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Weekend Getaways Near Minneapolis

Some of the Midwest's best vacation destinations are enticingly close to the Twin Cities. Plan a weekend getaway to Minnesota hot spots like Duluth, Winona and Rochester, or venture outside the state to scenic Decorah, Iowa, or Wisconsin's Great River Road. Bonus: Getting to these retreats requires only three hours or less in the car.
  • A gondolier steers his boat on the St. Croix river in Stillwater, Minnesota.

    Stillwater, Minnesota: 27 miles east of Minneapolis

    Historic Stillwater lures Twin Cities locals and vacationers to the scenic banks of the St. Croix River. Get cozy in the cushioned  of a  powered by a staw hat-clad gondolier. Back in town, visit Main Street for one of the state’s most popular stretches of stores selling vintage wares and collectibles. Explore 50-plus shops, like where you'll find costume jewelry and oak furniture. Dine at  for Caribbean, Italian-American and Asian eats with a wine bar. Settle down for the night in , once the estate of a lumber baron. One of its five rooms has an oversize copper soaking tub; another has a ladderleading to a tower with scenic views.

    More reasons to love Stillwater

  • A size 638½ work boot at Red Wing Shoe Company Museum and Store in Red Wing, Minnesota

    Red Wing, Minnesota: 56 miles southeast of Minneapolis

    Have your camera handy for the size 638½ work boot at a must-stop in the town known for hand-crafted leather kicks. The store’s main floor includes dress shoes, work boots and hiking boots; the basement is stacked with outlet bargains. Take your own boots-a-walking up along the scenic Mississippi river or to , where a museum educates visitors about Red Wing's historic role as a pottery town.  serves the town’s most elegant dinners, with seasonal entrees such as locally raised and braised Duroc pork. Just upstairs in the , a blend of 19th-century elegance and 21st-century comfort await.

    More reasons to love Red Wing

  • Lake Winona with Sugar Loaf bluff in the distance.
    Visit Winona

    Winona, Minnesota: 116 miles southeast of Minneapolis

    Head to the  and learn how the area boomed in the late 1800s, then take a walking tour of downtown's stained-glass masterpieces and ornate banks. The  displays art reflecting life on rivers, lakes and oceans. Experience one of those waterways for yourself at , a great spot for a leisurely afternoon of reading, strolling the pathways or paddling a rented kayak. Head into the bluffs on the outskirts of town for a meal of pork ribs with a smoked peach chipotle sauce or bacon-black truffle macaroni and cheese at . Sleep at , where CD players hide in phonographs and the innkeepers make amazing frittatas.

  • The lighthouse at the end of North Pier in Duluth, Minnesota

    Duluth, Minnesota: 155 miles northeast of Minneapolis

    If you're feeling motivated, get up early to see the sunrise lighting up the lake in sherbert shades of orange and pink at the 7.3-mile . No worries if you don't roll out of bed in time: will still be waiting with cranberry-wild rice French toast and other vegetarian-friendly breakfasts. Walk out to the lighthouse at the end of the , or tour the , both in . Or, head to  50 miles of trails and the swinging bridge over St. Louis River rapids. Listen to local bands while enjoying craft brews and wild rice burgers at . Stylish, luxurious rentals line Lake Superior at , 20 miles north of Duluth. There, guests can swim in the indoor pool, walk the private beach and unwind in the sauna.

    More reasons to love Duluth

  • Guests at Grand View Lodge can rent a Pontoon boat to explore Gull Lake in Nisswa, near Brainerd.

    Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota: 130 miles north of Minneapolis

    With more than 450 lakes in the Brainerd region, trips here are all about the water. Prep for four-hour guided fishing trips with  by eating delicious handmade scones and drinking a cup of strong joe made from beans roasted at in Nisswa. Or rent a kayak from to explore 25 miles of natural shoreline at the (Cuyuna is also a mountain biker's paradise). Regionally inspired foods, such as beer-battered walleye tacos and bison meatloaf sliders, fit right in with the early 1900s log cabin design at Nisswa's . At , three golf courses, a spa, water park and lake activities like paddleboard yoga and boat tours keep everyone in the family entertained. 

    More reasons to love Brainerd Lakes

  • The Root River State Trail near Lanesboro

    Lanesboro, Minnesota: 120 miles southeast of Minneapolis

    Some visit for the cycling: Lanesboro stands at the heart of the area's paved multi-use trails, including the 42-mile  and the 18-mile  (rent a bike at the if you don't have your own). Others come for the art: The professional  offers comedies, family-friendly shows and musicals in a 200-seat house, and  showcases the works of local artists. Burgers, flaxseed pancakes and anything made with farm eggs rule at , and special Saturday dinners showcase ingredients that are grown locally. The owners of , a100-plus-year-old B&B, serve a hearty breakfast.

