Aerial view of Winona, Minnesota.

10 Offbeat Towns To Visit In Minnesota

Minnesota, also known as the land of 10,000 lakes, is home to more than 1,700 unique cities and towns. Some of the most famous cities include MinneapolisSt. Paul, and Duluth, and while they are full of gorgeous attractions, it is the small towns that reveal the true heart and soul of Minnesota. From the picturesque river town of Bemidji to Ely, with its wildlife attractions, to Lindstrom and its rich Swedish heritage, the small towns of Minnesota have specialties that will cater to every kind of traveler. These ten towns below are as offbeat and unique as can be.


Aerial view of Bemidji, Minnesota
Aerial view of Bemidji, Minnesota.

Giant Paul and Babe statues await visitors in Bemidji, a scenic town on the banks of the Mississippi River. Lake Bemidji is another major draw for visitors to this town. From fishing and water sports in the summer to ice fishing and skating in the winter, the lake is a star recreational venue. For those who love the outdoors, spend a day walking or biking around the lake and enjoy the beauty. Lake Bemidji State Park is just a few miles north of the town and is an incredible location for nature trails and camping! While Bemidji's access to nature already makes it a worthy destination for travelers, the downtown area is full of activities for all ages. The Beltrami County Historical Society is great for learning more about the town's history. The Historic Chief Theater is yet another lovely destination for those wanting to watch a musical or a play.


Sunset over Leech Lake, Minnesota.
Sunset over Leech Lake, Minnesota.

With a population of just under 1,000, Walker remains out of the radar for most visiting the state. However, this highly offbeat town is home to some of the most alluring destinations in the state. With an abundance of water activities available, many of those who visit this town end up never leaving Leech Lake (its most famous attraction). However, Walker has so much more to provide for those willing to look a little.

The Chippewa National Forest is a short distance away from the town and offers a plethora of things to do. With access to a number of lakes' historic sites, someone could spend a month here and not see everything. The Cass County Museum and Historical Society is a must-visit for all ages to learn more about this area's rich history. Visitors can learn more about the Native Americans who originally lived in the area. For those who want to relax and picnic, the stunning Walker City Park is the best option. 

Grand Marais

Aerial view of Grand Marais, Minnesota
Aerial view of Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Off the stunning shores of Lake Superior, Grand Marais is home to some of the most incredible nature in the state. The Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center are must-sees when in town. Here, it is possible to learn about the exciting history of the Gunflint Trail and what the area was like for the original Native American inhabitants. The Cook County Historical Society is another great location for those curious about the history of the land. This five-building walking museum is a great place to learn about the town's history.

Just a few miles west of the town is Fall River, where those wanting to hike its trails can view the breathtaking waterfall that plunges into Lake Superior. Another great area to experience the outdoors is Judge C.R. Magney State Park. Hiking or camping in this park is a must-do for visitors as there are several trails accessible to the public. 


Resort Next to Historic Site in Ely, Minnesota.
Resort Next to Historic Site in Ely, Minnesota.

While some may not initially be attracted to an area known as "the Iron Range, ''Ely is a town that should be overlooked. Once known for its Iron Mines, this town is an underappreciated destination for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors can spend the day at the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center. Both are excellent destinations for all ages to learn about these fascinating creatures. The Bois Forte Heritage Center and Cultural Museum are must-visits for those who want to learn more about the history of the area.

To experience the outdoors, try camping at the alluring Superior National Forest. To really take a view of the area, there are many breathtaking trails throughout the town to be explored. The Bass Lake trail is a 5.6-mile trail to really take in some beauty, whereas the Angleworm Trail is a bit more advanced at 14 miles. Both are filled with unbelievable scenery, but make sure to know your limits before trying! 

New Ulm

Glockenspiel, a 45-foot-high musical clock tower in New Ulm, Minnesota.
Glockenspiel, a 45-foot-high musical clock tower in New Ulm, Minnesota. Editorial credit: EWY Media /

Just an hour and a half southeast of the Twin Cities, people may think they somehow crossed the Atlantic when first arriving in the town of New Ulm. Named after the German city, this small town has deep roots in its German culture. For those arriving in October, experience the Oktoberfest celebration in New Ulm. It takes place throughout much of the downtown area. Enjoy live music, German food, and drinks. Hermann the Germann is a must-see in New Ulm. This 4,000-pound monument can be viewed almost all year (winter is the only time visitors can not climb the stairs up to it).

If souvenir hunting is your passion, then New Ulm is where you must go on your next shopping spree. Visit Domeier's, where it is possible to find delicious sauerkraut or some magnificent steins. Also, relax at the end of the extremely busy day with German-style beers at Schell's! 


