Nicknamed the “North Star State”, Minnesota is an exciting destination to visit in the United States that’s home to more than 10,000 lakes and one of the Midwest’s largest and most influential cities. The most populated city in Minnesota is Minneapolis, which has a world-class metro, thriving arts, culture and entertainment scenes, and the largest shopping centre in the Western Hemisphere (Mall of America).
There’s more to Minnesota than just Minneapolis, though, with the nearby state capital of Saint Paul, the scenic riverfront city of Winona and the gateway to Lake Superior, Duluth, all equally thrilling cities to visit in Minnesota.
20 Towns And Cities In Minnesota
- Twin Cities Tour and Mississippi River Cruise – see the highlights of both cities.
- Minnesota Wild Ice Hockey Game Ticket – at Xcel Energy Center
- 15-Mile Aerial Helicopter Tour – over Duluth and Superior
Cities in Minnesota
Straddling the Mississippi River’s banks, Minneapolis is Minnesota’s most populated city.
It was a vibrant arts scene and scenic outdoor attractions.
Dubbed the “City of Lakes”, Minneapolis is surrounded by water, with 13 freshwater lakes, the Mississippi River, and several wetlands, waterfalls and creeks within a stone’s throw from the city’s downtown district.
The Dakota Sioux Native American people initially inhabited the area occupied by modern-day Minneapolis before the city’s official settlement began during the early-to-mid-1800s.
Today, Minneapolis is an urbanised Midwest destination packed with attractions, such as the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the massive Mall of America and the scenic Minnehaha Falls.
- All-Inclusive Minneapolis Craft Brewery Tour
- SEA LIFE Aquarium Minnesota Admission Ticket at Mall of America
- Twin Cities Highlights Tour
2- Saint Paul
Combining with nearby Minneapolis to form the “Twin Cities”, Saint Paul is the North Star State’s official state capital.
Just 11 miles (17 km) east of downtown Minneapolis, Saint Paul is the state’s largest city and the second most populated city in Minnesota.
It is one of the oldest cities in the North Star State, first settled in 1841 by French missionary Lucien Galtier.
The city is renowned for its museums and art galleries, where its unique culture and history tell the story of Minnesota’s past, present and future better than any other destination in the state.
Some of Saint Paul’s most popular landmarks include the Cathedral of Saint Paul, the Minnesota State Capitol, the annual Minnesota State Fair and the James J. Hill House, all world-class attractions worth visiting in Minnesota’s capital.
- The Complete St. Paul Walking Tour
- Twin Cities Tour & Mississippi River Cruise
- The Ghosts of St Paul: Private 2-hour Spooky Evening Tour
The third-largest city in Minnesota in terms of population and the birthplace of the world-famous Mayo Clinic, Rochester is among the Midwest’s finest cities to visit, especially if you’re a fan of contemporary art and the great outdoors.
Rochester began as little more than a log cabin built by George and Henrietta Head in 1854, naming the newly established city after their hometown of Rochester, New York.
The city grew rapidly due to the arrival of the Winona and St Peter Railroad in 1864 and is ranked among the best cities to live in Minnesota due to its breadth of attractions.
Rochester’s top destinations include the Rochester Art Center, the Quarry Hill Nature Center and the Mayo Civic Center, all offering something unique to experience.
Recommended tour: Rochester Scavenger Hunt: A Minnesota Miracle
Situated in northeast Minnesota and a mere five miles (8 km) from the Wisconsin city of Superior, Duluth is a Midwest destination known for being the home of the only all-freshwater aquarium in the United States.
Duluth is named after French soldier and explorer Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, who arrived in modern-day Duluth in 1679.
It wasn’t until 1856 that Duluth was officially established as a city.
The port city is home to the one-of-a-kind Great Lakes Aquarium and the stately Glensheen Mansion, both excellent destinations to marvel at in Minnesota’s fifth-largest city.
- Duluth: Moose Lake: Triple Cross Dune Buggy Adventure
- 15-Mile Aerial Helicopter Tour over Duluth and Superior
Dubbed “the birthplace of Minnesota”, the mid-sized city of Stillwater on the North Star State’s eastern border is a scenic waterfront destination that sits along the shores of the St. Croix River.
