We all need a little vacation every now and then to escape the daily grind. A vacation—to most people—is synonymous with travel, but you don’t need to book a flight in order to relax or rejuvenate. This summer, plan a “staycation” and help the local economy by experiencing festivals, sporting events, parks, lakes, lodges, resorts or B&Bs close to home. The best part is that you won’t bust your bank account to do it. Read on for a snapshot of some local “staycation” hotspots.
TWIN CITIES AREA
Padelford Packet Boat Company
Harriet Island, St. Paul
You’ve seen St. Paul on land, now check it out from the water aboard a Padelford Riverboat, celebrating their fortieth season this year. “A lot of people don’t realize there’s wilderness right here in the heart of the Twin Cities,” says Captain Jim Kosmo. “It’s a reminder of what the river was like long ago.”
Guests on a river ride enjoy amazing views of nature in the midst of the Great River National Park, with regular sightings of great blue herons, peregrine falcons, hawks, and bald eagles. They can also learn about the interesting history of the park area during a narrated public cruise.
In addition, there are lunch and dinner cruises available, two-for-one “Margaritas on the Mississippi” cruises (reservations required), the Taste of Minnesota Fireworks Cruise July 2-5, the Irish Fair Dinner and Dance Cruise Aug. 7-9, and private charters for everything from corporate events to family reunions to wedding receptions. “We excel in private parties,” Capt. Kosmo says. “It’s a fun business to be in.”
The staff is professional, friendly, and knowledgeable about the river, the meals are “just as good as any restaurant around,” the sight-seeing is hard to beat, and there are no service charges or hidden fees.
Just being out on the river—the same river that has flowed year after year, century after century—is a unique experience, Capt. Kosmo says. “It never gets boring.”
The Jonathan Padelford, an authentic replica of an 1880 sternwheeler riverboat—along with three other vessels—are available for public and private cruises (accommodating 50 to 710 people) from May through October.
Apple Valley, Minnesota
With more than 2,400 animals, the Minnesota Zoo brings education and entertainment to life. Come see the awesome Africa! exhibit, back by popular demand, from now through Sept. 7. Giraffes, zebras, gemsbok, wildebeest, and ostriches roam a six-acre exhibit, transporting guests to an African savanna. In addition, kids are loving the new splash pad water play area adjacent to Russia’s Grizzly Coast in the Zoo’s renovated central plaza. Another great offering at the Minnesota Zoo is Family Programs, including overnights, classes and camps for kids grades K-12 (and their favorite adults). Adults looking for a fun date night should also check out the Music in the Zoo Concert Series.
Minnesota Monthly Fresh Taste Festival
Nicollet Island Pavilion, Minneapolis
Join us on Aug. 9, 2009 for the Second Annual Minnesota Monthly Fresh Taste Festival, a day-long event to celebrate the best in organic, local and sustainable food products as well as organic and biodynamic wines! Located on the beautiful banks of the Mississippi River at the charming and historic Nicollet Island Pavilion, the festival will be a day filled with a variety of organic food and beverage vendors—including many outstanding local restaurants, food producers, product suppliers, and national wineries.
Take advantage of the one-on-one experience to sample and learn, to enjoy and appreciate the region’s growing movement toward organic and sustainable agriculture.
Uptown Art Fair
Funky. Creative. Original. Fun. Out-of-the-ordinary. Those are just a few words used to describe the annual Uptown Art Fair, set this year from Aug. 7-9 at the blocked-off intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis. Meet the 355 artists chosen to exhibit in this highly-competitive juried art show and buy original works of art in a wide range of price points. In addition to supporting the arts community, visitors can watch free family-friendly performances and enjoy delicious festival food and beverages.
Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center
Guests staying at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center will run out of time before they run out of things to do. Arrowwood features a 30-horse stable, complete with riding ring and trails, an 18-hole golf course, a full-service marina, the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark, Darling Reflections Salon, and Camp Arrowwood for kids ages 4-12. Accommodations range from lodge rooms and suites with lakefront views to luxurious four-bedroom townhomes.
Shooting Star Casino Hotel and Event Center
Come for the day or stay for a week at Shooting Star Casino Hotel and Event Center.
In addition to 1,100 slot machines, a Bingo hall, Blackjack and poker, there is an on-site daycare, Fun Zone arcade, a large atrium with a swimming pool and hot tub, a gift shop, four restaurants, the Sereniitee Spa (great for a massage or facial), a hotel and RV park, and a regular lineup of big-name entertainers like country music legend Merle Haggard, who will be performing at Shooting Star on Thursday, July 9. Come hear the artist who produced such hits as “Okie from Muskogee,” “Workin’ Man’s Blues” and “Mama Tried.” See the website for a full calendar of summer events.
