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15 Best Winter Road Trips from Minneapolis

Updated by Pat Dorri on December 8 2023

While there's no denying that there is an endless amount of fun to get up to in beautiful Minneapolis during the holidays, there's something about Minnesota and the surrounding area that's just begging to be explored and enjoyed when it's covered in a stunning layer of white snow.

Discover our 15 favourite winter road trips from Minneapolis that'll immediately get you into the holiday spirit! Whether you're looking for cozy small-town escapes, snow-covered natural wonders, wintery cosmopolitan getaways or lively holiday trips down south, we've got you covered!

Keep scrolling to find out more about the fifteen spots we think are most worth visiting near Minneapolis this winter, sorted by distance below!

15 Best Road Trips from Minneapolis

A selection of our best road trips from Minneapolis. Check out our full list of 15 trips below.
Trip typeSome of our favorite road trips
Day tripsTake a snowmobile through the forests in Brainerd; or climb across the Ariel State Bridge for the best views of Duluth
Weekend tripsSpot white tailed deer in Wisconsin Dells; or visit a snow-topped Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison
Long-weekend tripsWalk round the beautiful scenery at Elkhart Lake; or wander round the Christkindl Holiday Markets in Chicago
Longer tripsMarvel at the jaw-dropping frozen geysers in Yellowstone National Park; or visit a snowy, magical Central Park in New York

Day trips (under 3 hours each way)

If you've only got a day on your hands and are craving a getaway, take a look at these next three road trips which make for the ideal day trip. Encompassing some of the most beautiful local winter destinations in Minnesota, the shortest of these trips is only a 30 minute drive away.

1. Stillwater and Afton State Park

30 minutes from Minneapolis (40 miles)

Why you should visit: This historic town is beautiful during the cold months, when it gets covered in a light (or heavy) layer of snow, nearby Afton State Park may be at its best when it boasts all the trimmings of a winter wonderland.

Stillwater was voted one of the top 10 “Prettiest Towns in America” by Forbes Magazine and boasts a great food scene combined with a relaxed snowy small-town vibe, perfect for a quick holiday escape!

Clear winter day at Mississippi River, Afton State Park, Minnesota, USA
A clear winters day is a perfect time to stop off at Afton State Park. Wrap up warm and take a stroll alongside the Mississippi River.
Kira Volkov/

How to get there: Getting to Stillwater is relatively simple You'll first want to exit Minneapolis via Interstate 35 (I-35W), then, you'll continue on the US-36 until you've reached this beautiful town. From there, you can take the stunning St Croix Scenic Byway down to Afton State Park.

Our highlights: Check out the Stillwater Lift Bridge, one of the main attractions of this small town, celebrated for its role in the rich history of Minnesota's trading industry.

You'll also find several delicious restaurants and breweries close by, where you can warm up to affordable Minnesota fare and a delicious pint.

Stillwater is generally regarded as a great foodie destination, and this is especially true during the winter when restaurants with seasonal menus boast stick-to-your-bones comfort food. Check out this guide for tons of info on where you can grab a delicious bite to eat.

Winter is a great time to head on over to beautiful Afton State Park if you're looking to get into some winter sports, including skiing, hiking and snowboarding. You can also go ice skating near the St. Croix River, though you'll have to provide your own skates.

Championship Snow Sculpting Contest, which takes place in Stillwater every year during the winter months. Sculptures stay up after the weekend-long festival, so you can still take them in if you miss the event itself!

Bonus: Stillwater was made famous by its lumber industry, the Stillwater Lumber Company used to be one of the largest in the United States.

Our travel tips: We highly recommend you check the Minnesota State Parks website to find updates on road closures, snow cleaning and any other notices that may be relevant to planning your trip to Afton State Park.

2. Brainerd, MN

2 hours from Minneapolis (130 miles)

Why you should visit: Brainerd is known for being a spa and wellness destination and is the closest such spot to Minneapolis on this list. We can't think of a better time to hop in a sauna or enjoy a relaxing massage than during the cold Minnesota winter!

This small is located within the Brainerd Lakes Area, sitting along the Mississippi River and is surrounded by tons of beautiful lakes. If you're looking for a spot near Minneapolis to escape to for a relaxing wintertime spa treat, look no further than Brainerd.

