Today’s Iowa region is a little longer as we move further south into the state. This region contains the city of Council Bluffs, which is just across the river from Omaha, Nebraska, so it has a bit more to offer!
- Albert the Bull: Come see the World’s Largest Bull!
- John James Audubon Plaza and Birdwalk: Beautiful plaza area with tile murals.
- Whiterock Conservancy: Lots of hiking trails available in this river valley.
- Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge: Pedestrian bridge that crosses the Missouri River and connects Council Bluffs to Omaha, NE.
- Kanesville Tabernacle and Visitor Center: This was a hastily constructed log building created for the event of reorganizing the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
- Lewis and Clark Monument and Scenic Overlooks: Offers great views of Big Lake Park.
- Union Pacific Railroad Museum: Interactive museum about the history of the railroad.
- Western Historic Trails Center: Explores the area’s pioneer history.
- Danish Windmill and Welcome Center: America’s only authentic working Danish windmill.
- Little Mermaid Sculpture Garden: Replica of the Little Mermaid stature found in Denmark.
- Museum of Danish America: Celebrates those with Danish roots who came to live the “American dream.”
- Hitchcock Nature Center: Prairie Refuge featuring 10 miles of trails.
- Loess Hills Lavender Farm: Visit a lavender farm with gift shop.
- Watson Steam Train: Take a ride on this miniature train.
- Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, Keelboat and LMC Watercraft Displays: Features replicas of many watercraft used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
All attractions found in the Travel Iowa vacation guide.
New state today! Headed into Iowa! Iowa is split into 10 different travel regions, so each of these lists is a little smaller because it is split into so many different regions!
- Blood Run National Historic Landmark: Archeological site located on the Iowa and South Dakota border.
- Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor and Museum: Blue Bunny Ice Cream all began in this small town! Enjoy a scoop at the parlor and check out the history exhibits on the floor above.
- Le Mars Ice Cream Sculptures: Fun sculptures are located all over town in honor of Blue Bunny!
- Windmill Park: Cute little park in the town square.
- The Kaleidoscope Factory: Stop in for a little “tour” of this shop. The owner will show you how he makes gorgeous kaleidoscopes.
- Hawkeye Point: Tallest point in the state.
- Jolly Time Pop Corn Museum: Museum dedicated to the history of Jolly Time Pop Corn.
- Sergeant Floyd Monument: Honors Charles Floyd, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who died on the journey upstream.
All attractions found in the Travel Iowa guide.
Final Minnesota Bucket List region today….the area that takes us out of the Northwoods and into the rolling prairies! Tomorrow we move on into Iowa.
- Whitewater State Park: This park surrounds the Whitewater River and is filled with trails along the bluffs.
- Hormel Historic Home: Historic home of the Hormel family that started Hormel Foods.
- SPAM Museum: Delightful little museum that details out the history of SPAM and offers free samples!
- Jolly Green Giant Museum: Museum dedicated to the Jolly Green Giant and the canned veggies he is known for. Take photos with the Giant himself in the adjacent park.
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park: Park features a narrow, steep valley created by Beaver Creek.
- Jeffers Petroglyphs: Outcrop filled with Pre-Native American petroglyphs.
- Fort Ridgely State Park: Site of the Battle of Fort Ridgely in the Dakota War of 1862.
- Frontenac State Park: Park located along the Mississippi River known for birdwatching.
- Gneiss Outcrops SRA: Beautiful rocky area filled with very old rocks.
- Upper Sioux Agency State Park: Park sits on the Minnesota River and is the site of the Historic Sioux Agency which was destroyed in the Dakota War of 1862.
- Como Falls: Falls hidden away behind the local fire station.
- Fort Belmont Civilian Fort Replica and Museum: An 1862 civilian fort built to protect settlers.
- Split Rock Creek State Park: Popular water recreation area located near Pipestone.
- Blue Mounds State Park: One of the state’s largest prairie remnants, it also protects a bison herd.
- Camden State Park: Filled with 15 miles of hiking trails along the Redwood River.
- Minnemishinona Falls: Overlook of the 42 foot falls.
- Minneopa State Park: Scenic area with waterfall and trails.
- Lac Qui Parle Mission: Site of a pre-territorial mission in the county.
- Birch Coulee Battlefield: Site of the Birch Coulee Battle during the Dakota War of 1862.
- Flandrau State Park: Park located along the Cottonwood River.
