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11 Top-Rated Things to Do in St. Cloud, MN

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Aug 18, 2021

Perched along both the Mississippi and Sauk Rivers, St. Cloud, Minnesota is one of the most nature-immersed cities in the state. And its residents love it because of that. No matter the season, you'll find residents and visitors to St. Cloud out and about enjoying the numerous parks, gardens, walking paths, and activity along the rivers, as being outside is one of the best things to do in St. Cloud.

But St. Cloud is so much more than an outdoor lover's paradise. It is also a center of history, culture, and the arts – from the beautiful stained glass at St. John's University to the performances at the Paramount Theater and the floral displays at the Munsinger Gardens.

The area that is St. Cloud was settled by Europeans in 1851, but it was actually inhabited for thousands of years by various Native American tribes. By the early 20th century, St. Cloud became a regular stop for steamboats as part of the fur trade. While the fur trade dried up, St. Cloud was, and remains, a major player in the granite mining industry. That's why the city has the nickname, "Granite City."

St. Cloud loves its sports, too. In fact, the local college team, The Huskies, is one of the top college hockey teams in the country. You can also catch a game from the local baseball team, the St. Cloud Rox, at Joe Faber Field.

But circling back to nature – St. Cloud is packed with it. It has 30 undeveloped river islands that make up a stretch of wild riverfront and become popular places to visit for kayaking and canoeing. The local Quarry Park & Nature Preserve has more than 680 acres of wildlife to explore.

No matter the time of year, St. Cloud always has something cooking. Take a look here to discover the best things to do in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Visit Munsinger and Clemens Gardens

Munsinger and Clemens Gardens
Munsinger and Clemens Gardens | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

For a lovely 14 acres along the Mississippi River, St. Cloud is home to the Munsinger and Clemens Gardens, which date back to the 1930s and were actually part of the United States' post-Depression Works Progress Administration.

Today the 14 acres is one of the most beloved spots in St. Cloud, MN for nature lovers, as it features a Perennial Garden, a Virginia Clemens Rose Garden, and a calendar of events. The rose garden actually has more than 1,100 different kinds of roses, while the Perennial Garden has a replica of a cast iron pre-Civil War fountain.

If you happen to be in town on a Sunday, stop by the gardens for the Music in the Gardens concert series, which is always popular on a warm and sunny afternoon.

Address: 1515 Riverside Drive SE, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.munsingerclemens.com/

2. Walk the Beaver Island Trail

Beaver Island Trail
Beaver Island Trail | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Stretching for five miles along the Mississippi River, the Beaver Island Trail is a 5.1-mile paved path that runs from St. Cloud State University to River Bluffs Regional Park. Along the way, visitors are treated to beautiful views of the river, as well as the deep forest that surrounds the city of St. Cloud.

Along the Beaver Island Trail, you'll come across the St. Cloud Riverwalk, another top thing to do in St. Cloud. The riverwalk is about half a mile near the River's Edge Convention Center.

The path of the trail follows an old rail route that once belonged to the Minneapolis and Northwestern Railway Company. The trail takes its name, "Beaver Island," because of the 20 islands located along the way that had beaver dams on them.

Today you'll find bikers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and cross-country skiers, all who come during various points of the year to take in the seasonal beauty along the Mississippi.

3. Explore Stearns History Museum

Stearns History Museum
Stearns History Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

What started in 1936 as a small, local historical society has grown to become one of the most important museums in St. Cloud. Today the Stearns History Museum remains the flagship project of the Stearns County Historical Society.

When visiting the museum, patrons will find a blend of indoor and outdoor features. The museum itself sits on 80 acres and is veined with walking trails and bursting with gardens. There is even a skateboard park right out front, which is always buzzing with young boarders.

Inside the museum, visitors will find exhibits exploring both local and global history. Exhibits include the history of the Pan Motor Company, which has its roots in St. Cloud, histories of veterans and refugees, homages to toys we loved as children, and so much more.

Address: 235 South 33rd Ave S, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.stearnshistorymuseum.org/

4. Quarry Park & Nature Preserve

Quarry Park and Nature Preserve
Quarry Park and Nature Preserve | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

With 684 acres, the Quarry Park & Nature Preserve is the largest park in the Stearns County Parks system. What you'll find are sprawling woodlands, prairie, wetlands, and even a quarried bedrock area. It's a peaceful escape from the city streets, not far from downtown, but truly another world away.

Within the park, visitors can stop by the granite reflecting pools or swim in both of the quarries. The preserve has mountain biking paths, spots for fishing, hiking trails, rock climbing, cross-country ski trails, and even an area to practice scuba diving.

Walk among the quaking aspen trees and keep an eye out for other flora, like yellow lady slippers and prickly pear cacti. For a look back at the mining history of the area, visit the Liberty Derrick, which was used to load granite back when the quarries were still active. An audio tour is available for those who want to do a walking tour.

Address: 1802 Co Rd 137, Waite Park, Minnesota

5. Catch a Game at Joe Faber Field

St. Cloud's Municipal Athletic Complex has five different sections: two baseball fields, two ice areas, and a Par 30 golf course. The Joe Faber Field is the second stadium to open, which it did in 1998.

