beautiful pink and colorful light blue sunset over a glass calm lake and trees towering in Northern Minesota in the summer

The Best Minnesota Summer Bucket List

Your checklist for the perfect summer in MN

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Welcome to your best summer ever with this bucket list as your guide to plan activities during one of the best seasons in the state of Minnesota. It includes activities to do across the state for a summer to remember!

After living in Minnesota for the majority of my life (37 years) these are the things you should do for the most epic summer in the state of Minnesota.

Minnehaha Falls

The falls are located in a Minneapolis city park. Truly fun in any season, but especially in summer when the falls are rushing and you are able to hike down and around the falls. Minnehaha Falls makes a great evening outing or afternoon to add to your Minnesota summer bucket list. There are many amenities here to enjoy so it makes it a perfect destination for some summer fun right in Minneapolis.

Take in a sporting event

Whether it’s your niece or nephew’s t-ball game, going to an MLB MN Twins game at Target Field, a minor league Saints baseball game at CHS Field or MNUFC soccer game at Allianz Field. Being outside in the Minnesota summer, taking in the game atmosphere, having a beer and some food is one of my favorite things to do during a warm summer afternoon or evening. I don’t think I’ve had a summer in over 10 years (aside from 2020, insert eye roll here) where I didn’t at least go to one summer sporting event. Which is why a sporting event is definitely a must do on your Minnesota summer bucket list!

CHS field in St. Paul is located in the fun Lowertown area of the city and within walking distance to one of my favorite breweries that I highlight in “The Best Breweries in the Twin Cities“. So, that’s almost like a two for one, take in a game and grab a pint before or after!

view of Minneapolis skyline from Target Field stadium home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team in the MLB
Downtown Minneapolis skyline from Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team

Canoe down the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls/Interstate State Park

From Interstate State Park, you can rent a canoe or kayak to float down the river. Included in your rental is a shuttle back to your starting point at Interstate State Park. You can, choose to just purchase the shuttle service if you have your own canoe or kayak. It’s cheaper if you book in advance. Make sure you pack sunscreen, wear a hat & pack snacks/beverages in a cooler. There are plenty of places to stop along the route, hop out and have a picnic and relax for a bit. We even brought our dog with and he absolutely loved it.

small black boston terrier pug with an orange life jacket on splashing in shallow water on the st. croix river in Minnesota during the summer

Take a bike ride

Minnesota has an incredible paved biking system all over the state. You definitely want to include enjoying some of them to your Minnesota summer bucket list. One of my absolute favorite bike rides includes looping Lake Bemidji & riding through Bemidji State Park.

The MRT (Mississippi River Trail) spans the Mississippi River for over 800 miles! Take in scenic views and break up different routes along the trail for a truly amazing experience.

Another great trail, that isn’t a part of the MRT and requires a fee to use is the Cannon Valley Trail from Cannon Falls to Red Wing, MN. This trail is historic as it’s built on the former Chicago Great Western Railroad. The trail is open year round for use but biking it during the summer is a definite must do experience.

In central Minnesota, the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area has extensive mountain biking trails as well as a paved bike trail. The lakes nearby are a beautiful shade of blue and you could enjoy them as well after ward by paddle boarding or canoeing.

Woman standing in front of the Lake Bemidji State Park Paul Bunyan State Trail sign with a dog in a backpack carrier and two bikes propped up behind the sign.
Biking in Lake Bemidji State Park during the spring. (summer is gorgeous!) But when the weather is this great in April, you take full advantage!

Eat some delicious ice cream

Dairy Queens are abundant in Minnesota, however there are many amazing artisinal ice cream shops that deserve a visit for your Minnesota summer bucket list. Whether you’re a chocolate connoissuer or prefer fun and unique flavors you will find something for everyone at many different ice cream shops across the state.

Some of my favorites include: Big River Scoops (Bemidji, MN), Honey & Mackies (Plymouth, MN), MN Nice Cream (Minneapolis, MN), Milkjam Creamery (Minneapolis) & Gordy’s Hi Hat (Cloquet, MN) for amazing shakes & malts! Now, the hardest part is deciding what to order once you get there because you’re going to want one of everything.

Head “Up North” (To the North Shore)

Up North by a Minnesotans definition, is pretty much anywhere in the state north of Brainerd, MN. Another descriptive factor is if it’s in the 218 area code. Having grown up a 218er, I refuse to give up that area code. If you know, you know!

Spend some time outdoors on the North Shore enjoying Lake Superior by taking the North Shore Scenic Drive. Before venturing further north, there are a ton of fun things to do in Duluth, the city that I refer to as the gateway to the North Shore.

