Midwest Vacation Guide 2009

In these stressful economic times, vacation is a necessity, not a luxury. You deserve some time away from deadlines, email requests, projects, to-do lists, and office gossip. You deserve a break from the daily grind; a chance to step away from the chaos. We provide you with the information you need to start planning the perfect Midwest getaway.




Thunder Bay, Ontario


Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada—the largest community on Lake Superior—is an exciting, quick, and easy getaway for those wanting to stay close to home but feeling the desire to still get away from it all.

“How incredibly lucky we are to have a world-class outdoor adventure destination available to us right at our doorstep,” says RoseMarie Mancusa, partnership marketing coordinator with Tourism Thunder Bay. “Within minutes you can be on a chartered sailboat either fishing for giant salmon or trout or touring the islands and lighthouses of Lake Superior. Thousands of acres of parkland and green spaces right in the city limits means you can hike a mountain to its highest vertical yet be back in time to have an incredible dinner experience at one of our culinary hotspots, then relax in a comfortable hotel room or cozy B&B without feeling you spent most of your day just getting there.”

One lucky winner and three guests will receive an all-inclusive vacation like no other with the 2009 “Seven Days with the Giant” contest! You’ll explore the legendary Sleeping Giant, view the city from a floatplane and a chartered sailboat, visit cultural attractions and taste culinary delights unique to the city (and more).

Enter to win at www.VisitThunderBay.com through May 31.

Crossing into Canada is easy! Visit Canada Border Service Agency at www.cbsa.gc.ca or U.S. Customs and Border Protection at www.CBP.gov for more information.


City of Lakes Tri-Loppet


It might not technically be a vacation, but the City of Lakes Tri-Loppet, set this year for June 27, is a fun summer event that sure beats sitting inside watching TV. This point-to-point off-road triathlon, through the heart of Minneapolis, was designed to give families, recreational paddlers, bikers, runners, and serious athletes alike an opportunity to experience Minneapolis from a different perspective.

The event is part of the Hoigaard’s Challenge, the “ultimate test” of Minnesota-ness combining cross-country skiing, paddling, trail running, and mountain biking.

Arrowwood Resort


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. While visiting the area, two hours west of the Twin Cities metro, stay in a lodge room, suite with a lakefront view, or luxurious four-bedroom townhome at Arrowwood Resort on the shores of Lake Darling. Play a round on Arrowwood’s scenic 18-hole course, unleash your inner cowgirl/boy on a horseback riding adventure, warm up or roast marshmallows by an evening bonfire. Bring the kids to the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark while you rejuvenate at Arrowwood’s Darling Reflections Spa.

Best Western Superior Inn & Suites


The Best Western Superior Inn & Suites in Grand Marais celebrates its 25th anniversary with a prestigious award—“Best of the Best Design” (one of only eight awards in North America)—for recent extensive room renovations and the creation of Renewal Steam Suites (rooms with a whirlpool, fireplace, luxurious shower with a steam unit, and picture window in the shower so you can see Lake Superior).

Visitors can easily explore a variety of key attractions and recreational sites on the North Shore, including 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, and within two blocks of the North House Folk School.

Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior


If your ideal vacation includes postcard-perfect views of Lake Superior, breezy summer evenings, beach-front bonfires, romantic candlelit dinners at the Bluefin Grille, family-friendly activities, and a “backyard” wilderness crisscrossed with hiking and biking trails, then Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior—winner of the Minnesota Lodging Association’s coveted “2007 Best Resort of the Year” title—is the place for you. Kids love the indoor pool, Alpine Slide at nearby Lutsen Mountains, and biking down the Gitchi-Gami Trail (complementary bikes are available to guests). Adults love the vacation homes with private whirlpool baths and fireplaces, soaking in the year-round outdoor pool and hot tub, unwinding with a massage at the Superior Waters Wellness Center, golfing on the 27-hole Superior National Golf Course, and hiking in area parks, where the views of Lake Superior are unforgettable. See the big lake from a kayak, canoe, or sailboat. Lodging options suit a variety of preferences and budgets.

East Bay Suites


A trip to Grand Marais includes beautiful views of Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains, small-town hospitality (pop. 1,171), and the “wilderness” feeling of clear starry nights, pure air, and wildlife sightings of moose, wolves, and bear. East Bay Suites, the first “condo-tel” in the area, is comprised of 31 individually owned condominium suites available for nightly rental, situated so close to Lake Superior you can watch dramatic performances of the big lake from the closest seat in the house. Go hiking in the Superior National Forest, biking along an old forest road, or fishing for lake trout or salmon, visit the historic Grand Marais Art Colony, see the lighthouse on Artists Point, or hit downtown Grand Marais for shopping and dining. And feel free to bring Fido along on vacation, too. The suites are dog friendly (with authorization prior to arrival).

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 at The Spa Within, eco-conscious BeeKind™ in-room amenities, organic wines at LoLaD’s lobby bar, 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 family reunions or business retreats.

Visit during the Spring Women’s Wellness Weekend April 2-5, 2009. Weekend activities include spa time, make-up consultations, a yoga class, wine glass painting class, a ticket to a theatre show at the Historic Holmes Theatre, a California Wine Tasting Event, and live music by the Deb Jenkins Band, one of the Midwest’s finest R&B and blues bands.

Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior


Lutsen Resort provides a unique destination for today’s travelers, combining the Old World charm of its historic lodge with contemporary lodging choices and amenities. The National Geographic Traveler magazine chose the resort for its 2008 “Stay List,” citing the resort’s eco-stewardship, commitment to community, and adherence to “a sense of place” as reasons to visit.

Guests love the complimentary activities and amenities included with their lodging—guided sea-kayak tours, guided hikes, fly fishing classes, yoga, naturalist programs, “kid’s camp,” and evening campfires on the beach. Try the Par-3 golf course or disk golf course, try a game of shuffleboard, swim in the pool, or soak in the whirlpool.

Individual or couples’ massages are available at the new WatersMeet Massage and Wellness Center, and dining is offered in the classic dining room (overlooking the Big Lake) or casual pub. Wine lovers will appreciate the dining room’s ample wine list, which received the 2008 Wine Spectator Award.

The resort is popular among those looking for a romantic getaway or families seeking to relax and reconnect with nature and one another.

Midwest Mountaineering


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.

“Most people don’t know that we donate 10 percent of our profit annually to wilderness and environmental causes. We are locally owned and operated, serving the five-state area since 1970. We appreciate local support because we support the local economy and environment,” Hargesheimer says.

Don’t miss The Outdoor Adventure Expo April 24-26 featuring over 100 presentations, 70 exhibitors, a large canoe and kayak auction, and the best sale of the season. Midwest Mountaineering owners Rod and Sharon Johnson will discuss how the average Minnesotan can plan a comfortable and affordable adventure to New Zealand. Other speakers will talk about South America, Nepal, the far north, Minnesota parks, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Ontario trails and waterways, and more. For more information, visit www.outdooradventureexpo.com.






How can it be that a gem like Okoboji, Iowa—just three hours southwest of the Twin Cities metro—isn’t being shouted from the rooftops as a fun, affordable, close-to-home place to escape?

Stacy Rosemore, tourism director of the Okoboji Tourism Committee, is certain that first time visitors will be very impressed with Iowa’s No. 1 vacation destination.

West Lake Okoboji (a spring-fed lake, and one of the only truly blue lakes in the world) is popular for recreational water sports, and Lake Okoboji and Big Spirit Lake are popular among fishing enthusiasts along with wake boarders, skiers, kayakers, and canoers. The area is home to 34 lodging facilities, campgrounds (state and privately owned), golf courses, the Queen II excursion boat, Okoboji Summer Theatre, Treasure Village Children’s Theatre, Pearson Lakes Art Center, unique shopping, three marinas, museums, nightlife that includes live entertainment and dancing, expansive trails system, beaches and parks, and a variety of restaurants. The Old Iron Car Show, Rock the Roof Concert Series, Vettes in the Park, Antique Wooden Boat Show, University of Okoboji Triathlon/Marathon, and Art in the Park events during the summer months will offer something for everyone in your family.

Visit the website to see a full list of what’s happening in the Okoboji area.

North Dakota

Fargo – Moorhead


Named the “Happiest City in America” by Self magazine in its Best Places for Women list (2006), the Fargo-Moorhead aera is safe, welcoming, and reasonably-priced. (Fargo is North Dakota’s largest city and Moorhead, Fargo’s sister city, is across the state line in Minnesota.)

Not only is this area a great place to live, it’s the perfect vacation destination—combining a lively, cultural community with a friendly hometown atmosphere.

When you visit, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll run out of time before you run out of things to do. Some of the many fun attractions in the area include the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center in Moorhead (featuring a 76-foot handbuilt Viking ship replica); Bonanzaville, with 15 acres of historic buildings, the North Dakota Horse Park, Plains Art Museum, Red River Zoo, Thunder Road Family Fun Park, and the Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm. Sprint car enthusiasts of all ages will have a blast watching sprint car racing and the World of Outlaws at West Fargo’s Red River Valley Speedway.

Exciting summer festivals in the Fargo-Moorhead area range from the Midwest Kid Fest, set this year for June 19, to the Blues Festival, taking place at Newman Outdoor Field from July 31-Aug. 1.

South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota


Powwows. Buffalo safaris. The continent’s tallest mountain this side of the Rocky Mountains. This isn’t your average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill vacation. That’s because Rapid City lies on the edge of the legendary Black Hills, where you can explore two of the longest caves on the planet, hike around the four granite faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt, and scale the walls of the Needles—and that’s just your first day.

“One of the only complaints we hear is that there wasn’t enough time to see everything,” says Wanda Goodman, media and public relations manager for the South Dakota Office of Tourism. “Make sure you allow yourself enough time when you come out here.”

Must-see attractions include Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, and Custer State Park.

“Custer State Park is a great destination for someone looking for outdoor adventure. It’s one of the largest parks in the country, you can camp, canoe, kayak or paddleboat on Sylvan Lake, and there’s some great hiking there,” Goodman says.

