If you want to walk across the Mississippi, sail round Finland, see Canada for the afternoon, or have a pick of over 10,000 lakes to play on, Minnesota packs all that, and a million other marvels, into family holidays.
The most easterly Midwest state, Minnesota’s the one that shares Lake Superior and Superior National Forest with Ontario, and sits closer to Toronto than New York. Outdoor adventuring’s second nature here, you can be an intrepid urbanite in cultured cities or try a bit of everything, and still have time to stop and stare. Because Minneapolis is as easy to get about as it is to enjoy.
Virgin Atlantic fly direct from London Heathrow to Minneapolis in nine hours, year round.
Spring arrives in April, and Minneapolis can have sunshine and highs of 30˚ from June to September.
Temperatures drop well below freezing from December to February, but Minnesota just stops sailing for the season and goes skiing, skating and sledding instead.
Minnesota has over 20 family ski-resorts, snow-sure from November, and all in spectacularly scenic locations.
Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake, and largest of all the Great Lakes: it’s just one of more than 10,000 in Minnesota.
The North Shore is one of the world’s great road trips. Stretching 150km from Duluth to Ontario along the shores of Lake Superior, it’s reason alone to see Northern Minnesota.
Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the iconic rail journey which follows the early pioneer path from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest. In Minnesota it runs from the south east corner of the state to the western prairies, twice daily, all year round.
The state capital’s usually bracketed with neighbouring St. Paul, and collectively known as the Twin Cities. But Minneapolis alone is also called ‘City of Lakes’, it has 20 and they’re local playgrounds: frozen solid for skating and kitesurfing in winter; fun to sail in summer. Active indoors too, the city’s home to Paisley Park and the Walker Art Centre, the world’s largest shopping mall.
Just over the Mississippi from Minneapolis, St. Paul is the characterful Twin City. F. Scott Fitzgerald was born here, and districts like Cathedral Hill still look much as they did back in the 19th century. Go shopping on Grand Avenue, it’s been called ‘America’s prettiest neighbourhood’, hit Highland Park for Mississippi River trails, or eat your way round the restaurant district, Selby & Dale.
Duluth’s the north eastern Minnesota city on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. This is the base to pick for a North Shore road trip on Route 61, which stretches for an impossibly scenic 151 miles between Duluth and Canada. It’s also the gateway to Superior National Forest, Cloquet Valley, and the adventuresome waterways of Minnesota’s very own Finland.
Route 61 runs for 151 miles north from Duluth to the border of Canada. It’s the north shore of ocean-like Lake Superior and one of the greatest of all Minnesota experiences. Take the train, sit back and enjoy the view. Alternatively hire a car and drive: the route’s scattered with pretty towns, artists’ colonies, historic sites and eight State Parks.
Spread over 4 million acres in North East Minnesota, Superior National Forest is so vast it spills into Ontario. Over 2000 of the state’s lakes lie within, and it contains the entire Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness. There are dozens of excellent lodges, inns and family resorts along North Shore with easy access to the forest’s hiking and walking trails. Superior’s an unforgettable experience for older kids and, if you don’t want to go it alone, experienced local guides are a good option for wildlife and sailing expeditions.
Between the lakes, forests, plains, rivers and vast stretches of unspoiled wilderness landscape, Minnesota is a natural for active family holidays. One of its greatest attractions is Route 61, the North Shore highway which runs along the edge of Lake Superior for almost 150 miles. So hiring a car is definitely the way to get most out of this outdoorsy state. Cycling, walking and public transport are all good options in St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth.