24 Ways to Get Lost… And Find Yourself

Need rejuvenation after enduring another Minnesota winter? Reconnect, refresh, recharge, and reenergize with a trip to one of these relaxing regional destinations.

Reconnect With Nature

Prairie Paradise

A driving route running from Manitoba to the Iowa border and beyond, Prairie Passage links what’s left of the patchwork of wildflowers and tall grasses that once stretched a million miles across North America. In Minnesota, the route meanders through such parks and preserves as Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge (the nation’s newest refuge), Pipestone National Monument (where American Indians still quarry the reddish-pink rock used in traditional pipe-making), and Blue Mounds State Park (where a herd of bison still roam). Scenic state highways make up most of the passage from Hallock to Luverne in the west before it hooks up with Interstate 90 in the south. If you’re really passionate about prairies, you can follow the route all the way to Texas. Covered wagons not required. To obtain a Prairie Passage guide, call 888-868-7476.

Hit the Highway

Heading to Duluth from the Twin Cities, you can’t be faulted for taking speedy I-35. But on the way back, try a more leisurely route: pick up U.S. Highway 53 (35’s literal opposite?) and ride it south through western Wisconsin from Superior to Spooner, where you can catch State Highway 70 back to I-35. You’ll drive through rolling, unbelievably green pastureland—America’s Dairyland at its prettiest—with Guernseys grazing amid woodlands and small towns welcoming antique seekers. Along the way, you can hook up with several Rustic Roads, which are short routes, sometimes gravel or dirt, through scenic countryside (Wisconsin was one of the first states to create such a designation, in 1973). Who says getting home can’t be half the fun, too? www.dot.state.wi.us/travel/scenic/rusticroads.htm

Often Overlooked

There are several ways to enjoy the bluff country of southern Minnesota—a scenic drive, a canoe trip. Or you could hike—and the place to do it is Great River Bluffs State Park. The park’s trails are all short, and most end at breathtaking overlooks. It’s not a large park, but some camping aficionados swear by the sites located along the spiny ridges that thread through the woods. Spring is the time to visit: you enter the park via the Apple Blossom Scenic Drive, with trees in full flower right about now. www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/great_river_bluffs

Northern Star

While hordes of sunburned families are plodding around Yellowstone, you could practically have Voyageurs National Park to yourself. Not only is Voyageurs the only national park in Minnesota, it’s one of the least visited. It’s also mostly water, splashed across the Arrowhead region of northeastern Minnesota. No surprise, most people meander through it by boat—bring your own dinghy, take a guided boat tour, or rent from a wide selection of floating craft, including houseboats. The camping is downright exotic: choices include private campsites on small, rocky islands. More creature comforts, if fewer creatures, can be found at the historic Kettle Falls Hotel, accessible by boat or float plane. Built in 1910 (predating the park by some 60 years), the hotel was a Prohibition-era gangster hotspot before becoming a sedate antique-filled facility complemented by three small villas. Let’s see Yellowstone top that. www.nps.gov/voya

Reawaken Your Senses

Go Postal

The edges of the state are home to some edgy, or at least educational, art centers. The Plains Art Museum in Fargo showcases “Smithsonian National Postal Museum: The Art of the Stamp” through April 22. Just minutes away from the Plains is Moorhead’s Rourke Art Gallery, which has attracted such impressive artists as Luis Jimenez, whose lithographs are part of the gallery’s permanent collection and have been featured at the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art, among other museums. Also try the Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota–Duluth and the Rochester Art Center, which regularly feature emerging artists in its galleries. www.plainsart.org, www.rochesterartcenter.org, www.d.umn.edu/tma

Layne Kennedy/Corbis

High Art

The natural beauty of the surrounding bluffs aside, the Lanesboro area is home to some talented artists eager to show their wares during the seventh-annual Bluff Country Studio Art Tour this month. Some tour artists have exhibited in the town’s Cornucopia Art Center, which is also part of the crawl. www.bluffcountryarttour.com

Kolacky or Kraut?

Sweet sojourns abound in Minnesota—Hopkins Raspberry Festival and Kolacky Days in July, Braham Pie Days in August—but sometimes we crave the salty tang of fresh sauerkraut on a juicy brat. Henderson’s Sauerkraut Days obliges each June, and the kraut is free. www.montgomerymn.org, www.hopkinsraspberryfestival.com, www.pieday.com, www.hendersonmn.com

