Best Of Home

Best Day Trips From The Twin Cities

May 12, 2011 5:39 PM

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(credit: Explore Minnesota)

(credit: Explore Minnesota)

After hours of sitting at a desk, the shining sun outside your window is calling you to drop everything and explore a world uncovered from feet of snow. But not everyone has time for a week-long vacation or the budget to jet off to a distant locale. Instead, make the most of your weekends (or a day off) and take a day trip to one of Minnesota’s local attractions. Adventures are only a drive away.

quarry park Best Day Trips From The Twin Cities

(credit: Stearns County)

The Quarry Park (St. Cloud)

1802 County Road 137
Waite Park, MN 56387
(320) 255-6172
Distance from Twin Cities: approximately 1 hour northwest

Between the 684 acres of land and 20 abandoned rock quarries, the Quarry Park in St. Cloud offers a unique way to stay active and cool off. First go hiking, biking or rock climbing on billion year old un-quarried bedrock, or stroll through trails in sprawling grasslands and scenic forests. Once you work up a sweat, scuba dive in your choice of four quarries or jump off 20 to 40-foot high cliffs into a 116-foot deep swimming hole (bring along an inner tube to float if you aren’t much for heights). But the best part about the Quarry Park? Day permits are only $4. On your way back home, stop by Nelson Bros. Restaurant & Bakeryin Clearwater for some home-cooked American cuisine.

franconia sculpture park Best Day Trips From The Twin Cities

(credit: Facebook)

Franconia Sculpture Park (Franconia)

29836 St. Croix Trail
Franconia, MN 55074
(651) 257-6668
Distance from the Twin Cities: approximately 45 minutes northeast

Most people in the Twin Cities have posed next to the Spoonbridge and Cherry, but even more outrageous sculptures lie 45 minutes northeast of the Cities in Franconia. The Franconia Sculpture Park boasts a rotating collection of 75 sculptures that encourage visitors to interact with the oversized art. Though the park is more catered to families (with plenty of room for the little ones to play on the brightly colored sculptures) the park also offers more adult events like an annual celebration of the Summer Solstice and dinner parties with the resident artists. Franconia is also located conveniently close to Stillwater and Taylors Falls, which offer bonus options for dining and recreation.

lakepepin Best Day Trips From The Twin Cities

(credit: Explore Minnesota)

Pepin (Wis.)

202 Cedar St
Pepin, WI 54759
(800) 442-3011
Distance from the Twin Cities: approximately 2 hours southeast

Sick of bustling city life and want a town with a slower pace? Drive south to Pepin, WI, a quaint town on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota known for its history and marina life. Start your trip with a little history by visiting the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder (don’t forget to read the books first!). Then head into town and stroll along First Street, stopping in shops like Dockside Mercantile and The Palate. Head next to Pepin Marina, where you can either bring your own sailboat to sail or sit at the dock watching boats drift around the lake. End your day at the famous Harbor View Café, for a delicious meal made with all fresh ingredients, overlooking the town’s namesake: Lake Pepin.
Bonus: If you don’t mind a little more road on your trip, stop by nearby Stockholm and Maiden Rock for the same small town charm in a different setting.

stcroix1 Best Day Trips From The Twin Cities

(credit: Laura Goetzke)


1950 Northwestern Avenue South #101
Stillwater, MN 55082-5189
(651) 439-4001
Distance from the Twin Cities: approximately 40 minutes east

Antiqu-ers and window shoppers beware: this town could be your downfall. Downtown Stillwater offers a wide array of shops, such as Staples Mill Antiques (which boasts over 10,000 square feet of antiques), Valley Bookstore and Art and Soul gift shop. When you tire of browsing (or your wallet keeps you from going any further), take a walk along the beautiful shores of the St. Croix River. But before you leave, make sure to stop by Tremblay’s Sweet Shop to take home some delectable salt water taffy.

rochestermn Best Day Trips From The Twin Cities



30 Civic Center Drive SE,
Suite 200
Rochester, MN 55904
(507) 288-4331
Distance from the Twin Cities: approximately 90 minutes south

Contrary to popular belief, Rochester is more than Mayo Clinic. With a skyway and subway system that keeps pedestrians warm and dry during all seasons, it offers enjoyable (and accessible) activities year round. In the summer, be sure to stroll along the RiverWalk that runs next to the Zumbro River and on Sundays catch a free outdoor concert at Mayo Park. In the fall, a hike to the top of Quarry Hill offers a gorgeous view of the fall foliage decorating the landscape. In the winter, cross country ski on the five miles of trails at Quarry Hill Nature Center or take cover from the cold in the downtown shopping district. In the notoriously fickle spring weather, try any of the previously mentioned activities or brush up on your history by a visit to the Mayowood Mansion or Assisi Heights, a Franciscan community housed in a beautiful Italian Romanesque building. No matter the season, you’re going to find something to do in Rochester.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

