Going “up north” is an age-old tradition for people in Minnesota, particularly those who live in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. “Sorry I can’t be there, I’m up north for the weekend.” “Oops I never responded, bad signal up north.” “What are you doing in two weeks? Want to head up north with me?”
Generally speaking, up north can be classified as anywhere farther north than where you live. But I’ve found that in Minnesota, “up north” tends to mean a few specific places in the state. So where do Minnesotans go when they go up north? Here are 5 of the most popular places Up North where Minnesotans go!
1. Boundary Waters
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA or BWCAW) was established through an act in Congress in 1978, and today it is one of the most pristine, untrammeled, and beautiful areas in the Midwest and the United States. Situated in northern Minnesota, some parts along the Canadian border, the Boundary Waters is the crème de la crème for outdoor adventures—hiking, canoeing, fishing, and even dog sledding! I spent most of my childhood on summer trips to the Boundary Waters, and it truly is unique. Motorized vehicles are not allowed (for the most part), making it one of the best places to get in touch with nature and enjoy the serene peace. It is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the entire country.
One of the largest cities in Minnesota after Minneapolis and St. Paul, Duluth mixes city life with small town friendliness in a great way. Located on the North Shore of Lake Superior, it’s a good place to visit either as a destination itself, or as the gateway to further north along the lake. Read my full blog post on the city here!
3. North Shore
The North Shore of Lake Superior is one of the most popular Minnesotan getaways. Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes in North America, and the third largest freshwater lake (by volume) in the world. Stretching from Duluth all along the lake to Grand Portage and the Canadian border, some of the best and most beautiful of the state’s landmarks are along the National Scenic Byway, Highway 61! The best way to see this is by taking a road trip and driving until something catches your eye—notable stops include Split Rock Lighthouse, Palisade Head, Gooseberry Falls, and Grand Marais. Check out my full guide for a North Shore road trip here!
4. Itasca State Park
Lake Itasca is famous throughout the state as the headwaters of the Mississippi River, the third longest river in the world. Itasca State Park is the state’s oldest state park, and one of the most visited as well. There’s nothing more Minnesotan than walking across the Mississippi at its very start! Bemidji (home of Paul Bunyan) is another popular town near Itasca State Park, with the famous statues of the legendary lumberjack and his sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox.
5. The Cabin // The Lake
Minnesotans love their lakes and they love their cabins. Anyone who has hit summer cabin traffic leaving the Twin Cities on a Friday afternoon can attest to this! While there are several popular destinations up north, perhaps the most meaningful to Minnesotans is the cabin and/or the lake. I have spent many glorious summer weekends at cabins around Minnesota, and it really is a different lifestyle. Many people, regardless of whether or not they have a cabin, will have a specific lake that they visit regularly, especially during the summer. While it may be a generic destination, it is one of the most cherished places for Minnesotans!
Over to you! What do you think are the most visited places “up north” in Minnesota?