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Four sail boats on Lake Calhoun, Minnesota© July FlowerFour sail boats on Lake Calhoun, Minnesota
© July Flower
Ironically for a state with fabulous wilderness areas and more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesota is perhaps best known for a shopping centre: the Mall of America in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul. With more than 520 stores, a huge indoor amusement park and a walk-through aquarium, the Mall of America is one of the largest retail complexes in the world.

However, the Twin Cities are also known for live theatre and great museums, such as the Minnesota Children's Museum and the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Sports fans can choose from pro hockey, basketball, baseball and football games. Try the Warehouse District in Minneapolis or Lowertown in St. Paul for dining and nightlife. Just south of the city, the Minnesota Zoo draws families with its collection of more than 2000 animals, from ladybugs to tigers.

Minnesota has inspired its fair share of iconic American writers. Garrison Keillor's fictional Lake Wobegon is set in the state. Author Sinclair Lewis grew up in the small town of Sauk Center, which he recast as stodgy Gopher Prairie in his 1920 novel Main Street, much to the locals' horror. Today, all appears forgiven, and you can visit his boyhood home. In Walnut Grove, meanwhile, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Information Center focuses on the life of the author of the Little House on the Prairie books, who spent part of her childhood here.

Looking to delve into a special interest? You can tour the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester or visit the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth.

The flower room at Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota© Steven PeaseThe flower room at Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota
© Steven Pease
Minnesota's northern border with Canada is dotted with lakes—supposedly created by mythical Paul Bunyan—and much of the area is protected. Paddlers enjoy glorious landscapes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, while Voyageurs National Park offers countless opportunities for boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, camping, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

by Laura Byrne Paquet

Stock Photos from 123RF

Stock Photos from 123RF