The Minnesota state flag is blowing in the wind at the top of a flagpole in front of a clear, blue sky. The flag is blue with a gold-lined circle in the middle holding the state seal.

Fall in Love with One of the Best Small Towns in Minnesota

Small Towns Minnesota

by Matt Lyons Posted on June 26, 2023

If you’re considering a move to the Gopher State, you’re not alone. People have been flocking to Minnesota for its job opportunities, welcoming residents, amenities, and the abundance of stunning green spaces. 

Minnesota shares a border with Canada and touches Lake Superior, while also providing access to over 10,000 other lakes you can enjoy. So if you’re inspired by natural beauty or someone who wants to start an outdoor hobby, Minnesota is the place for you! It’s no wonder so many people choose the state as their home.

But you don’t have to settle down in a larger city to experience what makes Minnesota so great. Whether you’re looking to start a family or slow down during retirement, Minnesota’s abundance of safe, welcoming communities and areas near the Twin Cities and other metropolitan areas gives everyone plenty of options to choose from. In fact, both Minneapolis and St. Paul continue to see people leave to find more space in smaller towns. Want to check out some of these best small towns in Minnesota? Here are 12 of our favorites.

Large Minnesota Cities vs. Small Towns in Minnesota

Spurred on by the pandemic and the shift to working from home, in 2020 and 2021, larger cities saw people looking for more space and affordable housing — something that smaller towns have plenty of. While the state’s big cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and St. Cloud have lots of economic opportunities, sports teams, cultural amenities, and fantastic dining scenes, small Minnesota towns have a lot to offer residents, as well:

  • Unparalleled access to lakes, rivers, forests, and more
  • A tight-knit community that cares about residents
  • Fun, local events you can attend
  • Lower crime rates
  • More affordable housing options
  • More space for what you pay for
  • Less traffic and congestion
  • Small Towns in Minnesota - FAQs

    Q: Is Minnesota a good place to raise a family?
    A: Yes, Minnesota is a great place to raise a family, and there are lots of small towns that are very family-friendly, like Medina and Shorewood.

    Q: What is the most remote place to live in Minnesota?
    A: Angle Inlet is one of the most remote places to live in Minnesota, but it still has its own Post Office!

    Q: What is the wealthiest community in Minnesota?
    A: Orono is the wealthiest community in Minnesota, followed closely by Medina. Both are reasonably close to Minneapolis, but Medina has a 30-minute commute and offers a small-town charm capable of giving any resident the best of both worlds.

    The Best Small Towns to Live in Minnesota

    Now, in no particular order, here are a few of the best small towns in Minnesota. While the U.S. Census states that a small town can have up to 5,000 people, our list includes towns with up to 15,000 people. 

    An aerial view of a scenic harbor in Lake City, Minnesota, in the fall.

    1. Lake City, MN

  • Average rent (one bedroom): N/A
  • Average home value: $293,300
  • Great for: Retirees, safety, families, outdoor activities
  • Lake City is a great place for retirees. In fact, Niche ranked it #2 in “Best Places to Retire in Minnesota.” This charming small town is located on both Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River, and it’s only about 1.5 hours from Minneapolis. 

    From the quaint downtown streets full of small businesses to easy water access, finding a new hobby once you move has never been easier. Boating, waterskiing, sailing, and paddle boating are all popular water sports residents participate in. If you’d rather stay dry, though, you can head into the woods and spend some time hiking and biking one of the town’s many trails. And if you need another option, you can head over to one of the golf courses.

    When you’ve had enough fun, be sure to stop into Salt and Pepper or Big Bear Pizzeria and Deli to fill up!

    2. Grand Rapids, MN

  • Average rent (one bedroom): $800
  • Average home value: $230,300
  • Great for: Families, cost of living, outdoor activities
  • This beautiful Minnesota lake town is just three hours north of Minneapolis. Also known as the Minnesota Northwoods, it’s full of all kinds of natural wonders to experience. 

    The Mesabi Trail starts here, providing a great opportunity to get out and walk, jog, or bike with friends and family while you marvel at the local flora and fauna. Even during the cold Minnesota winters, residents enjoy the outdoors, either ice fishing, skating, or cross-country skiing. 

