7 Amazing Day Trips From Minneapolis For Friends And Families

Day Trips From Minneapolis - Road Trip

Minneapolis day trips put beauty, bonding, and adventure in focus! Did you know that there are many day trips from Minneapolis that can bring you to important landmarks and natural attractions?

While you may be wondering if Minneapolis is actually a place where you can enjoy outdoor activities all year long due to the region’s reputation for chilly winters, the best-kept secret about this Midwestern Metropolis is that local hiking trails, the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the banks of the Mississippi River, and other natural attractions come alive in a special way once the trees are bare. Of course, the warmer seasons bring their own special charms when it comes to everything from chilling out with live music in a small town to boating all day.

If you’re looking for a taste of the great outdoors near the Twin Cities, you don’t want to miss this list of the best day trips from Minneapolis!


1) Explore Lake Minnetonka

You don’t need to travel dozens of miles to visit Lake Superior just to get your fix of sparkling waters! While it covers multiple acres, Lake Minnetonka is still something of a hidden gem for people visiting the Twin Cities for the first time. Located just 16 miles outside of the city, Lake Minnetonka is home to 23 bays and secluded areas. How can you get to them?

PaddleTap Party Boats is the premier operator offering Lake Minnetonka tour experiences. Our pristine vessels can take you to the nooks and crannies of this lake that larger cruise boats simply can’t access! The best part is that you can take your pick between our private tour experiences and public cruises. All of our journeys are BYOB.

Our tours are perfect for everyone from friends looking for an unforgettable day on the water to parents looking for family-friendly activities near Minneapolis! Our itineraries include:

It’s okay if you’re not sure which experience is right for your group. The friendly team at PaddleTap Party Boats can help you put together the perfect afternoon with your crew. Don’t miss the chance to experience one of the best day trips from Minneapolis. Book a spot with PaddleTap today!

Explore Lake Minnetonka With Paddle Tap Party Boats


2) See The Sights Along The Red Cedar State Trail

The Red Cedar State Trail is a 14.5-mile trail running along the Red Cedar River in Dunn County near the Minnesota Wisconsin border. This is one of the best Minneapolis day trips for people who enjoy views because it brings you through the Dunnville State Wildlife Area.

As you make your way along this magical trail, you can expect to pass through prairie, marshland, farmland, and forest. Keep an eye out for the brilliant sandstone bluffs that dot the landscape at various points!

Hiking In Minnesota State Parks


3) Splash Or Ski At Taylors Falls

Taylor Falls is a tiny town tucked away in the St. Croix Valley that offers wholesome family fun. In addition to being a great spot for day trips from Minneapolis, Taylor Falls is also a hot spot for geologists. The area has evidence of ancient lava flow and river beds. When exploring the St. Croix River that hugs the edge of town, you will find interesting rock areas to explore!

Ready for a surprise? Taylors Falls and the St. Croix Valley offer some of the best skiing in the Minneapolis area! At Interstate State Park, you’ll find nearly 13 miles of winter trails that are ideal for cross-country skiing.

Cross Country Skiing In Minnesota


4) Visit The Great Lakes Aquarium

The Great Lakes Aquarium located on the Duluth waterfront is an amazing place to learn about the animals and habitats of the Great Lakes basin! With nearly 20 exhibits to explore, this aquarium appeals to outdoor enthusiasts of all ages who want to learn more about this ecologically rich portion of the country. Some highlights include:

  • Aquatic Invaders

  • Isle Royale

  • Freshwater Forest

  • Otter Cove

  • Raptor Ridge

  • Shipwreck Alive

  • Unsalted Seas

  • Wild Neighbors

The campus is also home to the Merrill Lynch Fine Arts Gallery. Don’t miss your chance to explore the wonders of water systems on this day trip!

Silhouette Of People Looking At Aquarium


5) Take Things Slow At Quarry Park & Nature Preserve

You won’t believe the amazing opportunities for rock climbing, swimming, cycling, and hiking just an hour outside of Minneapolis when you visit the Quarry Park & Nature Preserve in Waite Park. Here’s a look at how to use the trails:

  • Hard-packed aggregate and natural surface trails: Walking, cycling, and dog walking

  • Winter cross-country ski trails: Lit from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m and perfect for beginners

  • Multi-use trails: Winter walking, snowshoeing, dog walking, and fat-tire bicycles

There are two quarries designated for swimming that are open to the public whenever the park is open. Picnic areas with shelters, tables, and grills are available next to the quarries. Please be aware that the park does not provide lifeguards.

