2008 Midwest Vacation Guide



    You’ve waited all winter for a hard-earned vacation, now go ahead and take some time off!

    Vacation season is right around the corner!  After spending all winter waiting for the spring thaw (didn’t this winter seem to go on forever?), you definitely deserve a break. Get out of town and relax. Order out, sleep in, explore a part of the state you haven’t explored before. Don’t think about the pressures of work, don’t think about the usual stresses of everyday life, don’t think about those never-ending “to-do” lists. Just go with the flow and have fun. >>


    Afton House Inn

    If you have a day: Experience the beauty of the St. Croix River aboard an Afton-Hudson Cruise Line riverboat. After the cruise stop for beer, burgers or pizza in the casual Catfish Saloon and Cafe.
    If you have a weekend: Stay at the charming Historic Afton House Inn bed & breakfast, where rooms are reminiscent of the past. Select rooms feature double Jacuzzis, gas fireplaces, and balconies overlooking the river. Hike or mountain bike along the rugged, rolling landscape of nearby Afton State Park (located five miles south of Afton). Later in the evening, treat yourself to fine dining in the Historic Afton House Inn’s Wheel Room. Spend a lazy Sunday shopping in the unique boutiques and galleries in downtown Afton, followed by ice cream at Selma’s Ice Cream Parlor.
    If you have a week: Learn about the rural character of the city on the Historic Afton Walking Tour. Spend a day hiking in Birkmose Park, where you’ll want your camera to capture views of the St. Croix River Valley from the bluffs. Cool off with a dip in the lake at Steamboat Park, take a hot air balloon ride over the valley, or—depending on the season—pick strawberries, apples, or raspberries at the Afton Apple Orchard.
    Directions: The Afton House Inn is 30 minutes southeast of the Twin Cities metro along the St. Croix River. For more information, visit www.aftonhouseinn.com.

    Arrowwood Resort/Alexandria Area

    If you have a day: Bring the kids to the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark while you rejuvenate at Arrowwood’s Darling Reflections Spa.
    If you have a weekend: Stay at Arrowwood Resort and play a round on Arrowwood’s scenic 18-hole course, unleash your inner cowgirl/boy on a horseback riding adventure, warm up and roast marshmallows by an evening bonfire. Bike past “Big Ole,” a giant Viking at the north end of downtown, on the Central Lakes State Trail, running 55 miles from Osakis to Fergus Falls.
    If you have a week: The prairie meets the forest in the Alexandria area, where the glaciers carved their way through Minnesota thousands of years ago creating a perfect blend of lakes, wooded hills, and open prairie. This scenic backdrop of year-round beauty provides unlimited opportunities for recreation, tourism, business, industry, shopping, and culture.
    Directions: Alexandria is two hours west of the Twin Cities. For more information about the city, visit www.alexandriamn.org. For more information about the resort, visit www.arrowwoodresort.com.

    Bemidji Area

    If you have a day: You can’t go to Bemidj—the birthplace of Paul Bunyan—without getting a little dose of the big lumberjack. Visit the giant statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, on the Lake Bemidji shoreline before seeing a performance at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. Hike, bike, or explore a unique bog area, accessible via boardwalk, at Lake Bemidji State Park. If the weather outside is frightful, the Headwaters Science Center and History Museum are excellent indoor attractions.
    If you have a weekend: Spend a day in Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River. Take the wilderness drive through towering pines, hike through the area (stop to cross the stones at the headwaters area) or rent a canoe or pontoon and explore Lake Itasca. If you visit Bemidji August 1-2, you can be part of the excitement and fun of the Third Annual Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.
    If you have a week: Depending on the season, check out a bonspiel at the Bemidji Curling Club. (Both men’s and women’s rinks from the Bemidji Curling Club won the right to represent the United States in the 2006 Winter Olympics.) Spend a day watching eagles at Chippewa National Forest, home of the largest nesting population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states, and be sure to pencil in time for the Bemidji Sculpture Walk, with over 20 unique sculptures dotting the downtown shopping and dining district. 
    Directions: Bemidji is a four-hour drive from the Twin Cities metro. For more information, visit www.bemidji.org