    Grand Rapids is also the birthplace of Hollywood star Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz fame. You can even explore a museum dedicated to this talented actor and singer! When you need a little refreshment, stop by the Rapids Brewing Company for a bite or a brew.

    3. Nisswa, MN

  • Average rent (one bedroom): N/A
  • Average home value: $473,000
  • Great for: Affordable housing, safety, families
  • Nisswa is a picturesque small Minnesota town located in the central part of the state. Here, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most beautiful lake views in Minnesota! One of the most popular lakes is Gull Lake, as it offers all kinds of opportunities for boating, swimming, and even waterskiing. Nisswa Lake Park is also a great place to enjoy hiking and biking trails, as is the popular Paul Bunyan State Trail.

    While this town may be small, there always seem to be fun activities, no matter what time of year it is. From the Turtle Races in the summer to the City of Lights in the winter, residents enjoy lots of chances to meet their neighbors and get involved. Be sure to stop into one of the many local shops, or sit back and relax on the lake at Ernie’s on Gull or Northwoods Pub!

    4. Excelsior, MN

  • Average rent (one bedroom): $1,125
  • Average home value: $764,800
  • Great for: Schools, families, outdoor activities
  • This small Minnesota town is great for families. The local Minnetonka Public School District is very highly regarded, and there are plenty of opportunities for kids to get involved with sports or activities at school. 

    Excelsior is situated right on Lower Lake, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to dine out and enjoy the lake views. And whether you want to get out on the water or just hang out at the beach, you’ll also have easy access to all kinds of water activities, including climbing aboard the famous Minnehaha Steamboat for a tour of the lake!

    There are also lots of concerts in the Commons during the warmer months and plenty of places to enjoy some local fare, such as Excelsior Brewing Co. and Lago Tacos.

    5. Ely, MN

  • Average rent (one bedroom): N/A
  • Average home value: $223,300
  • Great for: Cost of living, entertainment, outdoor activities
  • If you’re a nature lover, you’re going to love the small town of Ely. It’s located in the Vermilion Iron Range and is known as the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. You’ll have opportunities to take canoe trips that will let you experience the full beauty of the area, including sights of the aurora borealis! You’ll also have easy access to places like the Trezona Trail or Bear Head Lake State Park, perfect for taking a hike or a bike ride.

    This little community is very supportive, and residents enjoy knowing their neighbors. In addition to spending time outdoors, you can also check out what’s brewing at Britton’s Cafe, or stop for a pint at Boathouse Brewpub and Restaurant!

    6. Waconia, MN

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): $1,050
  • Average home value: $443,400
  • Great for: Public schools, families, jobs, commute
  • Located about an hour from the Twin Cities is the quaint town of Waconia. If you’ve been dreaming of a slower pace of life but still want semi-easy access to a larger city, this is the town for you. The community prides itself on being a welcoming, tight-knit group, with lots of activities available to residents. This area is located on the shores of Lake Waconia and is considered a great place for all kinds of people, with plenty of affordable housing, whether you’re raising a family, have a job in the city, or are retired. 

    Stroll through City Square Park when you’re done exploring the small shops and cafes in the downtown area (like the Waconia Saloon or Pangea Cafe), or go for a walk along the water’s edge with friends and family — you won’t be disappointed!  

    A scenic lakeside view of the harbor in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

    7. Grand Marais, MN

  • Average rent (one bedroom): N/A
  • Average home value: $346,600
  • Great for: Outdoor activities, commute, families
  • One of the best lake towns in Minnesota is Grand Marais, which means “big marsh” in French. You’ll have unparalleled access to expansive Lake Superior, which is a big draw for visitors and residents alike. The largest of the Great Lakes will offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water, whether you’re on a boat, a paddleboard, or even if you just want to go for a swim. While there’s lots of fun to be had on the lake and in the surrounding Superior National Forest, you’ll be pleased to know the adventure continues in the winter. Ice fishing and cross-country skiing are very popular winter activities, and they’re sure to give you whole new vistas of snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes to enjoy!