Somewhere There’s Music

In the north, from the first chirps of spring sparrows till the last lonely calls of the loon before winter sets in, music moves outdoors. The Grand Marais Jazz Festival in May draws on the community’s artistic talent to include art exhibitions and workshops in addition to performances. The Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield, Wisconsin, keeps the music coming for more than 70 shows from June to September; previous years’ big names ranged from Lorie Line to Iris DeMent to Taj Mahal. Just past the northern border—don’t forget your passport—one of the world’s biggest outdoor music festivals takes place during the Winnipeg Folk Festival July 5 to 8. The Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth hosts renowned acts, which have included the likes of Little Richard, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Blues Traveler. Sign up for the festival’s online newsletter to stay up-to-date on scheduled headliners. www.bigtop.org, www.gmjazzfestival.com, www.bayfrontblues.com, www.winnipegfolkfestival.ca

David Muench/Corbis

Refresh Your Spirit

Room to Meditate

St. John’s Abbey Guesthouse opened in December 2006, allowing more visitors to share in the life of the abbey. Thirty guest rooms, a meditation chapel, and a library provide space for rest and reflection at the monastery described in Kathleen Norris’s Cloister Walk. Guests can schedule individual stays or participate in regularly scheduled day-retreats, which feature prayer, lectures, and discussion dealing with questions such as “What do we really believe about life after death?” www.saintjohnsabbey.org

Spirituality on the St. Croix

Sanctify your splashing at the Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center on the St. Croix. In addition to Christian life coaching with the center’s director, Jerome Meeds, you can enjoy the nationally designated Wild and Scenic section of the river by canoe, kayak, or paddleboat. www.dunrovin.org

Stretching the Soul

The idea of a vacation on Lake Geneva may conjure up images of Switzerland. But a trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, may be just the thing to stretch your mind and spirit. With more than 100 sessions for beginners to bona fide yogis, Yoga Journal’s Grand Geneva conference May 4 to 7 can help you get away from it all without even leaving the Midwest. Forgot the mat? Check out the spa treatments, film festival, and outdoor activities. www.yjevents.com

Clear Your Mind

Banish your inner clutter along with the cobwebs by combining intensive Zen Buddhist meditation with gentle spring cleaning during a work session at Hokyoji Retreat Center, part of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, located in southeastern Minnesota. For more Eastern relaxation, head to Iowa for ayurvedic treatment, based on an ancient Indian health system. You can work on your transcendental consciousness (the key to yogic flying) or just enjoy the royal treatment at The Raj, a spa two miles north of Fairfield, Iowa. One- to two-day stays at the only ayurvedic rejuvenation center outside India include dietary consultations, oil massages, relaxation treatments, and facials. Pamper yourself indoors, and unwind on the center’s ample acres of trails. www.mnzencenter.org, www.theraj.com


Reenergize Your Body

Triathlete Feats

Unless you’re a world-caliber athlete, you probably don’t have a chance of winning the annual Life Time Fitness Triathlon (the $500,000 purse has yet to be won by a beer-drinking spectator). But novices can get their feet wet, so to speak, at lower-profile races, such as the Heart of the Lakes (Annandale), the Timberman (Grand Rapids), or the Brewhouse (Duluth). The Minnesota Triathlon Club lists an online race calendar that indicates the course type and distances. Not all races stick to the traditional format: the Root River Triathlon in Houston substitutes a 6.5-mile paddle for the swim; the Fat Tire Tri in Cable, Wisconsin, features mountain bikes and a trail run instead of the standard road race. www.mntriclub.com

Women of the Woods

Tired of annual abandonment during the fishing and hunting openers? Haven’t paddled a canoe or pitched a tent since retiring the Girl Scouts sash decades ago? The DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman program offers courses around the state for women to learn basic skills for fishing, hunting, ATV safety, camping, canoeing, rock climbing, and more. (Weekend-long workshops provide training in various areas.) Three Rivers also sponsors Women’s Programs, with day and weekend courses, including powerboating, kayaking, and navigation skills. www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/bow, www.threeriversparkdistrict.org/recreation/women.cfm

Pristine Paddling

The Lake Superior Water Trail, which links water-accessible sites between Duluth and the Canadian border, has made waves in the past two years, earning a spot on Paddler Magazine’s list of “America’s Best Water Trails.” Using the trail guide, kayakers can beach their craft to picnic or hike. In the past seven years, Minnesota has doubled its registered kayaks and the trail should further spur this fast-growing sport. www.lswt.org

Fantastic Fore!

