31+ Amazing Places To Visit In Northern Minnesota With Kids

Four people, including grandparents, dad, and a young girl, look out onto a view of Minnesota in the spring atop Oberg Mountain, one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

There are so many reasons to visit these amazing places in northern Minnesota with kids! For one, the area is home to some of the best wilderness in the country and countless opportunities for outdoor activities. Between museums, historic sites, and Native American reservations, northern Minnesota also has a rich history and culture. And of course, let’s not forget the gorgeous scenery! From the shores of Lake Superior to the towering pines of the north woods, your kids will be awestruck by the natural beauty! When planning a trip to northern Minnesota families often choose the North Shore, the stretch of towns along Highway 61 and Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage. Alternatively, other points of interest include the northwest and central lakes regions, featuring towns like Nisswa, Ely, Bemidji, and Brainerd. Keep reading to find out more Amazing Places To Visit In Northern Minnesota With Kids! 

Best Time to Visit Northern Minnesota with Kids

Family with a baby and two toddler posing on a pebble beach at Lake Superior, one of the best places to visit northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Chelsey Knealing

Wondering about the best time to visit northern Minnesota with kids? This largely depends on what you plan on doing and when you’ll be visiting. Summer is the best time to experience outdoor adventures across the state, whether swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking, or hiking. Fall colors are particularly stunning in Minnesota, especially if you’re visiting the North Shore or near Ely. Of course, there are a ton of places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids in the winter too. Enjoy anything from ice fishing to snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and more. Truly, there’s no bad time to see these best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids! 

Looking for the best of fall in the Midwest? Here are the 14 Best Places to See Fall Colors in the Midwest for Families.

Best Towns to Visit in Northern Minnesota for Families

Minnesota is filled with charming towns and fascinating cities, whether you’re visiting for a weekend getaway or an extended trip. If you need advice on which are family-friendly or about fun places to go in Minnesota, whether you want to head to the North Shore or the central lakes region, check out this list of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota for families! 

If you have the Twin Cities area on your Minnesota itinerary too, here are the 45+ Exciting Places To Visit Within 3 Hours Of The Twin Cities With Kids!

Duluth 

Enjoy the very best of northern Minnesota in Duluth! Located along Lake Superior, this charming port city is chock-full of adventures your whole family will love. Start your exploration in Canal Park, where kids can watch large ships come into the port. They’ll have a ton of fun throwing rocks into Lake Superior, seeing the lift bridge come up and down, or visiting the lighthouse for a great view!

Kids will also love racing along the boardwalk, while parents enjoy stunning views of Lake Superior. Up the hill, explore the area around Enger Tower. Time it right and you can witness the great Hawk migration. Or, tour the historic Glensheen Mansion, which offers a look into the past and manicured gardens. Duluth has several museums and attractions kids will love too, including the S.S. William A. Irvin Ore Boat Museum, the Lake Superior Zoo, Great Lakes Aquarium, and the Lake Superior Marine Museum Association.

Families can also grab a slice at Vitta Pizza. Or check out Canal Park Brewing Company for a local, kid-friendly craft brewery and great appetizers. Finally, if you’re into nature, don’t miss a hike around the Chester Park Loop

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Grand Marais

Ranking as one of the most family-friendly places in the Midwest, Grand Marais should definitely be on your itinerary! This picturesque town is tucked along Lake Superior’s northern shore and offers visitors a low-key and friendly ambiance. For a full view of the town’s gorgeous harbor, walk out to Artists’ Point and spot the Grand Marais Lighthouse.

To see Grand Marais by water, embark on a tour aboard the iconic Hjørdis for an unparalleled view of Lake Superior. Or, get on the water by kayak for another unique view of the local Sawtooth Mountains. Outdoor families will also find several amazing hikes, including those within Cascade River State Park and Judge C.R. Magney State Park. The Gunflint Trail also offers several hiking options, including the Moose Viewing Trail and Magnetic Rock Trail.

If you’d rather relax, grab a coffee from Java Moose and sit on the nearby beach, while kids throw rocks into the water. Families can also take a kid-friendly class at the North House Folk School or indulge in Beth’s famous, in-house-made fudge!

