Most of us would love to travel more. But with high gas prices and sky-high airfare – not to mention hotels, food, and attractions, it’s hard to justify spending thousands on a trip. But who says you have to spend your life savings to have a good time? Minnesota is home to more than a few road trip destinations that are as fun as they are affordable. These 12 are just the start.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Mystery Cave State Park - Preston
Mystery Cave State Park is about two hours south of the Twin Cities, making it an ideal distance for a day trip if you live in the area. The drive itself is scenic, especially the winding, farm-lined country roads that lead to the park. And when you get there, trails crisscross the park, including a lovely bridge over the Root River. The cave itself is truly beautiful. The basic scenic tour ends at a stunning turquoise pool.
Cost: A vehicle permit is $7, and entry to the scenic tour is $7 ages 5-12, $12 ages 13 and up. You can save even more money by buying a state parks permit. They cost $35 per year, and they get you into any Minnesota state park. The permit pays for itself in just seven visits. Definitely worth it if you plan on visiting lots of parks this year.
2. Taylors Falls
Taylors Falls is already lovely, but when you add a boat tour? That just takes it over the edge. About 50 miles north of the Twin Cities, this
is full of charming shops and restaurants. It's also surrounded by scenic beauty, which you can experience firsthand on a Taylors Falls boat tour. These riverboats pass alongside gorgeous bluffs on the St. Croix River, making for a spectacular tour that you won't soon forget.
$19.49 per person, but you can save $2 each by reserving your tour online.
3. Jeffers Petroglyphs - Comfrey
About 140 miles south of the Twin Cities, Jeffers Petroglyphs is a fascinating road trip destination. It may look like nothing but an endless prairie, but follow the trails and you'll soon find something spectacular. A huge sheet of Sioux quartzite is in the field, and it's full of over 7,000 years of human history. You can see ancient carvings and even old wagon tracks at this historic site.
Cost: $8 adults, $6 seniors, college students, and youth ages 5-17.
4. Lake Itasca State Park - Clearwater County
Lake Itasca State Park is a classic Minnesotan road trip destination. Here, the Mississippi River starts its journey south. Park visitors can explore several miles of hiking trails, each lined with lakes and thick forest.
But the main draw is the headwaters, where people have been walking across the river for generations.
Cost: $7 for a vehicle permit.
5. Nyberg Sculpture Park - Vining
As a Minnesotan, you've probably been to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden a time or two. You may have even visited
Franconia Sculpture Park
. But you may not have been to Nyberg Sculpture Park. Located160 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, this little-known park is full of whimsical sculptures created by a man named Ken Nyberg. The sculptures are actually found throughout Vining and Otter Tail County. With the low cost, you could make an entire day of finding the sculptures.
6. Schell's Brewery - New Ulm
Sure, there are many breweries in the Twin Cities and throughout the rest of Minnesota. But Schell's is the oldest. In fact, it's the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the entire country. For just $5, visitors can take a tour of the facility, which does include tasting opportunities. As an added bonus, the tour leaves from an interesting - and free - on-site museum.
7. North West Company Fur Post - Pine City
Did you know Minnesota was once home to a lucrative fur trade? A fur post was built on the Snake River in Pine City, where voyageurs traded the hides of beaver, deer, muskrat, and more. The site was operated and later abandoned some time in the 1800s. It was rediscovered in the 1930s and, in the following decades, made into a museum. Today, it is an interpretive site made to look like the early 1800s. Costumed guides offer a history of the area to visitors, and the Fur Post holds many events throughout the year. It's about 70 miles north of the Twin Cities.
Cost: $10 adults, $8 seniors and college students, $6 youth ages 5-17.
8. Gooseberry Falls State Park - Two Harbors
As one of Minnesota's most popular parks, it should come as no surprise that it's a great road trip destination. This gorgeous waterfall on the North Shore is worth the trip no matter how many times you've already seen it. It's a truly spectacular sight, and one of Minnesota's greatest treasures.
Cost: $7 for a vehicle permit. If you can spend just a little more, Split Rock Lighthouse is 6 miles north and costs $10 for adults.
8. Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park - Soudan
This day trip is both educational and scenic. You'll ride an 80-year-old elevator 2,341 feet underground to learn about the history of Minnesota's oldest iron mine. If that's not enough, the area surrounding the mine - with Lake Vermilion close by - is truly gorgeous.
Cost: A vehicle permit is $7, and entry to the tour is $5 ages 5-12, $12 ages 13 and up.
10. Forest History Center - Grand Rapids
Here's another historic site that is more than worth the cost of admission. Located in Grand Rapids, it's about 180 miles north of the Twin Cities. A visit will put the logging history of Minnesota in the 1900s at your fingertips. Visitors can board a floating cook shack and explore a 1930s Forest Service cabin, and watch lumberjack demonstrations. Don't forget to climb the 100-foot-tall fire tower for a bird's-eye view of the forest.
Cost: $10 adults, $8 seniors and college students, $6 youth ages 5-17.
11. The Lost 40 - Blackduck
Deep in the Chippewa National Forest, there's a special section of
forest like no other in the world
. In 1882, a surveying mistake caused loggers to overlook a 144-acre section of forest, leaving the red and white pines to grow. Today, the area is known as The Lost 40. It's full of impressive old-growth trees, many of which are 4 feet in diameter. The area is managed by the National Forest Service, and there are hiking trails for guests to enjoy.
12. Blue Mounds State Park - Luverne
About 200 miles from the Twin Cities, a trip to Blue Mounds may be a bit rough as a day trip for most Minnesotans. Luckily, lodging is only $15 per night. And with the tall pink quartzite cliffs that are found in this park, it's more than worth it. Guests have access to several miles of hiking trails, which wind through tall prairie grasses, alongside creeks, and down rugged stone trails. It's an area unlike any other in Minnesota, and it's definitely worth the trip.
Cost: A vehicle permit is $7, plus $15 if you spend the night.