Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota

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Our choices for the top 10 family vacations spots in Minnesota are those we recommend because they continue to be our family's favorite destinations in all four seasons of the year.

If you visit even a couple of our 10 best vacation spots, you will experience some of the unique regions of the state that offer very diverse geography and a wide variety of vacation experiences.

Family summer vacations offer some of the very best of what makes Minnesota famous...our lakes, cabins, and resorts. Here are some summer vacation ideas to get you started:

"With everything from sod houses to skyscrapers, from timeless steamboat towns on the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, to Wobegonic farm country in the west, and from Minneapolis's world class art scene to a record-setting ball of twine, this state will leave even seasoned travelers impressed." ~ Tricia Cornell, The Moon Minnesota Handbook

 #1 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota: Minnesota Lakes

There are lakes in all regions of Minnesota, however the Central Lakes Area in the heart of the state is among the best family vacation destinations for enjoying our famous lakes.

We can highly recommend, among the 10 best vacation spots in Minnesota, these lake areas that are heavily invested in offering you some of the best family vacation ideas:

  • Brainerd Minnesota Vacations: Called "Minnesota's Playground," many of our most beautiful lakes, lake cabins, and family resorts are near Brainerd. Fishing, boating, water skiing and soaking up the sun on a beach are just the beginning of the fun found here.
  • Alexandria Minnesota Vacations: Another favorite vacation destination for all of the same reasons. You may find the resorts and lakes slightly less crowded here; the fun and attractions are top notch.
  • Detroit Lakes Minnesota Vacations: The town is famous for the "mile long beach" that draws visitors from all over the world. Called the "412 Lakes Area" there are plenty of places to stay and play outside of town

Minnesota Resorts and Lodges are located on our most beautiful lakes and are a great choice for a family vacation. Lodging, food, water sports, golf and many other activities are all in one place. Many Minnesota resorts offer spa services and special children's programs.

#2 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
The North Shore of Lake Superior

A North Shore vacation is certainly one of the best family vacation ideas anywhere. Take at least a day or two enjoying the attractions of Duluth. Then take the Lake Superior North Shore drive along Hwy. 61, that runs for about 150 miles from Duluth to Grand Portage. Along this route you will enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere. Seven state parks on the North Shore include Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, and the state's highest waterfalls at Tettegouche and Grand Portage state parks.

More North Shore attractions include:

Take along a copy of this Lake Superior North Shore Guide.

#3 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
The Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Minneapolis and Saint Paul as well as attractions in the surrounding communities offer an exciting array of family fun activities and attractions. The Twin Cities area includes an exciting arts scene, historic architecture, terrific restaurants, intriguing museums, and big time fun for families with kids.

Fort Snelling State Park is right in the heart of the Twin Cities.

A great resource is 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Minneapolis and St. Paul: Including the Twin Cities' Greater Metro Area and Beyond

#4 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The Boundary Waters is located in Northeastern Minnesota. National Geographic called the Boundary Waters area one of 50 best "Destinations of a Lifetime". This beautiful, million acre, wilderness recreation area is one of the best family vacation destinations anywhere.

Some tips for planning a family vacation to the BWCA:

  • Realize that this is a true wilderness experience. There is no electricity, phone lines or roads to the inner lakes.
  • You will travel by canoe, and portage your canoe between the lakes.
  • The BWCAW is best visited in spring or summer with a young family though there is access to the area year round.
  • If you want to visit the area without doing the trek into the wilderness, there are several family vacation resorts in the nearby towns. The town of Ely Minnesota is the most frequent "jumping off" place for the Boundary Waters. You can enjoy the area and stay at one of the beautiful Ely Minnesota family vacation resorts there.
  • Plan your trip with one of these Boundary Waters outfitters.

Voyageurs National Park offers another wilderness experience with fewer restrictions.

Exploring the Boundary Waters: A Trip Planner and Guide to the BWCAW
Top 10 Family Vacations

#5 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
 St. Croix River Valley

The St. Croix River Valley is less than a half-hour drive from downtown St. Paul. This stunning river is the setting for several of the most beautiful and rugged of Minnesota's State Parks: Wild River and Interstate state parks to the north, as well as William O'Brien State Park, and Afton State Park.

