Downtown of Stillwater, Minnesota. Image credit Cavan-Images via Shutterstock

9 Lovely Small Towns to Visit in Minnesota This Summer

The "Land of 10,000 Lakes" offers the perfect summer wonderland along its many shorelines. Add this to the mild temperatures and the stunning outdoor scenery, and it's no wonder Minnesotans cherish these few warm months. However, summer travelers need not limit exploration to Twin Cities areas or famous North Shore escapes. Across Minnesota's diverse terrain, picturesque small towns harbor untapped natural beauty and hospitality ideal for casual discoveries.

Between lush forests, sparkling lakes, and the prairie's big skies, these idyllic destinations showcase quintessential seasonal delights amid uniquely tranquil settings. Whether seeking leisurely Main Street strolls or waterfront activities with minimal crowds, uncover lovely small towns to visit in Minnesota this summer.

New Ulm

Glockenspiel in New Ulm, Minnesota.
Glockenspiel in New Ulm, Minnesota. Image credit EWY Media via

Known for its deep German heritage and rich history, New Ulm invites tourists to spend a remarkable summer in an immersive cultural experience. It hosts a slew of attractions depicting its European roots, including the Hermann Monument Society. Here, the town honors Hermann the Cheruscan, who liberated Germany from Rome, through a statue. New Ulm's captivating history is well documented through various archives and artifacts exhibited inside the Brown County Historical Society. This is an excellent stop for enthusiasts looking for a deep dive into local and regional history.

However, the best summer atmosphere awaits on the beautiful grounds of Flandrau State Park. Sprawling almost 1,000 acres, this nature preserve hosts a mix of woodlands, marshes, grasslands, and a sand-bottom pond, inviting recreation like swimming, picnicking, hiking, and camping. Finally, get the complete cultural experience in New Ulm with a taste of authentic German craft beer at August Schell Brewing Co.

Grand Marais

Coast Guard Station of North Superior at Grand Marais, Minnesota on Lake Superior.
Coast Guard Station of North Superior at Grand Marais, Minnesota on Lake Superior.

This North Shore gem in Cook County boasts a 50-mile stretch of pristine Lake Superior shoreline decorated with gorgeous lighthouses and delivering exquisite water vistas. Its fantastic outdoor scenery beckons adventurers to hike trails and relax on sandy beaches, with a chance to discover beautiful waterfalls and other natural wonders. The Grand Marais Lighthouse is among the most conspicuous sights in the city. This iconic landmark was initially built in 1885 and features a unique pyramid skeleton construction style. Meanwhile, tourists can soak in the best lake views from Artist's Point, surrounded by a dense forest and dramatic rock outcroppings along the shoreline.

Grand Marais hosts a vibrant arts community, where several quaint galleries offer visitors a taste of local art. Inside Sivertson Gallery, visitors can browse a collection of beautiful pieces by more than 60 regional artists. When you work up an appetite, enjoy a sumptuous fish and chips dish at the Fisherman's Daughter at Dockside Fish Market.

Red Wing

Historic downtown Red Wing, Minnesota.
Historic downtown Red Wing, Minnesota. Image credit Robert H Ellis via

This historic Mississippi River town offers the best of the worlds by balancing out intimate indoor attractions with exciting outdoor adventures. An assortment of fascinating museums across the town center hint at its storied heritage, with the Goodhue County Historical Society detailing Red Wing's colorful past through a series of geological exhibits. The Pottery Museum of Red Wing is a must-visit for tourists, where more than 6,000 intricate pottery products, some manufactured as early as the 1800s, honor Red Wing's role in the clay industry.

Outdoorsy travelers are advised to bring along their hiking boots and poles. An exciting trek to the summit of Barn Bluff awaits, culminating in unprecedented views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding landscapes. However, those who prefer to sit back, relax, and take things easy will find the ideal atmosphere at the riverfront Bay Point Park.


Bird's Eye View of Winona, Minnesota.
Bird's Eye View of Winona, Minnesota.

From breathtaking riverine landscapes to unique old-world architecture, Winona's unrivaled beauty keeps visitors returning for more. This beautiful town along the Mississippi River beckons travelers to revel in an unprecedented summer wonderland at the Great River Bluffs State Park. Teeming with secluded nature trails through colorful wildflowers and exquisite river vistas; it is the ultimate getaway for the ardent outdoorsman. More delightful views await at Garvin Heights City Park, which sits atop a series of bluffs overlooking Lake Pepin.

When not enjoying the great outdoors, tourists can explore the town's art landscape by visiting the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. Its unique collection features intimate art exhibits inspired by water. Alternatively, delve into the depths of local history during a tour of the Winona County Historical Society.