Plan your next stay at one of the 8 Best US Lakes For Families to Visit During Summer

Bemidji

Families searching for a cozy and tranquil destination to visit in Minnesota should consider Bemidji. Located along the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota, this peaceful town showcases all kinds of outdoor activities. For starters, take the kids to Lake Bemidji State Park. Here, families can explore the many hiking trails, go fishing, or even camp overnight. You can also go on a nature hike at Itasca State Park (home of the headwaters to the Mississippi River) or go biking along the Paul Bunyan Trail.

If you’re looking for something educational, visit one of the many museums in the area. The Beltrami County Historical Society Museum is a great option to learn more about the town. You can also check out the Headwaters Science Center, which offers hands-on science exhibits. Or, head to the Bemidji Woolen Mills to see how yarn is made and pick up some cozy souvenirs.

Looking for more things to do near Bemidji for families? You can also take kids on a go-karting adventure or to the movies. In town, you can also meander the self-guided Bemidji Sculpture Walk. And last but not least, don’t forget to visit the iconic Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues!

Reserve a recommended Vrbo in Bernidji now!

Ely 

An aerial view of rich autumn colors in Ely, Minnesota, surrounding a lake, one of the best places to visit northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Ely Area Tourism Bureau

Minnesota is known for its abundance of outdoor activities, and Ely is no exception! Showcasing an abundance of outdoor things to do in Minnesota for families, the town provides access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which offers endless opportunities for exploration. Families can go on a scenic tour to see the area’s various lakes, rivers, and forests. Kids will love paddling through the pristine waters and spotting all the unique wildlife up close! For those who want to learn more about the area’s history, the nearby Soudan Underground Mine State Park is a great option too. In addition, the town of Ely is surrounded by beautiful scenery, making it a great place to go hiking or camping. 

Ely also has a few museums that are perfect for a rainy day. The North American Bear Center is a great place to learn about the different types of bears that live in North America. And of course, no visit to Ely would be complete without seeing the wolves at the International Wolf Center. Don’t forget to try some of the local restaurants – Ely is known for its Finnish cuisine!

Brainerd

Brainerd is the perfect destination for a family vacation! Located in central Minnesota along the Mississippi River, the neighboring cities of Baxter and Brainerd are commonly known as “Brainerd” or the Brainerd Lakes Area. There are plenty of things to do in the area with kids, including exploring the many lakes and trails, visiting amusement parks and museums, and enjoying the natural scenery.

For starters, there’s the Paul Bunyan Land Amusement Park. It has over 50 rides and attractions, including a log flume and a Ferris wheel. When kids want to cool down, there’s also the Paul Bunyan Water Park, which has a lazy river and slides for all ages. ​​

You can also spend some time at one of the many lakes in the area. Go swimming, fishing, or boating! Other activities for families include visiting the Northland Arboretum, going for a hike on one of the many trails in the area, or checking out the educational exhibits at the Crow Wing County Museum. And, of course, don’t forget about the delicious food – there are plenty of kid-friendly restaurants in Brainerd serving up all of your favorites! 

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The Cuyuna Area

A clear bottom kayak rests along the shoreline of a pit mine lake in the Cuyuna area near Crosby, one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

For a fun weekend getaway from the Twin Cities, look no further than Cuyuna! Well known for its crystal clear pit mine lakes, mountain biking, and more outdoor activities, this family-friendly destination is a favorite among nature lovers. Whether you’re visiting in the fall or the summer, it’s certainly one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids!

To explore Cuyuna and beyond, rent mountain bikes from local outfitters like Cykel Cuyuna. For hiking and more opportunities to see the scenery, head to Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Here, you’ll find several kid-friendly trails, like the 2.1-mile Crusher to Miner’s Mountain Loop. When the weather is right, kids can also cool off by swimming in one of the nearby mine pit lakes. Or, rent kayaks, crystal kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards from Cuyuna Outfitters (they even have clear bottom kayaks!).

