29 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3-Hours Away From Minneapolis

Adventure is everywhere!
29 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3-Hours Away From Minneapolis

Although the state of Minnesota is landlocked, there's no shortage of water in this mid-western state.

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Containing 10,000 lakes ands also bordering the largest lake in North America, Lake Superior, the state of Minnesota is bursting with beautiful national parks, hiking trails, sandy beaches, majestic waterfalls, and much more! In other words, you don't have to look very far to find adventure nearby.

That said, there are plenty of spots to explore within just three hours or less of the Twin Cities. All you have to do is know where to look. To kick-start your mid-west bucket list here are some of the best places to go on spontaneous day trips near Minneapolis.

Spend a day slip and sliding at Noah's Ark Waterpark

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Wisconsin Dells, WI

There are few activities and outings as fun as spending the day splashing down a water slide. Located near Madison, Wisconsin, it's a bit of a longer trek but makes a great pit stop on a weekend-long road trip.

Treat yourself to a weekend at Madden's Resort

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Brainerd, MN

If you're too busy — or lazy — to plan out every detail of your trip, why not stay at a beautiful resort that takes care of all the planning for you? This lovely waterside resort has all the accommodations, activities, and dining organized for you, so you can get there and just relax.

Explore the stunning Apostle Islands

Time from Minneapolis: 3.5 hours
Where: Bayfield Peninsula, WI

Via visitironriver

These majestic islands surrounded by stunning emerald water are the perfect place for a weekend escape. Although it's slightly over three hours to get there, it's 100% worth it. Just look at one photo of this jaw-dropping place, and you'll understand why.

Take a scenic hike at Taylors Falls

Time from Minneapolis: 1 hour
Where: Chisago County, MN

Taylor Falls is a charming little town. Don't let the small population size fool you, though! This town has activities all around and is buzzing with tourists and visitors.

Feed some friendly animals at Timbavati Wildlife Park

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Wisconsin Dells, WI

This park lets you get up close and personal with animals; you can even feed some of them! It's the perfect spot if you're looking for something easy to do on the weekends that will please everyone in the group. Because who doesn't love animals, amirite?

Visit the charming town of Stillwater 

Time from Minneapolis: 40 minutes
Where: Washington County, MN

This type of town is pure American charm at its best. It was voted "prettiest town in America" by Forbes magazine. Taking a trip to this town is a favorite with locals and should be on your bucket list if you find yourself in the area.

Play on the sandy shores of Duluth Park Point Beach

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Duluth, MN

This spot boasts a real sandy beach in the area of Duluth, Minnesota. Considering the few beachy regions of the state, this is a popular destination for vacationers and people who want to unwind by the water. There are all the facilities you need in one area and access to the beach is easy!

Grab some special burgers at the iconic Tendermaid in Austin 

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Austin, MN

Austin, Minnesota, is a small town like any other - except for this one landmark that has brought it regional recognition. Tendermaid's looks like it hasn't changed since it's opening day, and that's just the way everyone likes it. Serving up signature sloppy-joe style burgers, this place is a must-dine for anyone.

Play in the emerald waters of Quarry Park & Nature Preserve

Time from Minneapolis: 1 hour
Where: Waite Park, MN

This spot is for those people who love to be in nature but don't want to trek TOO deep into the wilderness. It's basically like a nature playground with all the facilities you need to feel comfortable. The water is pristine, and the hiking trails are well-maintained. It is very popular, however, and can get crowded during holidays and weekends. So arrive early!

Spend a weekend in nature at Afton State Park

Time from Minneapolis: 1 hour
Where: Hastings, MN

This is the park to check out if you're interested in legit overnight camping in the wilderness. Even if you don't have a tent, it's no problem! The park offers accommodations such as cabins and yurts that you can rent at reasonable prices.

Spend a day floating on the beautiful Lake Pepin

Time from Minneapolis: 1.5 hours
Where: Lake City, MN

This lake is the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River and is located approximately 60 miles downstream from Saint Paul, Minnesota. The drive along this lake is spectacular, and you'll often see some beautiful birds and wildlife on the scenic roads.

Explore and trek into the unspoiled area of Ely 

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Saint Louis County, MN

The tagline for this town is "historically rich, naturally pure." In other words, this destination is for those who can appreciate the outdoors. There are tons of great activities in the area, the two main ones being canoeing and hiking. But if you want to enjoy the landscape from the comfort of your car, there are jaw-dropping scenic roads that you can enjoy as well.

Explore nature at Two Harbors 

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Lake County, MN

This town along the banks of Lake Superior is a popular tourist destination because of all its fun outdoorsy activities, and the stunning nature and landscape surrounding it. The area also features some gorgeous lakeside lodges and cabins you can rent for a perfect romantic weekend away from home.

Spend a day in the charming town of Red Wing

Time from Minneapolis: 1 hour
Where: Goodhue, MN

If your idea of relaxing and having fun is discovering charming places, then you have to check out the town of Red Wing. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River this quaint town has a lot more to offer than you would imagine. With a rich history and an abundance of outdoor activities in the area, you will have the best of both worlds spending a weekend here.

