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At Midwest Mountaineering, the winter season kicks off with the Outdoor Adventure Expo from Nov. 21-23, featuring 70 speakers and 70 exhibitors spread throughout the store, in big-top tents, and on the University of Minnesota campus. Featured presentations include Dr. John Francis’ “Redefining Environment.” Francis refused all forms of motorized transport for 23 years and even gave up talking for 17 of those years. He now speaks strongly and eloquently about our environment, filling venues nationwide. Tickets are free.
Another highlight is the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, showcasing the best mountain films of 2008.
Another benefit of attending the Expo? Everything in the store will be on sale that weekend.
Midwest Mountaineering, located on the northeast corner of Cedar and Riverside Avenues in Minneapolis—very close to the Metrodome, University of Minnesota’s West Bank and the seven corners intersection, offers authentic outdoor clothing and quality gear. Their slogan is: “Ask us. We’ve been there.” And it’s true; the staff has been there, whether there is Nordic skiing, climbing, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, snow kiting, skijoring and traveling to the far corners of the globe. They take pride in making sure your gear is properly fitted to your needs, assuring you a comfortable and fun outdoor adventure.
The Minnesota Lodging Association named Bluefin Bay the “Best Resort in Minnesota” in 2007, and it’s easy to see why. Bordered by Lake Superior, the ancient Sawtooth Mountains, and Superior National Forest, the resort offers something for everyone: recreation and fun on slopes or trails, a family sleigh ride through the quiet white-blanketed forest, a relaxing stay made even better with a soothing massage, an excellent meal at an award-winning restaurant, and up-close view of the many moods of Lake Superior.
Guests can take a complimentary shuttle bus to many of the cross-country skiing trailheads or over to Lutsen Mountains, the largest ski/snowboard area in seven states. There are 61 runs and nearly 1,000 feet of vertical drop for alpine skiers and boarders.
There are over 250 kilometers of groomed and tracked trails for cross-country skiers and over 100 miles of nearby snowmobile paths. Cross-country skis are complimentary to guests, as are snowshoes and ice skates.
Vacation is about R&R, too, and Bluefin doesn’t disappoint. Whether you’re cozying up to a fireplace in the privacy of your condo or townhome, sitting down to a delicious meal at the on-site Bluefin Grille or Coho Café, unwinding with a massage at the Bluefin Wellness Center, or spending an afternoon at the new Superior Waters Spa at Surfside (just a half mile south on Highway 61 at Bluefin’s sister resort, Surfside on Lake Superior) the resort has it covered.
Rejuvenate. Reconnect. Relax. Those three words are synonymous with the Lodge on Lake Detroit, a smoke-free lifestyle hotel situated on Big Detroit Lake. All 55 rooms are lakefront to take advantage of the spectacular sunsets. An inspirational quote card is placed on each guest’s pillow upon arrival, noting what time the sun will set that evening. Every evening the hotel has a “sunset serenade,” during which a grand piano plays in the two- story fireside lobby. Guests can linger in the lobby, order an appetizer and cocktail (try a signature sunset serenade martini), and watch the sunset from the lobby’s 70-foot deck. It’s extra details like these that add to a truly memorable vacation experience.
“When people do get away from home, I want them to have an experience, not just a place to sleep,” explains Chris Holland-Mehlaff, who owns the lodge along with her husband, Scott.
Unique room options include the Renewal Spa Suites with aromatherapy whirlpool tubs and fireplaces, and the Retreat Suite with furnished kitchens and connecting rooms, ideal for family reunions or business retreats.
Winter activities at the Lodge include snowmobiling on more than 200 miles of groomed trails, over 66 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, and ice fishing houses and equipment available for rent.
Relax in a cozy log cabin, surrounded by the peaceful hush of winter, at Cascade Lodge and Restaurant on the shore of Lake Superior, nine miles north of Lutsen and south of Grand Marais.
Surrounded by Cascade River State Park and overlooking Lake Superior, the small, family-run resort (one of only a handful on Lake Superior), is only a quarter-mile from the Cascade River Gorge featuring a beautiful waterfall.
You’ll find a variety of ways to take in the snow-covered landscape through cross country skiing (the lodge has over 55 kilometers of professionally-groomed cross country ski trails right outside the back door), snowshoeing in the peaceful Superior National Forest, snowmobiling on the spur trail from the Main Lodge, or skiing or carving down nearby Lutsen Mountains. After a long day of activities, sit down to a home-cooked meal at the Cascade Restaurant, open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Snow Gods tend to smile on the North Shore, and Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, about a half hour’s drive from the Tofte/Lutsen area, is no exception. Located just outside the Superior Hiking Trail, near Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche State Park, and the Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail, you’ll find plenty of snow for snowshoeing, skiing, or snowmobiling (complimentary snowshoes are available). And if the weather outside is frightful, stay inside the Scandinavian-style lodge and use the swimming pool, hot tub, or library. An intimate dining room has a great selection of seasonal meals and an extensive wine list. Cove Point is surrounded by 150 acres of woods and rocks, complete with a postcard-perfect view of Lake Superior. All rooms face Lake Superior and include fireplaces and/or Jacuzzis.
