24 Ways to Get Lost... And Find Yourself
Need rejuvenation after enduring another Minnesota winter? Reconnect, refresh, recharge, and reenergize with a trip to one of these relaxing regional destinations.
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Reconnect With Nature
Prairie ParadiseA driving route running from Manitoba to the Iowa border and beyond, Prairie Passage links what’s left of the patchwork of wildflowers and tall grasses that once stretched a million miles across North America. In Minnesota, the route meanders through such parks and preserves as Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge (the nation’s newest refuge), Pipestone National Monument (where American Indians still quarry the reddish-pink rock used in traditional pipe-making), and Blue Mounds State Park (where a herd of bison still roam). Scenic state highways make up most of the passage from Hallock to Luverne in the west before it hooks up with Interstate 90 in the south. If you’re really passionate about prairies, you can follow the route all the way to Texas. Covered wagons not required. To obtain a Prairie Passage guide, call 888-868-7476.
Hit the HighwayHeading to Duluth from the Twin Cities, you can’t be faulted for taking speedy I-35. But on the way back, try a more leisurely route: pick up U.S. Highway 53 (35’s literal opposite?) and ride it south through western Wisconsin from Superior to Spooner, where you can catch State Highway 70 back to I-35. You’ll drive through rolling, unbelievably green pastureland—America’s Dairyland at its prettiest—with Guernseys grazing amid woodlands and small towns welcoming antique seekers. Along the way, you can hook up with several Rustic Roads, which are short routes, sometimes gravel or dirt, through scenic countryside (Wisconsin was one of the first states to create such a designation, in 1973). Who says getting home can’t be half the fun, too? www.dot.state.wi.us/travel/scenic/rusticroads.htm
Often OverlookedThere are several ways to enjoy the bluff country of southern Minnesota—a scenic drive, a canoe trip. Or you could hike—and the place to do it is Great River Bluffs State Park. The park’s trails are all short, and most end at breathtaking overlooks. It’s not a large park, but some camping aficionados swear by the sites located along the spiny ridges that thread through the woods. Spring is the time to visit: you enter the park via the Apple Blossom Scenic Drive, with trees in full flower right about now. www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/great_river_bluffs
Northern StarWhile hordes of sunburned families are plodding around Yellowstone, you could practically have Voyageurs National Park to yourself. Not only is Voyageurs the only national park in Minnesota, it’s one of the least visited. It’s also mostly water, splashed across the Arrowhead region of northeastern Minnesota. No surprise, most people meander through it by boat—bring your own dinghy, take a guided boat tour, or rent from a wide selection of floating craft, including houseboats. The camping is downright exotic: choices include private campsites on small, rocky islands. More creature comforts, if fewer creatures, can be found at the historic Kettle Falls Hotel, accessible by boat or float plane. Built in 1910 (predating the park by some 60 years), the hotel was a Prohibition-era gangster hotspot before becoming a sedate antique-filled facility complemented by three small villas. Let’s see Yellowstone top that. www.nps.gov/voya
Reawaken Your Senses
Go PostalThe edges of the state are home to some edgy, or at least educational, art centers. The Plains Art Museum in Fargo showcases “Smithsonian National Postal Museum: The Art of the Stamp” through April 22. Just minutes away from the Plains is Moorhead’s Rourke Art Gallery, which has attracted such impressive artists as Luis Jimenez, whose lithographs are part of the gallery’s permanent collection and have been featured at the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art, among other museums. Also try the Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota–Duluth and the Rochester Art Center, which regularly feature emerging artists in its galleries. www.plainsart.org, www.rochesterartcenter.org, www.d.umn.edu/tma
The natural beauty of the surrounding bluffs aside, the Lanesboro area is home to some talented artists eager to show their wares during the seventh-annual Bluff Country Studio Art Tour this month. Some tour artists have exhibited in the town’s Cornucopia Art Center, which is also part of the crawl. www.bluffcountryarttour.com
Kolacky or Kraut?Sweet sojourns abound in Minnesota—Hopkins Raspberry Festival and Kolacky Days in July, Braham Pie Days in August—but sometimes we crave the salty tang of fresh sauerkraut on a juicy brat. Henderson’s Sauerkraut Days obliges each June, and the kraut is free. www.montgomerymn.org, www.hopkinsraspberryfestival.com, www.pieday.com, www.hendersonmn.com
Somewhere There’s MusicIn the north, from the first chirps of spring sparrows till the last lonely calls of the loon before winter sets in, music moves outdoors. The Grand Marais Jazz Festival in May draws on the community’s artistic talent to include art exhibitions and workshops in addition to performances. The Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield, Wisconsin, keeps the music coming for more than 70 shows from June to September; previous years’ big names ranged from Lorie Line to Iris DeMent to Taj Mahal. Just past the northern border—don’t forget your passport—one of the world’s biggest outdoor music festivals takes place during the Winnipeg Folk Festival July 5 to 8. The Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth hosts renowned acts, which have included the likes of Little Richard, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Blues Traveler. Sign up for the festival’s online newsletter to stay up-to-date on scheduled headliners. www.bigtop.org, www.gmjazzfestival.com, www.bayfrontblues.com, www.winnipegfolkfestival.ca
Refresh Your Spirit