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7 of the COOLEST Summer Day Trip Spots in Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, MN

From Duluth’s North Shore to Austin’s SPAM Museum — yes, there’s actually a canned meat museum — the Land of 10,000 lakes is home to some COOL destinations. The coolest part? Many of those cute, quirky, quaint, fun spots make for a perfect summer day trip.

If you’re looking to get out of town and do something new, we’ve got a few suggestions for you. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite spots. You’ll find hidden treasures, popular local jaunts, and well-reviewed establishments all over Minnesota.

Here are some of the COOLest Minnesota day trip towns and attractions you can enjoy this summer:

1. Rochester

Rochester Park and Recreation

(Photo Credit: Rochester Park and Recreation Facebook page.)

Rochester is Minnesota’s third largest city and is well-known as a hub of innovation, according to Minnesota Monthly. The city’s 20-year plan is to not only invest in expanding its renowned Mayo Clinic, but also making itself a destination for arts, culture, and biotechnology.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 90 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Take a trolley tour. Rochester Trolley & Tour Co. offers a variety of scenic tours of the historical town and old Amish country. There are also specialty tours that hit microbreweries, wineries and gardens. They even have a haunted trolley tour! For more details, you can visit their website.
  • Eat at a delicious restaurant. Rochester offers a wide variety of interesting and intriguing restaurants. Some stand-outs that have opened recently include Guerita’s Window (try the barbacoa) and Hollandberry Pannenkoeken (try the pancakes). Not only does Rochester offer interesting dining options, there are also must-visit casual food stops like Kung Fu Tea!
  • Hit Silver Lake Park. There are dozens of parks in and around Rochester where you can experience outdoor recreation. Silver Lake Park is a great option if you want both flexibility and variety. Set on the lake, you can enjoy hiking, walking, biking, picnicking and swimming, as well as a number of fields and a playground.

2. Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park

(Photo Credit: Minnesota DNR website.)

Itasca State Park is Minnesota’s oldest state park, established in 1891. The park’s main attraction is the headwaters of the Mississippi River, but it also features more than 100 lakes and 32,000 acres of land.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 3 hours and 30 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Explore the headwaters. The starting point of the Mississippi River is just 18 feet wide and a couple of feet deep. You can walk across the shallow area where the rock dam signals the end of Lake Itasca and the beginning of the river.
  • Take a dip in Lake Itasca. The swimming beach on Lake Itasca is a popular spot to enjoy a refreshing swim on a hot summer day. There’s also a playground, picnic shelter and volleyball area. If you’re on your way to the park and want to pick up fixings for a picnic, you can stop off at the Rock Creek General Store for everything you might need.
  • Walk through Preachers Grove. Inland from Lake Itasca is Preachers Grove, featuring towering red pines that cast long shadows at sunrise and sunset. Don’t forget to bring your camera. This spot is undeniably photogenic.

3. Northfield

Northfield

(Photo Credit: City of Northfield, Minnesota Facebook page.)

Just a short drive from the Twin Cities, Northfield boasts a rich history and a variety of attractions and activities. And it’s one of the Welter Heating team’s own picks for a perfect day trip spot.

Distance from the Twin Cities: 45 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Hit the Riverwalk Market Fair. Held from June through October each year, the Riverwalk Market Fair is a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Complimented by scenic views of the Cannon River, shoppers will find fine art, organic produce, artisan foods and local music. The market is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, so make sure to get an early start.
  • Visit the Cowling Arboretum. The Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College is a great place to enjoy the warm weather and outdoor activities. There is an extensive 15-mile trail system and a 150-acre prairie restoration that offers great bird watching opportunities.
  • Eat at Basil’s Pizza. Basil’s Pizza has been a Northfield staple since 1960. After arriving from Greece in 1956, Vasili “Bill” Pitsavas learned the pizza-making trade and opened his own shop in Northfield. Thanks to their expert fusion of Italian and Greek flavors, Basil’s is consistently voted one of the best pizza joints in the state.

4. Jeffers Petroglyphs

Jeffers Petroglyphs

(Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society website.)

Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Jeffers Petroglyphs is a place that everyone needs to visit at least once. It’s a living sacred site where American Indians left carvings — also called petroglyphs — of humans, deer, elk, buffalo, turtles, thunderbirds, arrows, and more. The carvings date back thousands of years. The site, located in Comfrey, MN, was named by City Pages as one of the best hidden places around Minnesota for taking a road trip.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 2 hours and 30 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Check out the visitor center. The visitor center offers exhibits on American Indian culture and prairie ecology. There’s also a video presentation.
  • Embark on a self-guided tour. The 160-acre site features two nature trails, one that’s about a ¼ mile in length and another that is about ¾ of a mile in length.
  • Have a picnic. The only things available in the museum store are bottled water and snacks, so make sure to plan ahead. Pack your cooler before you head out and take advantage of the picnic tables and shelters to enjoy a quiet meal.

5. Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

(Photo Credit: Split Rock Lighthouse Facebook page.)

The Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, MN is a National Historic Landmark, completed in 1910. It’s been restored to its 1920s appearance and offers regular, interesting special events on the premises.. Not only is it historical and regal – it’s right on Lake Superior’s gorgeous north shore.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 3 hours

What you should do when you get there:

  • Take a guided tour. Guided tours leave from the visitor center throughout the day and feature the exploration of four different buildings on the property. Buildings toured include the restored keeper’s house, oil house,  fog signal building, and the lighthouse itself. Of course, you can also climb to the top of the lighthouse and explore the site without a guide, as well.
  • Go for a hike. There is a ¼ mile hiking trail that takes you to the lakeshore at the bottom of the cliffs. This is a great way to get a little exercise and have the opportunity to snap a photo of the historic lighthouse from below.
  • Drive the North Shore. Once you’ve taken in all the sights of Lake Superior from the lighthouse, take a drive along the North Shore Scenic Drive to see more rock formations, forests, and lake views. The Drive starts at Canal Park in Duluth, MN and stretches all the way to Grand Portage.

6. Downtown Stillwater

Downtown Stillwater

(Photo Credit: City of Stillwater, Minnesota Facebook page)

Touted as the birthplace of Minnesota, Stillwater has a rich history as a lumber town and Downtown is set on the beautiful St. Croix River. You can look at their website to learn more about the wonderful town. We promise it’s worth a visit.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 35 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Enjoy the water. The St. Croix has a number of public boat launches to drop your own boat in, but there are also recreational rental options. You can fish, swim, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or just cruise around taking in the scenery.
  • Do a little shopping. From antiques to fashion, Downtown Stillwater’s Main Street is filled with unique shops and boutiques where you can find great gifts for others or a little something for yourself. One especially popular local establishment is the family friendly Tremblay’s Sweet Shop and their legendary fudge.
  • Eat, drink and be merry. There are a number of great restaurants throughout Downtown Stillwater. In fact, there are so many that it’s almost hard to choose a favorite. That aside, we’ll give you two: Lolo American Kitchen (try the olives) and recently opened Feller at the Lora Hotel.

7. Red Wing

Red Wing

(Photo Credit: Red Wing City Government Facebook page)

Red Wing is a Welter Heating favorite. We love this historic city because it has tons of small town charm and is a quick drive north from the Twin Cities metro.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 1 hour

What you should do when you get there:

  • Visit the Pottery Museum of Red Wing. The Pottery Museum of Red Wing honors the history of the city’s clay industry, featuring more than 6,000 vintage pieces. There are dozens of exhibits that cover 13,000 square feet.
  • Play at the water park. The Red Wing Water Park not only features awesome water slides, but also views of the bluffs, trees, and the mighty Mississippi. There’s also an interactive play area, lap swimming, diving, a zero depth pool, and a sandy play area.
  • Hike at Barn Bluff. Barn Bluff is one of the best-known natural features along the upper Mississippi River. There are a few different trails leading up to the top, where you’ll see the river on one side and the city of Red Wing on the other.

Embark on One of Minnesota’s Top Day Trips

We truly hope you’re able to get out and enjoy some of these cool Minnesota sights. If you find your way to one of these destinations, we’d love it if you shared a photo or two with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Of course, if you’d prefer staying cool and comfortable in your home this summer, we’re here for you. If you’re in need of air conditioner repairs or just have questions, contact Welter Heating today.