Main Street in Nisswa, Minnesota.
Main Street in Nisswa, Minnesota, in winter. Editorial credit: Edgar Lee Espe /

With more than 11 lakes within 3 miles of the town, Nisswa is a must-stop destination for all who enjoy lake activities. Gull Lake is one of the more popular lakes in the area, but Cullen Lake is another great destination to visit if you want it to be a little quieter as you paddleboard or canoe around. For those adventurous souls visiting in the winter months, dog sledding is a great activity for any age to try. Another favorite winter activity is Mount Ski Gull, where skiing or snowboarding in the winter is great, but in the summer, it is still a local favorite. Those willing can go over a zip-line course and fly through the beauty of the area.

This small town is also amazing when it comes to finding some unique gifts for your loved ones. While wandering around the main street, you will find a number of stores, each filled with their own charm. The stunning Paul Bunyan Trail is perfect for cyclists. This 115-mile trail starts in Bemidji, and the entire trail is paved! 

Taylors Falls

Cruise on the St. Croix River, Minnesota.
Cruise on the St. Croix River, Minnesota.

With the peaceful waters of the St. Croix River being heard throughout the town, Taylors Falls is a town that many pass through, but few will stop and explore. Being on the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, this bluffy town is an incredible place to enjoy a weekend. The Interstate State Park is a wonderful spot to take in the views of the river and the surrounding bluffs. There are trails that go around the park ranging from easy to all, to some that are a bit more challenging. It would be a shame to be so close to the St. Croix and not spend a bit of time on the river. Renting Kayaks or Canoes can be done at Taylors Falls Canoe and Kayak Rental.

If exploring the river is something you are not comfortable with, then taking a boat tour may be more for you. While the park is great during all four seasons, the river may not be a favorite in the winter. For a great winter activity, checking out Wild Mountain for a fun day of skiing should be one of the first things done while visiting.


Aerial view of Winona, Minnesota
Aerial view of Winona, Minnesota.

Between the calming waters of the Mississippi River, and the incredibly scenic bluffs, the scenic town of Winona awaits all visitors. Winona is one of the most interesting towns that can be found not only in Minnesota, but the Midwest as a whole. One of the first things many do when visiting is make the trek to Garvin Heights Overlook, where you can take in the beauty of the Mississippi. Find out why Winona is called "The stained glass capital of the United States" at the Winona County Historical Society. The Watkins Museum and Store is another location to learn more about the surrounding area and what life was like for early settlers. For a bit of a challenge, Sugar Loaf Bluff is an amazing trail to hike. While not being particularly long, it is worth the exercise to really get one of the best views you can get in the town.

Lake City

Boat dock in Lake City, Minnesota.
Boat dock in Lake City, Minnesota. Image credit: Yuan2003 via

Lake City is best known for some of the finest boating in the midwest, as well as the alleged birthplace of water skiing. With so much natural beauty in the town, it is hard not to find something to do. It is possible to go explore the surrounding bluffs, lakes, and parks to one's heart's content. This town is not without its festivals! If visiting in June, one can enjoy the De Pepin Bike Tour and Water Ski Days. Take a cruise on the Pearl of the Lake Paddleboat, a modern replica of some of the original riverboats on the Mississippi in the 1800's. Lake City is a great location to do some bird watching as well. At Ohuta Park, it is possible to see thousands of eagles fishing or hear the mating calls of loons in the water. Enjoy a day of biking on the Cannon Valley Trail. This almost 20-mile trail takes you some of the best views of nature that can be found! 


Downtown Lindstrom, Minnesota.
Downtown Lindstrom, Minnesota. Image credit: Samuel Wagner via

Lindstrom is one of the most intriguing towns in all of Minnesota. Named after Swedish immigrant Daniel Lindstrom, this small town is like walking into a town in Sweden. At Allemansratt Park, guests of the Lindstrom can explore the 125-acre wilderness park. Within the park lies a historical house that allows guests to read about the history of this beautiful town. For even more nature, Ki-Chi-Saga Country Park is another recommended stop. At this 98-acre park, view the Karl Oskar House to learn even more about the town and the architecture of the time. In this Swedish town, visitors are also recommended to go on a Swedish Circle tour to explore both historic and alluring landmarks. 

With such a plethora of eclectic towns to explore, your next visit to Minnesota promises to be really memorable. Whether you plan a quick weekend trip to one of these towns or a longer vacation like a road trip through a bunch of these towns, Minnesota's friendly locals, spectacular nature, and rich history will keep you busy. 

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