Insider's Guide 2015

    Get an inside look at favorite destinations, performances, and services in the Midwest.

    Okoboji and Iowa Great Lakes Region

    Okoboji and Iowa Great Lakes Region

    Okoboji and Iowa Great Lakes Region

    PO Box 215, Okoboji, Iowa 51355


    We are … a resort community positioned along a chain of five interconnected lakes in Northwest Iowa. In the summer months, visitors and residents are drawn to the water—boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing, fishing, canoeing , kayaking, and paddleboarding are popular activities. When not on the water, you can take to our 60+ miles of hard surface trails winding along the lakeshore and throughout the area, perfect for biking, running, rollerblading, or walking. The summer-stock playhouse, movie theaters, museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops and live music provide a little something for everyone. And a visit wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park for a dose of nostalgia and good old-fashioned family fun. The amusement park will celebrate its 125th year of operation this summer.

    Okoboji and Iowa Great Lakes Region

    We take great pride in … being Iowa’s No. 1 vacation destination, drawing visitors from throughout the Midwest.

    You might not realize … West Lake Okoboji, one of the five-interconnected lakes, is a gorgeous shade of blue and the deepest of the lakes at 134 feet deep. It’s also one of only three officially recognized blue-water lakes in the entire world.

    Okoboji and Iowa Great Lakes Region

    Upcoming events: From January 23-25, 2015, we’ll brush off the snow and hit the ice for the 35th Annual University of Okoboji Winter Games. The lineup includes fun broomball, hockey, and flag football competitions, several beverage and food tents, a chili cook-off, polar plunge, burning of the greens, and a fireworks show.

    Okoboji and Iowa Great Lakes Region

    Lodging accommodations: From large convention resorts to lakeside cabins to traditional hotels, there are over 1,400 rooms and over 30 lodging properties in the area. For a list, visit

    Lutsen Mountains

    Lutsen Mountains

    Lutsen Mountains
    445 Ski Hill Road, Lutsen, MN 55612

    The ultimate vacation experience: While it’s widely known that Lutsen Mountains is the premier skiing/boarding destination in the Midwest, with over 90 sweeping runs and nearly 1,000 feet of vertical, it’s what fills out the vacation itinerary that surprises many.  Sleigh rides, snowshoeing, comedy shows, naturalist programs, and a live music calendar that rivals popular Twin City nightclubs can turn a  ski trip into “best vacation ever.”

    Bands and more: Papa Charlie’s, one of our five on-mountain restaurants, transforms into entertainment central seven nights a week from January 1 through mid-April—that’s nearly 175 shows occurring over the course of the winter, everything from local acts to regional and national bands. Every Monday and Wednesday we host songwriters’ session in a quiet, intimate theater-type setting, when musicians perform original songs and tell stories about their creative inspiration. On the weekends, there’s an energetic party atmosphere at Papa Charlie’s, with 400+ concert-goers enjoying acts ranging from Dessa to Trampled by Turtles. The vibe is different from other gigs in that everyone is on vacation and completely immersed in the music. “There’s a special thing here that artists are discovering,” says Jim Vick, Lutsen Mountains marketing director. “They like playing here. Our roster is filled with pretty phenomenal acts.”

    Lutsen Mountains

    Weekend getaway: In addition to the quality of snowsports available and impressive après-ski entertainment at Papa Charlie’s, Lutsen is close enough to home to quell the unbearable anticipation of arrival, yet far enough to take you a world away, all without the hassle or expense of navigating airports.

    Best bargain: Lutsen gives you the experience of a Western ski resort for a mere fraction of the price. For rates and stay and play package discounts, visit and click on “Plan and Buy.” 

    Visit Winona

    Visit Winona
    160 Johnson Street, Winona, MN 55987

    We are … a scenic jewel on the Mississippi River, settled by traders and lumber barons 150 years ago and a year-round arts and recreation hotbed today. Outdoor enthusiasts love our miles of hiking, biking, and paddling trails, and music, art, and theater lovers appreciate our festivals, galleries, and events.  

    You might not realize … we have excellent snowshoeing, winter biking, and cross country skiing along groomed trails.

    We take great pride in …  being home to a world-class art gallery and one of the 50 best donut shops in the U.S.

    Upcoming events:  The Winona Winter Carnival February 6-8 includes the Snowshoe Snowdown, the Cabin Fever Dash, art classes, and a Sweetheart Dance. The Frozen River Film Festival February 18-22 offers films and programs that engage, educate, and activate people to become involved in the world.

    Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts

    Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior
    Surfside on Lake Superior and Temperance Landing on Lake Superior

    We are … the premier family of resorts on Minnesota’s North Shore, bringing guests closer than ever to Lake Superior and to one another. Our three properties offer incredible up-close views of the world’s greatest lake in the comfort of a distinctly North Shore lodging experience. From the upscale, comfortable accommodations at Bluefin Bay to the refined luxury and relaxation of Surfside to the grand lakeside log homes at Temperance Landing, we offer the ultimate lakeside getaway. 

    You might not realize … we offer complimentary cross-country skis and snowshoes, free shuttles to Lutsen Mountains and area trailheads, spa services, on-site restaurants, fitness and pool areas, and Ski and Stay, Romantic Retreat, and Couples Spa Getaway packages. 