- Big Stone Lake State Park: Located on the shores of Big Stone Lake, the headwaters of the Minnesota River.
- Pipestone National Monument: Hike along the red pipestone that was quarried for years by Native Americas and carved into pipes used for prayer.
- Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park: Park contains the historic village of Forestville as well as the longest known cave in Minnesota.
- Red Wing Shoe Company Museum: The museum is home to the World’s Largest Boot!
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Info Center: Setting and home of Laura Ingalls’ “On the Banks of Plum Creek.”
- Great River Bluffs State Park: Gorgeous park perched high above the Mississippi River.
- John A. Latsch State Park: Another park located along the bluffs of the Mississippi River.
- Historic Pickwick Mill: Historic mill that now operates as a milling museum.
All attractions found on exploreminnesota.com
Today we travel to a popular Midwest vacation spot: The Twin Cities. The Minneapolis/St. Paul area has so much to offer for both indoor and outdoor activities!
- Minnesota Zoo: Fun zoo with unique exhibits.
- Mall of America: America’s largest mall that includes an amusement park and mini golf! Filled with all your favorite shops, including many specialty options and restaurants.
- Normandale Japanese Garden: Located on the Normandale campus, this little park is nice to stroll through.
- Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park (future Mississippi Gateway Regional Park: Offers several trails along the river.
- Wild River State Park: Long, narrow, secluded park along the river.
- Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: Largest and most diverse horticultural site in the state.
- Lebanon Hills Regional Park: Hike through forests, marshes, wetlands, and grasslands.
- Vikings Museum: Museum dedicated to the Minnesota Vikings football team.
- Springbrook Nature Center: Offers three miles of hiking trails through woodlands and wetlands.
- Afton State Park: Park located along the bluffs of the St. Croix River.
- Battle Creek Regional Park: Hike paved trails in this popular park.
Marine on St. Croix
- William O’Brien State Park: Hike various trails in this park located along the banks of the St. Croix river.
- Foshay Museum and Observation Deck: Tour this iconic skyscraper in the downtown area.
- Minneapolis Sculpture Park: Fun outdoor sculpture park area known for it’s famous “Spoonbridge.”
- Mill Ruins Park and Mill Museum: Explore the old ruins of the mill in the park area before heading to the museum that focuses on flour milling.
- Minnehaha Falls: See the gorgeous Minnehaha Falls located within this regional park. Lots of nice paved walking trails.
- Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam: Explore the only natural falls located on the Upper Mississippi River.
- Wells Fargo History Museum: Explore the history of this well known bank.
- Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park: Park contains 4 miles of hiking trails and a swimming beach.
- Lake Maria State Park: Created to provide a wilderness area for the nearby cities.
- Swan Park-Mississippi Drive: Home to a winter location of Trumpeter swans.
- French Regional Park: Lake based park with boat access, hiking, swimming, and lighted trails.
- Cathedral of Saint Paul: This is the third largest Catholic cathedral in the United States.
- Como Park Zoo and Conservatory: Free zoo and garden area in the Twin Cities area.
- Crosby Farm/Hidden Falls Park: Both parks are located on the banks of the Mississippi River. Hidden Falls is just north of the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Crosby Farm is located for the historic farmstead that used to occupy that space.
- Fort Snelling State Park: Park located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.
- Historic Fort Snelling: Tour the old military fort that sits on the bluff overlooking the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.
- Minnesota State Capitol: Visit this gorgeous recently refurbished state capitol.
- Minnesota History Center: Fun hands on history museum.
- Minnesota Science Museum: Explore science in a hands on way, from dinos to the human body and so much more!
- Mississippi National River and Recreation Area: Lots to explore along the Mississippi River Greenway. The visitor center is located in the lobby of the Science Museum.
- Wardens House Museum: Explore the history of the official warden house of the Minnesota Territorial Prison.
- Interstate Park: Located between two states (Minnesota and Wisconsin), this park is filled with geological wonders of potholes and a deep basalt gorge.
- St Croix National Scenic Riverway: While the visitor center is located in Wisconsin, portions of the river are protected on both sides of the river.
All attractions found on exploreminnesota.com
Today’s list is much shorter compared to yesterday as we move into the Central portion of the state.
- Fort Alexandria: A replica of the fort built for protection from the Dakota Indians during an uprising during the Civil War.
- Legacy of the Lakes Museum: Celebrates the lake tradition and the history of grand hotels and resorts in the area.
