12 Things to Do in St. Cloud, Minnesota

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Emily Johnson


St. Cloud is a vibrant city in central Minnesota, around an hour northwest of Minneapolis. With a population of around 69,000, it is the largest city in the central part of the state and serves as a regional economic and cultural hub. Though not as large as the Twin Cities metro area, St.

Cloud has plenty to see and do for visitors. From museums and historical sites that highlight the region’s history to outdoor recreation along the Mississippi River to a surprising array of cultural offerings, there are activities and attractions to appeal to all interests. This article highlights 12 top things to do in St. Cloud for those looking to explore this underrated city.

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1.Take a Walking Tour of Historic Downtown

Downtown St. Cloud has a number of historical buildings that provide insight into the city’s development over time. The St. Cloud Downtown Council offers entertaining and informative weekend walking tours during the summer that let you explore notable buildings and hear stories about the city’s past.

Some of the stops include the Paramount Theatre, a Baroque revival style building constructed in 1921 that still hosts events and films, the German Renaissance style 1924 First National Bank building, and the 1881 County Courthouse designed by renowned architect A. Marshall & Son.

In addition to the architecture, guides share tales about past businesses, influential figures, and more. Tours run 90 minutes and give a lively overview of how St. Cloud has evolved.

2.Spend an Afternoon at Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens

St. Cloud is home to two beautiful public gardens that make for a lovely oasis within the city. Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens sit along the west bank of the Mississippi River near downtown. Developed starting in the 1930s, the interconnected gardens have meticulously landscaped lawns, flower beds, trees, and winding paths perfect for strolling on a nice day.

Some of the highlights include tulips and daffodils blooming in spring, rose and iris gardens, stunning displays of annuals and perennials during summer, and unique light displays during the winter holiday season.

Visitors will also find gazebos, stone paths and walls, and scores of benches for sitting and admiring the natural beauty. The gardens cover 70 acres total and make for a peaceful break from city sights.

3.Learn Local History at the Stearns History Museum

To delve further into the history and heritage of not just St. Cloud but the entire central Minnesota region, spend some time at the Stearns History Museum downtown. This museum occupies a historic Art Deco armory building constructed during the New Deal.

Exhibits provide an in-depth look at various aspects of the region’s history from Native American archaeology and fur trading days to pioneer settlers, prominent industries like granite quarrying and logging, developments in transportation over time such as railroad expansion, and more niche topics like prohibition and the Cold War era.

Interpretive displays with a range of artifacts and images showcase different time periods while special rotating exhibits highlight unique stories. The museum also offers regular lectures, events, and student education programs.

4.Shop and Dine on St. Germain Street

St. Cloud’s main thoroughfare, St. Germain Street downtown, is home to boutiques, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops that make for great browsing, window shopping, or a meal out. Some favorite stores include Blue Line Sports for gear and apparel, Basics Natural Foods for specialty groceries and wellness products, and Lemon Drop Consignment offering stylish secondhand women’s clothing.

Popular dining spots include Val’s Rapid Service for classic burgers and fries since 1934, Mexican restaurant Las Palmas, cozy café The Local Blend, upscale eatery Bravo Burritos, and the Pickled Loon craft brewery. Many businesses are locally owned.

With compact blocks, St. Germain Street makes it easy to park and walk around visiting several places. The dining and shopping district provides visitors with a good taste of local St. Cloud flavors.

5.View Wildlife at the 70-Acre Quarry Park and Nature Preserve

Located only minutes from downtown, Quarry Park and Nature Preserve offers gorgeous scenery and plenty of recreational opportunities across diverse landscapes. As its name suggests, part of the park used to operate as a granite quarry and features rocky cliffs, excavation pits, and tunnels.

Woodlands, prairie, wetlands, and Fen areas make up other sections and provide habitat for wildlife. Hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult loop around and explore the park. An interpretive center also has exhibits explaining the site’s ecology and history mining granite.

Keep an eye out for birds, turtles, deer, beavers and more when walking through Quarry Park. The park offers accessible recreation close to the urban center.

6.See a Show or Exhibit at the Paramount Theatre and Visual Arts Center

When it comes to culture and the arts in St. Cloud, two major institutions anchor the scene. The prominent Paramount Theatre first opened in 1921 and today hosts all kinds of performances from concerts to theater, comedy acts to dance recitals, and even films.

Designed in an elaborate Baroque architectural style, the recently renovated theater is almost as impressive as the programming. Meanwhile, next door the Visual Arts Center serves as a hub for classes, artist talks, rotating exhibits of regional artists’ work across media, and events like art crawls or trivia nights. Together, the two organizations provide opportunities almost daily to experience St.

Cloud’s lively creative community. By attending a play, concert, festival, or museum exhibit, you can tap into the cultural pulse.