The stadium is north of the Dick Putz field, which opened in 1971 for baseball. Between the two fields, the complex hosts more than 35 games each summer for the St. Cloud Rox team. It has seating for more than 2,000 people, as well as concession stands, dining areas, and private group seating.

The stadiums are also used by the teams at St. Cloud State University. Both stadiums are only 200 feet apart from each other, as well.

If you're traveling with kids under the age of four, their admission is free. Children under 14 can run the bases after every Sunday home game.

Address: 5001 Veterans Drive, St. Cloud, Minnesota

6. See a Performance Downtown

The Paramount Center for the Arts
The Paramount Center for the Arts | Michael Hicks / photo modified

The Paramount Center for the Arts recently celebrated its 100th anniversary being a part of the community. For the past century, the theater has been a centerpiece of the St. Cloud arts scene.

Originally opened as the 1,700-seat Sherman Theatre, but after a $30,000 renovation in 1930, it changed its name to the Paramount after the Paramount Theatre in New York City.

Today the visual and performing arts center sits in the historic downtown and has a calendar of events, from concerts and theatrical performances to stand-up comedy. The theater also has two public exhibition spaces that host several annual exhibitions. The theater offers public art courses and studio spaces for aspiring artists and professionals.

On a smaller scale than the Paramount – but no less glamorous – Pioneer Place on Fifth is an intimate performing arts venue that dates back to 1913 when it was an Elks Club. You can still see the evidence of its early 20th-century design, from the stone-carved clocks to the historic facade.

As of 1998, the building became a performing arts center that puts on about eight productions per year, as well as a concert series that allows local musicians the opportunity to perform. Look forward to weekly jazz performances, as well as acoustic events, which are held in the theater's smaller Veranda Lounge.

Paramount Center for the Arts

Pioneer Place on Fifth

7. Get Out on the Mississippi River

Mississippi river near St. Cloud
Mississippi river near St. Cloud

Like the other thriving Mississippi river towns in Minnesota, St. Cloud's residents love the opportunity to get out on the water and enjoy all the opportunities it affords.

Whether you're renting a boat or kayak or bringing your own, you'll be in good company with other residents from St. Cloud who are enjoying the summer months out on the Mississippi.

No matter what aquatic activity you choose, St. Cloud has many outfitters available to help you get equipped. CW Outfitting, for example, has everything from kayaks and canoes to fishing gear, and offers paddling classes, river trips, and repairs.

8. Explore Lake George Park

Not far from downtown, Lake George Park is a buzzing center of outdoor activity for St. Cloud residents and tourists. Out on the lake, you'll see everything from kayakers to stand up paddleboards, while on dry land, others are picnicking or enjoying the walking paths and green space.

The summer is the best time to visit Lake George Park, as the air is filled with music during the outdoor concert series. It also becomes the home base for Middletown Market, which assembles local food trucks in one location for some tasty al fresco eats.

Address: 1101 7th Street S, St. Cloud, Minnesota

9. Cheer on the Huskies

Hockey referee dropping the puck
Hockey referee dropping the puck

Hockey is huge in Minnesota, and in St. Cloud, especially, as the city is home to the Saint Cloud State Huskies. Both the women's and men's teams host teams from around the country at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

The men's team has been one of the best-ranked teams in the country in the past couple of seasons. In fact, many players have gone on to play in the NHL. If you're a sports fan, catching a Huskies' game is an exciting way to spend your time in St. Cloud.

10. Drink in the History at St. John's University

Saint John's Abbey Church
Saint John's Abbey Church | Sharon Mollerus / photo modified

Not far from St. Cloud, in Collegeville, sits one of the largest stained-glass window installations in the world at Saint John's University. The stained-glass panels can be found at Saint John's Abbey Church on campus. The stained glass is 65 feet tall and nearly 200 feet wide.

The abbey is also home to a bell tower, which soars at more than 100 feet tall.

As you leave the church, make your way toward the Saint John's Bible Gallery. It's home to the Saint John's Bible, which was created by calligrapher Donald Jackson who, in 1998, wanted to create a hand-illuminated and handwritten bible. It was called the "Bible Project," and today it is on display at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.

Address: 2850 Abbey Plaza, Collegeville, Minnesota

11. Visit St. Mary's Cathedral

You don't have to belong to any religious denomination in order to appreciate the beauty of the Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud. The parish was founded in 1855 and a combination church and school was erected. By 1864, a Gothic-style church was built, but in 1920, it burned to the ground.

The current church was designed and constructed shortly after and was completed in the 1930s in a style similar to a basilica in Ravenna, Italy. A renovation happed in 1980, and the pipe organ was installed in 1984.

Inside the church is something called the Shrine of Saint Cloud, which includes several relics that relate to the history of the city, like a bone fragment from Saint Cloud himself (allegedly), a piece of his clothing, and a replica of a 17th-century statue of the saint.

Address: 25 8th Ave S, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.stmarystcloud.org/

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