With serene lakes and architectural influences from Scandinavia and Germany, small towns near Minneapolis offer visitors the chance to relax and swap the skyscrapers for beautiful natural surroundings. Our picks for the top five small towns nearby serve as excellent destinations for the great outdoors, historic strolls and unique cultural experiences. Within easy reach of Minneapolis, you can plan day trips or take longer road trips via Minnesota’s scenic interstates and highways.
Lanesboro is a picturesque gem two hours south of Minneapolis on Highway 52. Bikers will enjoy the River Root State Trail that winds through the town and into the surrounding countryside. There is an Amish community in Lanesboro and you can take the Amish Backroads Tour to learn about their way of life. The town itself has many historic registered buildings and many artists work here, possibly because of its idyllic setting.
2. Red Wing
With its prime location on the banks of the Mississippi River, Red Wing is a creative rural town 54 miles from Minneapolis with a variety of outdoor activities. From the town, you can hike the Cannon Valley Trail all the way to the next town, Cannon Falls. There is a great walk up to the summit of the iconic He Mni Can-Barn Bluff that has stunning views of the town and river. Red Wing is also only 10 miles away from the beautiful Frontenac State Park, a popular destination for bird-watchers. There are also opportunities for camping, hiking, swimming, and sledding. To get to Red Wing from Minneapolis take the Great River Road south for about an hour.
Lindstrom prides itself on its Swedish heritage, from its coffee-pot-shaped water tower to the local bakery that sells traditional Swedish goods. The landscape is also reminiscent of Sweden with the town being surrounded by lakes and forests with plenty of walking trails. The town has a number of gift shops, as well as an excellent antique market. Lindstrom is only a 45-minute drive from downtown Minneapolis, along a scenic route that passes by a number of beautiful lakes.
Further west, around 200 miles from Minneapolis, Pipestone is famous for the Pipestone National Monument that has been quarried by Native Americans for centuries due to its red pipestone. The park’s Circle Trail is a fantastic nature walk that takes you past the Winnewissa Falls, while the visitor center has exhibitions and educates visitors about the site. The town itself has a historic district with many buildings from the 1800s.
Stillwater is a picturesque historical town nestled in the St. Croix River Valley, 25 miles directly east of Minneapolis. There are excellent biking and hiking trails in the valley, and you can take boat rides on the St. Croix River. The town’s main street is lined with historic buildings that are now boutique stores and vintage shops, making Stillwater an excellent shopping destination. Other notable historic sites include the 19th-century courthouse and the draw bridge, built in 1932, that spans the river. To tour the town, you can take the Stillwater Steps Route that navigates the hilly streets via 5 sets of stairways.