- Glendalough State Park: Quiet park located along 9 miles of undeveloped shoreline.
- Crow Wing State Park: Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow Wing rivers, this park celebrates the old 1850s town of Crow Wing.
- Northland Arboretum: Landfill turned arboretum, this prairie area offers lots of hiking trails.
- Darwin Twine Ball Museum: Home to the largest twine ball in the world made by one man.
- Father Hennepin State Park: Located on the corner of Mille Lacs Lake, this park is named for the priest who visited the area during the French expedition.
- Charles A. Lindbergh State Park: The restored house of the congressman and his aviator son are found within this park.
- Savanna Portage State Park: Park preserves the historic six mile portage between the Mississippi and Lake Superior watersheds.
- Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Posts: Explore the history of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park: Park located on the lake that preserves habitations and mounds and documents relations between Dakota and Ojibwe Tribes.
- Maplewood State Park: Park known for its forest/prairie transition zone.
- Munsinger Clemens Gardens/Riverside Regional Park: Beautiful Gardens located along the banks of the Mississippi River.
- Glacial Lakes State Park: Preserves rolling prairies that once covered much of the state.
- Phelps Mill: Old Flour Mill located along the river.
- Quarry Park and Nature Preserve: Scenic wildlife spot that offers great hiking.
All attractions found on exploreminnesota.com
Headed to the northeast portion of Minnesota today. Brace yourselves! This is a long list. A few summers back we spent a week along the Northshore of Lake Superior and had the time of our lives! There are so many fun parks to see along the shore, so this list gets lengthy because of that!
- Scenic State Park: Beautiful wooded, lake area.
- Franz Jevne State Park: Located along the river, wolves and moose are known to roam the area.
- Vermilion Falls: Stunning falls that empty into the Crane River.
- Hill Annex Mine State Park: Site that explores the open pit mining heritage of the area.
- Jay Cooke State Park: Contains a beautiful rocky gorge and among the top 10 state parks visited in Minnesota.
- Minnesota Discovery Center: Largest museum complex in the state outside of the Twin Cities area. It details the history of mining in the area.
- Enger Park Tower and Gardens: Overlook the port city of Duluth by climbing to the top of this tower.
- Great Lakes Aquarium: Small aquarium that hosts a variety of fish and animals that call the Great Lakes their home.
- Park Point Recreation Area: Beautiful sand dune area where you can also hike to the remains of a lighthouse.
- S.S. William A. Irvin Guided Tours: Take a tour of a bulk freighter.
- Bear Head Lake State Park: Provides great access to the Boundary Waters area.
- International Wolf Center: Learn all about wolves and how we can help protect their population.
- North America Bear Center: Visit the only black bear education center.
- Judge C.R. Magney State Park: Visit for a fun hike to the Devil’s Kettle Waterfall which disappears into a hole.
- Grand Portage National Monument: Visit this fun interactive old fort/trading post. Fascinating history!
- Grand Portage State Park: Visit the park that sits on the U.S./Canada border and take in the beautiful waterfalls.
- Forest History Center: Learn the history of the north woods and lumberjacks and how they shaped the area.
- Judy Garland Museum and Children’s Discovery Museum: Take in Judy Garland and Wizard of Oz artifacts.
- Hull Rust Mine View and Hibbing Tourist Senior Center: Look out over one of the largest open pit mines in the world.
- Voyageurs National Park: Located near the Canadian border, this national park is known for its waterways.
- Cascade Falls State Park: Hike along the cascading falls the park is named for (and the nearby Cascade Lodge makes for a fantastic place to stay along the North Shore!)
- Snake River Fur Post: Reconstructed fur post located along the Snake River.
- Banning State Park: Located along the Kettle River, this park is known for its series of rapids.
- Minnesota Goose Garden: Native flora and sculpture garden.
- Robinson Park: Explore this former sandstone quarry.
- Sugarloaf Point SRA and Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center: Hike along this cove area on Lake Superior’s shore.
- Temperance River State Park: Access this beautiful gorge area from a highway pull off!
- George H. Crosby Manitou State Park: Enjoy the cascades of the Manitou River.
- Tettegouche State Park: Beautiful park filled with many waterfalls, including the highest falls completely within the state of Minnesota.
- Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park: The mine within the park is Minnesota’s oldest, deepest and richest iron mine.
- 3M/Dwan Museum: Museum dedicatd to the early years of the 3M company.