Grand Superior Lodge and Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior
When you’re looking to book a place not far from home, on Lake Superior, close to major local attractions, make reservations at Grand Superior Lodge or Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior, sister resorts on Lake Superior’s shoreline. As part of a new Odyssey Resorts program, these two resorts—along with Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen and Trapper’s Landing Lodge on Leech Lake—are rolling out a new program called Explore! with Odyssey Resorts, where guests can freely explore the activities and amenities offered at all Odyssey Resort locations.
“If you’re staying at Grand Superior, you can drive up to Caribou Highlands and go canoeing for free, for example,” says Martin Pettersson, marketing director. “Whether it’s fishing in a new location, reading a good book on a different shoreline, getting a massage, enjoying a guest lecture, or joining a guided hike, with Explore, guests can take advantage of everything Odyssey Resorts have to offer.”
While staying in Two Harbors, Pettersson recommends hiking along Superior Hiking Trail or in nearby Gooseberry Falls State Park, kayaking on Lake Superior, or fishing on a charter boat.
The one-to-three bedroom cottages at Larsmont are perfect for family reunions, groups of friends, or corporate meetings, as well as honeymooning couples and small families. The hotel-style accommodations or individual log cabins at Grand Superior Lodge are ideal for solo travelers, couples, families, and groups of up to ten. Some log cabins allow pets with pre-approval. On-site amenities at both properties include a pool, restaurant, lakeside bonfire pits, and free use of canoes and bikes.
Cove Point Lodge
Beaver Bay, Minnesota
As one guest wrote of her experience at Cove Point Lodge, “There was not one aspect of this lodge that we could criticize. It’s one of the best lodges we’ve ever stayed in.” The views of Lake Superior are awe-inspiring, the rooms are rustic and clean, the bar/restaurant offers excellent food and service (at reasonable prices), and the property is small and secluded enough to experience Lake Superior without competing with throngs of guests. You don’t even have to get in your car to find outdoor activities: Hike right outside the door, bike along the Gitchi-Gami Trail, or take a canoe or kayak out on the lake.
Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior
If location is everything, then the developers of Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior hit the jackpot. And while the lake views are incredible (leave your windows open to hear the waves lapping against the shore), guests don’t just come just for the views alone—they come for the activities, the amenities, and the friendly, helpful staff. Whether you’re two or 92, you’ll find enjoyable ways to pass the time in the children’s playground, the outdoor pool and hot tub/spa, indoor pool and whirlpool, volleyball and tennis courts, sea kayaking lessons, naturalist program, or taking a complimentary canoe or mountain bike out for a ride. (A portion of the paved Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail runs right past Bluefin Bay.) Bluefin offers the entire resort experience—gourmet dining at Bluefin Grille, bonfires on the beach, charter fishing, outdoor activities, unwinding with a massage at the Superior Waters Wellness Center, and luxurious amenities within the midst of the North Shore’s rugged wilderness.
Caribou Highlands Lodge
Nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains is the family-friendly destination of Caribou Highlands Lodge, with a variety of styles and prices for every visitor. The resort offers complimentary activities for kids so parents can be free to take advantage of activities like guided canoeing, pool volleyball, or water workouts. The lodge also features a heated outdoor three-season pool, an indoor pool, three spas areas, two saunas, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball, picnic areas, and game rooms. Accommodations include up to four-bedroom luxury log homes designed for privacy, town homes that sleep up to twelve, condos which sleep up to six, and hotel-style rooms in the lodge, all with optional whirlpools and fireplaces.
Trapper’s Landing Lodge
Leech Lake, Minnesota
Leech Lake’s newest family resort, Trapper’s Landing Lodge, features spectacular three-bedroom lodges on 1,600 feet of lakeshore. The newest addition to the resort, the Hudson Bay Cabins, offers the ultimate in luxury lake-home living combined with a beautiful scenic location. Hike or bike in the nearby Chippewa National Forest, or go canoeing, kayaking, or fishing in Leech Lake. The resort features a sandy swimming beach and full-service marina. A winery, golf course, museum, riding stable, and casino are close by.
Madden’s on Gull Lake
Madden’s on Gull Lake—located in Brainerd—is the Midwest’s undisputed leader in the golf resort industry. With 63 holes of golf, from the historic Pine Beach East and West courses, to The Classic at Madden’s (the award-winning crown jewel of Midwest golf courses), to the Social 9, there’s something for everyone’s skill level.