Shop for some new outdoor gear, buy specialty foods and gifts from Victual, and explore downtown Crosby. Kids will love meeting the famous serpent statue – and there’s a great castle-themed playground nearby too! When you’re hungry, check out Iron Range Eatery, Raffertys Pizza, or Red Raven Bike.

Traveling with extended family? Book your home rental using Vrbo today.

Best Outdoor Adventures in Northern Minnesota for Families

Outdoor adventures are a fantastic way to bond as a family while getting some exercise! From regional parks to nearby mountains, lakes, and more, keep reading to find out the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids! 

Here are 11 Exciting Weekend Getaways from Minneapolis for Families.

Spirit Mountain Adventure Park 

Slopes covered with snow and scenic view of Duluth from Spirit Mountain Adventure Park.
Photo Courtesy: Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

Expect fun for all seasons at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park! Located in Duluth, this year-round adventure park offers an abundance of summer activities for kids and adults alike, alongside winter amenities. If you’re visiting in the summer, the park has a wide variety of rides and attractions that are perfect for kids of all ages. For the younger ones, there are kiddie rides like the Jumping Pillow and Scenic Chairlift, which soars above the landscape for an incredible view of Lake Superior. For the older kids, there are thrill rides like the Timber Twister, an alpine coaster that races along a 3200-foot elevated track. There are also plenty of other adventurous activities like rock climbing, zip-lining, and hiking. Plus, disc golf and mini golf! If you’re visiting in the winter, the park offers downhill skiing. 

Magnetic Rock Trail

When visiting Grand Marais with kids, be sure to stop and see the iconic Magnetic Rock! As one of the best things to do near Grand Marais for families, this 60-foot tall structure is visible via the Magnetic Rock Trail, a 4.3-mile out-and-back trail in the Superior National Forest. The trail is about an hour from downtown Grand Marais, so be sure to plan a lunch stop before or after your hike at Trail Center Lodge or Poplar Haus.

On the trail, one of the first things you’ll notice is the ancient lava flows. Tell kids all about their geologic history, since they were formed by ancient volcanic activity. You will also encounter several scenic overlooks of the area. The pièce de résistance, however, is the monolithic rock at the end of the trail. This towering rock is also magnetic, hence the name of the trail. Children will love exploring around the rock and seeing how it interacts with the metal in their pockets! Be sure to bring a traditional compass to see how the magnetic rock interacts with it. Additionally, there are several different plant and animal species to spot. Keep your eyes peeled for birds, snakes, and rabbits as you hike through this beautiful area! If you’re lucky, you may even spot a moose on the drive along the Gunflint Trail.

Oberg Mountain

A mom and her young daughter stand along one of the vistas overlooking Lake Superior on the Oberg Mountain trail, one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

One of the best hikes in Minnesota for families, Oberg Mountain Trail is sure to win over everyone in your family. Lovely in all seasons, Oberg Mountain is a 2.3-mile loop trail. It even offers nine picturesque views (including amazing views of Lake Superior and Moose Lake)! To reach the trailhead from the parking lot, head back across the road (there is a sign).

The first (and final) stretch of the trail is very steep (and can be muddy in the spring). However, the views are worth it! At the top, you will be about 1,000 feet above sea level, which makes this one of the highest points in all of Minnesota. Certainly, kids will adore knowing they climbed a mountain when they complete this hike! If you embark on this hike, move with caution with small kids. There are very few guard rails on the trail. Then, if you’re doing this hike in the winter, use ice cleats.

Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center

A young girl walks along the rocky beach, while hiking at Sugar Loaf Cove Nature Center, one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

Families looking for an interactive nature center on the North Shore, as well as one of the best hikes, will love Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center. Start with the nature center (the nature center is not open during the winter). Inside, kids can learn about local flora and fauna, as well as handle bones and pelts. Near the nature center, kids will also delight in watching local birds flock to one of the many bird feeders.

After exploring the nature center, take the 1.3-mile loop trail to enjoy epic views of Lake Superior. The trail winds through a wooded area and along a rocky beach. Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center is a great option for spring wildflowers and fall foliage! As one of the best places to visit northern Minnesota with kids, check the events calendar before you visit. They often host family-friendly events throughout the year. Finally, there is a small entrance fee required per vehicle.