    Photo by John gregor/coldsnap photography

    Bluefin Bay

    If you have a day: Indulge in local specialties, such as cinnamon raisin bread with blackberry cream cheese or turkey with wild rice at the Bluefin Grille, located at Bluefin Bay, a premier Minnesota resort celebrating its 25th birthday this year. Walk along the shoreline and appreciate stunning views of the 31,800-square-mile expanse of Lake Superior. 
    If you have a weekend: Stay in style at Bluefin Bay, winner of the Minnesota Lodging Association’s “2007 Best Resort of the Year” title, and enjoy access to a year-round outdoor pool and spa, indoor pool and spa, saunas, tennis court, and free shuttle service to and from area trailheads as well as nearby Lutsen Mountains. Borrow a complimentary bike and pedal down the Gitchi-Gami Trail, or cruise down logging roads or backcountry trails. Top off the evening with a romantic dinner at Bluefin Grille. The following day, pamper yourself at the Superior Waters Wellness Center.
    If you have a week: Explore Bluefin’s  “other” backyard, Superior National Forest, 2.1 million acres of wilderness crisscrossed with hiking and mountain biking trails. Head over to Lutsen Mountains ski area for a trip down the Alpine Slide. Rent a kayak, canoe, or sailboat and head out on Lake Superior.  Hike through nearby Temperance River State Park where the sheer rock walls, gorges, canyons and waterfalls offer surprises around every bend.
    Directions: Bluefin Bay is approximately 80 miles north of Duluth in the city of Tofte (near Lutsen). For more information, visit www.bluefinbay.com.

    Cove Point Lodge

    If you have a day: Put on your hiking shoes and explore boreal forests, Sawtooth Mountains, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, and abundant wildlife along the Superior Hiking Trail.
    If you have a weekend: Stay at the Cove Point Lodge, a cozy lodge set 100 feet from the Lake Superior shoreline, and hike, bike, kayak, or fish in the area. Have a glass of wine and the walleye, steak, or pasta at the Lodge restaurant, followed by a walk along the rocky beach. If it’s chilly, relax by the lobby’s enormous stone fireplace or unwind in the hot tub and sauna.
    If you have a week: Explore Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls, and Tettegouche State Park. Golf at Silver Bay, a naturally beautiful course surrounded by heavily forested hills near the east branch of the Beaver River. Spend an afternoon shopping in Beaver Bay.
    Directions: Cove Point Lodge is approximately 80 miles north of Duluth in the city of Beaver Bay. For more information, visit www.covepointlodge.com.



    Eagles Nest

    If you have a day: There is a two-night minimum stay at Eagles Nest in Nisswa.
    If you have a weekend: Enjoy a Northwoods sunrise on the dock before strolling down the Paul Bunyan Trail into the town of Nisswa for coffee, shopping, or reading. Spend a sunny afternoon on beautiful Lower Cullen Lake on a rowboat, kayak, canoe, or paddleboat, complimentary to Eagles Nest guests.
    If you have a week: Get to know fellow Eagles Nest guests over Sunday morning coffee and donuts or the weekly Monday night community campfire. Take advantage of the daily nature-related kid’s program (Mom and Dad will enjoy the hour to themselves!), explore nature trails, or play a game of chess on a life-sized outdoor chess set. Head into Nisswa for shopping, ice cream, and weekly turtle races. Avid cyclists can pedal down the Paul Bunyan Trail all the way to the town of Walker.
    Directions: Eagles Nest is about two and half hours from the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.eaglesnestnisswa.com.

    Ely Area

    If you have a day: Ely, located on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, is an oasis for those who love outdoor adventure. If you only have a day, visit either the International Wolf Center, the North American Bear Center (featuring live bears), Ely Winton History Museum, or the Dorothy Molter Museum, commemorating the “Root Beer Lady” who lived alone in the wilderness for more than 56 years.
    If you have a weekend: Experience the wilderness with an overnight canoe trip, fish on one of 500 lakes in a 200-mile radius, hike the many trails in the area, or stay at a family-oriented resort and enjoy the many amenities in town. 
    If you have a week: Experience nature in its purest form with a camping trip to the BWCAW, where there are no homes, roads, motorboats, telephone cables, or power lines in the 2-million acre federal preserve. After paddling through pristine waters and enjoying the sights and sounds of the wild, camp by the light of the moon.
    Directions: Ely is approximately four hours from the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.ely.org.