    More reasons to love Lanesboro

  • Semva Art Gallery in Rochester, Minnesota
    Semva Art Gallery

    Rochester, Minnesota: 84 miles southeast of Minneapolis

    Downtown spots like and shops along Broadway Avenue provide a day's worth of shopping.  which brings together the works of regional artists with paintings, photography, mosaics, metalwork, jewelry, blown , sculpture and fiber arts, is an especially popular stop. Learn about the Mayo family’s legacy (the world-renowned Mayo Clinic is based in Rochester) while touring , the 100-year-old, 38-room country home overlooking the Zumbro River Valley. Later, opt for the fresh water Canadian walleye and a slice of Bunnies coconut cake at the , then spend the night where presidents and royalty have slept at historic .

    More reasons to love Rochester

  • National Eagle Center

    Wabasha and Lake City, Minnesota: 87 miles southeast of Minneapolis

    After a morning stroll along the Mississippi river, learn about resident eagles through hands-on exhibits and programs at the .  Six miles south of Wabasha sits , one of the largest independent toy shops in America, where the biggest draw is the hand-carved carousel; go for a spin on an otter, flamingo, dragon-riding wizard or a reindeer with antlers. , Lake City’s upscale dining spot on Lake Pepin, offers fabulous views and impresses with its seasonal and sophisticated Mediterranean-influenced cuisine. About 14 miles south of Lake City, spend the night at , which offers organic breakfasts, dreamy bathrobes and guided kayaking tours.

    More reasons to love Wabasha and Lake City

  • Paddlers explore the Upper Iowa River in Decorah

    Decorah, Iowa: 154 miles southeast of Minneapolis

    Come for the award-winning beers—Ratebeer named Decorah's the second-best brewery in the world in 2015—and stay for the welcoming town and gorgous nature scenes. Explore the Upper Iowa River in a rented kayak, canoe or tube from , or bike the , an 11-mile paved loop around town with artwork and a trout hatchery along the route. In town, head to Water Street for local ingredients on the hot food bar at , or start a special meal with an artisan cheese plate at . Rest up at the tasteful downtown.

    More reasons to love Decorah

  • Listen to live music while overlooking the Mississippi and La Croix Rivers at Muddy Waters in Prescott
    Muddy Waters

    Wisconsin's Great River Road: 157 miles from Minneapolis

    Between La Crosse (the starting point for this weekend getaway) and Prescott (the last stop before driving back to the Twin Cities), you'll find enticing river towns sure to lure you off the Mississippi-lined route. Start with a ride on the , a paddle-wheeler departing on daily cruises from La Crosse. An hour's drive from La Crosse, find in Alma. One step above a river shack, it serves the tangy sauces and smoky flavors of Memphis-style BBQ but overlooks Alma’s Lock and Dam No. 4. Spend the night in one of four restored buildings with river views at before continuing on to Stockholm's to try a sweet Honeycrisp Hard. Round out the roadtrip in Prescott, with live jazz and three decks overlooking the St. Croix and Mississippi at

    More reasons to love Wisconsin's Great River Road

  • Shop along Division Street in Northfield, Minnesota

    Northfield and Faribault, Minnesota: 44 miles south of Minneapolis

    Visit these two towns for both scenic strolls along the Cannon River and boutique shops and cafes in Victorian downtowns. Start the day with homemade pastries and fair trade coffee at before wandering the shops, galleries and boutiques in the red-brick buildings (many dating from the late 19th century and early 20th century) along Northfield's Division Street. Try  for funky gifts. In nearby Faribault, explore a trail in the 750-acre  or tour the (it's the nation's only factory still making blankets from raw wool). For dinner, enjoy local blue cheese on a burger at . Spend the night in the porch-wrapped, periwinkle .

    More reasons to love Northfield and Faribault

  • Architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Stockman House in Mason City
    Stockman House

    Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa: 132 miles south of Minneapolis

    Just 10 miles apart, these neighbors have distinct personalities. Stop at the , where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson played their final gig before dying in a plane crash just a few miles from Clear Lake in February 1959 (big names still perform at the venue). In Mason City, tour Frank Loyd Wright's , then dine on melt-in-your-mouth steak in the cozy . The world’s only surviving Frank Lloyd Wright hotel, the , is an easy choice for an overnight stay.

    More reasons to love Mason City and Clear Lake

  • Climb to the top of the Hermann Monument (also known as Hermann the German) for stunning views of New Ulm.
    Hermann Monument

    New Ulm, Minnesota: 96 miles southwest of Minneapolis

    New Ulm was a German utopian settlement in the 1850s, and for beer lovers, it's still the perfect spot. Plan your getaway for the annual Oktoberfest celebration, when beer from the 155-year-old flows (or swing by the historic brick mansion for lagers, Pilsners and weekend tours throughout the year). Climb the winding, 99-step staircase to the top of the for sweeping views of the town and surrounding river valley. Try traditional German foods and the specialty ribs at before checking in to the (hint: indulge your sweet tooth with their flourless Black Forest Bundt cake). 

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