Superior Hiking Trail

A view from Section 13 of the Superior Hiking Trail, including views of a forested area and a lake in the distance.
Photo Courtesy: Stephanie Wagner

Minnesota is brimming with outdoor adventures, but the Superior Hiking Trail is one of the state’s more unique options. This 310-mile-long hiking trail in northeastern Minnesota spans the rocky edges of Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border, offering families an incredible view of the landscape. Of course, tackling the entire thing would be nearly impossible, but certain stretches are perfect for exploring with kids.

Duluth to Two Harbors is best for beginners, as this 57.5-mile Superior Hiking Trail section is broken down into eight micro-sections. Travel through lush forests with towering maple trees, ponds, and steep rock formations! If you’re looking for an even shorter day hike, you can simply start at any trailhead and do half the amount of miles, then turn around and hike back to your car. There are several campsites along the trail as well. 

Lutsen Mountains

A mom and her daughter stand together with an alpine slide and a sweeping view of Lutsen Mountain behind them, one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

There are plenty of fun things to do with kids at Lutsen Mountains. In the summer and fall, families can embark on scenic gondola rides and the thrilling alpine slide. In the winter, hit the slopes for some downhill fun or try your hand at cross-country skiing. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also great winter options (be sure to bring your own equipment, there are no rentals here). When the weather warms up, take advantage of the hiking and biking trails, or go for a swim in one of the many lakes. No matter the time of year, the best place for views of the Sawtooth Mountains and Lake Superior’s gorgeous coastline is on the Summit Express Gondola.

There are also many different places to eat at Lutsen Mountains, so families can spend all day exploring everything the mountain has to offer. You can also explore the nearby towns and villages, and visit some of the local attractions. 

North Shore Adventure Park

North Shore Adventure Park is the perfect place to take your kids for a day of fun. Located in Silver Bay (about halfway between Duluth and Grand Marais), it provides an epic adventure complete with zip-lining and obstacle course, as well as axe-throwing for other kids and adults. Certainly, kids who love an adrenaline rush will have the best time exploring these courses!

If you’re visiting with little ones between the ages of three and six, the park has a playground with small obstacle courses and a tiny zip line. Parents can walk along the course and cheer on their adventurous tiny trekkers. With other kids, start with the high ropes course, which comes with five different levels of difficulty and is ideal for ages seven and up. Kids will love the rush of accomplishing each course and experiencing the thrill of zip-lining along the challenging courses! In fact, there are two side-by-side zip-lines where you can race one another. Finally, those twelve and up can also see if they can hit the bullseye during an axe-throwing session.

Pro Tip: Reserve your spot and complete your waivers online before arriving. Additionally, we recommend bringing or purchasing gloves.

Leech Lake 

One of the best lakes in the Midwest for families is certainly Minnesota’s Leech Lake. Leech Lake has an impressive reputation throughout the Midwest for catching Walleye and Muskie; that means it’s perfect for families who love fishing! Plus, you can enjoy several types of watersports on Leech Lake too.

If you need boat rentals, head to the nearby town of Walker. Here, you can rent boats, including jet skis, pontoons, and ski boats. Another thing to consider is the many lodging options located directly on Leech Lake, like Trappers Landing Lodge. In fact, several of these places to stay include boat rentals, fishing packages, and access to sports activities and private beaches. In addition to these family-friendly things to do, there are several beautiful places to hike nearby including Chippewa National Forest, Paul Bunyan State Forest, and Itasca State Park

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

A Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) sign along a portage trail to Bower Trout Lake near Lima Grade on the Gunflint Trail (Superior National Forest) in Northern Minnesota.
Photo Courtesy: Tony Webster

Take kids on an adventure to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness! Located in northern Minnesota, with one entrance near the town of Ely, this outdoor recreation area offers opportunities for the entire family to explore. One of the main draws here is the beautiful scenery, as it’s filled with pristine lakes, forests, and rivers. Families can paddle through calm waters, hike through woods and wetlands, and even explore a few caves! Canoeing is a great way to explore the Boundary Waters, and many canoe rental companies can provide you with everything you need. Along the way, you’re likely to see plenty of wildlife, including beavers, eagles, and perhaps even a moose or two. There are also several ranger-led programs offered in the summer months, which can introduce kids to the area’s history and ecology.