Snow shoe tracks near Brainerd Lake in Colorado with a wintery forest of snow covered trees
Brainerd is ideal for fans of the outdoors, with the lovely snowy woodlands great for winding through on a snowmobile.
Kelly vanDellen/

How to get there: It'll take just over two hours to cross the 130 miles to Brainerd. You'll start by taking the I-94 W out of Minneapolis, then continue until you've reached Monticello.

Once there, take exit 193 and hop onto the US-10. Drive on this highway and along the Mississippi River to Little Falls, then merge onto Highland Scenic Drive until you've reached Brainerd.

Our highlights: There are tons of wintertime outdoor activities to enjoy in Brainerd, including snowmobiling, skiing, tubing, and winter mountain biking! Get your heart rate up while enjoying the beautiful surrounding nature, just make sure to dress warmly and be prepared for lots of snow.

There's no better place to enjoy ice-fishing than in the Brainerd Lakes Area, which is home to the largest Ice fishing contest in the world. Whether you're new to ice-fishing or a seasoned pro, we highly recommend enjoying this fun activity on one of the nearby lakes!

Brainerd offers several festivals during the winter season. Stop by in January for Ice Fest, where you can enjoy snow golf and horse-drawn trolley rides, or, visit in December for Snowfest, which offers a collection of vintage snowmobiles on display.

As we mentioned, Brainerd is known for its spa offerings, which are mostly offered at one of several lodges in the Brainerd Lakes Area. We can't think of a better winter escape than booking a room in these fabulous accommodations and enjoying top-notch spa treatments surrounded by a winter wonderland.

Bonus: Did someone say “lakes”? There are over 460 of them within the 25-mile area surrounding Brainerd!

Our travel tips: Book accommodation ahead as this is a popular location for Minnesotans and tourists from surrounding states. If visiting during a festival weekend, keep in mind this may drive up accommodation costs!

3. Duluth, MN

2 hours 30 minutes from Minneapolis (160 miles)

Why you should visit: Duluth sits right on Lake Superior, making this the nearest road trip on this list that takes you to one of the Great Lakes. This is a great opportunity to take in this fabulous body of water when it's transformed into a breathtaking frozen tundra.

Visit Duluth to discover a stunning city along the shores of Lake Superior that boasts a rich culinary scene, a world-famous lift bridge and historic architecture. It's the perfect mid-sized city escape.

Chester Park is a City Park in Duluth, Minnesota during Winter
Chester Park in Duluth boasts the most picturesque winter scenes.
Jacob Boomsma/

How to get there: Get to Duluth by taking I-35 N out of Minneapolis. From there, continue along the interstate until you reach exit 256B. Take that exit, and within minutes you'll be in Duluth.

Our highlights: The Aerial Lift Bridge is a world-famous structure constructed at the very beginning of the 20th century. It lifts and lowers for water traffic and is certainly a sight to behold.

Great Lakes Aquarium is located right along the Duluth Waterfront and spans over 62,000 square feet. Take a trip indoors and away from the cold to discover this wonderful center, boasting over 200 species of fish, reptiles and mammals.

The historic Glensheen Mansion is a must-see during the wintertime when it gets covered by a picturesque layer of snow. Inspired by the Beaux-Arts style and built in the Jacobean architectural tradition, this beautiful mansion is over 20,000 square feet large and sits right along Lake Superior.

Enjoy the North Shore Scenic Drive, where you'll be able to take in the beauty of the lake as well as the stunning snow-capped Sawtooth Mountains. You'll begin at Duluth's Canal Park and make your way North on this drive, which extends for almost 150 miles.

Bonus: Did you know that Duluth was the birthplace of iconic American folk singer Bob Dylan?

Our travel tips: While Duluth makes for a beautiful spot to visit on its own, we also recommend making the trek to some of the nearby small towns and villages that are located along the lake, like Two Harbors or Silver Bay. These will provide you with that small-town cheerful holiday vibe!

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Weekend trips (3-5 hours each way)

We've got tons of road trips planned out for you if you've got a spare weekend on hand during the holidays that you're saving for a quick getaway! Keep scrolling to discover our wide array of weekend trips.

4. Detroit Lakes, MN

3 hours 20 minutes from Minneapolis (200 miles)

Why you should visit: Detroit Lakes is a wonderful spot to visit during the winter and especially during February, when it is host to one of the state's most popular winter festivals, Polar Fest.