New Stillwater Crossing Bridge over the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minnesota.
New Stillwater Crossing Bridge over the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Stillwater promises delightful water-fueled adventures that will give visitors an unforgettable summer vacation. This tiny village sits on the banks of the St. Croix River and is constantly ranked among the best towns to visit in Minnesota. The cozy summer weather compels first-timers to revel in the serene setting of Lowell Park and soak in unparalleled river views from its relaxed picnic spots. Furthermore, one of the best tourist experiences involves discovering the beauty of the St. Croix River on a laid-back cruise, courtesy of Lady Chateau.

Stillwater is home to a fair share of historical treasures worth exploring. Warden's House Museum is an excellent example, always charming newcomers with its rustic appearance and Greek Revival architecture. This mid-19th-century mansion exhibits period furnishings and artifacts from the Civil War period.


The Scandinavian Inn, a Victorian style Bed and Breakfast in Lanesboro, Minnesota.
The Scandinavian Inn, a Victorian style Bed and Breakfast in Lanesboro, Minnesota. Image credit Edgar Lee Espe via Shutterstock

Situated amidst beautiful bluffs of the Root River, Lanesboro delivers the ideal mix of exciting history, captivating arts, and breathtaking nature. Outdoorsy travelers in the town naturally gravitate towards Sylvan Park & Riverview Campgrounds. Here, adventurers enjoy the complete outdoor experience, sleeping under the stars and facing treacherous whitewater on a rafting adventure down the Root River. The Bluffscape Amish Tours are a hit with culture connoisseurs. This fun and insightful experience introduces you to the unique ways of the Amish community in the countryside of southeastern Minnesota.

A bustling art scene in Lanesboro means that tourists are spoilt for choice when discovering local arts. The town is teeming with quaint art centers, ranging from Commonweal Theatre Company for those who enjoy riveting stage performances to Lanesboro Arts, better suited for visual art fans.

Taylors Falls

The Taylors Falls Princess river boat on the St. Croix River near Taylors Falls, Minnesota.
The Taylors Falls Princess river boat on the St. Croix River near Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Image credit Ken Wolter via

Spend a fun summer vacation fueled by adrenaline-inducing aquatic adventures in this tiny Chisago County village. Taylors Falls' incredible natural scenery offers all the reasons for tourists to embrace the outdoor lifestyle best embodied by Interstate State Park. This lovely natural oasis straddles around 1,500 acres to neighboring Wisconsin, delivering multiple recreation opportunities. These include everything from hiking aged lava flows to camping in wilderness campsites. Local outfitters like Taylors Falls Canoe & Kayak Rental also organize delightful excursions down the St. Croix River.

While outdoors, you can indulge your love for the arts by visiting Franconia Sculpture Park. The open-air museum charms with intricate sculptures across its 50-acre expanse. To break the outdoor monotony, vacationers can visit the 19th-century Folsom House and examine authentic period furnishings for a feel of the bygone eras.

Lake City

City Hall, Lake City, Minnesota.
City Hall, Lake City, Minnesota. Image credit Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

An adventure lover's dream come true, Lake City provides unrivaled access to the lake, river, miles of biking and hiking trails, and championship golf courses. Golf enthusiasts can choose from multiple options to enjoy low-key tee time, with Lake City Golf being a local favorite due to its nature-rich surroundings. Meanwhile, Roschen Park has the ideal setting for an easygoing day with family and friends. It harbors multiple picnic areas and quiet walking trails, with access to water-based recreations like fishing and boating.

Lake City also charms souvenir lovers with its impressive collection of antique shops and gift stores. Tourists have numerous opportunities to leave the town with unique treasures by visiting Lakeside Antiques. From vintage items and intricate glassware to excellent art, there is something to please everyone.


Aerial view of Mankato, Minnesota.
Overlooking Mankato, Minnesota.

Mankato's diversity of attractions and experiences ensures something to delight all its visitors, regardless of age or preference. Vacationing families with young ones will fancy touring the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota for a fun and educational experience. This fantastic facility instills the thirst for knowledge in kids with its interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences. Outdoor enthusiasts have several recreation opportunities to explore at the beautiful Riverfront Park, from biking and hiking to boating and fishing.

Elsewhere, those craving retail therapy can enjoy a refreshing shopping adventure at River Hills Mall. Finally, art enthusiasts will prefer to explore a wonderful collection of visual pieces exhibited by local and regional artists at The 410 Project.

Whether your summer plans involve indulging in rustic North Woods adventures, exploring scenic Mississippi River towns, or soaking in urban cultural attractions, these lovely towns to visit in Minnesota deliver unmatched experiences in concentrated doses. Their vibrant downtowns, outdoor playgrounds, and opportunities to engage with warm local communities perfectly suit short day trips and more extended stays. By embracing the slower summer rhythms of the heartland, travelers open themselves up to profound natural beauty and authentic Midwestern United States charm.

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