Madden’s is not only synonymous with great golf, it’s also known as the perfect vacation on the water. Whether guests are fishing with ‘Walleye Dan,’ boating on beautiful Gull Lake, taking lessons through the Waterski School, swimming, or relaxing on the beach, they find ways to make the very most of our short Minnesota summers.
Other outdoor activities include lawnbowling, shuffleboard, horseshoes, volleyball, badminton, basketball and biking. After a long day, enjoy a massage at The Panache Spa.
Visit during the July 4 Getaway, complete with a cookout, beach party, and fireworks, or come from Aug. 28-30 for the Food & Wine Event, featuring chefs from The St. Paul Grill, Pazzaluna, Tria, restaurant Max, RJ’s American Grill, M Street Café, and four talented Madden’s chefs. Vintners from Francis Ford Coppola and Kenefick Ranch will offer wine to accompany each food event, kitchen tours, tea and coffee seminars, and a golf scramble.
Staying at Madden’s is a family tradition for many who get to know the friendly staff, and enjoy the variety of activities, lodging options, and on-site dining choices (the food consistently receives high praise).
“One family group that have been long-time guests here asked their children if they’d like to go to Disney World rather than go to Madden’s again for their summer vacation, and they chose Madden’s!” says Kathy Reichenbach, marketing director.
With reviews like that, it’s easy to see why so many families return to Madden’s year after year.
Minnesota Beethoven Festival
The historic city of Winona, nestled in the Mississippi River bluffs, is quickly becoming an arts destination. How else would you explain the Great River Shakespeare Festival and the Minnesota Beethoven Festival choosing Winona as the host of both events?
“Winona has an amazing arts scene,” says Holly Kellar, director of marketing for the Minnesota Beethoven Festival. “It’s known for being a community that really supports the arts. And it’s a really beautiful river town—with gorgeous bluffs and incredible views—practically right in our backyard.”
Visitors and residents alike can enjoy classical music in a unique environment during the Minnesota Beethoven Festival from June 27-July 19. The venues range from the Winona Lake Park Bandshell to local schools and colleges to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.
“You won’t get that kind of intimate experience at a large venue like Orchestra Hall,” says Kellar.
This year’s lineup is especially impressive, featuring the brass quintet Canadian Brass, pianist Frederic Chiu, the Minnesota Orchestra, and baritone Thomas Hampson (among others).
The festival is open to anyone who loves classical music and anyone interested in hearing it for the first time.
“I think a lot of people have this concept of classical music being stuffy and unapproachable, and that’s not the case at all,” Kellar says. “Whether you know a lot about Beethoven or you don’t know anything, you’ll enjoy the concert. You can come all dressed up or in casual clothes. It’s a series of concerts for everyone, regardless of your experience or knowledge of classical music.”
St. James Hotel
Red Wing, Minnesota
The St. James Hotel offers a true retreat experience, ideal for couples seeking a weekend getaway or chance to reconnect. The historic ambiance and Victorian charm of the hotel exudes romance—each guestroom is decorated with antiques and antique reproductions. Romance and B&B packages include meals in the hotel’s wonderful restaurants, drinks at Jimmy’s Pub, champagne, and his-and-hers massages. The town of Red Wing is just as quaint as the hotel, with dozens of bookstores, one-of-a-kind boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and the popular Red Wing Pottery, Red Wing Stoneware, and Red Wing Shoes. Wineries, golf courses, and scenic picnic grounds are nearby. The hotel is located on the Mississippi River. Many guest rooms offer river views.
River Road Inn
Stockholm is one of Wisconsin’s best-kept secrets, with an artistic downtown area, beautiful Lake Pepin, the Maiden Rock Bluffs, fantastic restaurants (like The Harbor View Cafe), and charming people. The best way to experience this town is by staying a night, weekend, or week at the River Road Inn. The Inn, only an hour from Minneapolis, is modern, beautifully-decorated (inside and out), and run by friendly innkeepers Dale Royer and Kathleen Burk who love what they do.
The goal at the River Road Inn, Burk says, is to provide a restful, romantic, luxury spa-like experience for guests. All of the suites offer panoramic views of Lake Pepin and the glorious bluffs, spa showers, and king-sized beds. “We bring a basket filled with delicious organic coffee or tea and fruit and pastries, which we leave outside the door for our guests to enjoy in privacy,” she comments. “We can also arrange for our guests to have a massage in their room.”