Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Hinckley, MN

  • Published 2022/08/19

Hinckley is a small city with a relaxed suburban feel in Pine County, Minnesota.

This place is the halfway point between the Twin Cities and Duluth.

Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the area.

They called it Gaa-zhiigwanaabikokaag in the Ojibwe language.

The term means “the place abundant with grindstones” because of its proximity to the Grindstone River.

In the early days, logging was a primary industry in Hinckley, thanks to its thick white pine forest.

Then, railroad expansions also paved the way for the town’s further progress.

In 1870, the residents named the township Hinckley after Isaac Hinckley, president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad.

The Great Hinckley Fire of 1894 was a historical tragedy that destroyed the city and killed almost 400 people.

In 1907, the town officially became a city and continued to thrive.

Experience the simple charms, quiet natural sceneries, and entertaining local attractions of the City of Hinckley.

Discover the best things to do in Hinckley.

Place Your Winning Bets at the Grand Casino

Exterior of the Grand Casino

Sheena_Waldron /

Enjoy rounds of card games, slots, and bingo games at the Grand Casino, located just off Interstate 35.

The casino also offers live entertainment all year at the Events & Convention Center and Summer Concerts at the outdoor amphitheater.

Enjoy several food varieties at several restaurants in the casino like the 1991 Kitchen, Plum, Brand Burger Bar, the Grille House, and many more.

Have a great stay at the Grand Casino Hinckley Hotel.

You can book at their RV Resort and Chalets if you prefer outdoor accommodations.

Signage of the Grand Casino

Ken Wolter /

Get some soothing and relaxing massage treatments at the Grand Harmony Spa.

Kids can also have their kind of fun at the Grand Arcade.

Bring home souvenirs and tokens like native pottery, figurines, candles, and more from the retail and specialty gift shops.

If you’re bringing your pets on your trip, you can drop them off at the Grand Casino’s Pet Kennel while you play.

The kennel is a free pet boarding service offered to casino guests.

Take a Nature Escape at Willard Munger State Trail

The Willard Munger State Trail is a series of interconnecting trail paths between Hinckley and Duluth.

It’s also the 5th longest paved trail in the state.

The trail follows the railway route where engineer James Root and his crew rescued more than 300 people from the devastating Great Hinckley Fire.

Enjoy the trails with hiking, biking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Likewise, you can also enjoy ATV and OHV adventure rides.

The trail offers a view of natural sceneries and lets you discover unique towns and shops to visit along the way.

You’ll pass through the lush woodland forest with copious hardwood, jack, red and white pine, and fir.

Travel along the hill range marked with lakes and marshlands, and you’ll see wildlife like beavers, raccoons, red foxes, and whitetail deer.

Otherwise, you might spot bobcats, minks, and coyotes along the Willard Munger State Trail.

Have a Family Camp at St. Croix State Park

Exterior of Saint Croix State Park's cabin

Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Saint Croix State Park spans 34,000 acres with two rivers in the area, the Saint Croix River and the Kettle River.

You can do plenty of things with the family at this state park.

For example, take a scenic drive, climb the fire tower, or hike from the River’s Edge Trail to the River Bluff Trail.

Explore the park’s history and different habitats at the visitor center or trek the Sundance Trail to discover wildlife.

Interior of Saint Croix State Park's trail center

Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are also numerous trails for horseback riding and biking and areas for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing during the winter season.

You can also go fishing, canoeing, or swimming at Lake Clayton.

Pitch that tent and spend a night camping or stay at the CCC Cabins for lodge accommodations.

Explore the outdoors at the Saint Croix State Park!

Swing for a Hole in One at the Grand National Golf Club

Located next to the Grand Casino Hinckley, the Grand National Golf Club offers a great golfing experience for both amateur and skilled golfers.

You’ll get to practice and enhance your tee skills and golf prowess with the rolling hills and valleys surrounding this 18-hole fairway.

The pockets of ponds, marshes, and creeks and the abundance of hardwood native trees add to the beautiful green landscape.

Unsurprisingly, the golf course has appeared in several local and national publications.

Moreover, it has even scored high ranks as one of the best courses in the state.

Finn Scooters rentals are also available for an added thrilling experience to your golf game.

Flex your skills at the Grand National Golf Club!

Grab a Bite at Tobies Restaurant & Bakery

Exterior of Tobies Restaurant & Bakery

Sheena_Waldron /

Taste satisfying meals and delicious baked treats at Tobies Restaurant & Bakery.

