A dramatic spring sunset over the Mississippi River and Rural Red Wing, Minnesota. Image credit Sam Wagner via Shutterstock

6 Most Underrated Towns in Minnesota

Minnesota is lovingly known as the "Land of 1,000 Lakes" state. Known for boundless natural parks, lakes, and rivers, it is home to many atmospheric lakeside towns. These wildly-underrated unique towns in Minnesota will turn the next getaway into memories of a lifetime.


Willie the Walleye, Baudette, Minnesota
Willie the Walleye, Baudette, Minnesota. Image credit lynn friedman via Shutterstock

The Walleye Capital of the World is just south of Lake of the Woods on State Highways 11 and 172. Along with the nearby Zippel Bay State Park, Baudette offers a perfect base for outdoor outings and all the water fun imaginable. A wide range of year-round activities around town includes fishing, picnics, and hiking through the nearby Beltrami Island State Forest. The attractive community is home to many fine businesses including specialty shops, restaurants, hotels, and resorts.

Baudette's mascot, Willie the Walleye boasts a brand new fiberglass replica since 2018, his 59th birthday. June brings about the annual celebration of his birthday on "Willie Walleye Day," where tourists and locals mingle and join in fun activities. The small city includes three beautiful municipal parks: Peace Park with views of Canada and the International Bridge, Bay Front Park home of Willie Walleye, and Timber Mill Community Park. The riverside bursts with nature, including lush shores, trails, and wildlife sightings.

Beaver Bay

Liquor barrel sign for the municipal liquor store off Highway 61, Beaver Bay, Minnesota
Liquor barrel sign for the municipal liquor store off Highway 61, Beaver Bay, Minnesota. Image credit melissamn via Shutterstock

The few people who know about this atmospheric town visit Beaver Bay for its pronounced European flair. The small town with a concentrated charm is an idyllic getaway from the hustle and bustle. There is recreation galore on the shores of Lake Superior and surrounding state parks with varied pursuits such as sightseeing at the Split Rock Lighthouse. It is no wonder that the settlers from the old continent once chose the locale on the expansive Lake Superior as their new home.

With deep roots in European settlement, there is a center full of history and a mix of cultures amidst cute cafes, shops, and restaurants. The unique town is John Beargrease, the legendary North Shore mail carrier's forever resting place. There are more beaches for strolls, swimming, and boating at Pink Beach, as well as hikes along Split Rock River. The Beaver River calls to pack a picnic and make it a day by the beautiful Beaver Falls.

Red Wing

Downtown rural Red Wing, Minnesota
Downtown rural Red Wing, Minnesota. Image credit Sam Wagner via Shutterstock

Red Wing is one of "the most unique places to visit along the Mississippi River". It is full of pursuits only a quick drive from the state's Twin Cities. The small-town appeal is a perfect base for year-round outdoor adventurers such as explorative hikes through Barn Bluff, Cannon Valley Trail, or Levee Park. There are great local restaurants in the Memorial Park on Sorin’s Bluff, along with tons of shops in town such as the famed Red Wing Shoe Store and the Duluth Trading Company. Rightfully known as the brewing destination, the renowned Red Wing Brewery downtown serves excellent food and brews in a cool setting within a unique atmosphere. The town named by the first French settlers along the bank of the Mississippi is full of experiences at the spectacular backdrop of Mount La Grange.

Visitors enjoy wandering among the cute brick storefronts for shopping and sightseeing the Victorian houses with nature around the corner. Lake Pepin is perfect for summertime swimming and sunbathing, while autumn turns lush scenery into wonderfully-colored foliage. There are also orchards and wineries nearby for year-round strolls and tastings. Check out the Fall Festival of Arts or the quintessential Collectors Society convention with unique finds for tourists. The Candlelight Inn offers an atmospheric night's rest, but not before a stop at the Harbor Bar for a drink and live music, and a stroll along the docks.


Traditional painted and decorated Dala Horse wooden statue symbolizes the Swedish and Norwegian culture of the small Minnesota town of Scandia
Dala Horse symbolizes the Swedish and Norwegian culture of the small Minnesota town of Scandia. Image credit melissamn via Shutterstock

While many may head to Lindstrom for Swedish charm and European panache, the small town of Scandia nods at the same heritage. The underrated landscape is the perfect opportunity to enjoy nature without the crowds. The town’s moniker hints at its diverse past, along with many historical sights on the Swedish settlement and emigrant life. Scandia has grown to become one of the most unique towns in Minnesota, surrounded by farming areas for barn visits, Dala horses, and painted quilts.

With many of the Swedish emigrants relocating from New York, there is a wide history to explore with a modern flair at various local points throughout the town. Be sure to check out the landmarks, shop around for souvenirs, and stop for lunch at a cafe overlooking the Swedish Settler’s Monument for pictures. There are also wonderful museums for history fans and families, including the Hay Lake School Museum, and the Gammelgården Museum.

Silver Bay

Silver Bay, Minnesota
Silver Bay, Minnesota. Image credit melissamn via Shutterstock

The small and cozy town on Lake Superior's shore is perfect for outdoor adventures. Beautiful state parks surround Silver Bay for endless outings and various activities in nature. The closest Tettegouche State Park at the mouth of the beautiful Baptism River provides hiking trails and breathtaking viewpoints with stops for picnics, such as the Shovel Point. The Gooseberry Falls State Park is south of town, home to more hiking trails and stunning waterfalls, along with the nearby Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior.

A 30-minute scenic ride north along Lake Superior's shore will bring you to Temperance State Park for local wildlife and miles of hiking trails with easy access to the lakeside. The adorable small town is wrongfully overlooked but offers a dream vacation base for a charming getaway without crowds hogging views or amenities.

Two Harbors

Two Harbors is a community on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota
Two Harbors is a community on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. Image credit Jacob Boomsma via Shutterstock

The scenically-named town of Two Harbors deserves a second look and is the perfect location to visit any time of the year. It is the home of Minnesota mining and manufacturing and the 3M Birthplace Museum. You can learn about the early history of the town and the legendary company that started it all. During the summer, be sure to check out Minnesota’s oldest continually operating bandshell at Thomas Owens Park.

Two Harbors is on the shore of Lake Superior and is bursting with fun lakeside activities. Its two shipping harbors are great for scenic strolls, including the two lighthouses that once-navigated ships around the ore docks in Agate Bay. The history is fully displayed on the streets amidst a choice of restaurants, shops, and the headquarters for the Superior Hiking Trail Association.

These Minnesota towns brim with cozy activities in the surrounding natural scenery. You can grab some java for a stroll along the waterside or historic streets, and make a day out of recreation along Lake Superior's shore. With many settlers from Europe, the streets are reminiscent of the vibrant heritage, with a lively vibe, for a lifetime of memories without leaving the US.

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