    Fargo -Moorhead Area

    If you have a day: Walk the walk at the Celebrity Walk of Fame, where over 100 celebrities have signed their names (Garth Brooks, members of KISS, and Neil Diamond have left their mark). Visit the North Dakota Horse Park, Plains Art Museum, or state-of-the-art Red River Zoo.
    If you have a weekend: Don’t miss sprint car racing and the World of Outlaws at West Fargo’s Red River Valley Speedway. See the F2G-1D, the world’s only flying SuperCorsair (and one of the only three existing planes in the world), at the Fargo Air Museum. Take the kids to Thunder Road Family Fun Park and the Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm.
    If you have a week: Fargo-Moorhead is a lively, cultural community that boasts a wide variety of restaurants, lodging options, and things to do. Exciting summer festivals range from the Blues Festival to the Midwest Kid Fest.
    Directions: The Fargo-Moorhead area is about three and a half hours northwest of the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.fargomoorhead.org.

    Hudson Area

    If you have a day: Enjoy the unique small town atmosphere of Hudson, Wisconsin at a local wine bar, antique shop, cozy bookstore, or cutting-edge boutique. Stroll the galleries or take in a play at the Phipps Center for the Arts.
    If you have a weekend: Stay at a B&B and wake up to someone else’s home cooking (no preparation! No dishes!) before setting off for Willow River State Park to hike or swim. Challenge yourself by taking on one of six golf courses within eight miles of Hudson. Enjoy brunch and a cruise on the St. Croix with Afton Hudson Cruise Lines on Sundays.
    If you have a week: Swim at the beach, pack a picnic lunch, and take in a free summer concert at Lakefront Park, a national scenic waterway on the St. Croix River.  Pick up a map of the once rich and famous and go on a self-guided walking tour past Victorian-era mansions (make sure to visit the Octagon House Museum), hunt for treasures at the Abigail Page Antique Mall, swim or boat on the St. Croix River, be back in time for the FREE summer concerts Thursdays all summer in Lakefront Park.
    Directions: Hudson is 30 minutes from the Twin Cities. For more information on Hudson, concert and play schedules, or restaurants in the area, visit www.hudsonwi.org.


    Jackpot Junction Casino & Hotel

    If you have a day: Try your luck at bingo, blackjack, three card poker, Pai Gow, Minnesota Hold ‘Em, Texas Hold ‘Em, Seven Card Stud, or a number of video slot machines at the 325,000-square-foot Jackpot Junction Casino in Morton.
    If you have a weekend: Stay at the Lower Sioux Lodge, adjacent to the casino, and swim laps in the heated pool, unwind in the sauna, or entertain the kids in the video game room. Have dinner at one of four Jackpot restaurants before seeing a show in the Dacotah Expo Center.
    If you have a week: Play a round (or two, or five) on the highly regarded Dacotah Ridge Golf Club, an 18 hole championship masterpiece built on 240 acres of rolling countryside featuring natural wetlands, the winding beauty of Wabasha Creek, a 14-acre lake, mature trees and 7,109 yards to test every club in your bag. Take advantage of Golf Package Specials and the Women’s Getaway Weekend, including golf, shopping, and a wine-tasting tour at Fieldstone Vineyards.  Venture away from Jackpot Junction and visit Birch Coulee Park, Renville County Museum, and the Battle of Birch Coulee Monuments and Battlefield.
    Directions: Jackpot Junction is located in the south central river valley community of Morton, about 100 miles from Minneapolis. For more information, visit www.jackpotjunction.com.

    The Lodge on Lake Detroit

    If you have a day: Indulge in much-deserved pampering services at The Spa Within, located on the lake level of The Lodge on Lake Detroit. Enjoy a martini prepared by The Lodge’s mixologist and a tasty appetizer at LoLaD’s fireside lobby bar. At the end of the day, watch the sun set over the lake.
    If you have a weekend: Request a two-night stay at The Lodge on Lake Detroit with a $50 Spa Credit Package. Plan a Mother’s Day weekend getaway and sign up for the weekend wine tasting event “Music and Food to Inspire the Soul,” with rhythm and blues by The Deb Jenkins Band and wine presented by The Wine Company. A calendar of monthly wine tasting and “Live at The Lodge” events is posted on the website.
    If you have a week: Read a good book while soaking up rays on The Lodge’s private beach, rent a boat and do some waterskiing or fishing on Little Detroit Lake, golf on one of nine area courses, go bird-watching along the Pine To Prairie Birding Trail, take a day trip to Itasca State Park, go tubing down the Ottertail River, or enjoy downtown shopping one mile west of the hotel.
    Directions: The Lodge on Lake Detroit is a little over three hours from the Twin Cities in the city of Detroit Lakes. For more information, visit www.thelodgeonlakedetroit.com.


