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Great Escapes

30 Weekend Getaways for Every Kind of Traveler

Great Escapes
Photo by Grand View Lodge

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The mall in Nisswa is called “Pretty Good Shopping.” That’s code for “Totally Amazing, Get-Here-Now Shopping,” as many Minnesotans already know. Nisswa’s main street is lined with as many shops as Minnesota is sprinkled with lakes—or at least it feels that way. Lodge at one of the nearby Gull Lake resorts (Cragun’s, Madden’s, etc.) and plan to leave fishing and hiking by the wayside for at least a day or two. Fuel up with espresso and a scone at StoneHouse Coffee and Roastery, then parade from boutique to boutique, each carrying its own special brand of handmade goods, art, crafts, and products with a Minnesota heritage (think Minnetonka Moccasins) or heritage in general (antiques). Lunch or a snack is never more than a storefront or two away, and if you don’t drop after all that shopping, head to downtown Brainerd or Pequot Lakes for an encore.  ➽  nisswa.com

Photo by Todd Buchanan


I’m about four years old and i’m at bandana square in St. Paul, sandwiched between my mom and Grandma Marion. We are window-shopping and gossiping our way through the mall. One of my hands is wrapped around my mom’s hand, the other ensconced in Grandma’s. We are three glamorous ladies on the town, and it’s a good day: my grandma buys me some stickers.

Grandma died nearly 20 years ago, but my early memories of shopping with her, of her pinning me up as she sewed my Christmas dress (talk about couture!), and of her fashion critiques—“That rayon is junk”—have served me well as a style editor. In other words, as I drive to Northfield on a crisp, bright morning, I am priming myself with all of her shopping advice.

I pull onto Division Street, and fall immediately into a shopper’s high. I walk down the street and take in all the cute storefronts before I commence what I can already tell will be a spree of epic proportions. I start at Swag, and leave with holiday cards made by cult-fave Rifle Paper Co. (Grandma always saved cards in her dresser drawers.) I pore though Zum soaps and knickknacks at Monarch, remembering the Yardley London lavender soap on her bathroom sink. I giggle at the cute Japanese toys at the Sketchy Artist—pretty sure those would have been wrapped up under her aluminum tree. In each shop, I find cute accessories, charming gifts, practical fun—I’ve got a lot of bags in hand, but sorrowfully leave a lot behind, too.

I find myself missing Grandma a bit more than usual on my way home. She would have definitely liked Northfield, I decide. And so do I.  ➽  visitingnorthfield.com

Des Moines

Head south on I-35 and eventually, rising out of the cornfields, is the remarkably hip Des Moines—chock-full of sweet, stylish boutiques. Check out the cheeky tees (“Des Moines: French for The Moines”), gifts, and clothing at Raygun; dig into handmade goodies for the home and accessories at Domestica; and make sure not to miss the impeccable West End Architectural Salvage—several floors of incredible finds (and with an in-house coffee shop, to boot). There are also several great art museums and live-music options. ➽ seedesmoines.com

Red Wing

Book a stay at the St. James Hotel and browse the historic city all weekend long. Red Wing hangs its hat on namesake boots and pottery, but there are lots of cute shops and museums sprinkled throughout, plus lots of antiques stores to get lost in. Don’t miss the doughnuts at Hanisch Bakery. ➽ redwing.org


Viroqua is a charming outpost nestled in the Ocooch Mountains, or “driftless region” in Wisconsin. In May, catch the start of the farmers’ market and the Viroqua Art Festival. And don’t miss the antiques, Amish goods, and summer bluegrass and jazz festivals. ➽ viroqua-wisconsin.com


Spider Lake
Photo courtesy of Spider
lake  Lodge,Max Hayes


Spider Lake

I’m the only guest at spider lake lodge on this bright winter morning. It’s early December, and just enough snow has fallen to make the pine trees sparkle. Snuggled up in one of the dining room’s well-worn armchairs, I take in my surroundings. The majority of lampshades and couch bottoms are bordered with fringe. Taxidermy adorns the walls. There are candelabras and pinecones, wicker tables and brass statuettes, embroidered pillows and patterned rugs. Normally, I’d think these things a little tacky and over-the-top, but here, they’re simply eccentric and comfortable.

This north-woods-meets-Oscar-Wilde vibe is no accident: it’s the vision of co-owners Craig Mason and Jim Kerkow. The two bought the lodge in 2000 and used their interior-design know-how to transform the 88-year-old building into an exclusive B&B. Each of the seven rooms has its own theme, rustic and romantic. I spent the night in the Moonahanis suite, a large wood-paneled room, punctuated with Native American décor, a woodstove, and, my favorite, a plush queen-size canopy bed.

The lodge was always meant to be a place of retreat and relaxation, first as a fishing camp in 1923, today as an unplugged haven. There’s no television or cell-phone reception here—that would be an awkward real-world intrusion to this north-woods getaway. I sink deeper into my chair and take another sip of my coffee. Less than 24 hours into my vacation, the fresh air and swaying pines have already wiped away my stress and slowed my pace. I’m away from it all: that’s all that matters.  ➽  spiderlakelodge.com

Isle Royale
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Isle Royale

Floating in the eye of Lake Superior is Isle Royale National Park, a place where cars and bikes are forbidden and wildlife runs the show. Because the island is nearly 50 miles long and 8 miles wide, one of the best ways to get a feel for it is through Grand Portage Isle Royale Transportation Line’s day-long excursion. From the deck of the Sea Hunter III, you’ll see the Little Spirit Cedar Tree, a more than 400-year-old cedar the Chippewa once believed controlled Lake Superior; the sunken steamship America; and the Rock of Ages lighthouse. Upon arriving on the island, you can take a guided hike led by park staff, or you can explore on your own until the boat leaves for Grand Portage at 2 p.m. Of course, you can always plan your own visit, too, opting to camp out or stay at Rock Harbor Lodge. Regardless of how you get here or how long you stay, this wild isle is a glimpse of nature at its finest—a royal adventure.

Devils Lake, North Dakota

Pull on your long underwear and hop on the Perch Express to Devils Lake, North Dakota. There, six of the area’s top ice-fishing guides will show you exactly how and where to catch your fill of perch, walleye, and northern pike. All you need to do is reserve a spot and hang a “Gone Fishing” sign in the window.

The Great Lakes

Say “cruise” and people think tropical islands and third-degree sunburns. This is different. The MV Columbus cruise ship is specifically designed for the locks of the Great Lakes as well as the comfort of guests. Experience the lakes from a whole new perspective. Anchors aweigh. ➽ greatlakescruising.com/columbus

Mineral Point, Wisconsin

Pedal, eat, drink, repeat. That’s the gist of Wisconsin’s Swiss Cheese & Spotted Cows bicycle tour. Starting in Mineral Point, the tour includes such places as Frank Lloyd Wright’s House on the Rock, the New Glarus brewery, Monroe (the Swiss Cheese capital of America), and picturesque Galena, Illinois. ➽ scscbiketour.com

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