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Ultimate Up North Guide

Drivable destinations from Bemidji to Bayfield

Ultimate Up North Guide
Photo by Todd Buchanan

(page 2 of 3)

Outdoor Family Fun


Just three hours from the twin cities is Wisconsin’s north-woods playground. The Hayward Lakes-area draws anglers and cyclists all summer long to its 55,000 acres of lakes and extensive Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association off-road bike trail system. The area celebrates the seasons with the 50-kilometer American Birkebeiner each February and the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival bike race each September. Wander down Main Street in downtown Hayward to browse a variety of shops and cafes. But be warned: No child will let you leave without stopping at Tremblay’s Sweet Shop, beloved for its fudge. Stop by the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum for your chance to walk through the belly of a giant muskie. The nearly 150-foot-long muskie is the highlight of a museum that features 300 mounted fresh water fish. Fish really do hold a place of honor in Hayward, especially during the Muskie Festival (June 24–27), a family-fun celebration with activities for all ages. For a unique Hayward experience, watch real lumberjacks chop, roll, and climb at the annual Lumberjack World Championships (July 23–25). Make the most of the lakes and trails during summertime visits by swimming, renting a boat, tubing on the Namekagon River, or joining a horseback-riding tour.


STAY Located just outside Hayward in Cable, Wis., and built in the 1920s, Garmisch is a lakeside retreat with a German touch. $95-$195/night. 23040 Garmisch Rd., Cable, 800-794-2204, garmischresort.com

EAT After a long day biking and swimming, families love to sit down for a slice at the log-lodge eatery, Coop’s Pizza Parloure. $11–$30. 10588 California Ave., Hayward, 715-634-3027, coopspizza.com

SEE See how big you look next to the four-and-a-half-story-high muskie at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum. 10360 Hall of Fame Dr., Hayward, 715-634-4440, freshwater-fishing.org

DO The area claims to be the “Golf Capitol of Wisconsin,” and for good reason: Six golf courses are nearby, offering plenty of award-winning play for the serious golfers in the family. And, for the younger set, there’s Towering Pines Miniature Golf.   10688 State Hwy. 77 W., Hayward, 715-634-7788, toweringpinesminigolf.com

Links, Lakes, and Luxe Lodging

Golf doesn’t get much better than at two side-by-side resort courses near Brainerd

In its most recent “Best Places to Play” rankings of publicly accessible golf courses, Golf Digest awarded its coveted five-star rating to only 23 courses in the country. Two of them—The Classic at Madden’s and Cragun’s Dutch Legacy—happen to be in Minnesota. As luck would have it, they’re so close together that you could hit a tee shot from one and land it on the other. Better still, the two Brainerd-area resort courses are within easy striking distance of Twin Cities golfers looking for a supremely convenient golf getaway.

The Classic and Dutch Legacy were skillfully sculpted out of an idyllic patch of land and water near the south end of Gull Lake: the former by longtime Madden’s golf superintendent Scott Hoffman; and the latter by renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. Both courses feature magnificent north-woods scenery by the bucketful, with the fairways of The Classic rolling up and down through the hardwood forest and Dutch Legacy’s links threading their way around wetlands.

Golfers playing from the tips will find themselves challenged not only by some serious yardage (such as the 634-yard 13th hole at The Classic) but also by liberal doses of sand and water. But players whose enthusiasm is greater than their expertise needn’t despair: Five sets of tees at each course allow you to pick an appropriate level of difficulty for your handicap. Even first-timers can make smart shot choices with the aid of a detailed course guide at The Classic and cart-mounted GPS screens at Dutch Legacy.

Although there’s no lodging directly on either of the courses, their parent resorts offer plenty of options just a mile or two away. And if your weekend isn’t complete without a fairway view, you can book one of Madden’s spacious golf villas overlooking the historic Pine Beach East course, the first 18-hole resort course in the state.

8 Up North Clubs

The Wilderness at Fortune Bay
A long-hitters’ dream at more than 7,200 yards from the back tees, The Wilderness offers four additional sets of tees for all skill levels. Named one of Golfweek’s “Top 40” casino courses in the nation in 2009, the course wraps around Lake Vermilion and offers views of both lakeshore and red- and white pine woods. Stay at the attached Fortune Bay Resort Casino while you play. 1450 Bois Forte Rd., Tower, 800-992-4680, golfthewilderness.com

Giants Ridge: The Legend & The Quarry
Head to Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort for some of the best golf in Minnesota. Consistently recognized by Golf Digest, The Legend and The Quarry have proven themselves enjoyable to play, as well as breathtaking. The nearby Lodge at Giants Ridge offers dining, and hiking and biking trails. 6325 Wynne Creek Dr., Biwabik, 218-865-3000, giantsridge.com

Whitefish Golf Club
A classic golf course described as “player-friendly” by general manager Steve Bengston, this course definitely isn’t the longest you’ll ever play—it’s 5,500 yards from the red tees and nearly 6,500 yards from the blue. The trick is to steer clear of the plentiful woods. This northern course combines seclusion and affordability. 7883 County Rd. 16, Pequot Lakes, 218-543-4900, whitefishgolf.com

Clifton Highlands
The greens can make or break your round at this beautiful Wisconsin golf course, designed to test your shot-making skills. Clifton will have you using every club in your bag. Golf Digest ranked it as one of the best and most affordable places to play in Wisconsin. For something different, take the tram to the 3-par facility, a scenic 9-hole course set on top of a hill that overlooks Wisconsin and Minnesota countryside. N6890 1230th St., Prescott, Wis., 715-262-5141, cliftonhighlands.com

Grand View Lodge: Deacon’s Lodge,The Pines, The Preserve, and The Garden Course
Grand View Lodge offers several award-winning courses. Deacon’s Lodge, named by Golfweek magazine as the best course in Minnesota, features almost 7,000 yards of golf from its longest tees. The bent-grass fairways lead you on a par 72 quest on the course designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer. The Pines consists of three challenging 9-hole sets for a total of 27 championship holes: The Marsh, The Woods, and The Lakes.  Aptly named for its lovely setting, The Preserve combines golf with nature in an 18-hole, par 72 course. The Garden, a 9-hole par 35 course on the lodge’s main grounds, is perfect for family or a relaxing outing with friends. 23521 Nokomis Ave., Nisswa, 866-801-2951, grandviewlodge.com

Superior National at Lutsen
Golf with Lake Superior in sight at this Lutsen course. Named the number-one course to play in Minnesota in 2009 by Golf Digest, it course gives golfers the opportunity to battle its challenging elevation changes and rolling slopes over 27 different holes. A classic layout, it still offers a unique experience: In additional to golfers on the course, you may also see deer, foxes, timber wolves, and the occasional moose. 5731 Hwy. 61, Lutsen, 218-663-7195, superiornational.com

Black Bear Golf Course
This treasure is just south of Cloquet off I-35 north. A driving range and two practice greens accompany the 18-hole, par-72 championship course. Swing away on this woodland course, then head over to the adjacent Black Bear Casino Resort for a different kind of relaxation. 1791 Hwy. 210, Carlton, 218-878-2485, golfatthebear.com

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