We recommend visiting Detroit Lakes if you're looking to get out and explore the stunning Minnesotan nature or indulge in this bountiful state's signature comfort food at Polar Fest.

Snowy winter landscape. Location place is Detroit lake State park. Mongold area. Oregon
A winter's stay at the Detroit Lakes provides lots of opportunities for fun. Head out for some ice fishing before wrapping up and enjoying your catch of the day!
Victoria Ditkovsky/

How to get there: Detroit Lakes is quite easy to get to: simply take the I-94 W out of Minneapolis, then merge onto the US-10 W once you've passed Monticello. You can continue along this highway all the way to Detroit Lakes.

Our highlights: It probably comes as no surprise that for a city with “Lakes” in its name, one of the main highlights of this area is its many lakes.

While Detroit Lake is the largest and most popular, there are also smaller lakes like Brandy Lake and Lake Melissa which freeze over during the winter and offer opportunities for ice skating and ice fishing.

The Detroit Mountain Recreation Area is located just outside of Detroit Lakes and is a prime destination for winter sports, including alpine skiing and snowboarding.

Not a downhill person? You can enjoy tons of cross-country skiing trails in Becker County, which offer a wonderful way to get to know the beautiful Minnesotan forests.

Our travel tips: As with any outdoor winter sports, make sure that you bundle up and especially that you wear waterproof and snowproof layers!

Polar Fest usually takes place during mid-February, though this varies from year to year. If you decide to visit Detroit Lakes for this festival, we highly recommend booking accommodation in advance to avoid any disappointment, as this city gets quite busy during the festival weekend.

5. Wisconsin Dells, WI

3 hours 15 minutes from Minneapolis (220 miles)

Why you should visit: This is our first road trip on this list that takes you to a neighboring state, in this case, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Dells also happens to be very well known for its all-season resorts and theme parks, so you can escape the winter with some indoor watersport activities!

Visit Wisconsin Dells if you're looking to discover a city full of amusement parks and family-friendly entertainment. This city is actually known as the “Waterpark Capital of the World”, many of which are open in the winter!

White-tailed deer in the snowy forest. Scene from Wisconsin state park.
Keep an eye out for white-tailed deer darting across the majestic white landscapes of Wisconsin Dells.
Karel Bock/

How to get there: You'll start by exiting Minneapolis via the I-94 E, then continue along this interstate for most of the journey until you take exit 85 onto Highway 13 N. From there, it'll only take you a few minutes to reach the center of beautiful Wisconsin Dells.

Our highlights: For animal lovers, we highly recommend you check out the Wisconsin Deer Park. This amazing park allows you the opportunity to interact with hundreds of beautiful white-tailed deer in an enclosure! Just make sure to bundle up as it's a mostly outdoor activity.

Wisconsin's snowmobiling trails form an incredible 25,000-mile system, and as such, this state is quite popular amongst snowmobilers. We highly recommend hopping onto a snowmobile and enjoying the beautiful surrounding, you can rent a snowmobile at several different rental services throughout town.

If you're a fan of fantasy novels and movies, we recommend checking out Wizard Quest, an amusement center boasting a 30,000-square-foot fantasy-themed labyrinth made up of four realms: air, earth, fire and water.

Lake Delton is located near Wisconsin Dells and is surrounded by wonderful resorts where you can stay the night and enjoy the many offerings of frozen bodies of water. Even if you won't be staying overnight, we recommend stopping by and checking out the beautiful lake views.

Bonus: Not only is Wisconsin Dells considered the Waterpark Capital of the World, but it also pioneered the indoor waterpark!

Our travel tips: If you're considering snowmobiling, make sure you read up on safety practices like buddying up and how to bundle up warmly!

READ MORE - Road Trip from Minneapolis to Wisconsin Dells

6. Giant Ridge, Biwabik and Ely, MI

4 hours from Minneapolis (250 miles)

Why you should visit: Giant Ridge is known as “Minnesota's premier all-season resort”, and at 4 hours' distance from Minneapolis, it's the ideal spot for travelers looking to enjoy the beautiful surrounding nature with some winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding.

You should hop on this road trip if you're looking for an opportunity to get closer to the beautiful natural world of Minnesota, as Biwabik and Ely both boast beautiful nearby lakes and forests, while Giant Ridge boasts celebrated skiing trails and mountain peaks.