Towns along the St. Croix that include Stillwater, Taylors Falls, Marine-on-St.-Croix, Hastings and Afton will give your family a glimpse into the charm and history of earlier times in Minnesota.

Family fun activities that make the St. Croix River area one of our best family vacation destinations include:

State Parks Guide - Minnesota State Parks: From Afton to Zippel Bay

#6 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
The Mississippi River

The Mississippi, one of the world's longest and best known rivers, begins as a small stream in Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota. A fun family activity is to cross the headwaters on stepping stones. The river widens and deepens as it winds south through the state. Minnesota has more miles of the Mississippi River than any other state.

There are lots of family fun activities along the Mississippi River:

  • Drive the Great River Road. This scenic byway begins in Itasca State Park and follows the river for 575 miles through Minnesota.
  • Along the Great River Road some of the places to visit include the Forest History Center lumberjack camp near Grand Rapids, the Charles A. Lindbergh home near Little Falls, the beautiful Munsinger Gardens in St. Cloud, and the Kelley Farm historic site in Elk River.
  • The Mississippi River runs through a gorge between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Riverboat cruises are available near both downtowns.
  • The Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis are both located along the river. Overlooks in both buildings offer spectacular views of the river.
  • The Science Museum of Minnesota, located on a bluff above the river in downtown St. Paul, houses the Mississippi River Center.
  • Continue south from the Twin Cities on the Great River Road and follow the river between Red Wing and LaCrescent. You will come to several charming river towns and see great views of the river, especially at Frontenac and Great River Bluffs state parks.
  • Visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, both located along the Mississippi riverfront.
Enjoy a road trip along the Mississippi River! Road Trip USA Great River Road

#7 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
The Red River Valley

The Red River Valley in Northwestern Minnesota has been called "where the West begins." In the Red River Valley, Minnesota prairie meets Minnesota north woods. The Headwaters of the Mississippi are here as are some of Minnesota's largest lakes. Much of Minnesota's richest farmland in the region is nurtured by the ancient glacial Lake Agassiz silt with a fertility equaled only by the valley of the Nile.

The Red River Valley is also a great Minnesota tourism destination. Some attractions include:

Explore all of Minnesota with the Explorer's Guide Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes

#8 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
The Iron Range

Minnesota's Iron Range in the northeastern part of the state is named for its rich supply of iron ore. While taconite mining is still important in the area, the Iron Range is now one of the best Minnesota vacation destinations famous for its beautiful lakes and forests as well as its history.

Here are some of our top picks:

Other state parks in this area include: 

Everything you want to know about Minnesota: Minnesota 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Minnesota and Were Going to Ask Anyway

#9 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
Southern Minnesota Prairie Land

Southwestern Minnesota was once an expanse of prairie grass that was home to herds of buffalo and the Dakota Indians. This area is now a wonderful family vacation spot where you can revisit the time of the Dakota and the early pioneers at museums and historic sites.

Minnesota family fun attractions in this area include:

Minnesota State Parks in southwestern Minnesota include:

Our favorite travel guide to all of Minnesota's "must see" attractions is this Minnesota Guide to Minnesota Vacations

#10 of Top 10 Family Vacations in Minnesota:
Southern Minnesota Bluff Country

The Mississippi River reaches its widest spot at at Lake Pepin. A bit west of the Mississippi is the corner of Minnesota called Bluff Country. Among the wooded bluffs are many charming river towns including Winona, Wabasha, Lake City and Red Wing.

Dont miss these Minnesota attractions in Bluff Country:

Be sure to see what others might miss: Backroads & Byways of Minnesota: Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions

These are our Top 10 Family Vacations all areas of Minnesota and featuring the best family vacation spots that we have discovered.

Here are even more ideas for Top Family Vacations

Summer activities for kids are tips and ideas for ways to keep the kids busy when school is out and they are bored. There is so much to do in Minnesota that you may be able to keep them away from the video games for most of the summer.

We post frequent top 10 family vacations ideas and updates on Facebook:

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Minnesota Vacations at TripAdvisor

Minnesota Guidebooks to What to See and Do in Minnesota

Top 10 Family Vacations Related Pages:

Best Family Vacation Destinations

Family Resorts in Minnesota

Cheap Family Vacations

Minnesota Family Fun

Minnesota Zoos

Minnesota Wildlife

Backyard Vacations

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