Complete Winter Traveler


Main photo by Bryan Hansel,; inset photos from top
by bryan hansel; best western superior
Inn & suites; wes bender

It’s easy to feel down when Old Man Winter comes to town. The bad news? He’s not going anywhere until March. The good news? We live in a region of the country where there’s never a shortage of fun ways to spend a chilly winter day. Shake off those winter blahs and try a new winter activity (snowshoeing is fun) or plan a weekend getaway to a nearby lodge. Embrace the cold season and before you know it, you’ll be sad to see the snow go.


Tourism Thunder Bay

When the temperature drops, our friendly neighbor to the North—Thunder Bay, Canada—is the place to be for outdoor adventures. One of these is ice climbing, a thrilling sport involving climbers, ice, and mountaineering equipment.
“The ice climbing in Thunder Bay is fantastic. We have about two to three dozen routes ranging from WI2 to WI6 [varied grades of ice climbing], as well as a handful of mixed climbs, all within the city limits,” says Wes Bender of
the Alpine Club of Canada. “Some of the largest and hardest are accessible by city transit.”

Other ice climbing hotspots include Orient Bay and Kama Bay, less than two hours east of the city.

Another unique winter hobby in Thunder Bay is ice racing, a safe and inexpensive form of motor racing. Fans love watching the action from a lakeside “track.” Check out this winter’s race schedule at
The ice and snow in Thunder Bay creates the ideal playground for ice fishing, dog sledding, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and alpine and Nordic skiing.

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, just 25 minutes from downtown Thunder Bay, is one of the best-kept skiing secrets in the region. The scenery along the trails is stunning, and the terrain is loved by all levels of skiers, from beginner to advanced. The trails are adjacent to one of the largest and most visited waterfalls in Ontario—Kakabeka Falls—also called the “Niagara of the North.” Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, with picturesque trails and some of the best snow and grooming in the region, is also a popular spot for skiers. Even on a cold day you will find some of the most comfortable skiing conditions—no wind (the park is sheltered by huge stands of evergreen trees) and plenty of sunshine.

Rather stay indoors and learn about the area’s past? Visit a museum featuring the life of Native Americans, European explorers, or French voyageurs. Prefer to shop and dine while on vacation? Thunder Bay is filled with specialty shops and boutiques as well as diverse restaurants.



Want to try snowshoeing before investing in a pair of snowshoes? Curious about geocaching (“jee-oh-cash-ing”) but don’t know where to begin? Come to REI’s “Winter Trails Day” on Jan. 10, 2009 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Fort Snelling State Park’s picnic shelter to learn more about these exciting (and fast-growing) sports. There will be free snowshoeing demos for all age groups, geocaching mini classes, and complimentary hot cocoa available.

Snowshoeing is growing in popularity because it’s easy to learn, relatively inexpensive, a great way to exert during the long, cold days of winter (you can burn more than 600 calories per hour), and poses very little risk of injury. You can hike for pleasure, trek through pristine backcountry powder, or race competitively. All you need is snow.

Geocaching is akin to a modern-day treasure hunt. Instead of a worn map marked with an X, you use a GPS receiver, a set of coordinates and (optionally) clues, but instead of hunting for a buried chest, you’re looking for a cache of goodies hidden in an eco-friendly site above-ground (no digging required).

In addition to hosting various clinics and events, REI—with local stores in Bloomington, Roseville, and Maple Grove—offers a tremendous selection of quality outdoor gear and clothing for a variety of snow sports. They stand behind their products with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, and design their own line of award-winning REI brand gear and clothing. REI is also unique in that it’s a member-owned co-op. While anyone may join or shop at REI, members pay a one-time $20 fee and receive a share in the company’s profits through an annual member refund based on their purchases.


Inns of the Valley

The St. Croix is one of the last unspoiled rivers in the country within close proximity of a major metropolitan area, attracting visitors year-round. Not only do travelers visit the area for the scenic valley, but also for the historic character
of the valley’s communities and the charming St. Croix River Valley bed and breakfast inns dotting the riverside.

Spend a day shopping in a quaint river town, or get plenty of fresh air while cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter hiking, or ice fishing before returning to the quiet of a charming and historic inn, far away from the stresses of everyday life. You’ll find friendly innkeepers, uniquely decorated rooms, and options of river views, double whirlpools, and fireplaces. Your B&B experience is made complete with a fantastic breakfast each morning.

Westin Edina Galleria

Guests staying at the new Westin Edina Galleria can shop during the most frigid days of winter and leave their coats behind—the hotel is connected to Galleria by a below-street level, climate-controlled walkway. Regarded as a shopper’s nirvana with everything from national favorites to local boutiques (think Tiffany & Co., Coach, Cole Haan, dugo, Ampersand and Len Druskin), Galleria also offers a variety of restaurants for dinner or drinks.

After a full day of shopping and dining, indulge in the services of Rocco Altobelli’s day spa, or relax in your room on a plush Heavenly® Bed featuring a custom-designed pillow top mattress and down blanket. Guest rooms also include a well-appointed bath that includes a fully customizable shower experience and a separate soaking tub. Six large luxury suites include a wet bar, living room, table for six, half bath, and separate sleeping area with a full, private bathroom.

Guests also enjoy 24-hour room service, a 24-hour, state-of-the-art workout room, and a large indoor pool and whirlpool. The state’s first suburban McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant is conveniently located adjacent to the lobby. And as if this weren’t enough, the hotel welcomes pets, even offering a Heavenly Dog Bed®.

Lutsen Resort

Lutsen Resort’s classic Scandinavian ambiance creates the perfect setting for a quick winter getaway. Located on Lake Superior, the historic lodge is warm and cozy, with a welcoming fire-lit lobby, beautiful hand-hewn timbers, and lakeside dining room and pub featuring hearty cold-weather dishes and drinks.

Guests can try out free snowshoe or cross-country ski equipment, courtesy of the resort, and even have the option of complimentary ski and snowshoe instruction.

Whether novices or professionals, Lutsen Resort is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The resort is across the street from downhill skiing and snowboarding at Lutsen Mountains (a free door-to-door shuttle service is available to Lutsen Resort guests), a snowmobile trail connects the resort to the Cook County and North Shore State Trails, and there are a variety of groomed cross-country ski trails nearby. After an active day outdoors, the new WatersMeet massage and wellness center is a popular spot to soothe sore muscles.

The resort caters to brides and grooms, too, no matter the season.

“We do some pretty fun weddings here in the winter,” explains owner Nancy Burns. “Many couples even choose to have their weddings outside, snow or not! Then, of course, they come into the lodge and enjoy the cozy ambience and the warm, Scandinavian-designed lakeside dining room for dinner.”

Lutsen Resort offers lodging for every taste and budget, from log cabins with fire-burning stoves to luxury condos with Jacuzzis and fireplaces.


River Road Inn

Winters on Lake Pepin are much quieter than other seasons, making for a peaceful, relaxing stay at the River Road Inn, located just upriver from the charming village of Stockholm, Wisconsin.

“The Inn is just minutes from fine dining, art galleries, and the National Eagle Center,” says innkeeper Kathleen Burk.

Adventure-seekers can try wind sailing on Lake Pepin, snowshoeing in the Maiden Rock Bluff Natural Area, or downhill skiing at Coffee Mill Ski Area in nearby Wabasha. Gourmet cooking classes and wine tastings are offered twice a month throughout the winter at the Palate, a gourmet kitchen store in town.

The luxurious Carriage House at the spa-like Inn offers panoramic views of Lake Pepin and the glorious bluffs, a spa shower with invigorating body jets, a king-size bed, vaulted ceilings, a fireplace, and in the Stockholm Suite—an oversized vintage tub.

“You can cocoon in your cozy suite and watch beautiful sunsets over Lake Pepin,” Burk says. “Staying here is all about comfort, relaxation, pampering, and romance.”


Best Western Superior Inn & Suites

Visitors staying at the Best Western Superior Inn & Suites in Grand Marais can easily explore a variety of key attractions and recreational sites on the North Shore, including the Gunflint Trail, Lutsen Mountains, and Superior National Forest. Winter guests also have direct access from the inn to the North Shore Corridor snowmobile trail system. (Trail maps and brochures are available at the front desk.)

Other amenities unique to this Lake Superior hotel include a giant indoor whirlpool, guest laundry, winter plug-ins, and ample lighting for snowmobile and trailer parking. Enjoy a full complimentary breakfast in the cozy, fireside lobby each morning. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of many unique village restaurants, shops, and galleries, and within two blocks of the North House Folk School.



Midwest Mountaineering

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.


Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior

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.


The Lodge on Lake Detroit

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.


Cascade Lodge

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.


Cove Point Lodge

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.


Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center

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.


Treasure Island Resort and Casino

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.

Canoe Bay

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.


Wildlife Viewing
(Minnesota DNR)

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.


Greater Mankato Area

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

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.