You know that autumn has arrived when the legendary mosquitoes are gone, the sky is an intense shade of blue, there’s the slightest of chills in the air, and the sun feels incredibly warm on your face. Soon the leaves will paint the landscape in hues unimaginable and seasonal fare like roast pumpkin, squash soup, and hot apple cider will appear on menus across town. Now is the ideal time for a road trip. Kick-start the fall season with a get-away tailored to friends, family, or romance. »
Take the Family:
Fall is a glorious time to visit Bemidji. Not only are the trees decked out in magical coats of crimson, gold, and scarlet, but visitors can find the prettiest places to admire the view on the city’s guide to color tours, found online at www.visitbemidji.com or available at the Tourist Information Center. The colors typically peak the third week in September.
“Bemidji is surrounded by state and national forests and two state parks, and on the Tour, the fall colors can be enjoyed in familiar or off-the-beaten-path driving routes,” explains Cindy Habedank, Visit Bemidji Group Tour Coordinator. One unique way to take in the spectacular scenery is in a covered wagon, courtesy of Buena Vista Logging Village.
The fall season in Bemidji is perfect for golfing (the courses are less crowded and more scenic), fishing, geocaching at Lake Bemidji State Park, biking through the state and national forests, and bird-watching. There are plenty of dining, shopping and lodging options for visitors, and year-round attractions that appeal to the whole family. www.visitbemidji.com
Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior
Lutsen Resort, set amidst a palette of blazing reds and brilliant yellows, is the ideal autumn getaway for the whole family. The mild fall weather is perfect for getting out and exploring the area. Join resort guides on some of the many complimentary fall activities such as guided hikes (don’t forget your camera to capture the spectacular vistas overlooking the forest) or guided kayak tours along the colorful shoreline. Lutsen Resort offers lodging options for every taste and budget, from historic lodge rooms to hand-crafted log cabins, luxury townhomes to seaside villas. www.lutsenresort.com
Best Western Superior Inn & Suites
Leaf-peeping and hiking are among favorite North Shore pasttimes in the autumn months. Stay right in the heart of the action at Best Western Superior Inn & Suites in Grand Marais, offering 66 rooms—all lakefront—with views of Artist Point in the distance. The hotel celebrates its 25th anniversary with a prestigious award—“Best of the Best Design” for recent extensive room renovations and the creation of the luxurious Renewal Steam Suites.
Visitors can easily explore a variety of key attractions and recreational sites on the North Shore, including Lake Superior, the Gunflint Trail, Lutsen Mountains, and Superior National Forest. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of many unique village restaurants, shops, and galleries. 1-800-2-VIEW
Few truly wild places remain in this country. Custer State Park is one of them. Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the park is home to a variety of wildlife and magnificent scenery spanning 71,000 acres. Nearly 1,500 bison, commonly called buffalo, roam the prairies and hills of Custer State Park, which they share with swift pronghorn, shy elk, sure-footed mountain goats and curious burros. Visitors often enjoy close encounters with these permanent residents along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road winding around the southern edge of the park. Visit during the annual Buffalo Roundup, held on a Monday in late September or early October, and experience an authentic western adventure. The ground rumbles and the dust flies as cowboys, cowgirls and park crews saddle up to bring in the thundering herd. www.travelsd.com
Located just two hours west of the Twin Cities on the shores of Lake Darling, beautiful fall scenery is worth a trip to Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria. In addition to prime color viewing, Arrowwood guests have the option of enjoying the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark, relaxing at the Darling Reflections Spa, playing a round on Arrowwood’s scenic 18-hole course, horseback riding, or warming up (and roasting marshmallows) by an evening bonfire. Accommodations range from lodge rooms and suites to four bedroom townhomes. www.arrowwoodresort.com
You don’t earn the nickname of the “Biking Capital of America” unless you have some pretty fabulous trails, and Sparta, Wis.—located in the center of 101 miles of connected state bike trails and at the end of the famous 32-mile Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail—has rightfully earned the designation. The Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail, one of the first rails-to-trails in the country, offers some of the best sun-kissed scenery in the state, in addition to a limestone tunnel, circa 1880s. Visitors can enjoy a fun experience on the “Little” Ben Bikin’ Mystery Tour (“Big” Ben Bikin’ is a 32-foot fiberglass structure; “Little” Ben Bikin’ is a smaller town mascot); the Mystery Tour starts with breakfast at a 1957 soda fountain shop, past buildings rich in history and architecture (such as the former State School for Dependent or Neglected children where over 2000 children were housed until 1976), along the Elroy-Sparta Trail to your lodging destination.
