Minnesota has bitter cold winters and sizzling hot summers with occasional blizzards, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. The snowfall averages 178cm in the northeast and 101 in the south. January temperatures drop to the negative teens (C). Spring has some flooding from the winter thaw, but it warms up to the low- to mid-teens in May. The southern regions’ peak tornado season is May through July. Summers are humid and in the 30s, higher in southern regions. September is balmy. The shores of Lake Superior are cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
When to fly to Minnesota
Summer and winter are the high seasons. Snow-sport enthusiasts book flights to Minnesota for the first snow. Summer is busy with outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, and camping. Despite the heat, the cities are crowded in summer, and visitors take advantage of surrounding lakes and beaches.
Fall is a popular time to visit for the foliage, both in the cities and wilderness.
Winter is the off season in the cities, but be prepared to dress for the bitter cold. Spring is also a good time for visiting the cities and white-water activities.
Getting around Minnesota
Trains cross the state and several bus companies provide transportation as well. Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Twin Cities, both have extensive skyway systems for walking around their downtown areas. The downtowns can also be reached by bus and old-style trolleys. Both cities have areas for sightseeing on foot and paddleboat cruises on the Mississippi. The Metropolitan Transit Commission provides transportation between the Twin Cities. Minneapolis also has the Hiawatha Light Rail that runs between the Warehouse District, Mall of America, and the airport. Most attractions in St. Paul can be reached on foot, but in Minneapolis you will need a car.
There are no roads in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and transportation is via portage and canoe in summer and skis and dogsled in winter. Voyageurs National Park is best explored by boat. During freeze-up, usually December until March, the park is traversed on skis or snowmobile.
Although the northern part of the state focuses on outdoor activities, you can drive through some of the region and experience the greatness of this wilderness.
Minnesota insider information
- More than 60 per cent of Minnesota's population live in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St Paul, and this is where a large part of the tourism to the area is also based. However, the rest of the state has some stunning landscapes including prairies and forests. The Red River Valley, in the northwest of the state, was once covered with tall prairie grass and roamed by herds of buffalo. Today, State Parks are needed to preserve the way the countryside once stood naturally. Two of the best are Buffalo River State Park and Bluestem Prairie Preserve.
- Bustling Minneapolis has all the attractions you’d expect from an urban centre. Shopping, museums, restaurants and theatres are all available. Two sites are particularly worth visiting: Minnehaha Paek and the Walker Art Centre. Minnehaha Park contains the creek and the Minnehaha Falls, a 16m waterfall. Within the park, you can see a statue of Hiawatha carrying Minnehaha, based on Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. The Walker Art Centre also contains sculptures, though of a slightly different nature, in its 11-acre sculpture garden. One of the most impressive, by Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen, is a giant spoon with a cherry on the top. A fountain flows out of the tip and downtown Minneapolis is the backdrop. It has become a symbol of the city. Entrance to the sculpture garden is free.
- Saint Paul is the capital of the state and a more historic city than adjacent Minneapolis. Cultural attractions are popular, including a tour of the Capitol Building. If you’re with children, however, don’t miss the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, where the animals to see include camels, reindeer, giraffes, penguins, cougars, lions and gorillas.
- The third-largest city of the state, Duluth sits at the top of Lake Superior. The town is focused around the waterfront and harbour. For a bird’s eye view of activity on the waterfront, visit Canal Park, where an aerial lift bridge connects Canal Park with Minnesota Point, a 11-km sandbar. The views from the top of the bridge are stunning.