Best Northern Minnesota State + National Parks for Families 

Visiting a state or national park is certainly one of the best ways to entertain kids in Minnesota. As a plus, these state and national parks throughout Minnesota boast some incredible scenery too! So, whether you’re in the mood for hiking, fishing, or boating, check out these outdoor adventures in Minnesota for families. They’re definitely the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids!

Don’t miss visiting one of these 17 Unique Towns to Visit on a Midwest Road Trip with Kids!

Voyageurs National Park

Visiting Voyageurs National Park with kids can be an enriching experience. Located in northern Minnesota near the Canadian border, this vast national park is known for its lush forests and pristine lakes. First, check out the Visitors’ Center. Here, hands-on exhibits feature information about the park and its history. They also have maps and brochures that you can take with you on your hike.

There are many different trails to choose from, like the easy 1.3-mile Sullivan Bay Trail, so you can find one that is appropriate for your family. If you want to get out on the water, there are also boat tours available. Families can also go kayaking or canoeing to tour the park while getting some exercise. You can see all sorts of wildlife in the process, including bald eagles, ospreys, and loons. If you’re lucky, you might even see a moose! Finally, one of the best ways to explore Voyageurs National Park is by houseboat. Kids will love hiking by day and falling asleep to the motion of the waves at night.

Grand Portage State Park 

Kids will delight in seeing the tallest waterfall in Minnesota at Grand Portage State Park! Straddling the United States-Canadian border in northern Minnesota, this state park is famed for its 120-foot waterfall on the Pigeon River. It’s also a particularly great park to visit with young kids, since it’s mostly paved and stroller-friendly. (Keep in mind, there are stairs to see the waterfall.) Take the 0.5-mile paved trail to High Falls or hike the rugged 3.5-mile to Middle Falls. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with amazing ridgetop views of Lake Superior and Canada! If you’re looking for something a bit more structured, there are also ranger-led programs available. These can include hikes, canoe trips, and Junior Ranger activities. 

Isle Royal National Park 

View of the Edisen fishery fish house, the primary residence (the white building) and the net house on the right in Isle Royal National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Joe Ross

Technically, Isle Royal National Park is located in Michigan. However, it’s also accessible from the Minnesota side! Surrounded by Lake Superior, this gorgeous natural area encompasses 850 square miles of wilderness, scenic landscapes, and marine life. It’s also one of the least visited and most remote national parks in the United States. We recommend it more for older kids with wilderness skills. There are over 200 islands, including a main, larger island, 160+ miles of wilderness trails, four lighthouses, sunken ships, and no cars. Paddling, canoeing, and kayaking are three popular ways to explore the water. Families can also take a guided boat tour, go fishing, or try scuba diving. For a scenic hike around the park, try the Stoll Memorial Trail. There are two return loops, so you can customize the duration to your liking, like for 1.9 miles, 3.2 miles, or 4.2 miles. 

Plus, don’t miss these 16 Fantastic Places To Visit In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula With Kids!

Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Experience the wonders of Lake Superior’s North Shore at Judge C.R. Magney State Park! As one of the best state parks in Minnesota for families, it’s a great place to go hiking, biking, and simply enjoy the great outdoors. Kids will love crossing the bridge over the Brule River. At the bottom of the stairs, there’s an overlook to see the Brule River Valley and the Upper Falls. Keep an eye out for wildlife like moose, deer, black bears, and squirrels!

One of the main attractions here is Devil’s Kettle Waterfall, which is accessible via a 2-mile hike. This set of waterfalls had stumped scientists and hikers alike for decades. One waterfall flows over the rocks, while the other disappears into an endless cavern. After decades of experiments, most scientists now agree that the water travels underground and meets back up with the river downstream. Then, for more experienced hikers, the Superior Hiking Trail also runs through a portion of the park. Families can also go fishing in the river or bring a picnic to eat in one of the scenic areas. In the winter, Judge C.R. Magney State Park also boasts snowshoeing! 