Going to an indoor waterpark in the dead of winter is a pretty surefire way to beat the winter blahs (snow, what snow?), and Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center—located two hours northwest of Minneapolis off I-94 in Alexandria—has one of the best indoor waterparks around. The 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark features three exhilarating four-story slides that twist and turn and take you on a journey inside and outside the waterpark, a “Lazy River” floating inner tube ride, a tropical whirlpool spa, a lily pad waterwalk, basketball shoot out, children’s play fort with water blasters, and geysers all topped off with “Calypso Cabana,” the 500 gallon splash bucket. The fun continues with an indoor pool, whirlpool, fitness center, spa facility, an on-site lounge and restaurants, and 14,400-square-foot indoor tennis facility (open year-round). If you want to play outside, you can rent a snowmobile, cross-country skis, or ice skates, try ice fishing (Arrowwood provides the ice house, heat, chairs, and cards), hit the Snow Center sledding hill (sleds are available free of charge), or play broomball or hockey on the large Lake Darling rink. Andes Tower Hills, just 17 miles from the resort, offers downhill skiing, tubing, and snowboarding.
Accommodations at Arrowwood range from lodge rooms and suites with lakefront views to luxurious four-bedroom townhomes.
When you’d rather escape the cold than embrace it, Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Red Wing is the perfect remedy. Guests almost feel like they’re in the Caribbean once inside the tropical-themed hotel, with a lush rainforest environment showcasing a large central swimming pool and hot tub. Bring the kids along— they’ll love the swimming pool, the restaurants, and the Island Xtreme Bowling Alley. Want to check out a show, grab a drink, or try your luck in the casino during your trip? Childcare services are available seven days a week.
Who knows? You might become so emboldened by your tropical Treasure Island experience that you’ll be ready and raring to head outdoors for some fun. Wintertime recommendations include cross-country skiing down the 19.7-mile Cannon Valley Trail, snowmobiling over some fantastic terrain, and shopping at the international destinations of Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing Pottery.
Designed exclusively for couples (no children are allowed), Canoe Bay—the only prestigious Relais and Chateaux member in the Midwest—is a gorgeous, unspoiled, secluded retreat located on a 280-acre estate in northwestern Wisconsin. The retreat is all about romance, just what the doctor ordered during the long, cold days of winter. All rooms and cottages feature a two-person whirlpool, fireplace, and a private deck with views of Mother Nature at every turn.
Guests spend their time snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, working out in the fitness center at the main lodge, scheduling in-room spa treatments, and checking out the well-stocked Great Room/Library with an updated collection of books, movies, and CDs.
One of the highlights of staying at Canoe Bay is dining in the elegant lakeside dining room, serving a prix fixe chef’s menu and a wine list of over 500 domestic and imported vintages. The dress code in the romantic dining room is “casual elegance” (a sport coat for gentlemen is appropriate, but not required).
Canoe Bay can accommodate up to 19 couples in lodge rooms, inn rooms, or cottages. The luxurious 3,500-square-foot Edgewood guesthouse features a wraparound deck, high ceilings, a 25-foot limestone fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake.
The next time you’re looking for something different to do this winter, think about watching Minnesota’s native non-game wildlife. Whether you observe, photograph, or sketch wildlife, wildlife tourism has become an increasingly popular hobby. Minnesota’s wildlands offer dozens of opportunities for wildlife viewing that can be matched to your budget, time and travel needs. January and February are great times to get out and enjoy wildlife near nature centers and along trails in state parks. Try reading mammal tracks in the snow to discover what animals are present—perhaps white-tailed deer, red fox, coyotes, or even bobcats, fishers, and timberwolves.
Open water along rivers and near power plants provide habitat for Canadian geese, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and mallards. Look closely among them for common goldeneyes, American mergansers, and American black ducks. Visit the Red Wing and Wabasha areas for great opportunities to see wintering bald eagles.
Life still moves at an unhurried pace, neighbors wave at passing cars, and visitors in Mankato embrace old-fashioned hospitality. Visit this “university town” for a mixture of casual college hangouts and cultural attractions such as a symphony orchestra, ballet company, and art galleries featuring the work of both local and widely-known artists. Spend the weekend in Mankato at a B&B, hotel, or motel in the heart of the scenic Minnesota River Valley. You can go shopping in town, visit Mount Kato for downhill skiing, snowtubing, or snowboarding, cross-country skiing along a plethora of trails, or ice fishing in any number of lakes. Visit in December and enjoy the annual Christmas tea at Old Main Village and a variety of holiday musical and theatrical productions. Tour a historical site (there are many on the National Register of Historic Places) or Minnesota’s only underground winery at Morgan Creek Vineyards.
Solbakken Resort, located in Lutsen, is a hidden gem among the giants.
As one satisfied guest wrote of his experience, “Solbakken, on price alone, was—by far—less expensive than other resorts of nearly any quality. On top of that, every room had a view of the lake: from the motel-style rooms with nice wood decks, to one or two bedroom fireplace suites, to fully furnished cabins and lake homes.”
There are endless opportunities for cross country skiing and snowshoeing adventures, and Solbakken has an indoor hot tub and sauna to encourage relaxation after a wonderful North Shore adventure.
“There is nothing like the quiet of a winter ski or snowshoe hike followed by a warm, cozy fireplace in the evening to re-energize your soul,” comments owner Michael O’Phelan.
The resort also offers a ski and stay package at nearby Lutsen Mountains.