    This little spot is also a regional arts and crafts hub, so if you enjoy arts festivals, make sure you check them out in the warmer months.

    8. New Ulm, MN

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): $700
  • Average home value: $213,200
  • Great for: Commute, affordable housing, public schools, jobs
  • This quiet small town is accompanied by distinct German heritage. Settled by German immigrants in the 1850s, this area is proud of its Bavarian heritage and features German eateries, festivals, architecture, and even a working Glockenspiel near Johnson Park. And like most small towns in Minnesota, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the wide-open natural spaces of this state, like in Flandrau State Park. And guess what? It’s also only a little more than 90 minutes from the Twin Cities.

    9. Lindstrom, MN

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): N/A
  • Average home value: $373,300
  • Great for: Jobs, families, housing, cost of living
  • Lindstrom is known as “America’s Little Sweden” due to the Swedish settlers from the 1800s. Even the shops and eateries have signs in Swedish! Here, you’ll enjoy a lot of Swedish heritage festivals, like Karl Oskar Days, with parades, food, dancing, and fun for the whole family.

    Located amongst a patchwork of lakes, it’s easy to find a lakefront trail or a restaurant to enjoy the view. Most locals like to check out Ki-Chi-Saga County Park or Allemansratt Park and then grab a bite to eat at the Swedish Inn or something sweet at Lindstrom Bakery.

    View from the backyard of a large, residential home in Shorewood, Minnesota.

    10. Shorewood, MN

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): $1,125
  • Average home value: $723,800
  • Great for: Public schools, families, outdoor activities
  • Another fantastic small town to raise a family is Shorewood, which is close to both Minneapolis and the charming town of Excelsior. This spot is located right on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, where it’s easy to get out on the lake via boat or go for a swim at Crescent Beach

    Residents of Shorewood enjoy miles of trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding lakes, as well as forested areas perfect for bike rides with the kids. Make sure to stop into Hazelwood Food and Drink or Joey Nova’s Pizzeria Delicatessen for some local fare!

    11. Biwabik, MN

  • Average rent (one-bedroom): N/A
  • Average home value: $104,000
  • Great for: Cost of living, affordable housing, families
  • This small town is perfect for those looking to spend time in nature during all four seasons. In the winter, skiers take to the trails and flock to nearby Giants Ridge Ski Resort (one of the best in Minnesota). In the warmer months, residents enjoy access to the Mesabi Trail and explore the Superior National Forest. There’s even a large Fourth of July festival to look forward to each summer!

    12. Medina, MN

  • Median rent (all sizes): $2,650
  • Average home value: $812,700
  • Great for: Schools, families, safety, jobs
  • Medina has been ranked the “#1 Best Place to Raise a Family in Minnesota” by Niche. The public schools in the area are well regarded, receiving an A+ grade on Niche, as well.

    Living in Medina means you’re close enough to the Twin Cities for commuting, but you’re also far enough away to enjoy a small-town community feeling. The town is well kept, and there are plenty of parks, trails, and lakes for the whole family to enjoy. Whether it’s playing with the kids in the Baker Park Reserve or hitting the links on the Baker National Golf Course, you’ll enjoy the scenic beauty all around you in Medina. 

    A happy family of four is gathered by the door of their loaded PODS moving container.

    Let PODS Help You Move to a Wonderful Small Town in Minnesota

    When you’ve decided on one of the best towns to live in Minnesota, let PODS help you get there! You’ll get a portable storage container delivered to your current address, so you can fill it up on your schedule. Then, PODS will pick it up and take it to your new Minnesota town. You can choose to unpack then or store it in a secure PODS Storage Center until you’re ready. You’ll never feel rushed when you move with PODS.

    Editor’s note: Monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100 for ease of reading.
    Get a Quote

    Choose the service you need


    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Comment * Comments are required.
    Name * Name is required.Name can't be more than 50 character.
    Email * Valid Email address is required.

    Reply to

    X Cancel Reply
    Comment * Comments are required.
    Name * Name is required.Name can't be more than 50 character.
    Email * Valid Email address is required.
    An error has occurred please try again later