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Wild Meets Wonderful in Minnesota

Minnesota is where wild meets wonderful.

Bordered by Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the country, the state’s fringes are home to fierce landscapes with a wealth of wildlife. They’re also the site of rugged beauty, dark skies and even the Northern Lights. The Twin Cities at the state’s core pose a different kind of wildness, from the plucky gangster history of St. Paul to the explosive art scene of Minneapolis. Throughout the state, comforting meals, welcoming stays and one-of-a-kind attractions await.

Popular Demand

Mall of America

One of the largest malls in America can be found in the Twin Cities suburb of Bloomington. It’s a prime destination for shopping and events, and its sheer size makes it a must-see when in Minnesota. A visit to the Mall of America brings groups to over 500 shops, 60 restaurants, a Nickelodeon theme park and perhaps one of the 400-plus events it hosts annually. Visitors can easily spend an afternoon — or a whole day — roaming around the mall’s attractions, which include an aquarium, an escape room, mini-golf courses and a movie theater.   

Paisley Park

Minneapolis is the hometown of Prince, the late musician whose signature style and talent on a variety of instruments led him to a hugely successful career. Paisley Park, his home and recording studio, is in Chanhassen, a suburb of Minneapolis. It was a place for Prince and many other musicians to be creative and record music. Today, it’s a museum, open to the public for tours. Exhibits showcase his massive shoe collection, iconic costumes and some of his favorite musical instruments, so fans of Prince and the music industry will be enthralled by this estate’s charms.

Wildlife in Ely

Ely is an excellent place to experience animals that few people ever get to see up close in the wild. The town is home to multiple wildlife centers, including the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center. Groups can visit these centers to meet majestic gray wolves and black bears and tour their habitats. Additional wildlife, including a variety of bird species and woodland mammals, can also be found in the habitats. Educational programs and exhibits teach visitors about these animals and their importance in the ecosystems of North America.

Up and Coming

National Eagle Center

Established to educate visitors about eagles, from their ecological importance to their cultural significance, the National Eagle Center is a group favorite in Wabasha. Part of the reason the center is so popular is it offers guided tours of an eagle habitat, which lets visitors glimpse these regal creatures in the wild. The center, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, was renovated and expanded in 2022 to include more education spaces, including an outside educational center. The renovation also added an expansive exhibit with about 40,000 artifacts related to eagles, such as fine art and political objects.

Voyageurs National Park

Located in Cook County, along Minnesota’s Northshore, Voyageurs National Park consists of nearly 220,000 acres of lakes, forests, wetlands and islands. The beautiful national park is a favorite for water sports, as well as hiking and winter recreational activities. It’s also known for its dark sky preserve, which sometimes allows visitors see the highly sought Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Thanks to certain natural conditions such as solar flares, 2024 is expected to be one of the best times to catch glimpses of the Northern Lights in decades. Groups can head to the park on clear evenings to search the skies for this magical and elusive natural wonder.

National Loon Center

Slated to open in 2025, the National Loon Center will be Minnesota’s fifth wildlife center and a draw to conservationists and nature lovers. Loons are waterfowl with glossy black heads, red eyes and black wings with white spots. They’re almost exclusively found in the northern United States and throughout Canada, making these distinct birds a draw for wildlife enthusiasts. The center in Crosslake, in central Minnesota, will feature interactive exhibits, advocate for their preservation and raise awareness about the issues facing the loon population. It’s also an educational facility dedicated to studying the birds. Groups can visit to learn about the fascinating work the center does.

Overnight Sensations

Naniboujou Lodge

North of Grand Marais on the shores of Lake Superior, Naniboujou Lodge is a historic Northshore hotel built in 1929. Named for a Cree god, it was originally an exclusive club with members such as Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey. Today, the lodge and restaurant is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its most notorious feature is its dining room, complete with the largest stone fireplace in the state and walls painted with bright, colorful Cree symbols. For those groups seeking the peace, solitude and beauty of the Northshore, they can’t do much better than Naniboujou.

The Saint Paul Hotel

Built in 1910, the Saint Paul Hotel has served as a landmark in its namesake city for more than a century. This beautiful 255-room historic hotel was renovated in 1982. It has hosted an interesting range of notable guests, from gangsters to presidents. Its Renaissance revival architecture features opulent touches throughout, such as crystal chandeliers, grand marble columns and gold accents. In addition to its luxurious guest rooms, the hotel also has a lobby bar, where groups can enjoy cocktails, and a restaurant, the St. Paul Grill, which features steaks and other elevated mains, from scallops to lamb chops.

Memorable Meals


The land of supper clubs may seem like a strange place to encounter tacos and margaritas, but groups will be pleasantly surprised to find them at Lolito in Stillwater. This town outside the Twin Cities has been recognized as having one of the best small-town food scenes in the country, and Lolito is one of its most unique offerings. The menu is full of Latin-inspired cuisine, from quesadillas and traditional tacos to dishes with a twist, such as fried tacos, duck enchiladas and lamb shank barbacoa. The bar menu is equally innovative, featuring creative cocktails made with mezcal and tequila.

Red Cow

The desire to create an upscale tavern — a place to find both fine wine and a good burger — led to the creation of the Minneapolis restaurant Red Cow. Its signature burger consists of a blend of Angus beef and ground bacon, topped with cheddar, candied bacon and beer mustard. Other popular menu items include the Barcelona burger, featuring a peppery twist, and their award-winning double barrel burger. Their wine, local craft beer and cocktail selection prove to be perfect additions to their mouthwatering mains, while milkshakes offer a sweet finish to the meal. The restaurant, now with locations all over the Twin Cities, serves lunch, brunch and dinner.