In Bemidji, it's all about Bunyan. The northern-Minnesota town was first to create a giant Paul, in 1937, and it's the northern trailhead of the Paul Bunyan State Trail.
See the musical "Young Frankenstein'' at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. Buy a plaid ear-flap hat from Bemidji Woolen Mills. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard at the Outdoor Program Center on the lake.
Events to catch: Aug. 4-7, Dragon Boat Festival.
Details: For more, see Bemidji's behemoths.
In summer, this hamlet in Minnesota's southeast corner kicks into high gear as bicyclists, paddlers and trout fishermen stream into its many inns and B&Bs.
The beautiful Root River State Trail jump-started Lanesboro's renaissance in the 1980s, but now tourists also come for the theater and art.
Details: For more, see The belle of bluff country.
When the rest of the Upper Midwest broils, this Lake Superior city basks in cool breezes.
On Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior, this village of 1,400 is more cosmopolitan than many towns 20 times its size it has a performing-arts center, a folk school, an art colony and galleries and restaurants that could hold their own in much bigger cities.
Details: For more, see Four seasons of Grand Marais.
In the corner of southeast Minnesota, Winona has an enviable spot on the loveliest stretch of the Mississippi River Valley.
Not only is it scenic, it's a college town, with lots of theater, concerts and coffeehouses.
What to do: Use canoes, kayaks and paddleboards at Lake Lodge Recreation Center on Lake Winona (pictured). Tour the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. Visit Garvin Heights Vineyards and see the view. Visit the nearby Pickwick Mill.
Details: See Afloat in Winona.