5 Summer Day Trips for Outdoor Enthusiasts

From hiking to water sports and everything in between, these towns, located only an hour or less from the Twin Cities, are the perfect day trips for outdoor lovers
Hikers Silhouette

Chirobocea Nicu / Unsplash

Whether you’re hoping to spend the day riding the bike trail, hiking through the woods, or paddling on the water, look no further. These towns have it all. Plus, what excursion is complete without a savory meal or a glass of wine after a full day outside? If you’re an outdoor enthusiast in search of your next adventure, plan your next day trip with these quick tips.

Red Wing

Nestled in the Mississippi River Valley, Red Wing is paradise for outdoor recreation. From hiking to biking to its famous heavy-duty boots, Red Wing has a variety of options for anyone looking to spend some time outdoors. Also, be sure to visit the historic sites and natural landmarks of this quaint small town.

Hiking Trail

Nicole Wilcox / Unsplash

Strap on your sturdy hiking boots and explore the Barn Bluff Hiking Trail, known for its spectacular views. For bikers, Cannon Valley Trail starts at Red Wing and winds its way through 19.7 miles of Minnesotan countryside, all the way to Cannon Falls, MN. Of course, no trip to Red Wing would be complete without stopping at the Red Wing Shoe Store and Museum to stock up on all your outdoor gear and learn about how this famous brand came to be.

After a day of hiking or biking, stop by Bayside Tap & Steakhouse for a dinner with a view of the Mississippi. Or, if you’re in the mood for a drink, Red Wing Brewery or 223 Barrel House may be more your speed.

For more ideas and information, visit https://redwing.org.

Boats in Excelsior

Todd Buchanan

Excelsior

Summer in Minnesota means warm days spent on the lake. Situated only a few miles from downtown Minneapolis on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the quaint town of Excelsior is ready for your next lazy lake day.

Spend a fun and rejuvenating day on the water, whether you’re motorboating, paddle-boating, or just exploring on foot. If you’d rather spend the day relaxing on the beach, check out the Commons, a swimming beach that’s open seven days a week. Take some time to wander through the quaint shops in downtown Excelsior or support local vendors at Excelsior Farmers’ Market.

If lunch or dinner by the lake sounds lovely, then pick a table on the patio at Maynard’s Restaurant. Or, if you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, pop into Licks Unlimited for some ice cream. Excelsior Brewing Company is an excellent stop for anyone looking to try local craft beer.

For more ideas and information, visit https://www.excelsior-lakeminnetonkachamber.com.

Stillwater

Continually voted the “Best Small Town in Minnesota,” Stillwater has everything an outdoor enthusiast could want, with its renowned hiking and biking trails and a wide variety of water adventures.

Kayaking

Sheridan Ethen

The St. Croix River runs right through Stillwater, making it an ideal destination for all water activities, from swimming to fishing and more. Bring your own water transport or rent paddle-boards, kayaks, motor-boats and more from one of Stillwater’s many vendors, such as Brown Dog Paddleboard Co., 45 Degrees, or Stillwater Boat Club. If you’re interested in land activities, don’t fret; you can hike or bike the scenic St. Croix Loop Trail, which winds through the valley and ends right in downtown Stillwater, the perfect place to stop and grab a bite.

After your day on the water or exploring the trails, stop by one of Stillwater’s eateries. But your day on the water isn’t over yet; Charlie’s Restaurant, Irish Pub, and Riverside Patio offers an exquisite menu and occasionally live music right on the St. Croix River. If that’s not close enough to the water for you, have a meal on one of Stillwater’s old-fashioned Paddlewheel River Boats. Or, if you’re traveling on bike, the Gateway Trailside food truck offers both food and bike rentals.

For more ideas and information, visit www.discoverstillwater.com.

Taylors Falls

Taylors Falls

Over time, the St. Croix River has sculpted the landscape around Taylors Falls into spectacular rock formations that are fun for climbers and hikers alike. The unique landscape of the area gives outdoor enthusiasts a variety of options, from canoeing to rock-climbing.

Interstate State Park, which spans both sides of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, is a must for anyone visiting Taylors Falls. Although its hiking trails are not strenuous, they offer breathtaking views of the St. Croix River, and its unique rock formations are perfect for bouldering. Franconia Sculpture Park is a unique way to spend a day outdoors, with 43 acres of three-dimensional art for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Spend the day on the river with Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours and take in the spectacular views from a different angle.

Pop by the Drive-in for a savory burger and an old-fashioned root beer in a frosty mug, perfectly refreshing for a hot summer day. Tangled Up in Blue serves a more traditional, sit-down experience, with a decadent variety of American-style foods. The Chateau St. Croix Winery offers an experience like no other; the ambiance and architecture transport you to a European chateau without leaving Minnesota.

For more ideas and information, visit https://www.ci.taylors-falls.mn.us.

Menomonie, WI

This beautiful Wisconsin town has plenty to offer for anyone looking to spend a day in the great outdoors. Just a quick hop across the MN-WI border, Menomonie’s forests and lakes are just waiting to be explored.

The Red Cedar State TrBikingail is a favorite for bikers looking for a scenic view without an arduous climb. Both hikers and bikers can enjoy the trail’s close proximity to the Chippewa River, spot some wildlife, and stop for a photo opportunity on one of the unique old bridges along the trail. If you’d rather spend the day relaxing by the water, stop by Lake Menomin to do some fishing. For an even more relaxing outdoor adventure, take some time to explore the Cottage Winery & Vineyard and grab a glass of wine in this enchanting hideaway.

The Lucette Brewing Co. is situated adjacent to the Red Cedar State Trail, making it an easy place to stop for some wood-fired pizza after a day of biking or hiking. For more American-style cuisine, Log Jam is an excellent option. The Barrel Room, a local wine bar, has a large selection of wines and craft beers to satisfy your thirst after a day outside.

For more ideas and information, visit https://exploremenomonie.com.

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