Stillwater is less than 25 miles (40 km) from downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul and was the setting of a pivotal territorial convention in 1848 that eventually led to Minnesota becoming an independent territory and state.
The city was once a major lumber hub during the latter stages of the 19th century and is today a popular tourist destination, thanks to Stillwater’s charming downtown district and historical significance in Minnesota.
Visitors to Stillwater can expect to be entertained and captivated by various interesting attractions, including the Warden’s House Museum, the Stillwater Lift Bridge and the Washington County Historic Courthouse.
Recommended tour: Charming Stillwater, MN, Tour with Private Transportation
Established post-World War II to accommodate Minneapolis’ booming population growth, Bloomington is sandwiched between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul.
Bloomington is best known as the home of the Mall of America, the USA’s largest shopping centre, which opened in Bloomington on August 11, 1992.
Over 40 million visitors stop by Bloomington every year to shop at the Mall of America, however, there’s plenty more to Bloomington than just shopping, such as touring the Normandale Japanese Garden or exploring the Hyland Hills Ski Area.
The city of Winona, situated in Minnesota’s southeast corner, is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination, providing nature lovers access to natural landmarks such as the Mississippi River and the nearby Sugar Loaf bluff.
Winona was officially settled in 1851 and attracted so many Poles and Kashubians to the region that Winona became known as the “Kashubian Capital of America” during the latter stages of the 1800s.
Today, the city is a truly cosmopolitan destination with entertainment options available to keep visitors of all ages interested, with the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and the Great River Bluffs State Park for travellers to visit.
Home to about 15,000 residents, the city of Bemidji in the North Star State’s northern region is a destination renowned for its Native American traditions and larger-than-life attractions.
Bemidji is the capital for the surrounding Red Lake, Leech Lake and White Earth Indian Reservations.
It is rumoured to be the birthplace of legendary American-Canadian folk hero Paul Bunyan.
Some of Bemidji’s most visited attractions include the Paul Bunyan & Babe, the Blue Ox Statues, the Watermark Art Center and the nearby Lake Bemidji State Park, are worth exploring.
A popular destination among fishing, golfing and skiing enthusiasts, Brainerd is a charming mid-sized city near the Mississippi and Crow Wing River confluence that is popular for its four-season outdoor recreational opportunities.
Brainerd enjoyed fame and popularity during the mid-to-late 1990s as the main filming location of the 1996 film “Fargo”, which won two Oscars at the 69th Academy Awards.
This city is the most populated city in Minnesota’s Crow Wing County.
Things to explore include the Paul Bunyan State Trail, Northland Arboretum, Brainerd International Raceway and Paul Bunyan Land.
10- New Ulm
Known for its German roots and historic landmarks, New Ulm in southern Minnesota is a pretty interesting destination, just 93 miles (149 km) from downtown Minneapolis.
New Ulm was settled mostly by the German Land Company of Chicago in 1854 and named after the Bavarian city of Neu-Ulm, with New Ulm gaining prominence following its role in the US-Dakota War of 1862.
It has a population of about 14,000 residents and the city is home to the Martin Luther College campus.
Places to visit include the Flandrau State Park, the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame and the Defender’s Monument.
Featuring a historic downtown district that’s split in half by the Cannon River, Northfield and its 20,000-strong population is a busy destination for the arts and live entertainment in southeast Minnesota.
Northfield is just a 43-mile (69 km) drive from Saint Paul and Minneapolis, making the city a great option for a weekend getaway from Minnesota’s most populated metro.
Northfield entertains visitors with the scenic Cowling Arboretum, Flaten Art Museum and Northfield Historical Society, all excellent attractions.
Initially called “Florence”, when it was first settled during the 1880s, the city of Ely is a former iron ore hub that sits just 16 miles (26 km) south of the Canadian border.
Ely’s locale along the Vermilion iron range meant that the city attracted many iron ore miners and immigrants during the late 1800s, shaping the city’s diverse culture and culinary scene, making Ely a special place to explore.
The city has come a long way since its humble ore mining roots.
You can visit the International Wolf Center, the Dorothy Molter Museum and the Kawishiwi Falls Trail these days.