BONUS: Uptown (Minneapolis)

1406 West Lake Street,
Minneapolis MN 55408
(612) 823-4581
Located in the Twin Cities

For those of you not in the Twin Cities (or perhaps a Twin Cities resident looking for a day trip a little closer to home), head to the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis for an all-inclusive experience. In addition to fantastic restaurants, bars and coffee shops on every block, there is a variety of shopping, thriving nightlife and parks all within walking distance. Here are a few locales to be sure not to miss: Chino Latino for family-sized fusion cuisine, Walker Sculpture Garden for the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, Fifth Element for local hip hop music, a bike ride around Lake Calhoun and Brave New Workshop for comedy. But there are hundreds more options for every day-tripper.

— Karis Hustad is an intern with WCCO.COM.

View Comments
  • Brian

    Why is there a Wisconsin location if this is best day trips in Minnesota?

    • JamieinMN

      That’s what I’m wondering. It would be understandable if it was like Hudson, which is about 20 mins from St Paul…..but Pepin is 2 hours away! I think they should replace Pepin, WI with Canal Park in Duluth.

      • Brad

        Why complain so much? Geez. I guess you people won’t be going to enjoy these sites because it would make you too happy.

    • Ann

      Because it isn’t “Best Day Trips IN Minnesota,” it is “Best Day Trips FROM the Twin Cities.” Try paying attention before criticizing; just makes you look foolish…

      • Bob

        Actually, if you read the paragraph below the headline it does say “Instead, make the most of your weekends (or a day off) and take a day trip to one of Minnesota’s local attractions.” So now who looks foolish?

        • Zach

          It’s across the River. You can go to lake Pepin and be in Minnesota. Look at a map or you all look foolish.

          • Babs

            WOW… if you have nothing nice to say.. why say anything.. you all look foolish.. nit pick at this and nit pick at that… to funny!!!

            • Keshawn

              Wonderful explaantion of facts available here.

      • Brian

        Actually, the original story title said “IN Minnesota” not “FROM Minnesota” They changed it after my first comment.

    • Miss Missy

      It says in the title “Best Day Trips FROM the Twin Cities” not in the Twin Cities. :)

  • Kelly

    Wish they would show something that’s not a five hour drive (or more) if you don’t live in the Twin Cities.

    • Kikoman

      I think that’s why they added Uptown. “For those of you not in the Twin Cities”

  • Jane

    LIke the ideas for The Quarry and Franconia Sculpture Park. Thanks!

  • Mr.ury

    They forgot to mention the free beat downs courtesy of hoodlums for the Uptown section. Watch out for taxi drivers too! They’ll run you over even if your in the crosswalk.

  • Paul

    tri lurnng tu spel – yor comnts wuld bee mohr kredable…. sheesh anyway!!!

  • steve

    Are you kidding me? how can they not have Duluth in here? that should be #1 by far! There is so muich to do, and two harbors and gooseberry arent far north either!!

  • George Tirebiter

    At least they didn’t list any stinking casinos as worthwhile.

  • Deb

    ‘The Palete’ is in Stockholm. Visit B’Nox Jewely instead, in Pepin.

    • alan

      and don’t miss Stockholm – one of Midwest Livings 5 Best Small towns in 2010 – amazing galleries, shops and don’t forget the pie…

  • Katie

    Harbor View is phenomenal! So worth the trip just for that!

  • Reallypeople

    I would like to read the comments on a news story and NOT have all the comments be negative, bashing other people’s comments, other peoples’s spelling or grammar, and have at least a couple of the comments actually be related to the story itself. The negativity in this world is overwhelming and the self righteous attitudes people have is saddening. What happened to being humble, forgiving, optimistic and grateful? I have been to many of these places and there are all fun day trips to make. Another one us Taylor’s Falls. Close by with so much to do for kids and adults. Thank you WCCO for ideas of fun things to do this summer.

  • Krissi

    Lake Pepin is actually really pretty and well worth the time. And if you go south of Red Wing, it is still in MN. We went there and Frontenac State Park last year. Let me warn you though – if you have bad knees or anything this trip is not for you, because there are a LOT of stairs on the Frontenac trails, but otherwise it is a fabulous view.

  • Capatin

    A good many valbluaes you’ve given me.

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