7.Play a Round of Golf on Classic Central Minnesota Courses

With its location in the lake-dotted landscapes just outside the farmlands to the west, the St. Cloud area lays claim to several well-regarded golf courses that make for scenic places to play around. Wapicada Golf Club prides itself on having the oldest golf course in the region, designed in 1924 with updates over time.

The challenging layout takes golfers through tall trees and past wetlands, with striking rock outcroppings adding character. Meanwhile, Rich-Spring Golf Course offers 36 full-length holes focused on traditional Scottish links-style architecture for more of an old-world golfing test.

Other area public courses like Angushire Golf Club or Blackberry Ridge Golf Course similarly take advantage of the rolling wooded countryside. Bring your clubs if you want to sneak in some late spring or summer golf.

8.Cheer on the St. Cloud Rox Baseball Team

Since 2012, the St. Cloud Rox have brought collegiate summer league baseball to town for sports fans to enjoy. The team plays at Joe Faber Field on the campus of St. Cloud State University. Players hail from top college programs around the country.

With competitive baseball at an accessible price, catching a Rox game has become a popular outing. The small ballpark means no bad seats. Fans can enjoy the game up close while kids chase fly balls on the grassy berm.

With good community support, the Rox routinely finish near the top of their Northwoods League division. If you’re visiting between May and August, be sure to check the schedule during your stay for America’s pastime in St. Cloud.

9.Paddle Down the Mississippi River

As one of Minnesota’s most prominent waterways, the Upper Mississippi River flows right past the city of St. Cloud offering paddling opportunities. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard to traverse this section of the river on your own.

Multiple warm-season outfitters like Volcano Outdoor Rentals, Wapicada Aqua Services or Outdoor Endeavors offer hourly and daily rates for hitting the water. Those new to paddling might consider an easy downstream outing with current assistance.

Or challenge yourself paddling north a few miles toward Sartell. Floating down the wide Mississippi River lets you see St. Cloud from a unique angle as well as unplug and enjoy the solitude a few minutes outside downtown.

10.Explore the Quaint European River Town Theme at Heritage Park

Right along the Mississippi River near Munsinger and Clemens Gardens, Heritage Park brings Old World European charm to its design. The park layout follows a traditional German village format, meant to honor the strong heritage of German immigrants who originally settled St.

Cloud starting in the mid-1800s. Intricately detailed buildings like the Bavarian House, Amsterdam Exchange, and Oslo House reflect distinctive architectural styles from European cities and regions. Wandering through the small village transports you across the Atlantic for a moment.

Other buildings house museums about the Mississippi River and central Minnesota history. Especially during festivals like the city’s Winter Nights and Summer Days, Heritage Park becomes enlivened as a community gathering place. Don’t miss this unique park paying homage to St. Cloud’s roots.

11.See Rare Species at the Local County Zoo

Although not as expansive as the renowned Minnesota Zoo down in Apple Valley, the Lake George Conservation Area and Zoo near St. Cloud offers animal encounters in a pretty outdoor setting.

As Stearns County’s free zoo and recreation space overlooking Lake George, families appreciate the trails, play areas and wildlife exhibits perfect for short visits.

The zoo focuses specifically on species native to Minnesota, with animals like gray wolves, black bears, cougars, bobcats, river otters, bison and more showcased in natural enclosures. Birds of prey like hawks, eagles and owls also inhabit the small zoo.

Special events and programs run through the year as well. While not overwhelming in scale, the zoo makes for nice famil`y outing during a St. Cloud stay.

12.Snap Photos at Beaver Island Trail’s Iconic Beaver Lodge

Spanning St. Cloud suburbs to the south, the Beaver Island Trail provides locals over 15 miles of scenic pedestrian and bicycle recreation via a former railroad corridor turned rail trail. All along the path, interpretive signs highlight natural features and wildlife habitat native to central Minnesota.

Perhaps the most iconic landmark of the trail is the giant Beaver Lodge sculpture installed along the wooded path as an ode both to the beaver in the trail’s name as well as the area’s many fur trading posts dating back centuries.

The impressive lodge structure looks like an oversized beaver dam and makes for popular photos. Visitors to St. Cloud aiming to walk or bike a flat, paved trail surrounded by nature need to hit this area multi-use trail and playful work of public art.

Conclusion

While it tends to fly under the radar compared to Minneapolis’ attractions a bit south, St. Cloud offers plentiful options for visitors when it comes to history, cultural sites, outdoor recreation, family activities, sports and more.

Historic downtowns architecture and stories combine with natural scenery along the Mississippi River to showcase the city’s heritage and natural assets. Locally owned shops and eateries bring authentic flair as well.

For both city-based sightseeing and outdoor experiences in central Minnesota’s lake country just beyond town, this list gives a sample of top things to do in St. Cloud to fill a weekend itinerary or longer stay.

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