- Gooseberry Falls State Park: Minnesota’s most visited state park, this area contains several stunning waterfalls.
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park: Tour the picturesque Split Rock Lighthouse and enjoy time along the shore of Lake Superior.
- Two Harbors Light Station Museum: Tour this quaint little light station.
All attractions found on visitminnesota.com
Today we begin to explore the state of Minnesota and it’s five tourism regions. I will say that despite many visits to the state, this first region may be the one I am least familiar with. We’ve drive through the Fargo/Moorhead area many times and we did visit Lake Itasca once, but we’ve spent very little time actually exploring the area, so much of today’s post is new to me!
- Akeley Paul Bunyan Historical Museum: Visit and learn the history of the small town that claims to be the “birthplace of Paul Bunyan.”
- Old Mill State Park: Explore historic structures, enjoy a nice swim, and hike over many bridges at this park.
- Headwaters Science Center: Explore hands on exhibits at this small science center.
- Lake Bemidji State Park: Enjoy hiking and beautiful sunsets over the lake.
- Dunton Locks County Park: Small park that offers a lot of hiking.
- Deep Portage Learning Center: Explore trails through bogs, woodland, and along the river.
- Lake Bronson State Park: Beautiful park located along the lake with great camping and lake access.
- Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge: Enjoy hiking and bird watching opportunities.
- Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County: Located within the Hjemkomst Center, this museum details the history of the area and also offers tours of the Hjemkomst Viking Ship and Hopperstad Stave Church.
- Itasca State Park: Home to the Mississippi Headwaters, you won’t want to miss this park!
- Polaris Experience and Factory Tour: Explore the history of the company and the making of their snowmobiles and ATV’s.
- William S. Marvin Training and Visitor Center: Experience the history and innovations of Marvin Windows and Doors.
- Zippel Bay State Park: Located on the white sand shores of Lake of the Woods, great hiking is offered at this park near the U.S./Canadian border.
All attractions found on exploreminnesota.com.
Rounding out the state of North Dakota with a slightly shorter bucket list today. Tomorrow we head into the Minnesota Bucket List series!
- Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site: Known as the “Gateway to the Dakotas”, this was the first fort in what was to become the state of North Dakota.
- Turtle River State Park: Small park along the river that is great for camping and hiking.
- Icelandic State Park: Explore the homesteading spirit of North Dakota at this park with it’s old buildings found on grounds.
- RSL3 Missile Site: Take a tour of this site built during the Cold War.
- Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site: Two sites that tell of the Cold War history in North Dakota.
- “Fargo” Woodchipper: See the woodchipper made famous in the movie at the visitors center.
- Red River Zoo: Small zoo that is home to many unique “cold weather” species.
- World’s Largest Wood Baseball Bat: Check out this huge baseball bat when in the area.
- Fort Ransom State Park: This park preserves to homestead farms.
- Flood Memorial Marker: Marks the devastating flood of 1997.
- Japanese Garden: Take a stroll through this beautiful garden.
- Pembina State Museum: Learn the history of the area along the border and check out the views from the observation tower.
- High Line Bridge: Historic Railroad bridge over the Sheyenne River.
- Medicine Wheel Park: Unique landmark on the VCSU campus.
- Ringling Brothers Circus Memorial: Marker dedicated to circus workers who lost their live when a tent pole was struck by lightning.
- World’s Largest Catfish: Fun roadside oddity photo op.
- Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site: Explore the trading post and home of Antoine Gingras.
- Masonic Scenic Overlook: Overlooks the Pembina River and Gorge.
- Pembina Gorge: Extends from the Canadian border and offers great hiking.
- Walhalla State Historic Site: Preserves another fur trading site.
All attractions found in the 2020 North Dakota Travel Guide.
Today we move to the region Andrew and I are most familiar with due to him spending his younger years growing up in this region!
- Camp Hancock State Historic Site: Located along Main Street, this was a military establishment built to protect work gangs and assist in the railroad building.
- Chief Looking’s Village: Historic archeological site with great river views.
- Dakota Zoo: Fun little zoo that will provide a few hours of fun.
- Double Ditch Indian Village State Historic Site: Site of earth lodge village inhabited by the Mandan Indians.
- Keelboat Park: Riverside trail with replica of keelboat.
- McDowell Dam Recreation Area: Lake area near the dam that also has a nature trail.
- North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum: Beautifully remodeled this building houses several different “wings” of history.
