Minnesota is a truly beautiful state. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are thriving metropolitan areas, full of life and color, towering skyscrapers and historical legacies. If you travel just outside the metro area, however, the constant movement of the city becomes a distance memory. Pristine natural beauty is only a hop, skip and a jump away from the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities, and the serenity is something to be savored. The following tour operators offer the opportunity to experience both worlds, and everything in between. Whether for a romantic getaway, a trip with your family and friends, team building with your co-workers or completely on your own, it’s time to explore Minnesota.

Gray Line
21160 Holyoke Ave.
Lakeville, MN 55044
(952) 985-7514

On the Gray Line, enjoy the best sights and sounds of the the Twin Cities from the climate-controlled comfort of plush seats. From Minnehaha Falls to the Theater District in Minneapolis, past the Victorian mansions along Saint Paul’s Summit Avenue, to the state capitol building and beyond, there is no better way to enjoy the natural, historic and modern charms that the Twin Cities has to offer. You can also take the line down to Stillwater and along the St. Croix River to view one of the most beautiful stretches of Minnesota landscape, or book the Holiday Lights Tour and enjoy the twinkling Christmas decorations around the Twin Cities metro.

Related: Get A Parade Of Homes Tour

Rochester Trolley and Tour Company
972 14th Ave. S.W.
Rochester, MN 55902
(507) 421-0573

In picturesque Rochester, Minnesota, only an hour south of the Twin Cities and home of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, exists a hub for some of Minnesota’s most interesting scenic tours. Explore surrounding Amish communities and peruse beautiful handmade goods and foods, or take in the sights of the Mississppi River along some of Minnesota’s most serene back roads. You can choose from themed excursions as well, like the Haunted Rochester Trolley Tour during the month of October, or garden tours, art tours and other family-friendly tours offered throughout the year.

St. Croix Valley Wildlife Tours
1601 S. Greeley St.
Stillwater, MN 55082
(651) 270-1561

Imagine gliding along the St. Croix River with nothing but the sounds of nature and the flowing water around you. No bus or boat engines coughing into the clean air, it’s just you and Minnesota’s greatest natural scenery. The St. Croix River Wildlife Tour offers exactly that. You can learn about the history and wildlife of the area on the guided tour, or rent a canoe or kayak and experience the natural splendor of the area on your own. The canoes seat two people, ideal for a romantic getaway or bonding experience. Minnesota is one of the most beautiful states in the country; you’ll see why when you travel down the St. Croix.

Padelford Crew Cruises
Harriet Island West Entrance
Saint Paul, MN 55107
(651) 227-1100

Depart from Harriet Island, already a slice of paradise in the shadow of downtown Saint Paul, and pass historic landmarks such as the High Bridge, Pig’s Eye’s Cave (where Saint Paul’s one-eyed forefather operated his distillery), Fort Snelling and more. Magnificent bluffs line the river; keep an eye out for the American Bald Eagles that call them home. Saint Paul’s history truly comes alive on this tour, but the mighty Mississippi is the real star of the show. You’ll get to experience the river that has inspired America for generations, from Mark Twain and Daniel Boone, to the industry barons that built Saint Paul and other river cities, to all of us today.

Related: Bike The Mississppi With A Ranger Guide

North Shore Scenic Railroad
506 W. Michigan St.
Duluth, MN 55802
(218) 722-1273

For a truly historic journey, hop aboard aboard the train at Duluth’s Union Depot. Learn about the history of the city, Minnesota railroads, the Duluth Port (still the largest inland port in the world) and more while passing historic downtown and Canal Park. Then leave it all behind and be awed by the sights of Lake Superior and the sprawling north woods. From your seat in a classic railroad car, you’ll truly get a sense of northern Minnesota’s past and how it was shaped by both man and nature. For families with children, enjoy pizza and soda on the shorter Pizza Train ride.

Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.