Sign in front of the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota in winter with snow on the ground
Visit the International Wolf Center in Ely and say hi to some furry friends from a safe distance.

How to get there: Getting to Giant Ridge is pretty simple, take the I-35W out of Minneapolis, then follow this road until you take exit 237 onto the MN-33 N.

From there, continue until you've reached Biwabik which is close to Giant Ridge. Take an optional detour to Ely, located about an hour from Biwabik and Giant Ridge via Highway 21 N.

Our highlights: Check out the International Wolf Centre in Ely, a research and educational organization that offers visitors the opportunity to get up and close with a variety of majestic wolf species.

If you're looking for a fun opportunity for a photo op, look no further than the Honk the Moose Statue located in the center of Biwabik. This massive statue makes for an adorable picture, nestled amongst the snowy streets of quaint Biwabik.

The Giant Ridge Recreation Area is probably one of the main draws of this road trip; there, you'll find over thirty alpine ski runs. This area is also dotted with several resorts, which offer spa and dining services on-site for when you need to relax after a day of hitting the slopes.

Discover the Superior National Forest just outside of Ely and along the Canadian border. This wonderful, protected space is another opportunity on this road trip to get connected with nature and explore the natural beauty of the Northern US during the wintertime.

Our travel tips: When visiting Superior National Forest, make sure to check the National Parks websites for closures, snow and other weather warnings, and any other pertinent information that would be good to know before heading out.

7. Lutsen and Grand Marais, MI

4 hours 20 minutes from Minneapolis (260 miles)

Why you should visit: Lutsen and Grand Marais are two smaller and quaint harbor villages that are sat right along the shores of Lake Superior; this road trip then promises a relaxing and secluded snowy small-town vibe along an iconic lake!

You should visit Grand Marais and nearby Lutsen if you're looking for beautiful lakeside views, cozy family-run restaurants, artsy businesses, and delicious wineries. You'll also find Superior National Forest quite close, if you're looking to get away from the lake and into the woods.

Ski Chalet in Lutsen Minnesota
Lutsen offers great sights and skiing, so if you are looking for winter sports it is the place for you.
Life Atlas Photography/

How to get there: Getting to these two lovely towns is relatively straightforward. Take I-25 N out of Minneapolis, then continue along this interstate past Duluth and along the beautiful Lake Superior Coast until you've reached Lutsen.

Grand Marais is located a further 20 miles north of Lutsen, about halfway to the Canadian border.

Our highlights: Grand Marais is adorable offering some adorable and quaint restaurants and cafes that are perfect to explore on foot. We recommend dropping off the car at your accommodation of choice, then heading on out for a walk through the festive downtown center of this village.

Make sure to stop by Artist Point, a peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior and that will provide some truly stunning views of this majestic lake. Drop by at sunrise or sunset for some beautiful and vivid colors!

Lutsen is well-known for its winter sports offerings, make sure to stop by and try your hand at over 90 trails across four mountains. You'll also find some swanky lodging and dining options, as well as stunning views from modern chairlifts.

Cook County is considered one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the United States, and they tend to appear mostly in the winter, so this is the perfect time to pack your bags and head towards Grand Marais! These beautiful natural wonders are simply breathtaking, and we can't recommend heading out to see them enough.

Bonus: True to its name, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, holding 10% of the world's surface freshwater!

Our travel tips: Restaurants in Grand Marais tend to close early. Plan ahead when making dinner reservations!

Also, if you're interested in seeing the Northern Lights, check online for the Cook County KP index, which will rate your chances of spotting the Northern Lights (0-9). Aurora borealis usually appear between 11pm and 3am.

8. Madison, WI

4 hours 10 minutes from Minneapolis (270 miles)

Why you should visit: Madison is the first capital city and one of the larger cities on this list, making it the ideal place to visit if you're looking for the excitement of a big city during the holiday season.

Visit Madison if you're looking to explore a city during the holiday season that's filled to the brim with stunning architecture, a blossoming gastronomical scene and a vibrant and festive cultural scene including tons of museums and galleries.