Minnesotans really know how to swing: we have more golfers per capita than any other state. Two favorite golf destinations that offer a whole weekend’s worth of play: in the northeast, Wild North Golf links seven courses, with a total of 108 holes. Highlights include the Legend and the Quarry at Giant’s Ridge near Biwabik, which both made Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Courses in 2005; The Wilderness, which opened at the Fortune Bay Resort Casino on the shores of Lake Vermilion in 2004; and the Superior National at Lutsen, with its breathtaking lakeside overlooks. The Brainerd Golf Trail combines 17 courses, with more than 300 holes. Fairways at the popular Grand View Lodge, Madden’s, Cragun’s, and Breezy Point resorts make the Brainerd Lakes area one of the “Top 50 Golf Destinations in the World,” according to Golf Digest. www.wildnorthgolf.com, www.brainerdgolftrail.com

Paul Hardy/Corbis


Hot Summer Knights

Few games strain the brain more than the ancient tabletop pastime, chess. Players of all ages and abilities learn at the elbows of the game’s grandmasters at St. Olaf College’s chess camp. Instructors take an historical approach to the game, analyzing the moves of chess champions ranging from the American Paul Morphy (a Civil War–era pro) to the Russian Garry Kasparov (who sparred with computers before retiring from chess in 2005). www.stolaf.edu/services/conferences/camps/chesscamp

Better Than a Baedecker

If your memories of that semester abroad seems blurred by one too many nights at the Hofbräuhaus, here’s your chance to make amends and get the education you missed: a host of Minnesota colleges, from St. John’s University to the U of M, offer overseas learning trips for students of all ages—and, often, you don’t even have to be an alum. See Italy with an architectural historian, visit the home of past Thai rulers, or examine items excavated from the tomb of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. The trips are an intellectual workout, yes, but thankfully, there’s not a bluebook in sight. Prost! www.csbsju.edu/alum/travel, www.alumni.umn.edu/travel.html

Question and Answer Period

Is democracy fair? Is honesty really the best policy? Is the pen mightier than the sword? Such questions are the stuff of great debate in tiny New York Mills each June, when crowds gather for the Great American Think-Off. Four finalists, culled from an essay contest, make their case pro or con on this year’s topic, Which should you trust more: your head or heart?, and the audience picks the victor. Which begs the question: is winning really everything? www.think-off.org

Dissecting Medical Science

Rochester’s Mayo Clinic has long attracted prime ministers, presidents, and Middle Eastern potentates looking for gold-standard health care. But aging Minnesotans, too, can now get a look at the inner anatomy of the clinic without scheduling a melanoma check or undergoing cataract surgery: Elderhostel, a global organization that promotes lifelong learning, sponsors classes on pioneering medical technology and complementary therapies at the Mayo.

Renew Your Relationship

Book a Trip

Some of the all-time best books for 9-to-12-year-olds were written by area women. For those enamored with the books of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Betsy-Tacy Society has mapped out a walking tour of Deep Valley (a.k.a. Mankato) that includes a visit to Tacy’s house on Saturday afternoons. Farther west, Laura Ingalls Wilder fans can frolic on the banks of Plum Creek, where the family briefly lived in a dugout. A museum in nearby Walnut Grove re-creates scenes from the Wilder home, as well as other tableaus from the books and the television series. Laura was born near Pepin, Wisconsin, where you can visit a replica of the Little House in the Big Woods. Also in Wisconsin is the childhood home of Carolina Augusta Woodhouse, whose pioneer-day adventures as “Caddie Woodlawn” were immortalized by her granddaughter, Carol Ryrie Brink. The home is located in Menomonie, as is the Heritage Museum where you can spend your hard-won silver dollars on memorabilia. www.betsy-tacysociety.org, www.walnutgrove.org, www.pepinwisconsin.com, www.discover-net.net/~dchs/sitecw.html In fact, a little education on reiki, riboflavin, and retroviruses may add a few years to your life. roadscholar.org


Learn a Craft

Make thee an ark, or at least a canoe, at the North House Folk School. The Grand Marais center for traditional northern arts and crafts celebrates wooden boats each June and offers year-round boat-building courses that should result in a seaworthy skiff in as little as 10 days. And just for fun, you can call Dad Noah forever after. www.northhouse.org

Richard Hamilton Smith

Up River

The Mississippi River begins its journey to the Gulf of Mexico in Itasca; your journey to Itasca State Park should begin with a visit to the online reservation center a year in advance. Rooms fill quickly, especially in the Historic Douglas Lodge. (Campsites are reserved 90 days out.) Once there, kids can participate in junior park-naturalist and park-explorer programs. A new interpretive center with a gift shop and restaurant honors park commissioner Mary Gibbs, who rallied for the preservation of the area in 1903. www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/itasca

Learn a Language If you’re feeling as though you don’t speak the same language as your children, it’s time for an immersion program. Concordia Language Villages in Moorhead offers weeklong family camps in languages ranging from Arabic to Japanese to Norwegian to Spanish; weekend programs are conducted in 10 different tongues. The experience includes indigenous cuisine and crafts. No word yet on the oft-requested sophomore slang course. www.concordialanguagevillages.org