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  • Minnesota-Dakotas Road Trip Itinerary

Bloomington is a perfect home base for a road trip through Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota’s historic and cultural landmarks. Start and end your trip at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, which offers direct flights to 130+ destinations.

Day 1 | Bloomington, Minnesota
Arrive at the award-winning Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), then pick up your rental car and proceed to your hotel. Bloomington is located adjacent to MSP and is home to over 45 hotels, most of which offer free parking and shuttle to your first destination: Mall of America. Mall of America is one of the largest retail and entertainment complexes in the U.S. and features 520+ stores, along with Nickelodeon Universe®, SEA LIFE at Mall of America, M&M’s Mall of America, and many more attractions. Be sure to check out some of the mall’s popular restaurants, such as Cantina Laredo, Shake Shack, and Twin City Grill. After you’ve had a full day at the mall, unwind at your Bloomington hotel!

Day 2 | Minneapolis and Bloomington, Minnesota
Start your morning off right with breakfast inside Radisson Blu Mall of America’s FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar. Enjoy several different breakfast options, such as eggs benedict, breakfast skillets, and bananas foster French toast. Once you’re finished enjoying breakfast, make your way over to Mall of America’s north lot, where you’ll be picked up for a Gray Line bus tour of the Twin Cities. On this tour you’ll see sights such as Minnehaha Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, downtown Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and so much more!

End your evening by heading back to Bloomington and experiencing Nine Mile Brewing Company. This local brewery offers a fun and welcoming atmosphere, with over a dozen craft beers on tap and tons of entertainment options.
FireLake breakfast Breakfast at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar

Day 3 | Duluth, Minnesota
Begin your day with the 2.5-hour drive to Duluth, one of the most beautiful cities in the Upper Midwest. Upon arriving, enjoy lunch at one of the many options along the shoreline of Lake Superior. Spend your afternoon exploring some of Duluth’s first-rate museums, including the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, the Lake Superior Marine Museum, and the Old Firehouse & Police Museum. Then, spend the evening with Vista Fleet enjoying a dinner cruise on Lake Superior.

Duluth lift bridge v2 Lake Superior Lift Bridge in Duluth (photo credit: Visit Duluth) Day 4 | Duluth, Minnesota
Continue exploring Duluth by getting on Lake Superior; choose between a charter fishing trip, sailing, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding. Spend your afternoon seeing the lake from above with a scenic flight or helicopter tour or enjoy a trip on the historic North Shore Scenic Railroad. You’ll find more than enough exciting activities to fill your day!

Day 5 | Bemidji, Minnesota
This morning you will venture to Bemidji, the alleged birthplace of legendary Paul Bunyan. Grab some barbecue at local favorite C.K. Dudley’s before you spend the afternoon exploring Lake Bemidji, Three Island Lake County Park, and Buena Vista State Forest. Then, enjoy dinner on the lake at Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge.

Day 6 | Fargo, North Dakota
Time for the next stop on your road trip: North Dakota! First, visit the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor Center to learn more about the city and its offerings, but most importantly, to get your picture taken with the woodchipper made famous by the 1996 film Fargo. Then, make your way to the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, where you’ll see a locally built Viking ship that sailed to Norway in 1982 before being permanently housed at the Center. Explore and shop downtown before taking your pick from dozens of dining options on Broadway, such as 46 North Pints & Provisions, Blackbird Wood Fire Pizza, Mezzaluna, NoBull Smokehouse, Pounds, The Boiler Room, and Wurst Bier Hall, to name just a few! Be sure to end the evening with a photo in front of the iconic Fargo Theatre.

Day 7 | Fargo, North Dakota
Kick off your day with a local favorite: The Shack on Broadway, BernBaum’s, Black Coffee and Waffle Bar, or Fryn’ Pan. Then, head out to Bonanzaville, where you’ll take a step back in time with more than 36 buildings that explore the history of the region and the pioneers who shaped the West.

Spend your afternoon at Suite Shots! Give it a swing at this driving range, with electronically tracked golf balls and several different game options. For dinner, try some local favorites, such as Luna, CRAVE or Maxwells.