Capitol building on a snowy winter day in downtown of Madison, Wisconsin, USA
A visit to a snow-topped Wisconsin State Capitol makes the building even more impressive.
Beach Creatives/

How to get there: To get to Madison, exit Minneapolis via I-94 E. Follow this road until you've reached exit 132, where you can merge onto Country Hwy C V. Simply continue along this road until you've reached downtown Madison!

Our highlights: You can't visit Madison without stopping by the majestic Wisconsin State Capitol Building. This stunning structure features a 284-foot-high dome, was finished in 1917, and is a must-see on this list!

It looks especially gorgeous during the holiday season, when it gets covered with a light layer of snow.

If you're looking for a dose of greenery and calm in the Wisconsin winter, we recommend checking out the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. This wonderful park features a stunning Thai pavilion and is most known for its rose collection.

There are a few American architects as celebrated as Frank Lloyd Wright, and Madison happens to boast one of his most beautiful buildings, the Monona Terrace. Built after his death, this stunning building also offers beautiful views of the city and surrounding Lake Monona.

Get lost in the art world at the Chazen Museum of Art, offering a large collection including works in a variety of mediums by some household names like Rodin and Gainsborough.

Bonus: Did you know that the dome on top of the Wisconsin State Capitol is only 3 feet shorter than that of the Capitol Building in Washington?

Our travel tips: Make sure to wear waterproof when trekking through this city, as it gets tons of snow! Also, there are several festivals in Madison during the wintertime, including the Beer & Cheer Fest in January and the Frozen Assets Festival in February.

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Long weekend trips (5-8 hours each way)

If you haven't used up your vacation days this year, we recommend tacking one onto a weekend and making a trip out of it. Keep scrolling two discover two prime locations you get spend a long weekend at during the winter season!

9. Elkhart Lake

5 hours 10 minutes from Minneapolis (320 miles)

Why you should visit: While this might not make this strictly worth visiting during the winter season, it's a cool draw nonetheless: Elkhart Lake is home to Road America, a four-mile road course that's considered one of the best in the world by the motorsport community.

If you're a fan of motors and cars, Elkhart Lake is the destination for you, boasting several attractions centered around motorsports including a museum and the celebrated Road America racetrack.

Beautiful winter landscape at Devils Lake State Park, Baraboo area, Wisconsin, USA. View on the lake from rocky south shore Ice age trail. Nature of Wisconsin, Midwest USA.
Enjoy the stunning views on the Ice Age Trail-especially beautiful under a cloak of glistening snow.

How to get there: To get to Elkhart Lake, exit Minneapolis via I-94 E which you can follow for several hours until you reach State Highway 33. Continue along this highway towards Trenton, then merge onto the US-151 N in Fond du Lac.

You'll continue along this route until you get to WI-23, taking this highway all the way to Elkhart Lake.

Our highlights: You don't have to be a NASCAR fan to appreciate how wonderful Road America is, boasting over 640 acres of park-like grounds. During the winter months, guests at Road America can enjoy sledding along the track!

A couple miles from the Road America racetrack you'll find Throttlestop, a luxury car dealership that also boasts a motorcycle museum featuring tons of vintage and new motorcycle models

Just outside of Elkhart Lake is Wade House, a Wisconsin historic site that offers vintage carriage rides. It's especially wonderful during the holiday seasons, when you can enjoy the wonders of a mid-19th-century Christmas, including quaint shops and delicious treats.

While there are tons of winter sports in Elkhart Lake, we highly recommend a simple winter hike through the Ice Age Trail, which is located just a few miles outside of town! Make sure to pack some comfortable winter boots for this trek.

Our travel tips: Elkhart Lake is host to the Chill-Out Winter Weekend during the last weekend of February. This festival provides a fully planned-out itinerary and is a great option if you're looking for a weekend trip that doesn't involve too much planning.

10. Chicago, IL

6 hours 40 minutes from Minneapolis (410 miles)

Why you should visit: Chicago is the largest city thus far on this list and is a must-visit during the wintertime when you'll be able to enjoy the famous skyscrapers of this city decked out in winter lights.

One of the United States' most well-known metropolises, Chicago has tons on offer, from award-winning restaurants to fascinating museums. Winter is an especially great time to visit, as tourism is slightly lower than during the summer which means lower prices on attractions and accommodations.

