Edit ModuleShow Tags

Spotlight on White Bear Lake


“Did you know that White Bear Lake used to be a hideout for Chicago gangsters back in the day?” I sort-of asked, sort-of told my best friend Tonya and her husband Sam, in town from Idaho, as we drove down Highway 61 from Forest Lake. “It was a popular summer resort destination. You could even take the railroad ‘Up North’ from Minneapolis or St. Paul.”

The history of the town becomes even more interesting when you add in the fact that private Manitou Island on White Bear Lake, connected to the shore by a small bridge, was once the summer address of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his beloved wife, Zelda. 

I probably didn’t need to “sell” the area to West Coast-born-and-bred Sam—the area is naturally pretty enough to sell itself—but I wanted him to appreciate the historic significance. We might not have mountains in Minnesota, but we do have some beautiful lakes, many with history (involving gangsters like Ma Barker, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, and Baby Face Nelson!).

Rudy's rooftop patio

On the rooftop patio of Rudy's Redeye Grill

A trip to the city of White Bear Lake followed on the heels of a visit to the Pine Tree Apple Orchard (a very Minnesotan thing to do with out-of-town visitors, and the perfect place to let their very active 2-year-old run around). Apple orchard visits are an annual tradition for many locals; and this particular visit will be remembered as not only the time I was able to hang out with my favorite Idaho friends, but also the time that SweeTangos took over the place in my heart once reserved solely for Honeycrisp apples. (SweeTangos are a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar! varieties and oh man are they good).

Once we had purchased apple pie, apple cider, apple cider chocolate chip cookies, a bag of SweeTango apples, strawberry jam, and apple licks, we headed to downtown White Bear Lake for lunch and shopping, a short drive from the orchard.

Not every city has a downtown anymore, and not every city with a downtown is worthy of showing off to visitors. Downtown White Bear Lake is worthy. Not only is the layout compact and easy-to-navigate, there are very few vacant storefronts, and there’s a great mix of mostly independent small businesses. One of my favorite places to shop for trendy, fashion-forward, affordable clothes is Primp, “the cheap, chic boutique” (forever known in my mind as ‘the place where I bought the yellow dress for my high school reunion’), and I can always find unique gifts at Goodthings, Select Vintage, Lake Country Booksellers, and LuLu and Luigi, full of cute items for the fur-babies in your life. I’m also a fan of the Medicine Chest Pharmacy, because sometimes all you need is an inexpensive, quirky little trinket.

After we did some shopping, we had lunch at Eat! @ Banning and Fifth, a cozy café on the corner of, where else? Banning and Fifth. Nearly everything we ordered was made from scratch with fresh ingredients, and prepared right in front of us by a welcoming, jovial father/daughter duo. The café was clean and the food was great. (I highly recommend the chicken wild rice soup.) Other good lunch spots include Ingredients and Keys Café.

The beauty of this “city of lakes and legends” is that it doesn’t become a ghost town once the stores have closed shop. There’s a vibrancy here at night—an energy—thanks to the restaurants in town. I’ve celebrated many special occasions on the rooftop of Rudy’s Redeye Grill (in my opinion, the best rooftop patio in the ’burbs, complete with colorful umbrellas, lush plants, and heat lamps), Washington Square Bar & Grill (especially fun on evenings when they have live music), White Bear Bar, and Manitou Station. Marketfest is also worth a visit, on Thursdays in June and July, but I'll save that post for another time.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

It's Farmers Market Season

No matter where you live in Minnesota, fresh produce, flowers and homemade goodies await

Origami in the Garden

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's latest exhibit puts the art of folding paper on full display with a garden and metal twist

New Ways to Explore 3 Classic MN Destinations

From Fort Snelling to the North Shore, check out this summer's technological updates to historic and wild Minnesota places

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

What to Wear + Where to Go: Music Festivals

Your style guide for Minnesota music festivals

Mesabi Trail Offers New Views in Northern Minnesota

The Mesabi Trail, a 120-mile paved cycling and hiking trail that spans the Mesabi Iron Range, recently opened a new connection in Virginia, MN that crosses the state's tallest bridge and offers amazing views of former minelands.

Glensheen Mansion Bonfire Nights

Enjoy this summer tradition from one of the most iconic estates in the state

Twin Cities Festival Spring Babies

If April showers bring May flowers, spring babies bring fun for the whole family

Record Store Day: Where to Find Rare Releases in MN

On April 21, rock out at mini-music festivals around the state, dig into gourmet donuts, and collect the rare vinyls available one time a year

Catch the Lyrids Meteor Shower

The meteor shower peaks April 21 and 22, just in time for Earth Day

A Day Trip to Excelsior

Just 20 miles west of the Twin Cities, this waterfront town is complete with charming shops and lakeside dining

Night Art Gallery Is Your Sober Night Out

The Lindstrom art gallery entertains with hors d'oeuvres, tons of art available for purchase, and non-alcholic drinks

Treasure Island Resort & Casino 2018 Summer Concert Series

Check out the awe-inspiring lineup of summer concerts at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Weekend Activities to Satisfy Your Inner-Child

Check out these weekend activities that will have you feeling like a kid again.
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags