Yes, there’s the Mall of America, the Minnesota State Fair and the seasonal themes of Valleyfair. However, tourist traps are not the only places worth visiting in Minnesota. With such a vast area of land, Minnesota houses quite a few fun ideas for day trips or weekend vacations. Whether you like nature, history or art, Minnesota attractions have captured fascinating aspects of the land and the local culture. If you desire something outside of the basic tourist package, check out one of these “hidden gems” of Minnesota.
National Eagle Center
50 Pembroke Ave.
Wabasha, MN 55981
(651) 565-4989

Located in Southern Minnesota, along the Mississippi River, the National Eagle Center brings visitors face-to-face with our national bird. The eagle, our American symbol of freedom, is studied and advocated for at the center. Working in conjunction with the Raptor Center at the University, the National Eagle Center has rescued eagles and houses several birds to help teach visitors about these amazing creatures. Enjoy a live eagle program and watch the giant birds get fed. The center itself is a beautiful facility and the view itself is worth the trip.

Twine Ball Museum
200-298 1st St.
Darwin, MN 55324
(320) 693-7544

It may have been heard of as a rumor, but the Twine Ball Museum does, in fact, exist. Located in the town of Darwin, a small town where the population is less than 1,000, the Twine Ball is the centerpiece of the community. Noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest ball of twine, the ball has been housed in its own gazebo at the museum, which also contains baseball memorabilia from the town. The ball is the result of the determination of one man to spend 29 years of his life winding the masterpiece. Find out why and see the ball at the museum.

Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 St. Croix Trail
Shafer, MN 55074
(651) 257-6668

Wander around the lesser-known sculpture park in Minnesota and avoid the crowd staring at the Spoonbridge and Cherry down at the Walker. Franconia not only has twice as many exhibits, but it is a great area to spend the day walking around and engaging in the creativity of local artists. The creators of the sculptures often reside on the property and may be on hand to offer their ideas and thoughts. Enjoy a great walk in the outdoors and have fun looking at the wide range of sculptures using an even wider range of material. The park is open daily and is a free adventure for the thrifty.

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Minnesota Discovery Center
1005 Discovery Drive
Chisolm, MN 55719
(218) 254-7959

Head up to the fascinating museum of the Iron Range. The Minnesota Discovery Center is a huge complex that houses several buildings of historical archives, interesting exhibits and interactive shows. Take a ride in an old streetcar and learn about what it was like to live and work on the Iron Range. The Discovery Center reveals the secrets of open pit mining and taconite mining as well as the lifestyle of the “rangers” of the past. Discover how mining has played an important part in Minnesota’s history and why people flocked up north to work on the range.

Paul Bunyan Land
17553 MN-18
Brainerd, MN 56401
(218) 764-2524

Minnesota is not just the home of the legendary lumberjack, it is also the home of Paul Bunyan Land, an amusement park and museum that goes beyond the fictional man and his big blue ox. Enjoy rides and games at Paul Bunyan Land along with a cool antique museum housed in an entire town of buildings. Catch the pigs and peacocks at the petting zoo and get your picture taken with a giant statue of the man himself. This adventure is not to be missed by anyone traveling through Brainerd.

Related: Best Day Trips For Under $100 In Minnesota

Andrea Wodele is a freelance writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for the last 10 years. Her hobbies include exercising, driving kids around, watching Minnesota sports, and reading self-help literature.