For those interested in history, Hot Springs in the Black Hills area—a short drive from Rapid City—was named one of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Don’t miss the Festival of Presidents June 26-27 in the heart of downtown Rapid City, featuring concerts, a kids’ fair, vendors, and a fun parade.

Southeast South Dakota


“You often hear South Dakota described as flat and dry; the southeast region is anything but,” says Jacquie Fuks, executive director of Southeast South Dakota Tourism. “Water is abundant from the lush green rolling prairie to the jagged rock-lined Split Rock Creek to the bluffs of the Missouri River.”

Visitors love the Missouri National Recreational River at Yankton, Palisades State Park near Garretson, the Corn Palace at Mitchell, Falls Park in Sioux Falls, and the Lewis & Clark Trail, to name a few hotspots. Other great places to visit include Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River (excellent fishing), and area festivals celebrating ethnic, western, and Native American culture.

Visit from May 15-17 during Free Fishing Weekend at South Dakota State Parks. It’s a great way to introduce someone to the sport of fishing.


Canoe Bay


Designed exclusively for couples (no children are allowed), Canoe Bay—the only prestigious Relais and Chateaux member in the Midwest—is a gorgeous, unspoiled, secluded retreat located on a 280-acre estate in northwestern Wisconsin. The retreat is all about romance, just what the doctor ordered. All rooms and cottages feature a two-person whirlpool, fireplace, and a private deck with views of Mother Nature at every turn. Guests spend their time hiking and canoeing, scheduling in-room spa treatments, and checking out the well-stocked Great Room/Library with an updated collection of books, movies, and CDs.

One of the highlights of staying at Canoe Bay is dining in the elegant lakeside dining room, serving a prix fixe chef’s menu and a wine list of over 500 domestic and imported vintages. The dress code in the romantic dining room is “casual elegance” (a sport coat for gentlemen is appropriate, but not required). Canoe Bay can accommodate up to 19 couples in lodge rooms, inn rooms, or cottages. The luxurious 3,500-square-foot Edgewood guesthouse features a wraparound deck, high ceilings, a 25-foot limestone fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake.



A wonderful alternative to the costs and challenges of air travel (or long road trips) is a vacation close to home in Hudson, Wisconsin. Located along the scenic St. Croix River just 20 minutes from the Twin Cities metro, Hudson has managed to grow and develop while maintaining its historic charm. The natural beauty of the area sets the scene for hiking at Willow River State Park, free Thursday concerts at Lakefront Park during the summer months, dinner and comedy cruises aboard the Grand Duchess river yacht, and fishing, birding, and boating down the St. Croix River. Visit the Phipps Center for the Arts for cultural events, take a walk on Hudson’s historic Third Street where most homes are on the National Registry of Historic Places (be sure to tour the eight-sided Octagon House Museum), find one-of-a-kind items in Hudson’s downtown area, and treat yourself to dinner at any number of locally owned restaurants. Stay at a charming bed and breakfast, motel, or hotel.

Visit Hudson on Sunday, April 5 for the Spring Showcase Business Expo held at the Hudson Sports and Civic Center from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. The day will include children’s activities, family entertainment, and a variety of products and services available in the Hudson area.

River Road Inn


One of the many good things about spring is that without it, and without the absence imposed by fall and winter, we might not appreciate the beauties around us. When everything is covered in snow, we forget how much we appreciate the warm, fresh sunlight, green grass, and blooming flowers. The perfect place to view the awakening of spring is the River Road Inn, located just upriver from the charming village of Stockholm, Wisconsin.

“Spring comes early on Lake Pepin and there’s a sense of anticipation,” says innkeeper Kathleen Burk. “The ice is coming off the lake, you can hear it crack and pop. Trumpet swans and pelicans are migrating north again.”

The spa-like Inn offers stunning views of Lake Pepin and the glorious bluffs, a spa shower with invigorating body jets, a king-size bed, vaulted ceilings, a fireplace, and is just minutes away from fine dining, art galleries, and the National Eagle Center.

Guests have described the Inn as a “peaceful port in the storm,” she says. “Staying here is all about comfort, relaxation, and romance.”

Sundara Inn & Spa


Sundara Inn & Spa on the scenic outskirts of Wisconsin Dells isn’t just any spa; it’s the 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. “Just because we live in the Midwest doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a world-class spa experience.” 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. In addition to the luxurious amenities, guests love the Purifying Bath Ritual, full menu of spa services including Sundara, organic, and chakra series, spa rooms designed for two with side-by-side massage tables, chef-prepared seasonally fresh cuisine, and outdoor infinity edge pool, heated year-round, with an outdoor fire pit beside it. The location—tucked back into a 26-acre forest—is perfect for a spa retreat. “Even on a cool spring morning, it’s not unusual for people to be sitting outside, inhaling the fragrance of fresh pine trees,” Minsky says. “This spa really could’ve been built anywhere, but they chose the outskirts of Wisconsin Dells. It’s very, very pretty here.” Sundara is also a member of the Green Spa Network. Eight of the villas were built with sustainable building practices, and the ancient Cambrian sand—an exfoliating agent made perfect by nature used in Sandara’s sandstone scrub—was discovered at the excavation site.