Venturing up past Duluth, the North Shore offers a lot of great state parks, hiking opportunities, waterfalls, lakes and fresh air. The opportunity for fun is endless from just a long weekend to a week or more on the North Shore. It’s my favorite part of the state to have an outdoor adventure. Aside from dealing with the up north Friday rush; spending time away from the Twin Cities is a must for your Minnesota summer bucket list.

Beautiful tettegouche state park river and part of lake superior and the lush trees and green forest
Tettegouche state park with Lake Superior in the distance on the North Shore of Minnesota

Explore a State Park

There are many amazing state parks throughout Minnesota. Some are even an easy day trip away! I’m partial to Itasca State Park located in Park Rapids, MN with the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The state parks that are along the river on the eastern part of the state are so beautiful as well! It’s hard to have a favorite honestly. Along the bluffs of the river, not only in the summer but is spectacular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors! Some other favorites, such as Tettegouche are up the North Shore along Lake Superior.

Woman staring out onto the falls and river at Tettegouche state park in Minnesota in the spring

Boundary Waters

Otherwise referred to as BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area.) The boundary waters is one of the more remote areas within Minnesota. Unspoiled areas of wilderness where the cell service is lost and you can truly immerse yourself in nature. Whether you decide to do a full outfitted canoe trip into the BWCA and camp in one of the back country campsites or stay at a nearby resort and just take a day trip into the BWCA. There’s an option for everyone!

Most people will enter the boundary waters by way of the town of Ely, MN. There are several local outfitters that are experts. They will help you plan your trip and outfit the gear for you including guide services and obtaining the necessary permits.

Have a Lake Day

How would this even be a Minnesota summer bucket list without a lake day? Minnesota is known as the land of ten thousand lakes, but in reality there are actually more than 11,000 here. You can’t go far without spotting some shore line. When the days get long, hot, and humid grab your pals and cool off at the local beach. If you have access to one or you could rent a boat to take out on the lake. A really relaxing and serene afternoon or early morning outing to the lake is gliding across the water on a stand up paddle board (SUP). Many regional beaches and lakes will offer rentals for these as well.

When you’re having a sun-filled day, protect yourself with SPF clothing and sunscreen! I love a sun hoodie, check out my favorites.

If you’re lucky enough, you have a lake cabin or at least a relative or friend that has one or shares one with family that you can go to for a long relaxing weekend. So many Minnesotans retreat to the lake weekends filled with long days in the sun then late nights around the camp fire enjoying some beverages and roasting marshmallows for s’mores. It’s truly what Minnesota summers are all about!

beautiful pink and colorful light blue sunset over a glass calm lake and trees towering in Northern Minesota in the summer
Lake days in Minnesota during the summer are the best when they end like this!
colorful paddle board with a paddle on it and an open beer in a coozie on a calm Minnesota lake in the summer
A few of the best things: good beer & lake time!

Cool Down with some Craft Beers at a local brewery

There are so many craft breweries all across the state. A bulk of my favorites are within the Twin Cities area. Check out my favorites here. And if you’re up for a brewery adventure or an all day event, more details on how to organize a brewery crawl using public transportation in the Twin Cities.

If you’re heading up North to Duluth, be sure to catch a few brews at one of my favorite establishments detailed here.

We take patio season pretty seriously in Minnesota so you should definitely hit up an epic one as a part of your summer bucket list.

Minnesota State Fair

The “official” end of summer is the Minnesota State Fair that occurs from the lasts Thursday in August through Labor Day ever year. They announce in advance the new food and Minnesota State Fair exclusive beers for the year to try. It’s a full review process where you make a list to ensure you try all of the new intriguing offerings as well as your favorite items. Some of my favorites include: Mini donut beer, Grain Belt Blu beer (with the slushy topping), Big Fat Bacon, Cheese Curds & deep fried pickles.

The Minnesota State Fair is one of the largest and most well attended state fairs in all of North America. That alone totally justifies a spot on the Minnesota Summer Bucket List!

Woman wearing a baseball hat and a camo t shirt holding up a pink cotton candy beer at the minnesota state fair
In 2019, one of my favorite new beers was the Cotton Candy IPA

Beyond your Minnesota Summer Bucket list: More Minnesota travel info

Check out my Comprehensive Minnesota Travel Guide for more details on other areas of the state to give you ideas and inspiration for an amazing Minnesota summer vacation! For summer adventures and beyond here’s a Comprehensive MN Packing Guide (for all seasons!)

One of the things MN is the most famous for, is the Mall of America. Be sure to check out my Mall of America Tips! (It’s the best shopping destination as you prepare for back to school at the end of summer.)

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