5 Minnesota Family Weekend Getaways
of the iconic Duluth, MN lift bridge as ships pass.
A Minnesota family weekend getaway will take you on adventure, a trek through history, a splash into a waterpark or exploring Minnesota underground. For your next family getaway, try one of these five top spots.
There are countless things to do in Duluth, Minnesota during a family weekend getaway. Topping the list is an afternoon at Canal Park on Lake Superior. Watch the boats pass under the lift bridge, chase the seagulls, eat fresh popped popcorn along the boardwalk, play along the rocks, visit the Duluth Maritime Museum and pop into a candy shop. Book tickets on Duluth’s Vista Queen to explore the waterfront. Some tours even serve pizza.
After that, don’t miss Duluth’s museums: the Great Lakes Aquarium, a freshwater aquarium featuring turtles, otters, rainbow trout and other local sea life; the Duluth Children’s Museum; the William A. Irving, a former iron ore and coal ship open for tours; and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum at Duluth’s Union Depot.
Other highlights include a ride on the North Shore Railroad or Spirit Mountain’s Timber Twister, tour of the butterfly and water gardens at the 660-acre Hartley Nature Center; play in the sand at Park Point beach; and explore the Lake Superior Zoo.
The northwoods town of Ely, MN offers plenty of things to do for family activities on the lake, in the woods and in town. Learn about northern wildlife at the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center. Each offers a variety of exhibits and events.
Nearby, take a tour nearly 2,400 feet below ground at Soudan Underground Mine State Park. The former iron ore mine now hosts a physics lab, and both parts of the mine are open for tours. For a completely different historic tour, visit the Dorothy Molter Museum, honoring the last person to live in the Boundary Waters. Dorothy’s former cabin is available for tours, and the site’s gift shop offers her namesake root beer.
You can’t plan a MN family weekend getaway in Ely, Minnesota without enjoying the area’s great recreation. Head out in a boat, canoe or kayak; hike miles of trails; or go fishing. Local outfitters can help you prepare for a canoe day trip, or a longer family excursion.
And if you head to Ely, Minnesota in the winter, don’t miss a dog sled tour. There are several sled dog guides offering family tours, such as Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge’s four night Parent-Child Dogsled Vacation.
The Brainerd resort region offers a MN family vacation that will fit all tastes in your family. Pick a lodge or resort and spend the afternoon on the sandy shores of Brainerd’s Gull Lake. Swim, boat or fish. At night, plan a beachside campfire. Several resorts, such as Grand View Lodge, also offer indoor water parks in case you might encounter inclement weather or you want to get away in the winter.
The area also hosts popular festivals and events throughout the year, including the Brainerd Jaycees ice fishing competition in January on Gull Lake, turtle races every Wednesday of the summer in Nisswa, MN classic car shows and wooden boat shows, Oktoberfest, and the Mille Lacs Band Traditional Powwow.
Grand Marais, MN
Grand Marais, Minnesota is a lakeside town that offers a classic seaside feel. Play along the rocks in Grand Marais’ harbor or take a ride on the North House Folk School’s Hjørdis, a 50' traditionally rigged schooner sailboat. In town, enjoy a treat at Sydney’s Frozen Custard or World’s Best Donuts, or stop for story time at Drury Lane Books. For dinner, enjoy the famous Sven & Ole’s pizza.
Outside of town, head north to Grand Portage National Monument. The site commemorates the city’s early history as a key hub in the global fur trade more than 200 years ago. Costumed interpreters help guide you through historic buildings, and a recently built visitor center preserves artifacts and exhibits sharing the site’s history.
Nearby, visit Grand Portage State Park to see the state’s tallest waterfall, the 120-foot High Falls. Other nearby parks also offer top views of waterfalls, including the infamous Devil’s Kettle at Judge C.R. Magney State Park, and the waterfalls at Cascade River State Park.
Bluff Country, MN
While southern Minnesota’s bluffs region is known for couples getaways in the quaint bed and breakfast town of Lanesboro, Minnesota the region offers plenty to do for a family weekend getaway too. Several inns welcome families, and nearby campgrounds including Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park are close to some of the region’s top attractions.
Don’t miss a trip to the region’s two caves, Mystery Cave and Niagara Cave. Both offer guided tours for all ages. Also located within Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park is the Historic Forestville site. During summer months, costumed interpreters act out daily life in the preserved town.
The region also boasts top bike trails, hiking, fishing, and a well-regarded community theatre. Family-friendly dining options, plus an ice cream parlor and pie shop, will fit all tastes.
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