Cascade River State Park

Enjoy 1.5-miles of undeveloped Lake Superior shoreline at the pristine Cascade River State Park. Located on the northeastern tip of Minnesota, this rugged park encompasses a rocky area where the Cascade River meets Lake Superior. Families can hike along the rocky river on the 1.2-mile Lake Trail, which offers scenic views. For a more challenging hike, try the 3.5-mile Lookout Mountain Trail, which leads to an overlook with great views of Lake Superior, the Cascade River Valley, and the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Of course, the main attraction here is The Cascades, a series of five small waterfalls from which the park gets its name. For the best views, a wooden walking bridge also crosses over the river and showcases the cascades. Remember to bring your camera to capture the incredible scenery! 

Gooseberry Falls State Park 

A view of the large waterfall in Gooseberry Falls State Park, one of the best places to visit northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Anne Schultz Lee

Explore northern Minnesota’s breathtaking beauty at Gooseberry Falls State Park! As one of eight state parks along Minnesota’s North Shore, has everything you need to keep kids entertained. Hike along the accessible Fifth Falls Trail Loop to see nearby Lake Superior in all its glory, one of the simplest and most popular trails in the park. Another less crowded alternative is Gitchi Gummi, passing by Beaver Bay. Teens who are up for an adventure can also hike the strenuous Superior Hiking Trail, a portion of which passes through here. Regardless of which trail you choose, look out for one of Gooseberry’s five gorgeous waterfalls, where kids can splash! Of course, there are so many alternative things to do in the winter too, like cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. The Warming House offers a cozy fire to curl up to when it’s all over!

Before you go, download the Gooseberry Falls Go App to enrich your experience with notifications when you are near points of interest. (Be sure to check out the Waterfall Tour Weekend Itinerary!)

Tettegouche State Park

A woman hikes along a snowy path during the winter at Tettegouche State Park, one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Alyssa Hei

If you’re looking for a beautiful and kid-friendly state park to visit, Tettegouche State Park in Minnesota is a great option. Located on Lake Superior’s North Shore, the park has plenty of hiking trails to explore, and many of them are suitable for young children. There are also several lakes in the park where you can go swimming, fishing, or canoeing. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some wildlife! Countless scenic lookout points provide a scenic place to stop and take in the view. Kids will also love playing on the sandy beaches and exploring all the rocks and tide pools. There are also plenty of picnic areas if you want to pack a lunch. Plus, the visitors’ center has interactive displays that kids will enjoy, and there are ranger-led programs offered throughout the year.

Jay Cooke State Park

A mom points out onto a view of the river below, with her daughter standing next to her, at Jay Cooke State Park.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

Need a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors? Jay Cooke State Park is the perfect place for you and your family! Located south of Duluth, the park is home to hiking trails, picnic areas, and a suspension bridge. Overlooking the St. Louis River, the suspension bridge is usually the highlight for many kids. It sways back and forth as you walk across, which can be a little scary, but also really fun! Children will also enjoy exploring the ranger station and learning about the animals that live in the park. ​​On a warm day, little ones can also cool down with a swim on the beach or visit the waterfall. If you’re looking for a place to picnic, there are many scenic spots to choose from too. For amazing views over the landscape, don’t forget to trek the 3.4-mile Silver Creek Trail! 

Itasca State Park 

Create memories that’ll last a lifetime at Itasca State Park! Located in northern Minnesota, this massive park is one of the oldest in the state and contains the headwaters of the Mississippi River. In the summer, it’s the perfect place to hike or bike through the majestic pine forest. One popular hike leads to the old fire tower. Kids will love climbing to the top and getting a birds-eye view of the park! Families can also hike the 0.5-mile Bohall Trail or the Nicollet Trail to see more giant pine trees. For something a little more active, take a boat tour or rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. If you’d prefer to stay in the car, drive along Wilderness Drive. This scenic drive offers a fantastic tour of the park and the chance to spot wildlife like ducks, owls, black bears, and wolves! 

