Usually, my family heads to the North Shore for summer vacations, but just to mix things up one year, we headed two hours west of the Twin Cities to Alexandria.
If you’re wondering, “What’s in Alexandria?” (affectionately referred to as ‘Alex’ or ‘Alec’ by the locals), I can honestly say there is a lot to see and a lot to do in this part of the state. It might not have the “crown jewels” of the North Shore—Superior National Forest and Lake Superior—but it has Lake Carlos State Park and shopping and good fishing and a fun nightlife and interesting historical attractions like the Runestone Museum and shopping and parks and wine and did I mention shopping? (I’m something of a shopaholic, and I love, love, loved the charming little downtown boutiques.)
We stayed at Crooked Willow Lodge on Lake Henry, a rustic log cabin with a wraparound deck perfect for grilling steak and sipping cocktails, complete with a private dock for the fishing fanatics in my family.
We spent some time relaxing at the lake, but we also wanted to explore the area. One afternoon we shopped in downtown Alex before heading to Bug-A-Boo Bay Caribbean Club for drinks and dinner (such a lively, energetic, fun environment! The “beachy” décor reminded me of my spring break adventures in Daytona Beach, Fla. and South Padre Island, Texas); another afternoon we drove a few miles to the beautiful Lake Carlos State Park, where we went on a looong hike, tossed the football around, and enjoyed a picnic lunch before the bees chased us away. We didn’t have a chance to stop in at the nearby Carlos Creek Winery, where my friends Amanda and Jon got engaged, but I plan on checking it out when I return (hopefully soon!).
That’s the thing with Alexandria,—you will run out of time before you run out of things to do. My future “to-do” list includes staying at Arrowwood Resort (horseback riding! Kids’ camp!), and taking my boys to Casey’s Amusement Park, to see the peacocks and pygmy goats at Erickson’s Petting Zoo, the Viking Speedway, and the Douglas County Fair. It’s good to have goals, right?
The next time you’re planning a vacation, give our neighbors to the west a second look.
I know I’ll be back.