Election Season 2016 was stressful. So stressful, in fact, that we forgot exactly how lucky we are to live in Minnesota. Whether it’s a state park, one of our many lakes, or just a roadside spot that has a stunning view, our state has plenty to offer in terms of top-notch natural/man-made visuals. That's why you should get out and explore this weekend. Go get some much-deserved relaxation at Minnesota's 15 most beautiful places.
Grand Marais You’d be hard-pressed to talk about incredible places to go in this state without mentioning the amazing Gunflint Trail. This 57-mile stretch of roadway and hiking paths has some of the most incredible scenery in the entire state and it attracts thousands of campers and hikers during the gorgeous summer months every year.
Preston Caves are just cool and this one is no exception. Inside, it is a constant 48 degrees, which makes it a great spot to cool down during the summer months, but it’s also accessible in the spring and fall. Above the cave sits a historic, fully restored village from the 1800s so there’s definitely a lot to take in here.
St. Cloud These two separate, but adjacent gardens serve as a visual feast for St. Cloud residents. Munsinger is built on the site of a former mill that was converted into a park and garden in the early 1900s whereas Clemens serves as a memorial to Virginia Clemens who suffered from multiple sclerosis for over 40 years. The plot of land was bought and donated by her husband as a way to share his wife’s love of roses.
Orr This national park is broken up and divided by a series of interconnected waterways that the early voyagers used as a means of transportation. Now you can canoe, hike, camp, and learn about the ways of said voyagers in what is often referred to as “the heart of the continent.”
Two Harbors There’s no better view of Minnesota’s Lake Superior than from the decks of this lighthouse, erected in 1910 in the wake of an infamous storm that led to a score of massive shipwrecks. Today after standing up to decades worth of weather, it looks almost like new, having recently been restored to its original 1920s aesthetic.
Carlton If you’re a fan of having your heart jump up into your throat, then check out the suspension bridge in one of the state’s most beautiful state parks. You can peer out across the rough waters of the St. Louis River or you can reenact some of your favorite scenes from Temple of Doom. Either way, this is definitely a place worth checking out.
Winona The views from these bluffs are virtually second to none and you can stare out for miles taking in the breadth of the Mississippi River Valley. Scenic doesn’t even feel like the right word for the views offered here. You can also check out the expansive goat prairies and do some serious bird watching.
Chaska This expanse of over 1,200 acres of gardens and tree collections was established by the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center and there are over 12 miles of walking paths to help you take it all in. It’s quite the way to spend an afternoon!
Duluth Another one of Minnesota’s most notoriously beautiful locations, the entire north shore of Lake Superior is nothing shy of a spectacle. With vast rock formations, cliffs, scenic waterways, forests, and more, it’s basically most of what Minnesota has to offer all along a 151-mile stretch of highway.
Taylors Falls Separating us from our great cheesy neighbors lies Interstate State Park, a stretch along the St. Croix River that offers incredible rock formations, landscapes, and vast swatches of forest. It’s always great for a day of hiking or just taking in the seriously intense fall colors.
Park Rapids It’s always worth visiting the place where the Mississippi River is born and the visuals are absolutely stunning. You can actually walk across the river as it transforms itself from a moderate trickle into one of the world’s largest waterways.
Northeast MN If it wasn’t for the iron mines, Minnesota would be a very different place, and the labor of many hard workers has managed to forge a “natural” wonder unlike anything else. There are several great spots to take in the man-made orange mountains and lakes, including the Leonidas Overlook, the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine, and the Mineview in the Sky.
New London In Sibley State Park resides the legendary Mount Tom. Okay, maybe it’s not so much legendary, or a mountain really, as it is a high point with a really cool overlook which gives you a spectacular view of the surrounding park. For those of you non-mountain climbers, you can basically drive right up to the lookout which makes for easy access to some incredible views.
Mankato The name Minneopa in the Dakota language means “water falling twice” which is in reference to the park’s stunning waterfalls. There are also some great prairie views, and if you’re lucky, you can catch the view of a wild bison herd that the DNR and Minnesota Zoo have been working hard to reintroduce to the park.
Minneapolis One of the most beautiful spots in the entire state is right here in the Twin Cities: South Minneapolis plays host to this gorgeous waterfall on Minnehaha Creek and there are some great walking paths that’ll take you from the falls, down the creek, and to where it lets out into the Mississippi River.
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Keane Amdahl is a freelance writer who is usually more interested in beautiful plates of food around Minnesota than in beautiful places around here. Follow him on Twitter: @Foodstoned.