This restaurant is a famous Minnesota halfway stop, which has become Hinckley’s iconic café and bus stop since the 1920s.

Today, the fourth generation manages the family-owned restaurant, continuing the same friendly service and atmosphere people have known.

Grab a bite of their classic cinnamon & caramel rolls, freshly baked pies, and bread.

Otherwise, eat some homemade pizza.

The ice cream parlor of Tobies Restaurant & Bakery

Sheena_Waldron /

Satisfy your hunger with various food choices on the menu, like their homemade soups, meat, and seafood meals.

Then, savor traditional sauces, gravies, seasonings, and condiments.

Tobies Tavern also invites you for a couple of drinks with selections of tap beer, cocktails, wines, and Catawba juices.

Kids and adults can enjoy some sweet cool treats at the Ice Cream Parlor.

You can also gas up and check your car at Tobies Station and Car Wash.

Drop by the Tobies Boutique & Gift Shop, where you can find Minnesota-themed souvenirs and items you can bring home from your visit.

Grab a hearty meal at Tobies Restaurant & Bakery!

Entrance to Tobies Restaurant & Bakery

Sheena_Waldron /

See a Movie with Family at the Grand Cinema

You can have a great family bonding time and catch a blockbuster movie together at the Grand Cinema.

This four-screened movie theater opened in 2001 under Brian and Shari Weidendorf.

Since then, they have installed additional screens and amenities, like the party room and pizza kitchen 2003.

Likewise, the venue regularly sponsors community events in the city of Hinckley.

You and your family can enjoy featured 3D movies on comfortable stadium seating and get free refills on your large pop and popcorns.

Munch some delicious classic pizza while seeing the latest blockbuster at the Grand Cinema!

Learn about the Great City Fire at the Hinckley Fire Museum

Exterior of the Hinckley Fire Museum

McGhiever, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hinckley Fire Museum focuses on the harrowing story of the Great Hinckley Fire.

It also tells how the town recovered from this tragedy over the years.

Located at the refurbished Saint Paul & Duluth railroad depot, the museum building presents a replica of the fire depot before the fire.

The institution is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Listen to the many stories about one of history’s worst wildfire disasters with a 20-minute documentary video.

Step inside the original waiting rooms, the Beanery and Freight Room, and see artifacts that survived the conflagration.

You can also view item exhibits that reflect the life of the 1890s.

You can visit the fire relief house, a model house showing how the survivors lived after the tragedy.

Learn about the power of nature at the Hinckley Fire Museum!

See an Exciting Baseball Game at Brennan Field

“See you at the ballpark!” they often say in Hinckley.

If you want to know what ballpark they’re talking about, go to Brennan Field.

One of the state’s most scenic baseball fields lies along the old Highway 61.

It’s also among Minnesota’s town team ballparks featured in Todd Mueller’s book Town Ballparks of Minnesota.

Moreover, the ballpark, dedicated in 1956, gets its name from the city’s baseball pioneer J.M. Brennan.

He was one of the founders of the Minnesota Baseball Association.

Brennan Field is famous for its classic mid-twentieth century style field design, surrounded by towering pine trees that add to its uniqueness.

Find Unique Collectibles at Antiques America Mall

If you want to score one-of-a-kind antique items, head to the Antiques America Mall in downtown Hinckley.

You can find a large selection of odd items from over 50 dealers at this shopping location.

The large 10,000-square-foot, two-level mall makes you enjoy shopping for great antique finds.

The store has existed for over 13 years, and you’ll find vintage items, antique collectibles, and rare objects.

Shop to your hearts’ content for unique books, tools, home decors, furnishings, and keepsakes.

Antiques America Mall is an antique collector’s haven.

Hang Out at the Firehouse Liquor and Lounge

Have a night out and grab drinks at the Firehouse Liquor and Lounge.

Choose from the large variety of cold beers and the bar’s extensive list of wines and liquor.

Otherwise, try different concoctions like sodas, mixers, wine coolers, and more.

You can hang out in the spacious lounge or stay in the outdoor seating area while you enjoy your drinks.

They have a fully-stocked bar and offer drink specials with meat raffles every Friday evening.

The bar also has amenities like screen TVs, pool tables, video games, and pull tabs you and your friends can enjoy.

Likewise, you can enjoy appetizers, pizza, and free daily popcorn at the Firehouse Liquor and Lounge.

Enjoy a Good Catch at Hinckley’s Lakes and Rivers

The rivers and lakes near the Hinckley area are favorite fishing spots for many anglers.