13- Red Wing
On the shores of the Mississippi River a few miles upstream from Lake Pepin, Red Wing is a city renowned for its world-class outdoor activities, scenic waterfront bluffs and local clay industry.
Red Wing is connected to the nearby city of Cannon Falls via the Cannon Valley Trail, a 19.7-mile long (31 km) hiking and cycling path that cuts through some of southeast Minnesota’s most picturesque landscapes.
Several landmarks and attractions stand out as must-visit destinations in Red Wing, with the Pottery Museum of Red Wing, Red Wing Marine Museum and Aliveo Military Museum all top-notch venues.
Recommended tour: Red Wing Ghost Walk
14- St. Cloud
The largest city in central Minnesota in terms of population, St. Cloud is well known throughout the North Star State for its abundant granite quarries, which have been in operation since the 1880s, earning St. Cloud the nickname “The Granite City”.
St. Cloud was founded in 1856 by French Huguenot-decent John Wilson, who named his city after France’s Saint-Cloud, a Parisian commune in the Île-de-France region.
The city boasts the youthful campus of St. Cloud State University.
It has several key attractions, including the Munsinger Gardens, Stearns History Museum and the Beaver Island Trail.
In Minnesota’s Hennepin County, Plymouth is among the most populated independent cities in the North Star State and is part of the sprawling Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area.
Plymouth lies just 11 miles (17 km) from the Twin Cities downtown district and is bordered by several public parks and trails, providing visitors a great mix of indoor and outdoor attractions.
The city has a population of more than 81,000 residents and is home to some lovely parks and gardens, such as the scenic Millennium Garden to Clifton E. French Regional Park.
29 miles (46 km) south of downtown Saint Paul, Lakeville is a fairly large Twin Cities suburb with surrounding lakes, wetlands and ponds.
Lakeville is the most populated city in Minnesota’s Dakota County and was founded in 1855 by J.J. Brackett, a Saint Paul lumber tycoon who decided to set up shop roughly halfway between the state capital and nearby St. Peter.
The city is home to the Lakeville Area Arts Center, Crystal Lake Golf Club and Ritter Farm Park, to name a few of Lakeville’s places worthy of a visit.
17- Grand Rapids
Named after the nearby 3.5-mile long (5.6 km) rapids along the Mississippi River, Grand Rapids in Minnesota’s northern region is a modestly-sized city best known as the childhood home of Hollywood darling Judy Garland.
Grand Rapids was settled mostly as a lumber and logging town during the late 1800s and eventually became an important paper milling hub in the region during the turn of the 20th century.
Today, the city is a popular tourist hub due to its historic charm and Hollywood connection.
It is home to several key landmarks such as the Judy Garland Museum, Reif Performing Arts Center and Old Central School.
Moorhead is the most populated city in northwest Minnesota and is a destination within one of the Red River Valley’s most fertile agricultural regions.
Moorhead was formally platted in 1871 and named after William Galloway Moorhead, a former official of the Northern Pacific Railway.
A major tourism hub in Minnesota’s northwest, Moorhead lies just 1 mile (1.6 km) east of downtown Fargo, North Dakota.
It features world-class attractions such as the Hjemkomst Center and the Rourke Art Museum for visitors to explore.
Once dubbed the “Iron Capital of the World”, the city of Hibbing was built off the back of its thriving iron ore industry and is home to the Hull–Rust–Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine, the world’s largest open-pit iron mine.
Hibbing was first established by German immigrant Frank Hibbing in 1893 and is best known in pop culture circles as the hometown of American music icon Bob Dylan.
When it comes to attractions to visit in this gritty industry-focused city, Hibbing has some quirky museums, with the Greyhound Bus Museum, Minnesota Museum of Mining and Hibbing Historical Society all interesting to explore.
Spilling over into parts of Minnesota’s Le Sueur, Nicollet and Blue Earth counties, Mankato is a scenic riverfront city in the North Star State’s southern region that boasts a population of more than 44,000 residents.
Mankato was originally settled in 1852 and, according to legend, was supposed to be titled “Mahkato”, however, a spelling mistake by a clerk resulted in the name Mankato instead.
While its name might have come to be by mistake, Mankato entertains visitors with its range of indoor and outdoor attractions, which include the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota and the Mount Kato Ski Area.
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