Chicago Christkindl Holiday Market. Vendors from around the world sell holiday themed products.
The Chicago Christkindl Holiday Market, nestled under the Chicago skyscrapers, will make you feel particularly festive.
Steve Gadomski/

How to get there: Getting to Chicago from Minneapolis is very straightforward: exit Minneapolis via the I-94 E, then follow this and the I-90 all the way to Chicago.

Our highlights: There are few museums in the US that boast a collection rivaling that of The Art Institute of Chicago. Stop by this wonderful museum to enjoy works created by household names, including Van Gogh, Seurat, Picasso and Monet.

Take in this city, famous for its skyscrapers, from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center, where you'll find an observation deck called 360 Chicago. If you're feeling brave, try out the Tilt, a thrill ride that'll tip you over the edge of the skyscraper.

Home to one of the world's most famous modern art sculptures (the iconic “Bean”), Millennium Park is a must-visit while in Chicago. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and take a walk through this snowy paradise or grab some ice skates and enjoy the offerings of this park's skating rink.

Take in a beautiful Christmas village at Wrigley Field, which gets turned into a massive wonderland offering tons of activities including skating, Santa appearances, and holiday movie presentations.

Bonus: Did you know that the Chicago River is the only river in the world to flow backwards? This was engineered in 1900 to divert sewage from Lake Michigan's freshwater supply!

Our travel tips: Get the most out of a short visit by purchasing a Chicago CityPass, which will get you into most of this city's attractions at a reduced rate.

There are a variety of passes to choose from, though we recommend the Chicago C3 by CityPass which will get you into up to three attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Skydeck Chicago, and the Shedd Aquarium.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Minneapolis to Chicago

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Longer trips (Over 8 hours each way)

These next five trips encompass a variety of different getaways, from the snowy and festive streets of several major American cities to escapes to stunning natural wonders in the US and Canada. Keep scrolling to discover these wonderful routes, recommend for a 6-8 day trip.

11. Branson, Missouri (via Atchison, KS)

10 hours 40 minutes from Minneapolis (700 miles)

Why you should visit: This road trip allows you to discover the beautiful Ozark Mountain range during the wintertime, when these stunning and celebrated mountains get capped with snow and offer unparalleled winter wonderland landscapes.

Visit Branson to discover the nearby Ozarks, as well as the many offerings this city has to offer including a variety of museums and tons of live entertainment.

Winter in the Ozark Mountains
Winter across the Ozark Mountain Range is stunning. Watch out for frozen lakes and waterfalls as you carefully hike the many trails.
Mark Kidder/

How to get there: Getting to Branson is relatively simple: start by exiting Minneapolis via I-35 W then follow I-35 S. Once you've reached Exit 54, take it and continue on US-59 S until you've reached Atchison.

Leave Atchison and drive straight through Kansas City, continue along the I-29 S, I-49 and the US-65 S until you've reached Branson!

Our highlights: Discover the TITANIC Museum in Branson, which holds 400 pre-discovery artifacts sprinkled through 20 galleries. The museum features tons of interactive elements and is a must-see for those looking to get better acquainted with the story of this iconic vessel.

There's no better way to escape the cold winter than with a cabin in the Ozark Mountains, where you'll be able to enjoy stunning views of this region from the comfort of a cozy cabin.

Discover the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, which boasts memorabilia and exhibits relating to this famous aviator. This is a great roadside attraction, though you could always stop by Atchison for an evening on the way to Branson and get the most out of the several Amelia Earhart attractions.

Nothing can prepare you for the spectacular holiday dinner theatre experience awaiting you at Dolly Parton's Stampede, which transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday months.

Bonus: Branson is known as an entertainment destination, and actually boasts more theatre seats than Broadway in New York City!

Our travel tips: If you're looking to take in some live entertainment, make sure to book your tickets for these events in advance.

Branson is known as America's Christmas Tree Capital, making it an ideal spot to visit during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

12. Nashville, TN

13 hours from Minneapolis (880 miles)

Why you should visit: Known as “Music City”, Nashville has tons on offer during the wintertime and especially during the holiday season, when this stunning metropolis gets decked out in dazzling lights. Visit iconic venues and catch some wonderful musicians playing out your favorite holiday tunes!

Visit Nashville if you're looking to immerse yourself in the history of American music, or if you're curious to explore Tennessee's capital, which offers a rich restaurant and entertainment scene.