Lake, Picnic Areas


6) Experience Peacefulness On The Prairie At Afton State Park

History buffs will perk up once they hear that Afton State Park is a great place to see glacial moraine left behind by moving glaciers over time.

This hidden gem located on the St. Croix River in Washington County is one of the best spots for day trips from Minneapolis if you love the idea of enjoying a long hike among the beautifully preserved blufflands that are found exclusively among waterways connecting with the Mississippi River.

Don’t miss your chance to enjoy the prairie landscape that is unique to Minnesota on a day trip to this peaceful spot!

 Afton State Park, Hastings, MN


7) Add Some Pep To Your Travel Plans At Lake Pepin Near Red Wing And Lake City

If you love sandy beaches and crisp water, Pepin Public Beach is a must-visit spot! Lake Pepin is a popular attraction near Red Wing that straddles the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. This natural lake is found in a valley that was carved by glacial flows at the end of the Ice Age! It is bordered by the communities of Lake City, Maiden Rock, and Reads Landing.

A beach day isn’t the only reason to come out to these parts on a day trip! As you explore the town of Pepin, you can experience the Great River Road Wine Trail, visit the Big River Theatre, or learn about the town’s history at the Pepin Depot Museum.

Pepin is also home to the Laura Ingle Wilders Museum! In fact, one of the most popular day trips from Minneapolis is a drive to the Little House Wayside Cabin to visit the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Lake In Minnesota Near River Towns: Red Wing And Lake City


Plan Your Amazing Day Trip On Lake Minnetonka

Nature, history, and lake life are all calling! While there’s no question that enjoying the great museums and restaurants of Minneapolis is fun, most people can’t resist the urge to escape to the quiet communities and sprawling natural parks that are located less than 90 minutes from downtown.

If you’re eager to explore the natural beauty that surrounds Minneapolis, there’s nothing like a boat charter on Lake Minnetonka! Let PaddleTap Party Boats help you enjoy an unforgettable day on the water with family or friends. Our public and custom tours offer so many ways to explore, unwind, and connect with the people you enjoy the most. Contact us at PaddleTap to get your plans started today!

1 hour 40 minutes
Group Size
Up to 14

Small Group/Public Tour (All Boats)

Do you have a smaller group? Or just don't want to rent the entire boat? Book our per seat boating option! Perfect for those smaller groups who still want to go out and celebrate that Birthday/Bachelorette or even just a night out! This option does have a requirement of of 6 guests to guarantee it will go out. But you only pay for as many seats as you want. This option is not guaranteed private, and it is very likely you will be paired with other people! (we offer private cruises that start with 8 ppl-18 ppl)

This public option is only available out of our Back Channel Brewing Location (LazyTap or TikiPubs) and downtown Excelsior on our original Pedal Pub Boat Cruise.

1 hour 40 minutes
Group Size
Up to 14

RegularTap Paddle Pub-Downtown Excelsior

PaddleTap is proud to offer private tours on our only downtown Excelsior powered party boat! These one of a kind Pedal Pubs can be rented out on Excelsior Bay!

Our Paddle Pub "RegularTap" Party Boat, holds a maximum of 14 people! This is great for private cruises who want to depart out of the award winning downtown Excelsior which is only 20 minutes from Minneapolis!

Plenty of local bars and restaurant’s such as:
-Excelsior Brewing
-Haskells (also a liquor store for any last minute items)
-Lago Tacos or The Suburban that are walking distance from our pickup location!

This is definitely the spot on the lake with the most action. You can even see the famous “Big Island” on your cruise if you ask your captain!
What to know:

100 minutes long
Bluetooth music
Departs out of Downtown Excelsior
250 square feet of usable room
Holds up to 14 guests
Pricing: $39-$49/person Private Cruise (8 or more required tickets to make it private)
25 HSP Gas Motor
Peddling (optional)

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