With 2017 finally here, it’s time to kick off the year by coming up with some travel goals. It’s great to dream about distant adventures, but sometimes the most fun can be found close to home. For all those weekends when you’re not off in some far-flung destination, these 13 small towns in Minnesota are perfect additions to your 2017 travel bucket list.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
As one of the cutest small towns along the North Shore, Two Harbors is a must-visit for 2017. When you're done getting a bird's-eye view of Lake Superior from either historic lighthouse, be sure to pop into Gooseberry Falls State Park. And when you've exhausted yourself of nature, try out any of the town's quaint restaurants. Or go for an old classic and stop in at the iconic Betty's Pies.
With its lasting German heritage, New Ulm just may be Minnesota's most unique town. German shops and restaurants, a glockenspiel clock tower, and a statue affectionately dubbed Herman the German are just a few attractions that await. The historic Schell Brewery is also within town limits.
The northern Minnesota town of Walker sure is tiny - less than 1,000 people - but it's a fantastic place to visit if you're ready to become one with Mother Nature. This quiet town is home to many resorts that will help you get away from it all. But even if you don't stay in a resort, you'll still have access to the enormous Leech Lake for boating, swimming, and fishing. Should you choose to visit in the winter, you may stumble upon the famous International Eelpout Festival. It's a great way to experience Walker at its best - as long as you don't mind the cold.
At the entrance to the Boundary Waters, Ely has grown to be a popular town for both nature lovers and curious road trippers alike. Even if you're not up for camping and canoeing, this little town has a lot to offer. Many delicious restaurants and adorable shops lie within city limits.
Grand Marais is a quiet town that was once a fishing hub. It's still possible to order fresh fish in a few of the town's restaurants - a must if you choose to visit. Or if fish isn't your thing, maybe try something from World's Best Donuts. A great time to visit in 2017 is during the annual Fisherman's Picnic on August 3-6.
This historic Minnesota town was once a contender to become the capital. These days, it's a quiet town nestled close to the Minnesota River. While there, enjoy a charming downtown area, picturesque buildings, and lovely local parks.
Taylors Falls is another river town that deserves way more attention than it gets. Many people visit to go on a boat tour along the St. Croix River. A tour will take you up close to the gorgeous river dalles and the many notable rock formations on either side of the river. But the town has lots more to offer too, like great shops and restaurants.
Stillwater is one of those towns that has something amazing to offer every season of the year. In 2017, it really doesn't matter when you go - there will always be something to do. Even if there's not a fun festival or an
amazing ice castle
, you're sure to find something to do. The town is home to several noted restaurants. Local shops line the beautiful Main Street, allowing the town's many tourists to shop locally for Minnesota-made trinkets and more.
Wabasha is arguably Minnesota's oldest town. Because of that, it has a fantastic history. Located along the Mississippi River, it was once an important area for trade along the river. Today, the river acts as a beautiful backdrop for the town, even playing host to town events throughout the year. But if you're more of a history buff, Wabasha has over 50 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
If New Ulm is Minnesota's German town, Lindstrom is our Swedish town. From the famous coffee pot water tower to the signs advertising the town's Swedish sister city, a Scandinavian heritage runs deep through Lindstrom. But that's not the only amazing thing about this little town. It's completely
surrounded by lakes, so there are opportunities galore for outdoor recreation.
Unlike the other towns on this list, Dorothy doesn't have great yearly festivals or a row of shops to browse. But it does hold the distinction of being one of Minnesota's ghost towns. The town started in the late 1800s and grew into a small community for the next few decades. But eventually, the population dwindled. Today, you can step back in time for what may end up being a spooky peek into Minnesota's forgotten history.
Lanesboro is such a cute town, it's no wonder people flock to it in warm months. In 2017, let that person be you. Why? First of all, Lanesboro is the Bed & Breakfast Capital of Minnesota. They have
tons of unique and historic places to stay. You can also sample delicious food and explore the many hiking trails along the Root River in this southern Minnesota town. It's the perfect place to spend a weekend away.
Winona has just about everything you need: great scenery, good people, and fun attractions. Taking a hike up the bluffs surrounding this river town is a must in 2017. With a gorgeous view of the town below - and maybe even a peek of the Mississippi River in the distance - you won't want to be anywhere else.
Do you have any other Minnesota travel plans for 2017? If you want more ideas for stuff to do in the Land of 10,000 Lakes this year, check out this list of
12 restaurants to try in Minnesota in 2017.