Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

So Minnesota

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also the land of art, entertainment and outdoor recreation.

 Groups won’t have to look far to find diverse fun in Minnesota. The southeastern corner of the state is home to the bustling metropolitan area of the Twin Cities, packed with museums, notable architecture and a diverse food and beverage scene. Nearby, travelers have a chance to unwind in the picturesque river towns surrounding the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers or reconnect with nature in the state’s scenic bluff country. 

Travel planners will find countless options for enjoying the North Star State’s rich culture and natural beauty in these regional hotspots.

Saint Paul

In the capital of Minnesota, known as one half of its famous Twin Cities, groups visiting Saint Paul can delight in a rich world of history, architecture and hands-on fun. Because its shoreline is on the Mississippi River, Saint Paul grew as a center of manufacturing and transport. Later, it became a hub for gangsters and organized crime, playing host to notorious criminals like Babyface Nelson and John Dillinger. The city’s thrilling past is featured prominently throughout many of its attractions; groups can even take gangster tours, which lead them through some of the well-known gangster hideouts, such as the Wabasha Street Caves. Carved into the bluffs along the river, these caves were used for innocuous purposes like mushroom growing, but during the prohibition era they played a key role in the city’s organized crime.

Another way for groups to enjoy the city’s rich history is through its architecture. Saint Paul’s downtown is known for its European feel and for Summit Avenue, a historic district that features the longest stretch of Victorian homes and buildings in America. Groups can take walking tours to see the beautifully crafted homes and learn the histories that go along with them.

“You get a definite historic feel through things like our architecture,” said Jaimee Hendrikson, vice president of marketing and partnership at Visit Saint Paul. “We’re definitely a worldly city, a big mix of culture and cultural destinations, as well.”

For some hands-on fun, groups can head to Can Wonderland, a whimsical minigolf and entertainment complex. Visitors can play 18 holes, each designed by different artists, or spend some time in the old-fashioned soda fountain, restaurant and vintage arcade.

For a great meal served up with a groovy atmosphere, there’s no better spot than the brand-new Apostle Supper Club. This 1970s dinner club-themed restaurant has a tiki bar inside and offers a wide range of entrees, appetizers and original cocktails.


It’s said the Twin Cities are not identical twins but fraternal. While Saint Paul brims with a charm that stems from its classic architecture and its gangster history, Minneapolis is its sleek and modern counterpart. Like Saint Paul, Minneapolis depended on the Mississippi River to grow; thanks to Saint Anthony Falls, the only natural waterfall on the Mississippi, Minneapolis became a milling town. Though it has plenty of its own history, today its glass skyscrapers, prominent arts scene and diverse cuisine make it an exciting metropolitan getaway for groups. 

“We have amazing art, amazing sports, amazing theater, amazing shopping,” said Casey Kluver, manager of global tourism sales at Meet Minneapolis. “You could spend a few days here.”

The rich arts and theater scene of Minneapolis is one of its crown jewels. Groups can view the vast collection of artworks at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which contains over 90,000 works from different countries and cultures across time. Works by masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Monet are among its most famous holdings. Minneapolis is also home to the Walker Arts Center, a prominent contemporary art museum. Nearby, groups can walk through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to view the abstract and fascinating three-dimensional art. For a riveting performance, groups can head to one of the many theaters within the Minneapolis Theater District, such as the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the biggest dinner theater in America.

One of Minnesota’s best known attractions, the Mall of America, can also be found in Minneapolis. Groups can explore the four-level mall’s hundreds of shops, restaurants, aquarium and indoor theme park. 

To enjoy the city’s diverse culinary scene, groups can eat at Midtown Global Market, which offers a range of international cuisine.


South of the Twin Cities, Rochester is a city intertwined with the Mayo Clinic, the impressive medical center renowned worldwide for solving the toughest medical problems. The clinic’s origins date back to the late 1800s, when it began as a meager operation to treat Rochester residents. It soon grew into a revolutionary medical practice and began attracting thousands of patients to the city every year for treatment.

