Minnesota is not known for beaches. It is land-locked in the center of the United States and does not have a coastline. While Minnesota doesn't top many lists for best beach towns, the state is home to 14,380 freshwater lakes. The tiny and gigantic lakes are home to a diverse array of wildlife. The lakes also influence the climate, characterized by cold winters and hot, humid summers, making it a haven for outdoor lovers. Besides its proximity to nature, Minnesota has several charming beach towns known for their lively personalities, close-knit communities, and commitment to the arts.
Grand Marais is a charming harbor village situated on the northern shores of Lake Superior, about 38 miles southwest of the Canada-US border. It is a popular vacation and arts destination that draws over 10,000 visitors for its annual art festival. The city has an artistic and quirky personality, and visitors can enjoy traditional crafts such as blacksmithing and take home unique handmade goods.
The town has five beaches within walking distance, and there are plenty of recreational activities in the area. Visitors can explore Devil Track River Canyon, an 8.7-mile-long river flowing southeast into Lake Superior, which offers activities such as fly-fishing and ice climbing in the canyon. Additionally, Grand Marais is near the Superior National Forest, the largest national forest east of the Mississippi River.
Duluth sits on the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region. Notable for its location at the westernmost point of the Great Lakes, the city offers stunning views of the world’s largest freshwater lake. Lake Superior significantly impacted the port city’s development and economy. For instance, European settlers and indigenous peoples participated in regional trade activities. In the 1900s, Duluth’s port handled more tons yearly than New York City.
Duluth’s maritime history is well preserved. Visitors can learn about it at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. The William A. Irvin Ship Museum is a docked coal and iron ship that today is a museum. Canal Park is a former industrial park in the city. As industrial activity waned in the area, the city beautified the area. Today, visitors can stroll along the Lakewalk, a seven-mile path ending at Brighton Beach.
Located in west-central Minnesota is quiet and quaint, Alexandria. Named a "Top 10 Best Small Town," there are many lodging, dining, and shopping options. Runestone Museum tells the story of a Viking artifact discovered in the city's Kensington Rune Stone Park. The town's Big Ole statue is a 28-foot-tall Viking statue famous for selfies. The town also hosts the Vikingland Band Festival, an annual high school marching band festival. Alexandria is a town that stands out for its distinct attractions, landmarks, and many lakes.
Lake Le Homme Dieu is a 1,800-acre basin located on the northeast city limit of Alexandria. It is home to two swimming beaches: Rotary and Lake Le Homme Dieu. Alexandria City Park is on the northeast side of Lake Agnes and Lake Henry. Lake Brophy County Park overlooks two lakes and is great for fly fishing, fat-tire biking, and sledding. Last, but not least, Lake Carlos State Park is filled with bogs, marshes, woodland ponds, and lakes, popular for use year-round.
Chanhassen is a charming city in central-eastern Minnesota where midwestern farmland meets suburbia. The city boasts nearly 70 miles of picturesque trails and a touch of Broadway. There are five public beaches in Chanhassen, including Lake Ann and Greenwood Shores beaches on Lake Ann, Minnewashta Regional Park on Lake Minnewashta, and Carver Beach, a six-acre linear park situated along the northwest shoreline of Lotus Lake.
Chanhassen is also the proud birthplace of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, one of the largest and most successful dinner theaters in the United States. Since its opening in 1968, the theatre has brought the magic of Broadway to the Midwest.
Twelve miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, city and nature collide. Eden Prairie is a suburban town where rolling prairie hills and bluffs overlook the Minnesota River. Eden Prairie's charm lies in its close access to nature. The town has many city lakeside parks with public beaches—for example, Riley Lake Park Beach and Round Lake. Purgatory Creek Park is an inner city park surrounded by gardens and wetlands with many trails and sculptures. Bryant Lake Regional Park covers 170 acres of rolling hills, green spaces, and wetlands. Meanwhile, Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area is a highly valued park in Eden Prairie, known for its stunning views of the Minnesota River.
The community also celebrates the Fourth of July with a traditional hometown celebration featuring live music, mini donuts, and a fireworks show to honor the country's independence.
Winona is a river town in southeast Minnesota along the Mississippi River. Notable for its historic architecture, over 100 properties are on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown area represents Minnesota's most extensive collection of Victorian commercial architecture on the Mississippi. Winona's hometown events celebrate culture and community. An example is the Great River Shakespeare Festival, a professional theatre company producing Shakespeare's plays.
Latsch Island-Aghaming Park and Preserve comprises 1,950 acres of preserved floodplain forest, several floating homes, and a small beach. Lake Winona is 308 square acres, perfect for a calm day of paddling or ice skating, depending on the season. Also on the south shore of Lake Winona is Lake Park. It is a city park with a beach, rose garden, and gazebo to sit and enjoy the tranquility.
Albert Lea is a city located in southern Minnesota. Several lakes surround it, and it is the beginning of the Shell Rock River, making it an ideal location for fishing, paddling, or searching for fossilized shells. The city is home to the largest intact historic district in the state, with 114 preserved properties throughout town. One of the remarkable properties is the Jacobson Building, located in downtown Albert Lea and recognized for its rare terra cotta exterior.
Albert Lea hosts some interesting cultural events to attend! The Big Island Rendezvous and Festival, celebrates the local history around the fur trade period and features reenactments of historical happenings. The Eddie Cochran Weekend is another event celebrating the life and music of the legendary rock musician, originally from the area.
Minnesota may not be the first place that comes to mind when considering a beach vacation, but the state has plenty of charming beach towns worth exploring. While Minnesota has no coastline, it is home to numerous lakes with beautiful beaches. These charming towns offer ample opportunities for contact with nature throughout all four seasons. These towns are notable for their unique cultures, a strong sense of community, and dedication to preserving history and art, as seen in the well-preserved architecture and annual community events. Whether seeking a weekend escape or a more extended vacation at the lake, Minnesota's beach towns are worth visiting!