Day 8 | Bismarck, North Dakota
Before starting your journey to Bismarck, enjoy breakfast at Kroll’s Diner, a historic ’50s-style restaurant. Then it’s time to hit the road – but make a pit stop halfway through your drive in Jamestown to visit Dakota Thunder, the world’s largest buffalo monument, and see a live herd at the National Buffalo Museum! Upon arriving in Bismarck, visit the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum on the North Dakota Capitol campus. This evening, take a cruise on the Lewis & Clark Riverboat, then enjoy dinner at Peacock Alley, Pirogue Grille, Bistro 1100, Laughing Sun Brewing Co., Blarney Stone Pub or The Toasted Frog.
Medora Musical Medora Musical (photo credit: Medora Musical)

Day 9 | Medora, North Dakota
Today you’ll make your way to Medora, home to North Dakota’s only national park: Theodore Roosevelt National Park. On the way, take the time to drive the Enchanted Highway and explore the many massive metal sculptures along the route. You’ll get back onto the interstate in Dickinson, where you’ll want to visit the Badlands Dinosaur Museum and grab a coffee at The Brew Coffee House, located inside the church that Theodore Roosevelt attended when in town. Once you’ve arrived in Medora, begin with a visit to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, then make your way around the loop in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Spend the evening enjoying the Pitchfork Steak Fondue and Medora Musical, local musts.

Day 10 | Rapid City, South Dakota
Your South Dakota adventure begins with a 3.5-hour drive to Rapid City, centrally located for Black Hills attractions. After you arrive in Rapid, visit Bear Country USA, a drive-thru exotic animal park with black bears, elk, bighorn sheep, and more. Next up is the highlight of any trip to western South Dakota: Mount Rushmore! While observing the statue, you can take a self-guided audio tour to learn about the history that surrounds the memorial. There are several dining options to end the day with, including Mount Rushmore’s on-site Carvers’ Café and the unique Powder House Lodge restaurant.

Badlands Badlands National Park (photo credit: Travel South Dakota) Day 11 | Rapid City, South Dakota
Start the day off by taking a trip to Custer State Park, where you can see beautiful landscapes and local wildlife such as burros and buffalo. The park also has plenty of hiking routes to truly immerse yourself in nature. Next up is a jaunt to Crazy Horse Memorial, a still-unfinished monument carved into the side of a mountain that honors Lakota leader Crazy Horse. Finish your last full day in Rapid City by enjoying a meal downtown and checking out the monuments of each American president that are scattered around the area.

Day 12 | Sioux Falls, South Dakota
There are several notable stops to make during the drive to Sioux Falls: Wall Drug (a huge shopping destination that welcomes around two million visitors a year) and Badlands National Park (240,000 acres of rocky terrain and one-of-a-kind views).

Upon arriving in Sioux Falls, go straight to Falls Park, a 123-acre urban oasis with historic points of interest and a waterfall. Take an elevator up to the lookout tower, which allows you to view the whole park at once. At the end of the day, grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants, such as JL Beers and Johnny Carino’s.

Day 13 | Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Start off your second morning in Sioux Falls by heading to the Original Pancake House to grab some pancakes and crepes. Once breakfast is finished, take a walk through the SculptureWalk. This is an exciting exhibit of over 65 sculptures displayed year-round in downtown Sioux Falls. The cornerstone of the SculptureWalk is the Arc of Dreams, which is a stainless-steel arc that spans over the Big Sioux River.

Next, head over to a battleship used in World War II. The USS Battleship South Dakota Memorial draws visitors from all over the world to view artifacts from the ship and its crew members. With its combination of Navy Unit Citation and 13 battle stars, it was the most decorated battleship of World War II.

Day 14 | Minneapolis and Bloomington, Minnesota
Before heading back to the Twin Cities, enjoy breakfast and coffee at Scooter’s Coffee in Sioux Falls. A full afternoon of art and culture awaits you, beginning with a stop at the Walker Art Center, a contemporary art museum. One of Minneapolis’ must-see spots is located adjacent to the Walker in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: the 52-foot Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture. Minneapolis Institute of Art, or MIA, is also located in Minneapolis and features both historic and modern art in its dozens of exhibits. Retire for the evening at one of Bloomington’s hotels, many of which offer on-site dining so you won’t have to venture far. Hazelwood Food & Drink features delicious, Minnesota-style dishes and is located right next to AC Hotel Bloomington Mall of America and Element Bloomington Mall of America.
Paisley Park Dakotas itinerary Paisley Park (photo credit: Leslie Anderson)

Day 15 | Bloomington, Minnesota
Before returning your rental car and flying home, take a quick trip to Prince’s former home, event venue, and recording studio in nearby Chanhassen. Paisley Park is now open to the public for immersive tours that take you behind-the-scenes of how Minnesota’s favorite hometown musician lived and created his iconic music.

If you still need a souvenir to take home, make one last stop at Mall of America before your flight! All clothing and shoes are tax-free here, and with hundreds of options, you’re sure to find something to commemorate your time in the Upper Midwest.