Twice The Baggage: 10 day trips within easy reach of the Twin Cities

Stuck for weekend plans? Our guest writers Twice The Baggage have some ideas.
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The view from Lakefront Park in Judson, Wisconsin.

The view from Lakefront Park in Judson, Wisconsin.

Travel doesn't require you to leave the country, in fact there's plenty to do right on your doorstep in Minnesota.

The Twin Cities have so much electricity, activity, and hustle and bustle, no matter theday or time of year you can find something exciting to do. 

But sometimes you just want to get away from it all, drive with the windows down and cruise the scenic route to a more quaint location.

Stuck for ideas? Twice The Baggage has done the research for you, and have identified the top 10 day trips within a couple of hours of the Twin Cities.

Red Wing

Time to get there: 50-70 mins.

Nestled on the Mississippi River is the city of Red Wing.  Name sound familiar? Probably from the pottery and stoneware you see at your grandparents or parents home.

Red Wing pottery dates back to 1877 and is a rich part of Minnesota history. That being said, head to the Pottery Museum of Red Wing, or for another well-known local brand, stop in at the Red Wing Shoes store.

For the more outdoorsy folks be sure to park your car and hike up Barn Bluff, for both the history and the amazing views of the city.

Lake City, Minnesota & Pepin, Wisconsin

Time to get there: 75-90 mins.

Ok so we're doing these together because they're both on the banks of Lake Pepin.

On the Minnesota side you've got the bustling resort city of Lake City, which describes itself as "Minnesota's South Shore" and is home to a myriad water sports options, shops and restaurants.

But if that doesn't tickle your fancy, drop across to the Wisconsin side and pay a visit to Pepin.

Drive the scenic route (ie. the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi), stop at a bakery (or two), and hike up for better views of Lake Pepin from Maiden Rock Bluff. 

The birthplace of "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder, you'll find a museum in her name in Pepin, while the Harbor View Cafe is well worth a visit.

Taylors Falls

Time to get there: 1 hour

While its main street is delightful, the big attraction of Taylors Falls is the surrounding scenery.

Take in the outdoors at Taylors Falls with a scenic boat tourof the St. Croix River, before exploring Interstate State Park, where you can hike to the waterfalls and take a dip in the water. 

End your day at a winery, either Wild Mountain Winery, the Chateau St. Croix or Dancing Dragonfly Winery.

Hudson, Wisconsin

Time to get there: 20-30 mins

A short drive along I-94 brings you across the border to Hudson, a city where you can spend several hours without any plan in mind.

A wander downtown will bring you to a wide variety of local shops, antique stores, and delicious bakeries, while Lakefront Park offers scenic views of the St. Croix.

Be sure to stop in as well at the nearby Willow River State Park for yet more gorgeous waterfalls.


Time to get there: 30-45 mins.

Undergoing a renaissance since the completion of the new St. Croix River Bridge, Stillwater is filled with attractions to see.

Grab a beer at Lift Bridge Brewing or Maple Island Brewing, take a historic walking tour, and then head over to the historic Lift Bridge – just watch out for the Bachelorette parties.

If you're feeling a bit more active you can even bike from the Twin Cities to Stillwater for a longer, slightly more strenuous day.


Time to get there: 25-40 mins

You don't even need to leave the Twin Cities metro to find a gem, and Excelsior is surely one of those.

On the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior is a gateway to boating, swimming, fishing, kayaking or paddle boarding.

But its quaint but upmarket downtown offers much more, including clothing, antiques, a bevy of dining options and that's not to mention the Excelsior Brewing Company.

Afton State Park

Time to get there: 25-40 mins.

Afton State Park is yet another gem located on the bank of the St. Croix River, and one that can be enjoyed all year round.

It consists of a variety of hiking trails, sandy beaches, and picnic areas to enjoy a full day at, and if you fall in love and want to stay awhile go ahead and camp or rent a cabin for the night.

In the winter you can snowshoe, and continue to bask in nature's beauty, or go skiing at Afton Alps in the center of the park.

For more from Twice The Baggage, visit our travel page.

Menomonie, Wisconsin

Time to get there: 60-70 mins.

Looking to spend the day outdoors, perhaps for fishing? Then Menomonie is for you!

Explore the fishing and hiking of Lake Menomin, Red Cedar State Trail, Hoffman Hills, and Devils Punch Bowl.

Afterwards, relax at one of the many traditional Wisconsin supper clubs.


Time to get there: 90 mins

So a bit of a longer haul from the Twin Cities, but we met in Mankato and absolutely love the small college town.

Hop on 169 the entire way and take a pit stop at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store and Emma Krumbee's for some apple picking and Fall festivities.

Cruise through St. Peter and maybe stop downtown to support a few local businesses. Once in Mankato, you can explore a variety of things depending on the time of year.

In colder months you'll want to hit the slopes of Mount Kato, while warmer times call for the parks.  Head to Minneopa Falls for a beautiful waterfall, plan on going during Ribfest, or simply walk the grounds of Minnesota State University, Mankatocampus. 

No trip to Mankato would be complete without getting some Jake's pizza.

You can find more writing from Ashlee Kronforst and Ryan Monk at Twice The Baggage, or by following them on Instagram.

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