Nashville Skyline and Pedestrian Bridge during Snow Storm
Take a snowy walk across Nashville, before heading into one of the many music venues to warm up and be entertained. .

How to get there: Getting to Nashville from Minneapolis is relatively straightforward. You'll start by exiting Minneapolis via the I-93 E, then continue along this interstate for a while.

Merge onto I-90, then hop onto I-39 S, I-74, I-57 S and I-24 until you've reached Nashville. As you've noticed, you're mostly sticking to well-paved interstates for this route, which will make travel a breeze.

Our highlights: The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a celebrated institution dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of country music within the US. It's a great place to get informed on the history that makes Nashville so special.

Boasting the longest-running radio broadcast in US history, the Grand Ole Opry is an iconic cultural landmark. Finding its home in the Ryman Auditorium, the Opry offers tons of live entertainment with a focus on country music.

Nestled in beautiful Centennial Park you'll find The Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens that now operates as an art museum. This stunning building is beautiful year-round but is especially picturesque during the colder months when it's covered in a light layer of snow!

Take in the Dancing Lights of Christmas, an immersive holiday experience that synchronizes tons of lights to holiday tunes accessible via your car radio. It costs $25 per car and goes every night at 5pm, from early November through Christmas.

Bonus: Nashville claims to be the home of the first-ever combination candy bar, named the Goo Goo Clustered and invested in 1912. The original candy bar was made with milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat, these delicious treats are still available for purchase and make the perfect stocking stuffer.

Our travel tips: Make sure to buy tickets to the most popular attractions a few days in advance, especially if you're hoping to visit the Grand Ole Opry.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Minneapolis to Nashville

13. Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada

14 hours from Minneapolis (930 miles)

Why you should visit: There's nothing on this list that quite compares to this road trip, which takes you to icy Niagara Falls and the nearby snow-caked town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, combining natural wonder with small town charm. It's the perfect combination of winter wonderland and cozy Christmas!

Visit Niagara Falls if you're looking to discover a stunning natural wonder while also enjoying the gambling and dining offerings that surround the falls.

Niagara Falls during winter season
The icy sights of Niagara Falls are beautiful during the winter.
Aqnus Febriyant/

How to get there: Take the I-94 E to exit Minneapolis, then continue Eastbound through Madison and Chicago, passing Lake Michigan along the way. Keep eastbound past Cleveland and along the shores of Lake Erie until you've reached Niagara Falls.

At this point, you can either enjoy the Falls on the US side or cross the border to Canada where you'll find the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Our highlights: Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, right by Niagara Falls, to discover an adorable village that's perfect to discover on foot. You'll find tons of family-run shops and can even take a carriage ride through the town's central street. Bonus: visit this town's famous Christmas store, dedicated entirely to selling Christmas decorations and open year-round!

There are two great ways to explore the falls. The first is via the Maid of the Mist voyage, which takes you close to the falls by boat, the second is via the Journey Behind the Falls experience, which takes you behind the falls.

Visit the Skylon Tower which offers bird-eye views of the waterfalls as well as a rotating restaurant! The evening is especially wonderful, as the falls are beautifully lit -- a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the Canadian side, you'll find Canada's largest free lights festival, the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights. It usually runs from early November through Christmas and can be enjoyed from the comfort of your car.

Bonus: Niagara Falls consists of a collection of three falls: the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the iconic Horseshoe Falls! Make sure you catch all three during your visit.

Our travel tips: There are two sides to Niagara Falls, the American and Canadian sides. If possible, visit both to get the full Niagara Falls experience!

READ MORE - Road Trip from Minneapolis to Niagara Falls

14. Yellowstone National Park, WY

14 hours and 30 minutes from Minneapolis (1,010 miles)

Why you should visit: This road trip is truly special, taking you to Yellowstone National Park, one of the most celebrated protected spaces in the US. It's a unique opportunity to discover this wonderful park when it's covered by a beautiful layer of white snow, and when the crowds are fewer.

Visit Yellowstone National Park if you're looking for the ultimate natural experience, including jaw-dropping geysers as well as hot springs and snowy canyons.

Aerial view of Grand prismatic spring in Yellowstone National Park in Winter
The geysers in Yellowstone National Park are jaw-droppingly beautiful when the winter weather arrives. Marvel at the views as you take one of the many forest trails in the snowfall.