    Upcoming events:  Beginning in 2015, Bluefin Grille will offer live music Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday nights.    

    Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center

    2100 Arrowwood Lane, Alexandria, MN 56308

    We are … a welcome respite from the cold, with a lobby fireplace to warm you after a day out ice fishing or snowmobiling on the DATA Trail; an on-site spa for much-deserved relaxation and pampering; a lively atmosphere at Rafter’s lounge for enjoying hot chocolate, cocktails, and snacks with your friends or family,  and memorable “island fun” in the 38,000-square-foot indoor Big Splash Waterpark.   

    You might not realize … you can reserve one of our ice fishing houses, equipped with lights, propane heat, chairs, cards, and “rattle wheels.” Enjoy an afternoon on a snowmobile (rentals available), skating and broomball on our rink, a sledding hill (we provide the sleds), and weekend campfires.  

    Accommodations:  We host groups of all sizes. Stay in a guest room or suite in the hotel, a beautiful rustic townhome, or modern lakeside cottage. 

    Minnesota Opera

    620 N 1st Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401
    Ticket Office: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. • 612-333-6669 •

    We are thankful for … the support of the community, whether we’re championing new works or reimagining the classics. 

    We take great pride in …employing local musicians for our orchestra and chorus. In addition, our talented production staff builds sets and constructs costumes in our scene and costume shops.

    You might not realize … Minnesota Opera projects English translations above the stage, so you’ll understand every word.  

    Upcoming productions: The Italian comic opera The Elixir of Love (January 24-February 1), in which a love-struck country bumpkin sets out to win a feisty socialite’s heart; The Manchurian Candidate (March 7-15), a suspenseful new opera about an American soldier brainwashed into becoming an unwitting assassin; and a sizzling new production of Carmen (April 25-May 10), featuring one of  opera’s most captivating heroines and a veritable hit parade of recognizable tunes.

    CenterPoint Energy

    PO Box 59038, 800 Lasalle Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55459

    We are … a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, competitive natural gas sales and services, interstate pipelines and field services operations. We serve more than 5 million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. In Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy has operated for more than 140 years, during which time it has provided safe, reliable natural gas and related services to over 806,000 customers, while making large annual investments in the state and communities we serve, creating good paying, stable employment and supporting more than 300 communities. CenterPoint Energy’s Home Service Plus® (HSP) provides HVAC and home appliance repair and maintenance plans and services, replacement assistance plan, pipe protection plan and new product sales and installation services to over 350,000 appliances annually. We continue to be a leader in energy conservation and contribute more than $3.5 million annually to health and human services, environmental initiatives, community development, education and youth development. We also believe it is vital that our workforce and community outreach efforts reflect the diversity of our customers and communities. Our long tradition of dedication and hard work adds up to a company of people who are always there for our customers and neighbors, for our employees and their families, and for our shareholders. 

    Through our … education, environmental and community outreach efforts, we work each day to improve the quality of life in the communities where we do business. With our employees and retirees dedicating more than 36,008 hours in 2013, we provided services valued conservatively at $5.1 million. For more information, visit In 2013, our conservation efforts were evident in saving a total of 1.6 BCF of natural gas in Minnesota, Arkansas and Oklahoma, enough energy to supply 15,800 households with natural gas, adding up to $9.5 million in energy-cost savings annually. Our customers have reduced their carbon footprint by 84,700 metric tons, or enough to remove 14,100 cars from U.S. roads annually.

    You might not realize … in Minnesota, thanks to our Conservation Improvement Program, residential customers can benefit from rebates for high-efficiency natural gas heating and water heating equipment, air sealing and insulation, fireplaces with electronic ignition, rebates for furnace tune-ups, free energy-saving showerheads, as well as Home Energy Audits and a joint gas/electric program with Xcel Energy called the Home Energy Squad. Minnesota commercial and industrial customers can also benefit from a healthier bottom line with a variety of rebates for high-efficiency heating, water heating and foodservice equipment, as well as custom process equipment and other energy saving programs. Learn more at  In addition to having the option to participate in our natural gas efficiency programs, customers also benefit from lower natural gas prices, and are therefore saving even more on heating their home, water, cooking meals, and drying clothes with clean-burning natural gas. Natural gas is safe, it’s clean, it’s affordable (it costs less to use than electricity, propane and heating oil, keeping monthly bills lower), it’s abundant, and the natural gas industry currently employs millions of Americans, and is adding even more jobs, providing a boost to the American economy. To learn more, visit We are also a proud promoter of Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs), which offer a cleaner, more affordable transportation solution. Visit for details.

    Northrop, University of Minnesota

    84 Church Street, Minneapolis, MN 55455

    We are … The revitalized Northrop is an epicenter of discovery and transformation connecting the University of Minnesota and communities beyond by celebrating innovation in the arts, performance, and academics.  Our audiences are continuously blown away by the quality and variety of programming we present. 

    You might not realize …  Northrop is a multi-faceted 21st century venue with vastly improved acoustics, sightlines, technology, and space to host receptions, conferences, events, and parties of all sizes. Also, Surdyk’s Cafe is now open for breakfast, lunch, and pre-show refreshments. 

    Upcoming events: John Mellencamp February 11 and 12, Minnesota Orchestra February 14, The Decemberists March 24,  Damien Rice April 14, and Idina Menzel August 13. Stay connected and up-to-date at and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.