Explore a scenic nature preserve at Iona's Beach Scientific and Natural Area

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Two Harbors, MN

Located in Two Harbors, this spot is known for its exquisite rocky beaches that possess a unique pink hue. It's a seriously underrated spot, which is great because it doesn't get too busy, and it's a beautiful place to just relax and take photos.

Hunt for treasure at Hunt & Gather antique shop

Time from Minneapolis: 20 minutes
Where: Minneapolis, MN

If your idea of pure joy is finding a unique frame or a quirky planter, then you have to take a day trip to this incredible antique and flea market-style shop. With some patience and persistence, you can strike some serious gold.

Take a long stroll down the Lakewalk "boardwalk" in Duluth

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Duluth, MN

If you're spending the weekend in the area of Duluth, you have to check out the Lakewalk. It's a 7.5-mile walk along the Great Lake. You can stop and watch some huge ships coming in and out of the harbor.

Visit the Pipestone National Monument and Park

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Pipestone, MN

This monument is a sacred place for the people indigenous to here. The area itself is definitely worth the day trip. There are easy trails in the area that take you around the monuments and to some super scenic waterfalls.

Explore the rugged and unspoiled Pattison State Park

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Superior, WI

If you love chasing waterfalls, this is the spot for you. This quiet, unspoiled park is home to the state's largest waterfall, Big Manitou Falls, and is a great place to head for a day trip or hike.

Visit the falls at Ramsey Park 

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Redwood Falls, MN

This park is the perfect spot to pack a lunch and head out to enjoy a day of nature and fresh air. The waterfalls here are beautiful and very easy to access, not a great deal of hiking required! If you want to make a weekend out of it, you can also go camping in the park; they rent campgrounds at very reasonable prices.

Drive through a real "ghost town" in Dorothy

Time from Minneapolis: 45 minutes
Where: Louisville, MN

Via Andrew Filer

Have you ever seen a real-life ghost town? Didn't think so. You can visit a real abandoned town by driving through Dorothy. If you're the type to enjoy slightly strange and spooky adventures, then this is the place to explore!

Explore the emerald water caves at Mystery Cave State Park

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Preston, MN

Looking to get deep into adventure territory? Then explore some of the oldest known caves in the state. For a small fee, you can take a guided tour of these underground caves which feature beautiful stalagmites, stalactites, and pristine turquoise water.

Visit the beautiful city of Wabasha 

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Wabasha County, MN

Established in 1830, this is one of the oldest cities in the state. The history alone is worth the day trip to this small place of only about 2,000 people. Located on the banks of the Mississippi, it boasts a scenic walkway along the river's edge. You can rent a boat and paddle along the river or just walk around the city admiring the beautifully preserved historic buildings.

Hike around the spectacular Jay Cooke State Park 

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Carlton, MN

This is one of the most visited state parks in Minnesota. Known for it's swinging suspension bridge and beautiful hiking and biking trails, this scenic park is a sanctuary and the perfect escape from the big city.

Visit the stunning and unique black beaches at Silver Bay 

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Lake County, MN

With a population of only 2,000 people, the small town of Silver Bay is best known for its unique black beaches. You can easily find all types of accommodations in the area, from cute local B&Bs to beautiful rental chalets and everything in between.

Admire some incredible vistas at Great River Bluffs 

Time from Minneapolis: 2 hours
Where: Winona, MN

There are few spots in the state that have incredible views like this one. Great River Bluffs State Park stands behind its name and boats stunning views of the Mississippi River Valley.

Visit the always majestic Minnehaha Park

Time from Minneapolis: 20 minutes
Where: Minneapolis, MN

As the largest park in the urban area of Minneapolis, this is quite possibly the closest real nature escape you will find near the city. This hugely popular park features a majestic waterfall, limestone bluffs, and river lookouts. This beautiful oasis has been hiding in your backyard.

Take a photo at one of the state's oldest and quirkiest landmarks

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Bemidji, MN

These guys are the pioneers of tourism in Minnesota, and everyone who lives here should snap a photo at the landmark site of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Take a weekend trip to the huge Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Time from Minneapolis: 3 hours
Where: Wisconsin, USA

This park is absolutely massive. If you Google Map the location, you'll see how big this 1,530,647-acre park really is. It's a literal outdoor playground and, due to its sheer size, it never feels overcrowded. It's got everything, beaches, scenic drives, horseback riding, camping, fishing, boating, and superb facilities and staff to assist you while you're enjoying the area.

Spend a day spotting animals at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

Time from Minneapolis: 45 minutes
Where: Zimmerman, MN

Located only 45 minutes outside Minnesota, this lesser-known marshy park is home to tons of beautiful wildlife. Especially known for the wide variety of beautiful birds, this hidden gem is the perfect place to escape for the day.