left is Pigeon Falls, the tallest waterfall in Minnesota at 120 feet. The left half lies in the US, while the right half crosses into Canada. On the right side above is the Lift Bridge in Duluth. I’ll have a picture or three in the North Shore post showing ships leaving with the bridge up as it is in this picture.

Northern and Northwestern area

While the source of the Mississippi River lies in this area, fishing, water recreation, and hunting are likely more important to many Minnesotans. However, if you are sightseeing in Minnesota, more attractions appear. For example, the northernmost point in the Lower 48. And the International Wolf Center in Ely. Of course, International Falls, “the nation’s icebox,” lies on the Canadian border. Voyagers National Park, the National Park with the highest percentage of water, lies just southeast of Internation Falls.

But, if you like wilderness and roughing it, the Boundary Waters Canoe area is yours as well. The post (link will be here) will include more about these attractions and much more.

West Central area – More of 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota!

(Writers note: I grew up in this area. In fact, I grew up in Ottertail County, which has more lakes than any other county in the Lower 48. I’ll have a link to the post here. But here’s a link to an existing post about Ottertail County.

East Central Minnesota

Of course, this section borders Wisconsin and “hosts” Interstate 35, which terminates in Duluth. You can drive from Duluth to Laredo, TX, just short of the Mexican border. Without hitting a stop light! Again, there are lakes and state parks in the area.

I’ll also write about the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894. Of course, you can visit the museum. And the fires of 1918, which were more deadly. But, I can’t write about Hinckley without mentioning Tobie’s Restaurant & Bakery, a favorite stopping point for Twin Citians on their way to the North Shore.

Southwestern area

Southwestern Minnesota contains fewer lakes than the rest of the state. In fact, two of the counties don’t have any natural lakes. Of course, there are state parks and other attractions. More of that coming later.

On the left is one picture from the Pipestone National Monument. The monument stands in the state’s southwestern corner, near the intersection with South Dakota and Iowa.

Again, more in the post (link coming here.)

Southeastern area

Lake Pepin

I don’t have pictures of much of this area yet, but I do have a picture of Lake Pepin (above). I took this one from the Wisconsin side while traveling the Great River Road. Lake Pepin is a natural lake formed when the Wisconsin River dumps soil and silt into the Mississippi River, causing water buildup.

Basically, this widening of the Mississippi creates a lake running for 21 miles and makes 2.5 miles at its widest point. (It’s also the widest point on the Mississippi River!) Interestingly, the invention of water skiing occurred on this lake in 1922! Of course, more about this and other places in the post (that will be linked from here).

The largest city in this part of the state is Rochester, home of the world-renown Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System. Mayo’s presence makes Rochester a unique city for its size. The metropolitan area is about 225,000.

A quirky attraction in southeastern MN is the Spam Museum in Austin. It’s the headquarters for Hormel, the maker of Spam. By the way, the other two Minnesota counties that don’t contain a lake are in the state’s southeastern part.

Twin Cities – Many more of 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota!

Minneapolis skyline
Minneapolis Skyline

By the way, when you visit Minnesota, you will often hear people talk about “The Cities,” meaning the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Some will say Minneapolis, and some St. Paul; others call them the Twin Cities. But just “The Cities” is the most popular name, especially out-state. Oh, and if you travel a lot, you might call it MSP, which is the airport designation derived from Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Special Interest areas

State Parks

Here’s a link to the official Minnesota State Park site. There are 66 State Parks and nine State Recreation areas in the state.

100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota
Click or tap on this screenshot to view the map on the State Park website

National Parks, Forests, and other attractions

  • Voyageurs National Park lies near International Falls and borders Canada. Part of Quetico Provincial Park lies nearby. This park appears in the North and Northwestern MN post
  • Boundary Waters Canoe area appears in the North and Northwestern post as well.
  • Superior National Forest appears in the North Shore post. It borders the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the Quetico Provincial park in Canada.
  • Grand Portage National Monument appears in the North Shore post.
  • Mississippi National River & Recreation area runs through the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Unlike other National Park locations, this park consists of regional park land, national park land, and private land all meant for riverfront recreation. The Great River Road runs through the area as well.
  • Pipestone National Monument appears in the Southwestern Minnesota post. The area is considered sacred to many native Americans who have carried on the tradition of quarrying and pipe-making for generations. The belief is that the smoke from the pipe carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit.
  • Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway appears in the Twin Cities area and East Central Minnesota. The river runs along the Minnesota and Wisconsin border.

Well-known Minnesota lake areas – More of the 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota

Largest Lakes and “water stuff!”

The largest lake entirely within Minnesota is Red Lake in the northern section. It covers 288,800 acres. It’s also considered one of the best fishing lakes in Minnesota.

The most popular lake is Lake Minnetonka. It’s the 9th largest lake entirely within the boundaries of Minnesota. There are several reasons for its popularity; first, it’s a great fishing lake, but the main reason is it’s less than 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis with the western suburbs close by and some surrounding the lake. (Writers note: I live eight miles from the lake!)