Sparta is located approximately 20 miles east of Lacrosse, via I-90. Drive the back roads of the area and enjoy beautiful scenery, charming Amish farms, and small communities. There are great places to eat, fantastic canoeing/kayaking in the autumn months, Fall Fest Oct. 3, and lovely lodging facilities, including several bed and breakfast inns and cabins. www.bikesparta.com
Grab your camera and head to Hudson, Wisconsin—less than a 30-minute drive from the Twin Cities—for a fun day of fall color viewing. Every autumn, the river vistas of the St. Croix burst with color in this historic river town.
According to Kim Heinemann, president of the Hudson Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, Hudson offers plenty of ways for visitors to become immersed in radiant fall colors. She suggests checking out the view along the riverwalk, on the Old Toll Bridge, in Willow River State Park, along historic Third Street, in Birkmose Park, from the Octagon House Museum, along Trout Brook Road, or from a fall boat cruise.
In addition to unforgettable fall scenery, autumn events such as Girls Night Out, St. Croix Days, and the Halloween Parade add to the city’s appeal. Visit the website for more details. www.hudsonwi.org
Take your Sweetheart:
Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior
When the autumn air turns chilly, there’s no better place to snuggle with your sweetie than Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior, located along Old Highway 61 in the Lutsen-Tofte area. This year the resort is celebrating a 25th anniversary with special fall deals and activities, such as scavenger hunts, trivia contests, BBQs, and live music on the beach. “Our focus this year is on celebrating our anniversary with activities, events, and deals that reward our guests and communicate how central they are to our continued success,” says Dennis Rysdahl, owner/general manager. Stay in a seaside vacation home and take advantage of crackling fireplaces, private Jacuzzis, a year-round outdoor hot tub, an indoor pool and spa, moonlight strolls, and bonfires on the beach.
Outdoorsy couples can pedal down the Gitchi-Gami Trail, logging roads or backcountry trails to appreciate autumn in all of its colorful glory. The resort is ten minutes from the Lutsen Mountain Ski Area, with excellent mountain biking terrain and beautiful Mountain Tram views of the changing leaves. www.bluefinbay.com
Sundara Inn & Spa
The Sundara Inn & Spa on the scenic outskirts of Wisconsin Dells isn’t just any spa; it’s a spa vacation destination. “We’re as good as an escape to Bali, but a little more budget-friendly than that,” explains Carla Minsky, communications manager. Sundara’s accolades include being named a “Favorite Spa Escape in America” by ABC’s Good Morning America and listed among the “25 Top Spas in America” by Travel + Leisure Magazine. Lodging options in this adults-only, smoke-free spa include 26 spacious suites or 12 private spa villas featuring featherbeds, spa bathrooms, and fireplaces. www.sundaraspa.com
Stout’s Island Lodge
Fall colors will surround you as you drive through the St. Croix River Valley onward to Western Wisconsin on your journey to Stout’s Island Lodge, a lumber baron’s estate on a wooded island in the middle of Red Cedar Lake northeast of Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Accessible only by ferry, Stout’s Island Lodge has guest rooms in the Main Lodge, Shore Lodge and rustic cabins, many furnished with antiques and most with a wood burning fireplace. A member of Historic Hotels of America and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Adirondack-style resort is a rustic yet refined oasis. It was chosen as one of eight “Best Summer Escapes in the U.S.” by National Geographic Adventure magazine. In the crisp fall months, guests enjoy gourmet meals in the Main Lodge dining room, croquet, tennis, sailing, bird watching, hiking, kayaking, and evening bonfires. Visit the website for mid-week discounts and special promotions. www.stoutsislandlodge.net
Take your Friends:
The Lodge on Lake Detroit
The Lodge on Lake Detroit is not your typical lodge, it is a lakefront lifestyle hotel. The focus is on positive energy, pampering and experiencing the beauty and charm of the Detroit Lakes area. All 55 rooms are lakefront to take advantage of the spectacular sunsets. Because nature is such an integral part of the Lodge on Lake Detroit experience, ecological initiatives are important to owners Chris Holland-Mehlaff and her husband, Scott. They offer washable dishes and flatware, an organic skin and body care line, eco-conscious in-room amenities, and ongoing rain garden and shoreland restoration projects contributing to the ecology of the lake.
