11 hidden gems in Minnesota: best kept secrets to visit

Minnesota is a big state filled with a variety of terrain from the pines of Northern Minnesota to the prairies of the South to the bluffs of the Minnesota River and Mississippi River.

There are plenty of unknown places to visit in between. I’m here to provide the best-hidden gems to add to your Minnesota bucket list.

A guest post by Kyle from ViaTravelers  

There are many hidden gems in Minnesota that people don’t know about. These places offer a lot of beauty and fun things to do. You’ll be able to have a lot of fun and see some amazing sights while you’re there.

Each hidden gem offers something unique and special. For example, the North Shore Scenic Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the country, and Itasca State Park is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Best hidden gems in minnesota

These are some great underrated destinations in Minnesota.

jay cooke state park

Jay Cooke State Park offers some of the best hiking trails in Minnesota and is also home to two waterfalls: The Swinging Bridge Falls and The Saint Louis River Gorge Overlook Waterfall.

Jay Cooke State Park is still very underrated as a place to visit in Minnesota.

The Swinging Bridge Falls is a hidden gem that you need to see while visiting Jay Cooke State Park.

It is located at the end of the Carlton Peak Trail and a hidden treasure that many people have missed out on seeing when visiting Jay Cooke State Park.

When we visited, there was only one other couple hiking along the trail to see The Swinging Bridge Falls.

The Carlton Peak Trail is a hidden gem in Jay Cooke State Park and is also located at the start of the first tunnel on Highway 210 or Highway 23. Heading to the North Shore is one of our favorite things to do in Minnesota and Jay Cooke is a must-stop on your way up to the shore.


Lanesboro is a hidden gem in the state of Minnesota. Located in the heart of the scenic bluff country, Lanesboro is a great place to visit for a weekend getaway.

There are plenty of things to do in this charming little town, including hiking, biking and exploring the many nature trails in the area.

Lanesboro has a great blend of charm, history, and culture and is known to be the bed and breakfast capital of Minnesota. There are many bed and breakfasts in the area, as well as restaurants and shops.

Be sure to check out the Lanesboro Arts Center while you’re in town, which features rotating art exhibits, theater performances, and musical concerts.

pine river

Pine River is a hidden gem in central Minnesota that offers plenty of outdoor adventures and fun, exciting things to do. The town has a historic downtown area with quaint shops, restaurants, and more. 

There’s also an ice skating rink available on weekends during the winter season when it gets cold enough outside.

The Pine River is located right in the heart of Minnesota’s hidden gem city: Pine River. It’s great for kayaking, canoeing and swimming.

Pine River is also a great place to birdwatch; you’ll see all sorts of birds here including bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, and more.

itasca state park

Itasca State Park is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which is located on Lake Itasca. It’s no secret that Minnesota has thousands of lakes. However, Lake Itasca is one of the best lakes in Minnesota, solely due to its history and importance to the entire United States. 

Lake Itasca is a glacial lake that is known for its clear blue waters. Itasca State Park is often overlooked due to the popularity of other parks in Minnesota, but it is definitely worth a visit.

The park offers plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and canoeing.

There are also camping and lodging options available within the park. If you’re looking for a beautiful place to relax and take in nature, Itasca State Park is definitely worth checking out.

Pipestone is another hidden gem in Minnesota that is well worth a visit. The city is located in southwestern Minnesota and is known for its rock quarries, which have been mined since the 1800s.

pipestone national monument

Pipestone is also home to the Pipestone National Monument, which preserves and celebrates the cultural heritage of America’s native people.

Pipestone is home to the only quarry where pipestone can be found. The pipestone is a stone that can be carved into sacred pipes by Native Americans, who use these pipes for religious ceremonies and prayer.

The monument features an interpretive center with exhibits about the history and culture of Native Americans, as well as a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs or books about the history. 


Monticello is a hidden gem in southeastern Minnesota that is known for its charming downtown area and historic buildings. The town was founded in 1854 and is home to the Monticello Opera House, which is one of the oldest opera houses in the state.

The town also has a farmers market that takes place every Saturday morning from May to October. The market features fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, and more from local vendors.

Monticello is a great place to visit for a weekend getaway or for an afternoon of shopping and dining. There are also plenty of bed and breakfasts in the area if you’re looking for a place to stay.

wabasha street caves in saint paul

The Wabasha Street Caves are a hidden gem in Saint Paul that is definitely worth a visit. If you are originally from Minnesota, chances are you’ve heard about the caves but you probably haven’t dared to enter them. 

The caves were used by Native American tribes before colonists inhabited the area, and they were also used for mining and mushroom farming in the early 1900s. Then, before and during prohibition the caves were used for storing and brewing beer.

The caves are now a tourist attraction and feature exhibits about the history and culture of Native Americans. There are also guided tours available of the caves. The Wabasha Street Caves are a must-see for anyone visiting Saint Paul or any local resident if you haven’t already visited them.

judy garland museum in grand rapids

The Judy Garland Museum is a museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota dedicated to the life and career of American actress and singer Judy Garland. Plenty of people know the actress as being from Minnesota but the museums dedicated to her are a great showcase in an excellent town to visit in Minnesota.

The museum, located in the house where Garland was born, contains Garland’s personal effects and memorabilia from her life and career, including costumes from her movies and stage shows. The museum also features a gift shop and an annual festival commemorating Garland’s life and work.

jeffers petroglyphs in comfrey

The Jeffers Petroglyphs is a hidden gem in Minnesota that you need to see. These petroglyphs feature over 5,000 carvings from humans, animals, and instruments. The site is located just one hour west of Mankato near Comfrey and is one of the oldest sacred sites in the world.

The interactive exhibits at the visitor center are a great way to learn about the history and significance of the surrounding area before taking the tour to see the petroglyphs yourself. The guide reveals Native American carvings along the rocks while he talks about their significance and how they were made.

If you’re looking for an interesting and unique place to visit in Minnesota, be sure to check out the Jeffers Petroglyphs.

the quietest place on earth, minneapolis

The quietest place on earth can be found in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Orfield Laboratory holds the Guinness World Record for being the quietest place in the world, as it is capable of absorbing 99.99% of sound. 

This makes it the perfect place for manufacturers to test the volume or sound quality of their products. The strange silence within the laboratory is a result of the specially designed acoustical chamber. You can visit Orfield Laboratory during a supervision visit.

frank lloyd wright gas station in cloquet

A firm believer in organic design, Frank Lloyd Wright was a prominent American architect. After several successful commercial and residential projects, Wright chose this entire area for his project.

The ‘Broadacre City’ named by the architects would be built in Buffalo, NY. A significant edifice erected inside Wright’s opulent city was gas stations with observation rooms and watches which were used by attendants to see several vehicles go and come.

One such gas station still stands today in Cloquet, Minnesota, and is open to the public.

Final thoughts

Minnesota is home to several secret spots and wonders that you need to see. From hidden waterfalls to off-the-beaten-path hiking trails, the options are endless when it comes to uncovering Minnesota’s hidden gems.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore everything that our beautiful state has to offer! And be sure to let us know about your favorite hidden spots in the comments below.

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Author Bio: Kyle Kroeger is the owner of ViaTraveler.com. ViaTravelers is a destination travel blog providing the best tips, hacks, and itineraries to help you explore the world. Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.


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