- North Dakota State Capitol: One of the taller state capitol buildings in the US. The views from the top are very nice!
- Steamboat Park: Park along the river that details history of steamboats.
- Lake Metigoshe State Park: Located in the Turtle Mountains near the U.S./Canada border.
- Mystical Horizons: North Dakota’s Stonehenge and a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.
- Tommy Turtle Statue: Check out this large turtle riding a snowmobile!
- Grahams Island State Park: Located on the ever changing shores of Devils Lake, this is a very wooded area.
- International Peace Garden: Straddling the U.S./Canada order, these garden grounds are beautiful!
- W’eel Turtle: Turtle made out of wheel rims.
- Fort Totten State Historic Site: Military post that became a boarding school for Native American children.
- Fort Seward Interpretive Center: Fort was built to guard the building of the railroad and the site contains North Dakota’s largest American flag.
- Frontier Village and World’s Largest Buffalo: Explore an replica of an “old West” town and stand in the shadow of the World’s Largest Buffalo.
- National Buffalo Museum and Herd: Learn everything you ever needed to know about buffalo and maybe spot the white buffalo in the herd!
- Menoken Indian Village State Historic Site: Archeological area near Bismarck. Interpretive signs tell the history of the village.
- Scandinavian Heritage Park: Outdoor park that celebrates the heritage and history of all five Scandinavian countries.
- Lake Sakakawea State Park: Enjoy beautiful views of the large lake.
- Geographical Center of North America Monument: Fun little quirky roadside stop that places you in the center of North America.
- Northern Lights Tower and Interpretive Center: Tower and center dedicated to the unique and beautiful Northern Lights.
- World’s Largest Sandhill Crane: Another fun roadside oddity. They like their large roadside attractions in this state.
- Welk Homestead State Historic Site: Home and farm of the legendary Lawrence Welk.
- Rusty, the Two-Ton Turtle: Huge “rusty” turtle sculpture.
- David Thompson State Historic Site: Dedicated to the famous explorer and fur trader.
- Fort Mandan: Site where the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent a winter.
- Cross Ranch State Park: Beautiful park located along the Missouri River.
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center: This small museum details out the time the expedition spent in North Dakota.
- Beaver Lake State Park: Secluded outdoor setting nestled among the prairie.
All attractions found in the 2020 North Dakota Travel Guide.
Starting a new state today, our neighbor to the north, North Dakota. This state is split into three regions so I will round out North Dakota next week and begin Minnesota bucket lists next week as well!
- Fairview Bridge & Cartwright Tunnel: Pedestrian bridge over the Yellowstone River.
- Lewis and Clark State Park: Located along the upper edge of Lake Sakakawea.
- Fort Rice State Historic Site: Military post built in the 1860’s to protect white settlers.
- Sitting Bull Burial Site: Sacred burial site of the famed Sitting Bull.
- Fort Stevenson Guardhouse: Learn history of frontier military.
- Fort Stevenson State Park: Fun place to camp.
- Wally the Walleye: Looks over the “Walleye Capitol of the World”.
- Writing Rock State Historic Site: Plains Indians carved petroglyphs into boulders.
- Fort Sauerkraut: Fort to built to protect settlers from attacks that never occurred.
- Killdeer Mountain Battlefield State Historic Site: Site commemorates battle between Sully troops and Sioux Indians.
- Little Missouri State Park: Park located among rugged Badlands.
- Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park: Custer’s last home reconstructed.
- Painted Canyon Visitor Center: Gorgeous Canyon overlook that is part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park just off the interstate.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park-South Unit: Gorgeous park in the badlands that features a loop scenic drive with lots of wildlife.
- Salem Sue: World’s Largest Holstein and the site of our engagement!
- Enchanted Highway: Quirky highway filled with tin art statues.
- Garrison Dam and Power Plant Towers: Take a tour of this huge hydroelectric dam.
- Misty the Mermaid: Gorgeous metal sculpture.
- Fort Clark State Historic Site: Built by American Fur Company for the Mandan Indians.
- Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site: Explore the earth lodge formation used by the Mandan Tribe.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park-North Unit: The north unit of this park features stunning views of the badlands landscape along the river.
- Fort Buford State Historic Site: Site of Sitting Bull surrender.
- Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site: Fur trading post along the Missouri River that served several Native American tribes.
- Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center: Enjoy a walking trail along the confluence of the two rivers.
All attractions found in the 2020 North Dakota Travel Guide.