    Madison Area/ Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

    If you have a day: Be sure to visit the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, a nonprofit, independent organization that exists to exhibit, collect, preserve, and interpret modern and contemporary art. Admission is free to museum exhibits, and most museum events are also free. Dine in the rooftop sculpture garden. Visit from April 25-27 for the Design MMoCA, where 16 architect and design teams will create room vignettes (living, dining, sleeping, and working spaces) inspired by works of art from the museum’s permanent collection.
    If you have a weekend: Madison, home to the University of Wisconsin, is alive with college spirit, best experienced on State Street, a pedestrian mall lined with specialty shops, independent bookstores, lively brewpubs, sidewalk cafes, and an eclectic range of over 60 interesting restaurants. Get swept up in Bucky Badger-mania at a Big Ten game, tour the immense Wisconsin State Capitol, or visit the family-friendly Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison Children’s Museum, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, or the UW-Arboretum.
    If you have a week: Hike along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, passing fascinating geological formations created by the recession of giant glaciers during the Ice Age, visit one of more than 150 parks, or check out a museum, exhibit, or performance at the University of Wisconsin. Neighborhoods worth exploring include Monroe Street, just south of Camp Randall Stadium, Willy Street, and Schenk-Atwood. Madison offers both small town charm and a range of cultural and recreational opportunities usually found in much larger cities.
    Directions: Madison is about four hours from the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.visitmadison.com.


    Minnesota Arrowhead Association

    If you have a day: Look for agates along Lake Superior, throw out a line and wait for the fish to bite, and then treat yourself to truly memorable local cuisine at one of the restaurants in Beaver Bay, Finland, Isabella, Little Marais, or Silver Bay.
    If you have a weekend: Stay at Betty’s Cabins or Whispering Pines in Silver Bay; Crooked Lake Resort, Maple Grove Motel, or the Wildhurst Lodge and Campground in Finland; or the Knotted Pine Inn & Tavern in Isabella. Visit the weekend of June 13-15 and be part of the Guinness Book of World Records “Longest ATV Parade,” featuring a parade of ATV vehicles along a designated trail in Silver Bay, an all-you-can-eat-buffet, an ATV auction, and a fun dance with music by the Northern Lights.
    If you have a week: Visit the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, Finland Heritage Center, Baptism River High Falls, Crosby-Manitou State Park, or the 22-foot-tall hand-carved St. Urho’s Statue. Work out your kinks on the links at Silver Bay Country Club, and go on an informative and educational tour of a taconite processing plant.
    Directions: Member towns of the Minnesota Arrowhead Association are approximately an hour north of Duluth. For more information, visit www.finlandmnus.com.


    Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge

    If you have a day: Chill your feet in the cool water of Bay Lake or find a shady spot to read and let the stress of a 9-to-5 lifestyle melt away. Treat yourself to a delicious meal at Ruby’s Dining Room in Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge in Brainerd.
    If you have a weekend: Stay in a house, cottage, golf condo, lodge room, or lake villa at the family-friendly Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge. Spend sunny afternoons boating, golfing, waterskiing, or fishing (Ruttger’s has enjoyed a reputation as a northern Minnesota fishing resort since 1898). Sip an icy cold cocktail on the deck at Bear Pine Bar. Wrap up the weekend with a massage or pedicure at The Fine Line Salon & Spa.
    If you have a week: The Brainerd Lakes Area has plenty to occupy vacation days including quaint gift shops in Nisswa, antique shopping in Crosby, specialty shops in Brainerd, and the Paul Bunyan Trail where visitors can walk, bike or rollerblade from Brainerd to Bemidji.
    Directions: Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge is a little over two hours north of the Twin Cities in Brainerd. For more information, visit www.ruttgers.com.