7 of the COOLEST Summer Day Trip Spots in Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, MN

From Duluth’s North Shore to Austin’s SPAM Museum — yes, there’s actually a canned meat museum — the Land of 10,000 lakes is home to some COOL destinations. The coolest part? Many of those cute, quirky, quaint, fun spots make for a perfect summer day trip.

If you’re looking to get out of town and do something new, we’ve got a few suggestions for you. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite spots. You’ll find hidden treasures, popular local jaunts, and well-reviewed establishments all over Minnesota.

Here are some of the COOLest Minnesota day trip towns and attractions you can enjoy this summer:

1. Rochester

Rochester Park and Recreation

(Photo Credit: Rochester Park and Recreation Facebook page.)

Rochester is Minnesota’s third largest city and is well-known as a hub of innovation, according to Minnesota Monthly. The city’s 20-year plan is to not only invest in expanding its renowned Mayo Clinic, but also making itself a destination for arts, culture, and biotechnology.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 90 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Take a trolley tour. Rochester Trolley & Tour Co. offers a variety of scenic tours of the historical town and old Amish country. There are also specialty tours that hit microbreweries, wineries and gardens. They even have a haunted trolley tour! For more details, you can visit their website.
  • Eat at a delicious restaurant. Rochester offers a wide variety of interesting and intriguing restaurants. Some stand-outs that have opened recently include Guerita’s Window (try the barbacoa) and Hollandberry Pannenkoeken (try the pancakes). Not only does Rochester offer interesting dining options, there are also must-visit casual food stops like Kung Fu Tea!
  • Hit Silver Lake Park. There are dozens of parks in and around Rochester where you can experience outdoor recreation. Silver Lake Park is a great option if you want both flexibility and variety. Set on the lake, you can enjoy hiking, walking, biking, picnicking and swimming, as well as a number of fields and a playground.

2. Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park

(Photo Credit: Minnesota DNR website.)

Itasca State Park is Minnesota’s oldest state park, established in 1891. The park’s main attraction is the headwaters of the Mississippi River, but it also features more than 100 lakes and 32,000 acres of land.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 3 hours and 30 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Explore the headwaters. The starting point of the Mississippi River is just 18 feet wide and a couple of feet deep. You can walk across the shallow area where the rock dam signals the end of Lake Itasca and the beginning of the river.
  • Take a dip in Lake Itasca. The swimming beach on Lake Itasca is a popular spot to enjoy a refreshing swim on a hot summer day. There’s also a playground, picnic shelter and volleyball area. If you’re on your way to the park and want to pick up fixings for a picnic, you can stop off at the Rock Creek General Store for everything you might need.
  • Walk through Preachers Grove. Inland from Lake Itasca is Preachers Grove, featuring towering red pines that cast long shadows at sunrise and sunset. Don’t forget to bring your camera. This spot is undeniably photogenic.

3. Northfield

Northfield

(Photo Credit: City of Northfield, Minnesota Facebook page.)

Just a short drive from the Twin Cities, Northfield boasts a rich history and a variety of attractions and activities. And it’s one of the Welter Heating team’s own picks for a perfect day trip spot.

Distance from the Twin Cities: 45 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Hit the Riverwalk Market Fair. Held from June through October each year, the Riverwalk Market Fair is a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Complimented by scenic views of the Cannon River, shoppers will find fine art, organic produce, artisan foods and local music. The market is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, so make sure to get an early start.
  • Visit the Cowling Arboretum. The Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College is a great place to enjoy the warm weather and outdoor activities. There is an extensive 15-mile trail system and a 150-acre prairie restoration that offers great bird watching opportunities.
  • Eat at Basil’s Pizza. Basil’s Pizza has been a Northfield staple since 1960. After arriving from Greece in 1956, Vasili “Bill” Pitsavas learned the pizza-making trade and opened his own shop in Northfield. Thanks to their expert fusion of Italian and Greek flavors, Basil’s is consistently voted one of the best pizza joints in the state.

4. Jeffers Petroglyphs

Jeffers Petroglyphs

(Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society website.)

Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Jeffers Petroglyphs is a place that everyone needs to visit at least once. It’s a living sacred site where American Indians left carvings — also called petroglyphs — of humans, deer, elk, buffalo, turtles, thunderbirds, arrows, and more. The carvings date back thousands of years. The site, located in Comfrey, MN, was named by City Pages as one of the best hidden places around Minnesota for taking a road trip.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 2 hours and 30 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Check out the visitor center. The visitor center offers exhibits on American Indian culture and prairie ecology. There’s also a video presentation.
  • Embark on a self-guided tour. The 160-acre site features two nature trails, one that’s about a ¼ mile in length and another that is about ¾ of a mile in length.
  • Have a picnic. The only things available in the museum store are bottled water and snacks, so make sure to plan ahead. Pack your cooler before you head out and take advantage of the picnic tables and shelters to enjoy a quiet meal.

5. Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

(Photo Credit: Split Rock Lighthouse Facebook page.)

The Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, MN is a National Historic Landmark, completed in 1910. It’s been restored to its 1920s appearance and offers regular, interesting special events on the premises.. Not only is it historical and regal – it’s right on Lake Superior’s gorgeous north shore.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 3 hours

What you should do when you get there:

  • Take a guided tour. Guided tours leave from the visitor center throughout the day and feature the exploration of four different buildings on the property. Buildings toured include the restored keeper’s house, oil house,  fog signal building, and the lighthouse itself. Of course, you can also climb to the top of the lighthouse and explore the site without a guide, as well.
  • Go for a hike. There is a ¼ mile hiking trail that takes you to the lakeshore at the bottom of the cliffs. This is a great way to get a little exercise and have the opportunity to snap a photo of the historic lighthouse from below.
  • Drive the North Shore. Once you’ve taken in all the sights of Lake Superior from the lighthouse, take a drive along the North Shore Scenic Drive to see more rock formations, forests, and lake views. The Drive starts at Canal Park in Duluth, MN and stretches all the way to Grand Portage.

6. Downtown Stillwater

Downtown Stillwater

(Photo Credit: City of Stillwater, Minnesota Facebook page)

Touted as the birthplace of Minnesota, Stillwater has a rich history as a lumber town and Downtown is set on the beautiful St. Croix River. You can look at their website to learn more about the wonderful town. We promise it’s worth a visit.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 35 minutes

What you should do when you get there:

  • Enjoy the water. The St. Croix has a number of public boat launches to drop your own boat in, but there are also recreational rental options. You can fish, swim, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or just cruise around taking in the scenery.
  • Do a little shopping. From antiques to fashion, Downtown Stillwater’s Main Street is filled with unique shops and boutiques where you can find great gifts for others or a little something for yourself. One especially popular local establishment is the family friendly Tremblay’s Sweet Shop and their legendary fudge.
  • Eat, drink and be merry. There are a number of great restaurants throughout Downtown Stillwater. In fact, there are so many that it’s almost hard to choose a favorite. That aside, we’ll give you two: Lolo American Kitchen (try the olives) and recently opened Feller at the Lora Hotel.

7. Red Wing

Red Wing

(Photo Credit: Red Wing City Government Facebook page)

Red Wing is a Welter Heating favorite. We love this historic city because it has tons of small town charm and is a quick drive north from the Twin Cities metro.

Travel time from the Twin Cities: 1 hour

What you should do when you get there:

  • Visit the Pottery Museum of Red Wing. The Pottery Museum of Red Wing honors the history of the city’s clay industry, featuring more than 6,000 vintage pieces. There are dozens of exhibits that cover 13,000 square feet.
  • Play at the water park. The Red Wing Water Park not only features awesome water slides, but also views of the bluffs, trees, and the mighty Mississippi. There’s also an interactive play area, lap swimming, diving, a zero depth pool, and a sandy play area.
  • Hike at Barn Bluff. Barn Bluff is one of the best-known natural features along the upper Mississippi River. There are a few different trails leading up to the top, where you’ll see the river on one side and the city of Red Wing on the other.

Embark on One of Minnesota’s Top Day Trips

We truly hope you’re able to get out and enjoy some of these cool Minnesota sights. If you find your way to one of these destinations, we’d love it if you shared a photo or two with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Of course, if you’d prefer staying cool and comfortable in your home this summer, we’re here for you. If you’re in need of air conditioner repairs or just have questions, contact Welter Heating today.

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