12 Things to Do in Burnsville, Minnesota

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Burnsville is a vibrant suburban city located just 15 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Dakota County, Minnesota. With a population of over 60,000 residents, Burnsville offers visitors and residents alike plenty of things to see and do all year round.

From its early beginnings as an agricultural area to the thriving and diverse community it is today, Burnsville prides itself on maintaining a small-town atmosphere while offering amenities of a big city. The city has over 20 parks, more than 80 miles of trails, two scenic golf courses, and access to shopping centers, restaurants and entertainment venues that appeal to all ages and interests.

Whether you’re planning a day trip or weekend getaway, consider adding these 12 things to your Burnsville itinerary:

1. Explore Minnesota Zoo

Spanning over 485 acres, the renowned Minnesota Zoo is one of Burnsville’s most popular attractions. Home to over 4,300 animals, visitors of all ages enjoy getting to view exotic wildlife from around the world without leaving Minnesota.

Popular exhibits include the Tropics Trail showcasing species ranging from gorillas to gibbons in carefully constructed habitats. The Discovery Bay highlights aquatic life and offers opportunities to feed stingrays and sharks. Thousands of tropical birds native to Africa and Asia can be spotted at the Bird Show dome. Special events and demonstrations run daily at the Wells Fargo Family Farm area.

With indoor and outdoor viewing areas, the zoo offers something intriguing regardless of the season. Be sure to allot several hours to cover all the various exhibits across this extensive zoo.

2. Shop at Burnsville Center

As the largest shopping mall in Dakota County, Burnsville Center is a must-visit attraction for shopping enthusiasts. Spanning over 1 million square feet, this four-story mall is anchored by prestigious department stores like Macy’s, JCPenney and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

In between you’ll find a diverse mix of over 130 specialty stores and restaurants catering to all visitors. Popular stores include H&M, Express, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, Buckle and Zumiez. Hungry shoppers have no shortage of dining options from national chains like Chipotle and Panera Bread to local eateries sprinkled throughout the corridors.

The mall also houses a salon and spa facility, movie theater complex and large play area to keep young kids entertained. Burnsville Center is the perfect place to find everything you need all under one conveniently accessible roof.

3. Relax at Crystal Lake Beach

When warm weather beckons, outdoor enthusiasts make a beeline for Crystal Lake Beach for a fun summer outing. Located on the shores of Crystal Lake, one of Burnsville’s most scenic lakes, this beach facility is very family-friendly.

Kids will love the large sand beach with adjoining wading pool. Playground equipment like slides and swings caters to young children while volleyball courts offer fun for older kids and adults. Picnic tables situated in shaded pavilions provide the perfect spot for lunch while soaking up lake views.

Crystal Lake Beach is part of Alimagnet Park which connects to an extensive trail network in Burnsville. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards from the boat house for enjoyment on the lake as well. With convenient parking and easy lake access, Crystal Lake Beach should be on your list of things to do in Burnsville.

4. Golf at One of Two Championship Courses

While Minnesota isn’t necessarily widely acclaimed as a golf destination, Burnsville offers two highly rated championship courses for enthusiasts visiting the area. Both courses offer convenient access right off Interstate 35.

The prestigiously ranked Edinburgh USA Golf Course is a parkland-style course featuring bent grass greens and gently rolling terrain carved out of hardwood forests. Designed by acclaimed golf course architect Richard Mandell, the layout incorporates challenges like pot bunkers and water hazards across 18 holes stretched out over 7000 yards.

Just two miles south lies Stonebrooke Golf Club situated along the Minnesota River Valley. This newer course designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer is reminiscent of traditional links-style courses in Scotland complete with pot bunkers, gorse bushes and undulating multi-tiered greens. Separate sets of tees allow for play across 18 holes spanning nearly 7500 yards.

Both championship courses offer amenities like driving ranges, club rentals and full-service pro shops. Experienced players will relish conquering the demanding layouts while beginners can hone techniques surrounded by beautiful vistas.

5. Hike or Bike on Regional Trails

Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in Burnsville’s extensive network of paved, multi-use regional trails perfect for hiking, jogging or leisurely biking. Spanning over 55 miles in total, these well-maintained paths of varying difficulty levels wind through scenic wooded and prairie landscapes past lakes, wetlands and along the Minnesota River.

Popular paved trails include the Minnesota River Greenway Trail offering over 12 miles of pathways with access points at Cliff Fen Park and City Hall. The Black Dog Trail forms a 12-mile loop encircling Lac Lavon Lake complete with hilly climbs and peaceful prairie views while the Marthaler Trail traverses over 8 miles through mixed terrain landscapes.

Many trailheads offer parking lots and restroom facilities for convenience. Visitors can access free trail maps online or pick up copies at the Burnsville Visitor Information Center. Local outfitters like Erik’s Bike Board and Ski Shop rent out bikes for reasonable daily or weekly rates too.

6. See Wildlife at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Nature lovers relish opportunities to spot wildlife native to Minnesota by exploring the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge situated on over 14,000 acres in Bloomington and Burnsville. Established to protect critical habitat for migratory birds, visitors delight in catching sight of over 200 species that utilize this refuge.

Well-situated observation platforms along the trail network increase chances to view songbirds, raptors, waterfowl like swans and mallard ducks as well as larger wildlife like white-tailed deer and coyotes. Interpretive educational displays provide background on the native inhabitants of the mixed habitats encompassing wetlands, prairie and oak savanna areas.

Marked hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels cater to every ability range. Be sure to traverse the photography blind offering camouflaged views and the sensory garden designed for the visually impaired to experience nature through touch, smell and sound.

7. Cheer on Minnesota Sports Teams

As the “City of Sports”, Burnsville not only hosts recreational outlets but also premier venues for spectators to cheer on professional and college sports teams based in the Twin Cities region.

Hockey fans can catch the Minnesota Wild practicing on their home ice at TRIA Rink, the state-of-the-art official team training facility offering public skating and youth hockey as well. Nearby you’ll find Prairie Center Arena, home to the Minnesota Jumbo Shrimp minor league hockey team offering fast-paced family entertainment from October through April.

Baseball aficionados can take in St. Paul Saints minor league games at the newly opened U.S. Bank Stadium located just 12 miles north. Home to the Minnesota Vikings football team as well, this iconic venue designed by HKS Architects hosts major sporting events like the NCAA Final Four.

No visit is complete without experiencing electrifying sports action with the Minnesota faithful!

8. Learn About Nature at Richardson Nature Center

Families revel in exploring the flora and fauna of Minnesota at the educational Richardson Nature Center, one of the top things to do in Burnsville with kids. Situated adjacent to massive Hyland Lake Park Reserve, this free facility features numerous hands-on exhibits and live animal displays spotlighting plants, mammals, raptors birds, reptiles and amphibians native to the state.

Friendly naturalists impart fascinating facts during live raptor presentations and guide informative nature tours tailored specifically for kids cultivating early appreciation of the outdoors. Miles of trails in every direction allow further exploration through prairie lands and wooded areas within the nature reserve. Picnic grounds, play areas and access to lake beaches offer relaxing downtime for families too.

9. Tour Historic Buck Hill

History buffs will enjoy touring the Buck Hill homestead situated high atop one of the last untouched Kettle and Knob hilltops formed by glaciers within Minnesota River Valley millions of years ago. Settled by Willard Buck in 1853, his initial primitive sod house later evolved into a stately two-story brick farmhouse representing progress and prosperity brought by pioneer families to the rich Minnesota farmland.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, guided tours allow visitors to soak up incredible prairie vistas spanning 35 miles while learning about Dakota tribe heritage and early pioneer farming practices. Special events like antique car shows, plein air painting classes and festivals occur periodically from spring through fall as well. The site can also be rented out as an event venue set against an unbeatably scenic backdrop.

10. Catch a Performance at Ames Center

As the premier performing arts venue within Burnsville, the modern Ames Center conveniently located right off Interstate 35E hosts an incredible lineup of live entertainment appealing to all tastes from October through May. Originally built in the late 1980s as Burnsville High School, a 2014 renovation converted the atrium and auditorium into a state-of-the-art nonsmoking theater venue equipped with premium seating for up to 1,000 persons.

Touring Broadway musicals like “Mamma Mia” and “Jersey Boys” routinely sell out drawing patrons from across the Twin Cities metro. Concert lovers enjoy performances by renowned musical groups like Lady Antebellum and the Beach Boys too. Matinee educational programs aimed at kids cultivating early appreciation of cultural arts represent part of their community outreach initiatives as well.

11. Sample Local Brews

Beer fanatics will love sampling craft brew selections in Burnsville, home to two local brew houses. At Roundhouse Brewery & Restaurant near Burnsville Center Mall, the taproom features 32 rotating specialty brews like Trainwreck IPA and Bear Hug Barley Wine aged in whiskey barrels. Their two-story facility housed in a former railroad repair depot offers seasonal fare and weekly events like trivia and live music as well.

Diners can soak up scenic Minnesota River Valley vistas while tasting signature brews at nearby Main Street Local Kitchen + Craft House. Housed in a restored Victorian railway hotel originally built in 1898, their gastropub menu perfectly pairs with unfiltered draws like the Low Bridge Brown Ale and Crash Test Honey Blonde. Monthly beer dinner specials allow patrons to meet head brewers and learn brewing techniques hands-on too.

12. Stay at an Area Hotel

Burnsville provides easy access off Interstate 35 to numerous hotel options catering to overnight guests seeking functions or local attractions in the Twin Cities region. National brand accommodations like Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn and Suites and Holiday Inn Express offer value-priced rooms with convenient amenities near shopping and entertainment districts.

Thrifty travelers can select from economy options like Microtel Inn by Wyndham and Rodeway Inn. Those desiring more luxury opt for upscale suites at Home2 Suites by Hilton and TownePlace Suites Minneapolis South featuring modern décor, pools and free breakfast. Callaway Gardens Hotel houses an on-site restaurant and indoor waterpark perfect for families too.

With tourist hotspots like Mall of America and downtown Minneapolis less than 30 minutes north, Burnsville offers ideal accommodations sure to please.

Conclusion

Encompassing picturesque parks, scenic trails, premier sports facilities, cultural venues and family-friendly attractions, Burnsville truly offers something for everyone. Excellent lodging options coupled with convenient access make Burnsville an ideal home base while taking in renowned highlights of the Twin Cities region.

Whether planning an action-packed itinerary or relaxed scenic getaway, visitors of all ages are sure to delight in these 12 top things to do in and around Burnsville, Minnesota!

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