Minnesota is home to some pretty amazing destinations! From the beautiful parks and waterfalls to the historic buildings, we are lucky to have so much right here at our fingertips. However, many Minnesotans are flocking to the most popular spots at such a high rate; they might be missing out on the smaller, lesser-known destinations without even knowing it. Below we have listed some of our top-notch picks of underrated Minnesota destination. We hope you’re up for an adventure!
1. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum - Chaska
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is home to more than 1,200 acres of gardens and tree collections, as well as prairie and woodlands and miles upon miles of trails. In the winter, you can ski, snowshoe the grounds, and enjoy the beautiful landscape with the snow-covered trees. In the warmer months, feast your eyes on the beautiful spring buds and blooms!
Address: 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska.
2. Jeffers Petroglyphs - Comfrey
Located in Comfrey, Minnesota, the Jeffers Petroglyphs are vastly underrated! Amongst the prairie grasses and mounds of uncovered rock, we find a story that spans more than 7,000 years. The pictures depict stories of humans, elk, deer, buffalo, arrows, and so much more.
Address: 27160 County Road 2, Comfrey.
3. Lake Louise State Park - Le Roy
This beautiful state park offers wildflower trails, canoeing, a swimming beach and a 20-mile paved bike trail. The Shooting Star State Trail winds through the park and is available from spring through late fall. The trail offers gorgeous views of native wildflowers and grasses along the Shooting Star Wildflower and Historic Route Scenic Byway. You will not want to miss this!
Address: 12385 766th Avenue, Le Roy.
4. Quarry Park and Nature Preserve - Waite Park
Quarry Park and Nature Preserve contains over 680 acres and is the largest park in the Stearns County Parks System. Natural features of this park include scenic woodlands, open prairie, wetlands, and unquarried bedrock areas. You’ll want to bring your swimsuit and fishing pole, as there are two swimming areas and even trout fishing available here!
Address: 1802 Country Road 137, Waite Park.
5. Cannon Valley Trail - Cannon Falls
Paralleling the Cannon River, this trail offers views of the valley and gradually descends 115 feet from Cannon Falls to Red Wing. From cliffs views to extensive wetland vistas, the season’s changes are showcased here. The trail is open year-round for biking, skating, hiking, and cross-country skiers. The Cannon Valley Trail runs 19.7 miles long and is a trail worth taking!
Address: Cannon Falls.
6. Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary - Orr
If you’re an animal lover, this place is for you! Visit the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary for an amazing up-close look at the life of a black bear. The sanctuary, consisting of over 500 acres of forested land, is home to many bears, deer, birds, and even timberwolves! The bear are free roaming and may come and go at their own will, often through clover meadow, cool cedar swamps, and pine forest. Don’t worry - you can view the bears from an observation platform!
Address: 12541 Nett Lake Road, Orr.
7. Franconia Sculpture Park - Shafer
This entirely free and amazingly cool park is located in Shafer, Minnesota, a short drive north from the Twin Cities. This is not your average park with swings and slides, but a park for those who love art. Franconia was founded in 1996 by a small group of professional artists and now hosts up to 40 artists each year in their 43-acre outdoor sculpture park. The park is home to over 100 sculptures created by artists-in-residence. A visit to Franconia is sure to stir your creativity!
Address: 29836 St. Croix Trail, Shafer.
8. Tamarack Nature Center - White Bear Township
Tamarack Nature Center is a 320-acre preserve in White Bear Township with endless opportunities. There is an amazing play area where your little one can play, dig, plant, learn, and create with elements such as wood, mud, and a stream. For older kids, there are plenty of day camps available. And for some family fun, take a hike and see the beautiful flowers come into bloom.
You might even see some beautiful monarch butterflies!
Address: 5287 Otter Lake Road, White Bear Township.
9. International Wolf Center - Ely
The International Wolf Center in Ely is a wonderful place for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts alike. For more than 80 ears, gray wolf research conducted near Ely has informed the world about this species and has also helped to contribute to its repopulation. At the center, you can view wolves up close behind protective glass in the auditorium. You'll likely walk away with new knowledge about Minnesota's fascinating wolf population.
Address: 1396 Highway 169, Ely.
10. Ramsey Park - Redwood Falls
At 256 acres, Ramsey Park is the largest municipal park in the state. It has even been called "Little Yellowstone of Minnesota." Featuring the beautifully picturesque Ramsey Falls, this park serves as a focal point for many summer activities. Ramsey Park is home to four miles of paved hiking trails, campground facilities, and a trout stream. Did we mention the zoo? Nearby the campground is a zoo that features animals such, buffalo, elk, deer, prairie dogs and more!
Address: 901 Cook Street, Redwood Falls.
11. Normandale Japanese Garden - Bloomington
The Japanese Garden is a two-acre retreat housing beauty and peace located right in Bloomington. Open year-round, the Japanese Garden has shades of green like you have never seen before. The plants here were chosen for their ability to survive in the harsh Minnesota winters. Upon entering the garden, you can hear a waterfall, but you won’t see it just yet. This is meant to create a sense of longing or anticipation. This underrated garden is worth a trip!
Address: 9700 France Avenue South, Bloomington.
12. Blue Mounds State Park - Luverne
This 1,830-acre state park is one of the least visited state parks in Minnesota, with about 87,000 annual visitors. But the pink Sioux quartzite cliffs make this underrated park more than worth the visit. A herd of bison makes its home in the park on over 500-acres of native prairie grass. Beginning this year, guests will have an opportunity to take a Prairie and Bison Tour in a special bison buggy, a tour vehicle that seats 12 passengers. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the wonder of the prairie as you watch for the park’s herd of bison! You will not want to miss out on this!
Address: 1410 161st Street, Luverne.
Do you know of any other incredible places in Minnesota that are underrated? Let us know, so we can plan our next adventure!