How to get there: To get to beautiful Yellowstone National Park, start with an exit from Minneapolis via I-94 W. Follow this interstate until you get to Yellowstone County, then take exit 434. From there, hop onto the US-310 E, then take the YS-20 W to Yellowstone National Park.

Our highlights: It is very important to note that you can only travel to certain parts of the national park by snow coach or snowmobile during winter, so you will need to park your car and use the North Entrance and travel via over-snow travel; what an epic adventure!

The Grand Prismatic Spring is a must-see if you're going to be visiting Yellowstone National Park, as it's the largest of its kind in the USA. Keep an eye out for the unique colors of the water in this spring which make it such a celebrated attraction!

Discover Old Faithful, a celebrated geyser which erupts every 90 minutes or so. We recommend grabbing some lunch and sticking around near this attraction until it erupts, as it can sometimes be a little inconsistent with its eruption times.

Take a hike from Old Faithful to the Morning Glory Pool, a somewhat smaller version of the Grand Prismatic Spring that still offers a stunning and relaxing experience, steaming up with extra gusto during the winter months.

Yellowstone Canyon is stunning regardless of where you head to view it, though we highly recommend checking out Artist Point for some beautiful views. This point is easily accessible via the South Rim Drive!

Bonus: Though Old Faithful may be the most famous geyser in this park, it's certainly not its only one! Yellowstone National Park actually boasts more than 500 active geysers, making up over half of the world's total geysers.

Our travel tips: Make sure to check the park's website for any closures or warnings that may be in effect before visiting this park as the majority of the roads are closed to cars over the winter months.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Minneapolis to Yellowstone National Park

15. New York City, NY

Via Bernville and Bethlehem, PA

18 hours 10 minutes from Minneapolis (1,200 miles)

Why you should visit: This road trip takes you to the iconic, brightly lit streets of New York City and all the way to the East Coast. We challenge you to find an American city as iconic and festive during Christmastime as NYC. Along the way, discover the quaint towns of Bernville and Bethlehem, the latter of which is known as Christmas City!

Visit New York City if you're looking for the ultimate metropolitan holiday experience, including world-renowned entertainment, unrivaled museums and cultural institutions, and a wonderful food scene.

Koziar's Christmas Village light show in Bernville, PA, USA.
Bernville, on the way to the fascinating New York City, takes Christmas lights and decorations very seriously, bringing joy to everyone!

How to get there: Exit Minneapolis via the I-90 E, headed eastbound towards New York. You'll pass Chicago and Cleveland, with short passages along Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, you'll also pass through all of Pennsylvania, continuing the I-80 E until you've reached New York City!

Our highlights: It doesn't get more monumental than the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which boasts a staggering collection of contemporary and historic art, as well as artifacts from all around the world! Escape the NYC cold and explore the many exhibits on offer at this celebrated museum.

Catch the performance of a Christmas show at one of the many theatres on Broadway, or head to the Lincoln Center to catch a breathtaking performance of an opera or a ballet. Holiday favorites include Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Strauss' Die Fledermaus, performed every New Year's Eve.

Explore Hudson Yards, New York City's newest trendy neighborhoods and home to some beautiful structures including the iconic Vessel. Climb up this statue with a buddy or simply enjoy the many wonderful and luxurious stores nearby.

It doesn't get more iconic than Times Square during New Year's Eve, when the brightly lit square gets filled with revelers from around the world waiting to watch the Times Square Ball Drop. This once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list experience is certainly worth the trip alone!

Bonus: Did you know that New York City was originally called New Amsterdam and was a Dutch colony?

Our travel tips: If you're looking for discounted Broadway tickets, we recommend downloading the TKTS app and visiting a TKTS booth, where you'll find tons of last-minute deals.

Ditch the car and discover this city on foot and public transit! Driving through New York is famously a headache, and weekly passes are available to its efficient subway system.

Accommodation options can be expensive in New York closer to the holidays, so book well ahead of time. If you'd like to learn more about the best areas to stay in NYC, here is our detailed guide:

READ MORE - Our Area-by-Area Guide to NYC

We hope we've inspired you to get the most out of the most wonderful time of the year with this list of the 15 Best Winter Road Trips from Minneapolis.

Whether you're looking for a relaxing spa getaway, a winter wonderland adventure or Christmas in the city, we've got you covered. Happy traveling!

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