Stay and Play
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If you have a week to visit South Dakota, make the road trip part of the fun. Your adventure starts in Rapid City, near Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and the Black Hills. While staying in Rapid City, check out the historic district and the Presidential Walk with life-size statues of American Presidents.
Years of wind, water and erosion have created the chiseled spires, deep canyons, and jagged buttes known as the Badlands in the Badlands National Park, an awe-inspiring collection of unusual formations. Take the 30-mile scenic loop including several pull-offs where the kids can do some climbing and you can take some amazing photos.
The “wild, wild west” is part of the state’s history. Visit the frontier town of Deadwood for gambling, shopping, and sightseeing.
If you’d rather stay in Minnesota, give Owatonna a second look.
“Owatonna offers something for everyone with a variety of year-round recreation,” says Lisa Havelka, Owatonna tourism director.
The city, about an hour south of Minneapolis, boasts 700-plus acres of parkland and walkways within 24 parks—Kaplan’s Woods Parkway alone offers 225 acres for a beautiful May hike, bike ride, jog, or inline skate. The city’s historic sites, newer stores (Cabela’s), and amenities put Owatonna on par with cities many times its size.
When the sun is shining, the air is warm, and the skies are blue, bring the whole family to the River Springs Outdoor Water Park (opened just a year ago). “With a tube slide, body slide, lazy river, kiddie pool, concessions stand, and new climbing wall, this is a great place to spend a lazy summer afternoon with the family,” Havelka says.
The St. Croix River Valley area forms a state line between Minnesota and Wisconsin and is a popular recreational spot in the warm months.
Explore the St. Croix River on a canoe, kayak, or boat, camp along the scenic banks (there are six state parks in the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway), or throw a line out and hope for a bite. The small towns in the area offer a variety of independent restaurants, quaint shopping (especially great for gifts, antiques, and books), and historic B&Bs. Activities include dozens of golf courses, a water park, a sculpture park, Osceola and St. Croix Valley Railway, Star Prairie Trout Farm, and Chateau St. Croix Winery and Vineyards.
Minnesota’s original “Up North” belongs to Leech Lake. Staying at a Walker resort practically guarantees a memorable Minnesota vacation experience. From boating, sailing, and fishing to golfing, biking, hiking, and in-line skating, Leech Lake has it all.
The lake itself is an often breathtakingly beautiful, scenic lake with 78 percent of the shoreline public and undeveloped. Pelican Island is famous for bird watching, and the largest population of nesting Bald Eagles on the North American continent can be found in nearby Chippewa National Forest.
Three casinos, three golf courses, a winery, six national and state parks or forests, plus theatres, museums and trails are common attractions in this popular vacation destination.
May isn’t necessarily an action-packed month in Bemidji, but that’s the great thing about it.
“I wish we could bottle the Bemidji air,” says Denelle Cauble, executive director of Visit Bemidji. Not only is the air crisp and clean, the pace is slow and Mother Nature is at her finest in this northern city, about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Minneapolis.
Three state parks in the Bemidji area open in May and offer biking and hiking trails, and 400 fishing lakes within 25 miles offer no shortage of hot-spots for catching “the big one.” The first city on the Mississippi is also home to three great golf courses, a variety of campgrounds, and luxury hotels. And don’t forget about Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. The statues in the city of the historic lumberjack offer great photo opportunities that make for an excellent family tradition for years to come.