    Shooting Star Casino

    If you have a day: Enjoy lively 24-hour casino action including blackjack (Wednesday night blackjack tournaments), bingo, daily poker tournaments (Texas Hold ‘Em, Seven Card Stud, and Let It Ride), and more than 1,000 of the hottest new slot machines, with jackpots over $1 million.
    If you have a weekend: Shooting Star Casino—a complete entertainment complex—is hopping on the weekends with live music, local and national acts, concerts, boxing
    and comedy shows.
    If you have a week: When there’s so much to do under one roof, you might as well stay awhile. The Shooting Star hotel is luxurious and service-focused. Located in the same building as the casino, restaurants and event center, you’re only steps away from a great time. Lounge in the balmy atrium or swim in the heated indoor pool after exploring the area.
    Directions: Shooting Star Casino is located in Mahnomen, approximately four and a half hours northwest of the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.shootingstarcasino.com.

    Spooner Area

    If you have a day: Spooner is home to The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, running regular excursions between Spooner and Trego. Two restored plush 1920s-era Pullman passenger cars, pulled by an orange and green World War II vintage diesel engine, make the 14 mile trip to Trego and back in under two hours. Specialty “Pizza Trains” and “Hobo Nights” are favorite trips.
    If you have a weekend:  Visit Spooner July 10-12 for the 55th Annual “Heart of the North” Rodeo, complete with bull and bronco riding, steer wrestling, roping, barrel racing, bareback riding and team roping. Other events include a Saturday afternoon equestrian parade, the Coronation of the Rodeo Queen, live music, and the popular Cowboy Sunday morning service held outdoors at the rodeo arena.
    If you have a week: Hit the trails on horseback at Glacier Trail Rides, visit the world’s largest woodcarving museum, see a community play at Theatre in the Woods, rent a go-cart at Bulik’s Amusements, bike through beautiful wooded areas and along quiet rural roads, or tube down the Namekogan River.
    Directions: Spooner is 109 miles from the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.spoonerchamber.org


    Thunder Bay, Canada

    If you have a day: Step back in time to 1815 and enjoy a conversation with a gentleman fur trader, canoeing with a voyageur, or firing a musket or cannon at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Canada.
    If you have a weekend: Sail past a lighthouse in Thunder Bay’s harbor, become an urban prospector at Canada’s original amethyst mine, enjoy breathtaking views from Canada’s longest suspension footbridge, or travel the rugged Mountain Portage Trail around a spectacular 39-foot “Niagra of the North” waterfall at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park.
    If you have a week: Enter to win an unforgettable seven-day outdoor adventure at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park for yourself and three guests by visiting www.ontariotravel.net/outdoor. Highlights include a tour of Fort William Historical Park; a float plane fly-over tour of Sleeping Giant and the National Marine Conservation Area; sailing on Lake Superior; guided hiking, paddling, and nature photography with renowned adventurers, photojournalists, and conservationists; dining; lodging; ground transportation; and a Nikon Prize Pack. The contest is valued at approximately $12,500.  
    Directions: Thunder Bay is six hours north of the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.thunderbay.com.

    St. James Hotel

    If you have a day: Dine in the award-winning Port Restaurant on the lower level of the St. James Hotel, or on the Veranda, a bright, airy space overlooking the Mississippi River before shopping in the St. James courtyard.
    If you have a weekend: Stay in an enchanting Victorian guestroom at the St. James Hotel, built in 1875, and experience the perfect blend of historic charm and contemporary luxuries. Visit the Red Wing Shoe Company and Outlet Store, Red Wing Pottery Shop, Levee Park, and the Memorial Park Overlook. The hotel is within close proximity to several golf courses.
    If you have a week: Take advantage of hiking, biking, winery tours, rock-climbing or excellent bird watching in the lovely town of Red Wing.
    Directions: The St. James Hotel is an hour from the Twin Cities in Red Wing. For more information, visit www.st-james-hotel.com.



    If you have a day: See a performance at one of Winona’s two professional theater companies. The Great River Shakespeare Festival runs six weeks each summer, showcasing two Shakespeare plays in repertory, with performances in an air-conditioned theater and live music on the plaza green. The Theatre du Mississippi presents original plays and locally produced films in venues ranging from the Masonic Theatre to outdoor sites.
    If you have a weekend: Stay at a lodge, hotel or motel, or B&B in the beautiful Mississippi river town of Winona. Historical architecture and cultural opportunities give Winona a soul that is living, breathing and growing, with a wealth of lodging, dining, shopping, and cultural opportunities.
    If you have a week: Visit the Winona County Historical Society, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Sugar Loaf Mountain (a historic site towering 500 feet over Lake Winona), the Rockie Hill Bison Farm, or the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge.
    Directions: Winona is about 135 miles southeast of the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.visitwinona.com.