After Red Lake, the other five largest are: Mille Lacs Lake (132,516 acres), Leech Lake (111,527 acres), Lake Winnibigoshish (58.544 acres,) and Lake Vermillion (40,557 acres.) I’ll cover more on each lake in the section it calls home.

Additionally, Minnesota boasts over 92,000 miles of river. Interestingly, it contains the headwater for three major North American river systems. Of course, the Mississippi and then the Red River of the North, which flows on the Minnesota/North Dakota border and empties into Hudson Bay in Canada.

However, the third one may be a stretch as the St. Lawrence river system flows out of the eastern end of the Great Lakes. Actually, using the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, ocean-going ships can reach Duluth Harbor. And Chicago on Lake Michigan.

Lake Communities

Here’s a listing of the most well-known “lake towns” in Minnesota. Many of them provide fall and winter recreation as well. Fall brings hunting and fall leaf color viewing. Winter brings snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing. And here’s the list:

  • Brainerd Lakes, consisting of Brainerd, Baxter, and several smaller towns, make up the most populated area. The area contains many nearby popular lakes and several well-known resorts. More information about the area appears in the East Central Minnesota section.
  • Bemidji lies on the shore of Lake Bemidji, a Mississippi River lake. Meaning the Mississippi River flows through this lake. It’s near the Mississippi source and other lakes and state parks. More information about this area appears in the Northern and Northwestern section.
  • Detroit Lakes appears in the West Central section. Detroit Lakes serves as the county seat of Becker County, which contains over 700 lakes, and lies just north of Ottertail County, which contains over 1,000 lakes!
  • Alexandria also appears in the West Central section. While there aren’t as many lakes, there are some large lakes nearby. And there are still several hundred lakes nearly. The city population of nearly 15,000, and the fact that it’s the fastest-growing western Minnesota city provides shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
  • Pelican Rapids, again, appears in the West Central section. It’s in the heart of Ottertail County with it’s over 1,000 lakes and near several popular state parks. While the city population is only about 2,500 people, many of the lakes have year-round homes adding to the population.
  • Walker appears in the Northern and Northwestern section. Although there are also many lakes near here, Walker primarily “supports” Leech Lake. It’s the third largest lake entirely within Minnesota.
  • Cross Lake appears in the East Central part of Minnesota. The town anchors the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. There are 14 interconnected lakes that offer great fishing. This area remains better known for fishing than other areas.
  • Wayzata-Minnetrista-Excelsior (and more) call Lake Minnetonka home. They provide dining, drinking, and shopping around Minnesota’s most popular lake. They are all within 20 miles of downtown Minneapolis. Which is the main reason they are popular. When there is a large lake with great fishing and boating activities within a major metropolitan area, it’s got to be popular!

Larger-than-life statues, including Paul Bunyan

Special posts about Minnesota – More of the 100+ Reasons to Love Minnesota

Great Minnesota Get-Together: The Minnesota State Fair ranks as the best state fair in the US by many rankings. Some rank Texas’ state fair higher, but that’s Texas! Here’s the link to my post about the fair.

See this one about the Otter Trail Scenic Byway. It’s in Ottertail County, home to more lakes than any other county in the Lower 48! Over 1,000 lakes “live” here! This scenic drive provides nearly 20 of the 100+ reasons to love Minnesota!

This post “talks about” visiting places along a trip I often take to visit family members. More favorite places in Minnesota. And an inspiration for you to look at places along your route you often drive!

Here’s a post from the start of a Great River Road trip. Although the title says Bismarck to the Great River Road, this particular post is about places in Minnesota that you find along a well-travel path but don’t typically see!

And here’s another post for those who “remember” COVID! An idea for “social distancing!!”

Minnesota Winter activities

Since Minnesota gets cold in the winter, we find ways to celebrate winter! (Or else we’d go off the deep end!) Here are a few winter events:

St. Paul Winter Carnival: This year’s event happens from January 26th through February 5th. I haven’t written a post about it, but here’s the link to the 2023 event.

Art Shanty Projects: This event puts art together with an outdoor event on a frozen lake. The most recent years saw Lake Harriett in Minneapolis host the event. Here’s a link to a post I created in February 2020.

Lutsen Mountains: While these aren’t tall mountains, they offer fantastic skiing and other winter activities along Lake Superior. Obviously, the skiing doesn’t stand up to the Rocky Mountain skiing, but they provide many people with popular weekend getaways. While it is about 250 miles from the Twin Cities, it still attracts many people from “The Cities” to drive up there for long weekends.

Classic Rock Recollection

“The Girl of the North Country” by Bob Dylan

Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair,
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,
Remember me to the one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.

Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm,
When the rivers freeze and summer ends…

Lyrics by Bob Dylan (As most of you know, he grew up in Hibbing, MN.)

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