I’m fortunate that in the 10 Christmas parties my immediate family celebrated in the month of December, only one required travel time beyond a quick 30-minute drive—my husband’s extended family Christmas down in Austin, Minn., a slice of Americana about a two-hour drive down 35E and I-90.
This year, instead of driving down and back within the same day, a group of family members stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn, swam a few times (the kids loved the pool; I loved the hot tub), and dined at the adjacent Torge’s Live Sports Bar and Grill.
It was a very nice, close-to-home getaway.
I’ve been to Austin numerous times over the years for various family gatherings, and it’s a fun little town. I think the small, unassuming towns sometimes get overlooked by the big, flashy ones when people are considering a mini trip away. Don’t ignore the little towns! They need love, too.
Austin is perhaps best known as “Spam Town USA,” home of the Spam Museum and Hormel Foods Corporation (I went to the museum when my now five-year-old was younger and would definitely go back, it’s a really interesting and informational museum—and it’s free). Austin also is home to excellent pulled pork barbeque sandwiches at Piggy Blues BBQ, milkshakes and rave-worthy burgers at the nostalgic 1950s style Tender Maid Sandwich Shop, and unique shopping at one-of-a-kind boutiques and stores in downtown Austin.
When we return, I would love to check out the Healing Palms Spa (massage, anyone?) and nearby Hormel Historic Home and JC Hormel Nature Center, which I’ve heard is fun in the cold and sun. In the winter, you can rent skis and snowshoes; in the summer it’s a beautiful, peaceful oasis in a sea of farmland.
Austin might not have the “big city” attractions to draw people in, but the fact that it feels small in a genuinely warm and welcoming way is exactly what I love about it.