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Safer Ways to Explore Minnesota This Summer

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Taking in the sights at Savanna Portage State Park / McGregor Chamber of Commerce

Safer Ways to Explore Minnesota This Summer

By Caitlin Hannah

Summer in Minnesota is a special time. This summer will be a little different, but if you take the appropriate precautions, you can still get out and enjoy the season with these travel ideas.

Hiker at Minneopa State Park in Mankato

Hiker at Minneopa State Park in Mankato / Roy Son

Go for a Hike

Looking to stretch your legs? With a wide variety of trail types across the state, hiking at Minnesota's 75 state parks and recreation areas is a great way to experience the state’s diverse landscapes and get in a socially distanced workout. Lace up your hiking boots and go chasing waterfalls, take a forest bath or experience Minnesota’s incredible native tallgrass prairies.

Two bikers in the North Loop of Minneapolis

Riding through the North Loop neighborhood in downtown Minneapolis / Waqar Ahmad

Hop on a Bike

Explore Minnesota on two wheels along our 4,000 miles of paved bike trails across the state. Minneapolis and St. Paul are some of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation, or if you love small towns and charming main streets, ride the Root River Trail through southeast Minnesota to see towns like Harmony, Preston and Lanesboro.

Mountain bikers have plenty of options right here in Minnesota, too. Nationally recognized trail centers like Duluth and Cuyuna are some of the top mountain bike destinations in the Midwest, and you’ll find an incredible variety of places to shred across the rest of the state.

Bald Eagle in tree

A bald eagle in the Boundary Waters / Steve Piragis

Get Back to Nature with Birding

Birding is a tranquil and rewarding way to experience nature that practically anyone can do—no special equipment required. It’s also perfectly suited to social distancing since it’s an activity that relies on avoiding populated areas by design. 

Many birds have migrated back for the season and nearly 250 species of birds call Minnesota home. In northwest Minnesota, the aptly named Pine to Prairie Birding Trail stretches more than 200 miles between Fergus Falls in the south to Warroad in the north, with 45 viewing sites along the way. Other popular birding spots include the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in Waite Park and the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge in Middle River.

Sign up for our free birding report to discover more fantastic birding destinations.

Enjoy a Meal Outdoors

Restaurants across the state continue to offer curbside pickup or takeout options, and there’s no better place to enjoy your meal than the great outdoors. When you go to pick up your next takeout meal, pack a blanket and visit your favorite open space to dine alfresco. Just be sure to clean up after yourself and leave no trace. 

Luverne car driving through prairie

Driving through the prairie near Luverne / Roy Son

Cruise a Scenic Byway

For a little taste of adventure, hop in your car and hit the open road on one of Minnesota’s 22 scenic byways. These winding roads bring you through lake country, waterfalls, bluffs, prairies and city parks, so there’s a route for every traveler. In addition to their scenery, these routes are noted for their cultural, historic, natural and recreational qualities.

Pulling in a fish

The catch of the day on Lake Margaret, in the Brainerd Lakes Area / Paul Vincent

Go Fishing

With 11,842 lakes and 5 rivers, there’s plenty of space to get out on the water and go fishing in Minnesota. Walleye is Minnesota’s state fish and a favorite of many anglers, but our bass fishing has also been gaining national attention. Other sought-after species include trout, panfish, northern pike and muskie. Just looking to dip your toes in the water? Fly fishing is one of the most beginner-friendly ways to go fishing in Minnesota. Many anglers will fish in a small stream or river where they can stand in the water with waders and a vest. You can also fish from a boat, float tube, from shore or even a paddle board. 

Sign up for our weekly fishing report to hear about where the fish are biting from local experts.

Woman golfing at Giants Ridge

Up on the Iron Range, Giants Ridge is one of Minnesota's best golf resort destinations / Jillian DeChaine Photography

Hit the Links

With courses once again open across Minnesota, golfing is a great way to get in some steps and enjoy the warm weather. Golfers that have been itching to get out may want to enjoy one of Minnesota’s golf trails. These courses are grouped together so you can enjoy multiple rounds and hit several top-rated courses all in one trip. Call or check individual course websites for more information about safety guidelines and reservations.

Take a Sculpture Walk or Visit a Sculpture Park

Sculpture walks are self-guided public art trails featuring works from artists from around the world, and you’ll find them in Minnesota towns both large and small. It’s a great way to get outside, admire the arts and discover some hidden gems along the way. You’ll find notable public sculpture walks in Mankato, Stillwater and Bemidji, among other towns. You can also enjoy public art at Franconia Sculpture Garden, Nyberg Sculpture Park in Vining, Norby Sculpture Garden in New London and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

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Visit Minnesota's Most Instagrammable Murals

If you enjoy public art paired with Instagram, you can get lots of likes at Minnesota’s most iconic murals. Highlights include a concrete mural in Perham weighing 4,000 pounds that features a family of loons plus 50 hidden homages to the area, a series of eight murals in Virginia depicting the history of the Iron Range, and several Faribault murals that showcase notable facts about the area like the invention of the Tilt-A-Whirl or their beloved Pet Parade.

Vali Hi Drive-in Movie Theater

Pack up the car with your favorite snacks and head to a drive-in movie theater / Paul Vincent

Catch a Movie at the Drive-In

Watching your favorite movies under the stars is a nostalgic tradition for many, and this summer Minnesota’s drive-in theaters will invite many first-timers to join in the fun. Pack your family into the car, bring a couple blankets and your favorite snacks, and head to one of Minnesota’s old-school drive-in theaters.

Caitlin Hannah

Caitlin Hannah is Explore Minnesota's social media strategist and resident Disney expert. She grew up spending summer weekends at her family's lake cabin in Detroit Lakes, and brings that "up north" attitude to everything she does. When traveling around the state, she likes trying new restaurants and taprooms, or watching Minnesota hockey.