You can catch fish varieties like crappie, sunfish, catfish, bullhead, and perch throughout the year.

However, you can only catch other types like the northern pike, walleye, and bass during certain seasons.

If you’re gearing up for walleye fishing, the rivers of St. Croix, Kettle, Pokegama, Cross, Pine, and the Big Lakes are perfect locations.

For an abundant catch of rainbow, lake, and brown trouts, you can head to Grindstone Lake.

Pine and Sturgeon Lakes are great locations to fish for bass, while muskies are plenty at the Cross and Pokegama areas.

You can avail of affordable fishing licenses if you plan to stay in the area only for a short period.

Paddle the Raging Waters of Kettle River

Rapids of Kettle River

Michele M Vogel /

Kettle River is one of the best spots for paddle activities and water sports like canoeing and kayaking.

Explore the challenging river waters and test your paddling skills.

In 1975, the Kettle River became the first Wild & Scenic State River in the state.

It also falls an average of 6.1 feet per mile and has a watershed area that covers about 1,056 square miles.

Scenic view of Kettle River

Linda McKusick /

The river flows amid dense forests of fir, aspen, birch, black spruce, red, white, and jack pines.

Likewise, otters, muskrats, coyotes, and black bears thrive in the area.

You can also spot birds like the ruffed grouse and Canadian geese by the river.

You can also enjoy fishing in calmer areas of the Kettle River and bring home smallmouth bass, walleye, or northern pike.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Discover Wildlife at Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center

The 780-acre Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center is a private, non-profit learning and retreat center on the shores of Grindstone Lake.

You can find it in Sandstone, Minnesota, 15 minutes from Hinckley.

Since 1971, they have provided programs on natural history, science, wildlife, team-building, and outdoor adventure activities.

Join their day tours and wildlife programs and discover a variety of flora and fauna in the local ecosystem.

You’ll see the vast areas of white and red pine groves, northern hardwood forests, birch, aspen, and conifer stands.

Likewise, you can explore the grass prairie and lush wetlands and streams.

Try to spot amazing birds and wildlife species in these habitats.

If you visit during winter, you can enjoy cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on Osprey Wilds’ seven-mile trail without requiring a trail permit.

The center offers several lodging options like the Crosby Lodge, Lowry Lodge, and Schwyzer Lodge.

Otherwise, camp out on White Pine Campground, Wetlands Cabin, and yurts for a unique experience.

Spend the weekend at the Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center!

Enjoy the Outdoors at the Scenic Banning State Park

Beautiful wolf creek falls at Banning State Park

Linda McKusick /

One of Minnesota’s gems you can enjoy for a trip to nature is the Banning State Park.

You can find it in Sandstone, 14 minutes from Hinckley.

This picturesque nature spot follows the Kettle River and hosts 17 miles of trail areas for great hikes.

You can use the paved bicycle path that leads out and connects to the Willard Munger State Trail.

Stone steps along Banning State Park's trail

Michele M Vogel /

Enjoy the view of the stunning Wolf Creek Falls or enjoy camping with the family within the 33 sites on the campgrounds.

You can also visit the historical sandstone quarry, find boulders, go rock climbing, or go kayaking and canoeing in the river waters.

If you visit in the winter, the Banning State Park has trails groomed for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.

Big spring falls trail at Banning State Park

Linda McKusick /

Join the Sandstone Ice Festival

You can enjoy many exciting winter activities near Hinckley, too.

One of them is the Sandstone Ice Festival held in nearby Sandstone, 12 minutes from Hinckley.

This annual event brings together locals and visitors to celebrate exciting winter sports adventures.

Experience ice climbing, skinny skiing, winter camping, or have fun snowshoeing.

If you’re an experienced climber, you can also register at the “Climbing Clinics” before the festival.

You can also rent ice climbing gears at Hard Water Sports in Sandstone.

For accommodations, you can set up a tent or avail of cabins and yurts in the area or book a hotel in Hinckley or Banning Junction.

Climbers must be 15 years old to join the clinics.

Likewise, participants below 18 years old must have a parent or guardian.

Bring the family to the Sandstone Ice Festival!

Final Thoughts

The city of Hinckley has a relaxed, suburban community atmosphere.

However, it also has many great local attractions you can enjoy like local shops, restaurants, and parks.

The nearby rivers and lakes are notable attractions you and your family can enjoy.

Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Hinckley, Minnesota!

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