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 girls’ get-aways, family reunions or retreats.
Visit during the Women’s Wellness Weekend Nov. 6-7, 2009 (Minnesota’s deer hunting opener). Weekend activities include breakfast, spa time, make-up consultations, a yoga class, wine glass painting, tickets to a comedy show
at the Historic Holmes Theatre, a sommelier-hosted wine tasting event, and live jazz music. www.thelodgeonlakedetroit.com
If you crave outdoor adventures with your buddies (camping, climbing, or paddling) Midwest Mountaineering, located in Minneapolis, is the place to get your gear.
With slogans like “Ask us. We’ve been there.” And “Sharing passion for the outdoors” it’s easy to see why customers just voted Midwest Mountaineering the No. 1 store for promoting outdoor growth in sports by Backpacker magazine. “That refers not only to our great customer service but to our extensive clinic schedule and Expo programming,” explains Rudi Hargesheimer, manager.
They back up their products—canoes, kayaks, kites for kite-boarding, backpacks, and all the gear a person needs for a wilderness adventure—with unsurpassed service. www.midwestmtn.com
Celebrate Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel’s 25th anniversary during a fall celebration. Just under two hours from the Twin Cities metro, Jackpot Junction—Minnesota’s first casino-—offers 325,000-square-feet of live gaming excitement (two floors) with video slot machines and the Rees Jones-designed Dacotah Ridge Golf Club, rated as one of the state’s best by Golf Digest. Jackpot Junction is the place for fast-paced table games, live poker, live entertainment, dining at four superb restaurants, enjoying a cocktail at any of four full-service bars, and playing bingo in a 375-seat bingo hall.
Anniversary events include a $100,000 Bingo Extravaganza on Saturday, Oct. 3, Senior’s Day every Wednesday, and the option for golfing groups of 16 or more to receive a free chance at a $10,000 Hole in One. Stay at the Lower Sioux Lodge, adjacent to the casino, an AAA Diamond Rated hotel with deluxe accommodations.
Just five miles from Jackpot Junction is Redwood Falls, home to Alexander Ramsey Park. The park, once part of the state park system, spans over 217 acres and is much of the reason the city is described as “The Scenic City.” www.jackpotjunction.com
Shooting Star Casino
Big gaming options. Check. Big-name entertainment. Check. A large hotel. Check. Excellent restaurants. Check. A spa, on-site daycare, a swimming pool, and an arcade. Check, check, check, and check. When looking for your next get-away, consider Shooting Star Casino Hotel and Event Center in Mahnomen, Minn.
Shooting Star features 1,100 slot machines, a Bingo hall, 16 blackjack tables, the Sereniitee Spa (great for a massage or facial) and now they can add “best poker comps, best poker tournaments, most comfortable poker room, most friendly employees, most knowledgeable and helpful employees, and the most friendly dealers among casinos in Minnesota” according to the results of Midwest Gaming & Travel’s Readers’ Choice Awards, focusing on casinos in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. www.starcasino.com