On trolley tours of the city, groups can learn about the history of the clinic and its many ties to Rochester. They can see where its most famous patients may have stayed over the years, including Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller and Muhammad Ali. Groups can also tour the Mayowood Mansion, built by Charles Mayo in 1911. This beautiful historic mansion demonstrates the Mayo Clinic’s importance in Rochester and showcases some of its heritage and architecture.

“The rich history around Mayo Clinic is so fascinating to people, and the uniqueness of Rochester as an emerging arts and culture well destination is as well,” said Bill Von Bank, vice president of marketing and communications for Experience Rochester.

For a glimpse of this burgeoning arts scene, travelers can check out the Rochester Arts Center, the Rochester Civic Theater and the Art Walk, where art has been installed on Rochester’s public walking and biking trails. 

The city offers a range of unique restaurants, wineries and breweries suitable for groups. At Bleu Duck Kitchen, a fine dining restaurant set in a historic printing press building, visitors have their choice of creative and fine fare, from oysters to duck to lamb pasta. Forager Brewery and Café offers groups their choice of craft beers and locally sourced pub food from a scratch kitchen.

St. Croix River Valley 

Running along Minnesota’s eastern border, the St. Croix River Valley is peppered with small towns that each have something unique to offer travelers. In addition to the local boutiques and eateries, the area is renowned for its natural beauty and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation.

“People who come to the St. Croix Valley can find quaint historic river towns to explore,” said Rosemary Mansfield, marketing director of the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance. “It also has so much nature.” 

At the southern end of the valley, at the convergence of the Mississippi, St. Croix and Vermillion rivers, groups will find Hastings, a well of history. Its main street is on the National Register of Historic Places, and groups can take walking tours to explore the beautiful architecture of its historic homes and businesses. To see the area’s natural beauty, groups can visit the Carpenter Nature Center, which has trails, preserved wildlife habitats and an apple orchard. At the Alexis Bailly Vineyard, groups can arrange tours and tastings of its award-winning varietals.

Due north, Stillwater is known among Minnesotans as the birthplace of Minnesota. It was named the best small-town food scene by USA Today. Groups can have lunch at Lowell Inn, known for its walleye and prime rib. River cruises and trolley tours are popular ways to explore the city’s galleries, shops and historic sites, such as its lift bridge and Main Street. 

Travelers interested in Scandinavian heritage should head north to Scandia. Groups can tour the Gammelgarden, or “Old Farm” Museum, which preserves the heritage of the Swedish farmers who immigrated to the region in the 1800s. They can also find these settlers’ original log cabins in Log House Landing.

Bluff Country

Minnesota’s bluffs overlook the breathtaking Mississippi River Valley. The state’s Bluff Country, made up of small river towns and their surrounding forests, gives visitors a reprieve from the hustle of the larger cities and gives them a taste of idyllic small-town life. No matter which city in bluff country they visit, groups can hike up the bluffs for sweeping scenic views.

“These charming river towns are just great places because they all have a unique feel to them,” said Jake Juliot, public relations and communications specialist at Explore Minnesota. “You get these downtown city feels but you’re right next to nature.” 

In Red Wing, groups will find a Main Street with an American feel. Local boutiques, restaurants and ice cream parlors straight out of a movie scene adorn the streets. Groups have access to the river, so riverboats and riverside farmer’s markets are easily accessible. Also in Red Wing is the St. James Hotel, a historic hotel first opened in 1875. Inside, groups will find the Scarlet Kitchen and Bar, an upscale restaurant featuring seasonally rotating selections of gourmet dishes and interesting cocktails.

In Wabasha, groups can visit the National Eagle Center, where eagles are rehabilitated. They can watch live demonstrations and get a close-up look at these majestic birds. Groups can also watch demonstrations at Lark Toys, a toy factory in Kellogg that produces hand-carved wooden toys and has a hand-carved wooden carousel. In Winona, they can head to the Marine Art Museum, where all the art has a water theme.