Stay and Play
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When the weather forecast calls for sunshine and gentle breezes, Midwesterners know how to make the most of it by planning day trips, weekend excursions, and week-long vacations within a few hour’s drive of home. Whether your perfect summer day includes a trip to the beach, relaxing at a lakeside lodge, walking, rolling, peddling or paddling, or going on a fun summer date, don’t leave home without this helpful summer guide.
Arrowwood Resort’s newly renovated 18-hole Atikwa Golf Club, located on the shore of Lake Darling in Alexandria, was designed with wetland preservation in mind and focuses on scenic lake views and unique challenges, providing different levels of golfers a chance to hit shorter, straighter shots or longer, more forgiving shots.
In addition to golf, Arrowwood guests enjoy the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark, Darling Reflections Spa, horseback riding, and evening bonfires. arrowwoodresort.com
Birch Bay Golf Resort
Situated near beautiful Agate Lake in Nisswa, the 9-hole, Par 36 Birch Bay Golf Course consists of bent grass greens and watered fairways in the vacation mecca of the Brainerd Lakes area. Take a free beginner lesson on Mondays and Fridays at 11 a.m. (some restrictions apply). Discounts available for those 55 and over. Stay in an air-conditioned cabin or room at Birch Bay Resort and golf right out the back door. birchbaygolfresort.com
Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge
Excellent golfing is just a mile away at Bemidji Town and Country Club when you stay at Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge in Bemidji. During the summer, guests also enjoy a beach, watersports like swimming, sailing, waterskiing, kayaking, and canoeing, and a complimentary supervised children’s recreation program. Resort guests are also welcome to use the resort’s basketball court, canoes, and basic kayaks free of charge. Ask about the Stay and Play Golf Package when making reservations. ruttger.com
Thumper Pond Resort
Thumper Pond Resort, located three hours northwest of the Twin Cities in Ottertail—“the heart of Minnesota lakes country”—features a scenic and well-groomed 18-hole championship golf course with enough variety to keep things challenging and interesting. Don’t want to golf 18 holes? Play the nine-hole course or tee it high and let it fly on the driving range. Thumper Pond Resort has an on-site restaurant, lounge, gift shop, full-service spa, indoor waterpark, and 78 spacious suites. For the best golfing deals, book the Stay and Play Golf Package. thumperpond.com
Canoe Bay, located about two hours east of the Twin Cities, in Chetek, Wis., is the ideal prescription for relaxation and romance while the kids are away at camp. Secluded on three private lakes amidst acres of hardwood forest, the long days of summer provide ample time for canoeing, hiking, exploring amazing gardens (visit the three-acre garden on a Sunday morning to get gardening secrets from the gardener), and working up your appetite for exceptional food and wine. And while a visit to Canoe Bay puts every couple at a refreshing distance from the “real world,” the resort does provide free wi-fi in every building. canoebay.com
Caribou Highlands Lodge
Nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains is the family-friendly destination of Caribou Highlands Lodge, with a variety of styles and prices depending on your preferences. Complimentary kids activities are available, as is guided canoeing, pool volleyball, and water workouts. The lodge 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 four-bedroom luxury log homes designed for privacy, condos that sleep up to six, townhomes that can accommodate groups of up to 12 people, and hotel-style rooms in the lodge, all with optional whirlpools and fireplaces. caribouhighlands.com
The air is cleaner, the stars twinkle brighter, and the wolves howl more loudly in Northern Minnesota—a place of wildlife, forests, and pristine lakes and rivers. With 400 fishing lakes in a 25-mile radius, canoeing, boating, biking and hiking trails, geocaching, golfing, and wildlife watching, it’s easy to become immersed in nature. The Bemidji area also offers some of the best birding around, mainly in BemidjiState Park and Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s oldest state park (step across the Mississippi headwaters here). Bemidji is clearly an outdoor oasis, but it’s so much more than that. “The First City on the Mississippi River” offers an impressive summer lineup of festivals (Jaycees Water Carnival July Fourth, Art in the Park July 21-22, the Dragon Boat Festival Aug. 2-4) and musical events—from casual coffeehouse performances to grand symphony concerts—and a vibrant arts community. Art is on display year-round on the outdoor, downtown Artwalk, as well as in numerous galleries. Bemidji has as many artists per capita as the Twin Cities metro—a little-known fact to tourists. visitbemidji.com
Lutsen Resort is another popular destination in the Lutsen/Tofte area for those who want the total vacation experience. Amenities include complimentary childrens’ programs, kids’ camps, shuffleboard, guided hikes, disc golf, fly fishing, naturalist programs, and kayak tours led by members of the activities staff. Guests can pick and choose activities off the itinerary, or simply relax on the beach and watch the many moods of Lake Superior. For a fun summer day on the slopes, head over to Lutsen Mountains. An all-day pass includes unlimited rides on the gondola, which takes you up to Moose Mountain, and rides up the chairlift to Eagle Mountain, featuring the alpine slide. Ski trails are well-marked for hiking and biking. Bikes and helmets are available. lutsenresort.com
Best Western Superior Inn
Part artists’ colony and part staging point for wooded treks, harborside Grand Marais is known not only for outdoor adventures, but also wildlife, and charming galleries, restaurants, and shops. You can’t beat the lakefront views from the Best Western Superior Inn.
The clean, comfortable, and reasonably-priced hotel is within walking distance of downtown. Treat yourself and book the Renewal Steam Suite, with a large hydrotherapy Jacuzzi, steam shower, and fireplace. bestwestern.com/plussuperiorinn
Family-oriented activities like swimming, camping, beach-combing, hiking, biking, canoeing, playing tennis, golfing, boating, exploring, and picnicking are often part of a vacation on Madeline Island, a short ferry ride from Bayfield to LaPointe, Wis. Along with wonderful beaches, the Island features a museum, golf course, gift shops, restaurants, two campgrounds, trails, a rec center, and a full-service marina. madelineisland.com; madferry.com
Dickerson’s Lake Florida Resort
Unplug and enjoy Mother Nature—and one another—at Dickerson’s Lake Florida Resort, less than two hours from the Twin Cities in the town of Spicer. In addition to a pristine sandy beach, guests enjoy excellent fishing and biking, the use of paddleboats, rowboats, kayaks, and hydrobikes, and modern and clean lakeside cabins. dickersonsresort.com
How can it be that a gem like Okoboji, Iowa—just three hours southwest of the Twin Cities metro—isn’t being shouted from the rooftops as a fun, affordable, close-to-home place to escape?
Stacy Rosemore, tourism director of the Okoboji Tourism Committee, is certain that first time visitors will be very impressed with Iowa’s No. 1 vacation destination. West Lake Okoboji (a spring-fed lake, and one of the only truly blue lakes in the world) is popular for recreational water sports, and Lake Okoboji and Big Spirit Lake are popular among fishing enthusiasts along with wake boarders, skiers, kayakers, and canoers. The area is home to golf courses, the Queen II excursion boat, Okoboji Summer Theatre, Treasure Village Children’s Theatre, Pearson Lakes Art Center, unique shopping, three marinas, museums, nightlife that includes live entertainment and dancing, an expansive trails system, beaches and parks, and a variety of restaurants and lodging. vacationokoboji.com