Searching for the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids in mid-September? Take a visit to enjoy the autumn leaves and hike in the cool, crisp autumn air! Finally, Itasca State Park is also popular for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter! Regardless of the season, this is certainly one of the best places to visit northern Minnesota with kids.

Best Animal Encounters in Minnesota for Families

If your kids love animal encounters, you’re in luck! Minnesota has plenty for families, from standard city zoos to unique wildlife safaris. Keep reading for the best animal encounters in Minnesota for families! 

International Wolf Center 

A wolf turns its head amongst the fall foliage at the International Wolf Center.
Photo Courtesy: International Wolf Center

For a unique animal experience in Minnesota, visit the International Wolf Center. Located near Ely, this research and educational center teaches kids all about different species of wolves and their importance, their habitat, and how they hunt. There are also a variety of educational programs designed to be both fun and informative, like the Junior Ranger program. Kids can also go on a wolf tracking expedition, where they can try to find wolves in the wild. If they’re lucky, they might even get to see a wolf up close! ​​They can also go on a wolf howl, a guided tour, to listen to the wolves howling and learn about their vocalizations. ​​Kids will love watching the wolves play and interact with each other! Other activities include making wolf tracks in the snow and playing fun wolf-themed games.

Safari North Wildlife Park 

The exterior entrance to Safari North Wildlife Park.
Photo Courtesy: Safari North Wildlife Park

Tucked into the woods of the Brainerd Lakes Area lies a hidden gem: Safari North Wildlife Park! Home to a variety of local and exotic animals, this private zoo and conservation center is surely one of the best things to do near Brainerd for families. In fact, it invites families to explore its sprawling property and learn more about these incredible creatures.

Open seasonally, the park is home to a variety of animals, including lions, tigers, and bears. Kids will love getting up close and personal with these amazing animals during a safari ride, which winds through the scenic property. Plus, there are plenty of other activities to keep them entertained too. Little ones can enjoy the petting zoo while older kids get up close and personal with the animals during the feedings and performances. There’s also a playground and several amusement rides to keep kids entertained. 

Great Lakes Aquarium 

A river otter swims underwater in an aquarium at Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth.
Photo Courtesy: Great Lakes Aquarium

Visit the Great Lakes Aquarium to learn all about the aquatic life in the Great Lakes! Located in Duluth, this fascinating aquarium features so many things to see and do, so your family will surely have a blast. No wonder it’s one of the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids!

First, kids can check out a popular exhibit, “Amazing Amazon“, where they can get up close and personal with some of the sea life, like electric eels. Then, take a journey to “Shipwrecks Alive” to explore some of the many shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. Finally, the aquarium also has a variety of interactive exhibits, such as a chance to touch stingrays and sharks. Don’t forget to take a picture with a mermaid! From live pirate-themed shows to a 4D movie theater, there’s a reason this is one of the best things to see in northern Minnesota with kids!

Best Museums in Northern Minnesota for Families

Wondering what else to do in northern Minnesota? Kids who love art, history, and culture will never be bored with the selection of museums in Minnesota. With options for young kids and teens alike, these places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids are great for keeping occupied on rainy or hot days. Here are our favorite museums in Minnesota for families! 

Split Rock Lighthouse

It’s not hard to see why Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most photographed spots in Minnesota! Perched on a 130-foot cliff, this majestic structure is located southwest of Silver Bay, overlooking the stunning North Shore of Lake Superior. ​​At the lighthouse, kids can learn about the history of the area and how it was used to help guide ships passing by. They can also explore different rooms and get a close-up look at the Fresnel lens. See the keepers’ quarters, the engine room, and even the boat house! Plus, kids will also enjoy the on-site museum, which tells the story of the lighthouse and its keepers. If they’re feeling adventurous, they can also climb to the top of the lighthouse for a great view. Don’t forget to look for the resident ghost!

Families who are interested in nature can also go on a hike around the area to see the different plants and animals. After all, it’s one of the best things to do on the North Shore of Minnesota with kids. And of course, don’t forget to take kids to see the Lake Superior shoreline – it’s a sight they won’t soon forget!

Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center

Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is a great place to take kids when visiting Grand Marais (about an hour north of downtown along the Gunflint Trail). Little ones will love learning more about the history of the area, going on nature hikes, playing in the play area, and much more. For a more educational experience, the museum offers programs about the history and culture of the Ojibwe people. Kids will be introduced to the natural world at this museum, which will make them excited about learning. Then, they can explore and burn off some energy at the nature center! Kids who want a hands-on excursion can also participate in the Junior Ranger program. This program teaches kids about ecology and conservation. In the winter, the nature center has a sledding hill and cross-country ski trails.

Glensheen Mansion

The rear exterior of Glensheen Mansion, featuring a fountain and lush grounds on a sunny day in Duluth.
Photo Courtesy: Glensheen Mansion

For an educational experience in northern Minnesota, don’t miss Glensheen Mansion. Located along the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, this historic house and museum covers over 12 scenic acres and also features a 39-room mansion for families to explore. The mansion offers several different types of tours, all of which are kid-friendly. Inside, kids can learn about the history of the estate and see how the family lived. They can also try their hand at some of the old-fashioned games that were popular during that time period. Another great activity to do with kids at Glensheen Mansion is to go on a scavenger hunt. Kids can explore the grounds and mansion to find hidden objects in an activity specifically designed for them. It’s a great way to learn while also having some fun! 

Judy Garland Museum and Children’s Discovery Museum

Gather up your family and follow the “Yellow Brick Road” to the Judy Garland Museum! Located in Grand Rapids, this museum has something for all generations to enjoy. Roam the gallery and restored 1920’s childhood home of the iconic American actress Judy Garland born here in Grand Rapids. Kids can learn about her life and career, and see her personal artifacts and memorabilia from the famous “Wizard of Oz” including the original carriage from the movie!

Kids can also participate in hands-on learning exhibits at the Children’s Discovery Museum. Try on costumes and put on a performance on the stage, climb up into the child-sized yurt, go camping and design a fortress with the KEVA planks, the possibilities are endless! The museum also has a puppet show, art activities, and regularly scheduled programming. After exploring the museum, kids can take a break in the outside courtyard and garden, take pictures with Wizard of Oz characters, and play games.

Best Resorts in Northern Minnesota for a Family Getaway

An arial view of Ludlow’s Island Resort, a heavily wooded island on a beautiful lake and one of the best places to visit northern Minnesota with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Ludlow’s Island Resort

Once you’ve read all about the best places to visit in northern Minnesota with kids, find somewhere to stay! In northern Minnesota, a secluded escape near Lake Vermillion awaits your family at Ludlow’s Island Resort. Featuring cozy cabins, this resort boasts its own private island and lots of kid-friendly activities! 

Meanwhile, families who want a scenic stay near Lake Superior can’t miss Lutsen Resort, which is set on a hill with amazing views. It’s also close to downtown Lutsen and features amenities such as a private beach and indoor pool. Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior also offers families an intimate escape complete with a private beach. If you’re visiting nearby Grand Marais with kids, book a stay at the Skyport Lodge & Raven Rock Grill. Set on Devil Track Lake, this rustic getaway is perfect for water sports, s’mores, and more fun! Or, book a quaint cabin at the Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters, nestled on the south shore of Gunflint Lake. 

In the Central Lakes region of Minnesota, kids will love the indoor water park at Grand View Lodge Spa & Golf Resort. Located near Brainerd, it offers other amenities like an indoor pool, plus a Kids’ Club. Looking for a luxury option? Try Madden’s On Gull Lake, showcasing anything from lake access to three beaches, indoor and outdoor pools, and kid-friendly activities! Lost Lake Lodge is an all-inclusive option, set on a tranquil private beach. Families also love Quarterdeck Resort, Breezy Point Resort, Kavanaugh’s Sylvan Lake Resort, and Good Ol’ Days Family Resort.

Plan your next stay at one of these 13 Best Summer Resorts in Minnesota for Families

Happy Travels!

We hope you liked this article on the Best Places To Visit In Northern Minnesota With Kids! From boat rides to hiking, biking, historic sites, and so much more, this is surely a fantastic state to visit as a family. Enjoy Minnesota with your kids!

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.