Midwest Vacation Guide: Spring Getaways

You don’t have to travel far to appreciate the beauty of the Midwest in spring. From a day trip to a longer getaway, we highlight our favorite destinations to visit this season

A couple sitting on a grassy hill overlooking some nice scenery in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Alexandria

photo by john magnoski photography


Alexandria

Why visit in spring?

The Alexandria Lakes Area has fun activities year-round. Spring offers beautiful views of the lakes and is also the perfect time for a hike or bike ride on the Central Lakes Trail, or a cruise on the Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway.

Where do the locals hang out?

Locals enjoy visiting the many parks, trails, and 350 lakes in the area. They also like to explore Alexandria’s large downtown district with dozens of locally-owned boutiques, gift shops, restaurants, and antique shops.

Distance from the Twin Cities

Two hours northwest

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

True Minnesota lakes country destination

Insider tip

Every visitor must take a photo with Big Ole, our 28-foot-tall Viking statue, and find out why his shield proclaims “Alexandria: The Birthplace of America.” Visitors should also experience Minnesota’s first craft beverage trail, the Skal Crawl, which includes Carlos Creek Winery, Copper Trail Brewery, and Panther Whiskey Distillery.

explorealex.com

An aerial shot of Arrowwood Resort showing a pool, lake and boats in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Arrowwood Resort

photo courtesy arrowwood resort


Arrowwood Resort

Why visit in spring?

It’s fun to see the transition in the spring with the ice melting on Lake Darling and the trees turning green. When it gets warmer, visitors also enjoy horseback riding at the Arrowwood Stables, splashing around at Big Splash Minnesota Indoor Waterpark, renting boats and kayaks at the marina, and golfing at the Atikwa Golf Club.

Where do the locals hang out?

Locals and visitors like to sip wine and beer at Carlos Creek Winery and Copper Trail Brewery, hike and bike the Lakes Area trails, unwind with a facial or manicure at the Darling Reflections Spa, catch a show at a local theater, shop in downtown Alexandria, and get out on the lakes as much as possible.

Distance from the Twin Cities

Two hours northwest

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Relaxing, beautiful, nature-inspired resort

Insider tips

Come ready to enjoy a great area with plenty to do to keep you busy or relaxed. 

arrowwoodresort.com

Two people on a fishing boat at sunset in Bemidji, Minnesota.
Bemdiji

photo by aaron eickhorst


Bemidji

Why visit in spring?

Spring is a great time to watch the migration of warblers and other songbirds. Located at the confluence of three major ecological environments, Bemidji offers a wide variety of habitats for bird species as well as scenic beauty. Bird and nature enthusiasts can explore the abundant waterways and lush forests by boot, bike, boat, or car.

Where do the locals hang out?

Downtown Bemidji has great local dining and pubs that locals and visitors like to frequent. Some of our favorites are Bar 209, Keg n’ Cork, and Bemidji Brewing. Visitors also enjoy seeing the many pieces of public art, and you can’t pass up the opportunity to take a picture with the giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues.

Distance from the Twin Cities

About four hours northwest

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Minnesota Monthly’s Best MN Town 2017

Insider tip

Spend a delightful weekend visiting with fiber artists in their studios along the Pine to Prairie Fiber Arts Trail on April 27-28. The art festival celebrates the unique heritage of the area’s voyageurs, pioneers, and indigenous peoples, showcasing both traditional and contemporary textile art forms.

visitbemidji.com

A jeep with a canoe on top parked at a cabin in the forest at Bert's Cabins in Park Rapids, Minnesota.
Bert’s Cabins

photo by brian austin


Bert’s Cabins

Why visit in spring?

With flowers blooming and birds returning, Park Rapids is beautiful in the spring. It is also an excellent time for a hike or bike ride around the nearby parks and trails.

Where do the locals hang out?

Locals and visitors like to check out the Mississippi River Headwaters at Itasca Lake. For delicious eats, a local favorite is Lobo’s Bar & Grill with burgers, soups, salads, and pizza.

Distance from the Twin Cities

About four hours northwest

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Peaceful, comfortable, Itasca State Park

Insider tip

Be sure to visit the Headwaters at sunrise or sunset for breathtaking views. Visit our website for tips on where to find special flowers or birds and unique ways to experience some of the special spots in Itasca State Park. 

bertscabins.com

A guy riding a bike on a wooden bridge in the forest at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
Detroit Lakes

photo by detroit lakes tourism bureau


Detroit Lakes

Why visit in spring?

Spring brings the excitement of fun days at the beach and on the water. Detroit Lakes is in a transition zone of prairie, hardwood, and conifer forests, which makes for an interesting habitat with hundreds of bird species.

Where do the locals hang out?

Locals and visitors like to hang out on the mile-long sandy beach and go to the bars and restaurants across the street. Other popular activities include hiking and mountain biking in Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, going on nature walks, dining at lakeside restaurants, shopping at new boutiques, and watching performances at Holmes Theatre.

Distance from the Twin Cities

Just over three hours northwest

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Fun at the lakes

Insider tip

Whether you take a bike ride or walk along a beach, or get out in a boat on the water, be sure to catch the sunrise or sunset on the lakes. You may even hear the winsome calls of loons over the water. 

visitdetroitlakes.com

An aerial shot of Lutsen Resort shows a large red building surrounded by a forest and lake in northern Minnesota.
Lutsen Resort

photo by dennis o’hara


Lutsen Resort – Lutsen, Minnesota

Why visit in spring?

There are a number of waterfalls and large river heads on the North Shore that are breathtaking in the spring melt. The resort also has its best rates of the year in April and May.

Where do the locals hang out?

Many people visit the local establishments and coffee shops in Tofte and Grand Marias. Locals also enjoy the Superior National Golf Course for its challenging course and phenomenal views of Lake Superior.

Distance from the Twin Cities

About four hours north on the North Shore

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Woods-chic resort on Lake Superior

Insider tip

Visiting the waterfalls and following the tour route that Visit Cook County has put together is a great activity. The High Falls at Judge C.R. Magney State Park are something truly spectacular to see.

lutsenresort.com

People flying kites in an open field in Iowa.
Iowa

photo courtesy iowa tourism office


Iowa

Why visit in spring?

There are many great events happening in spring, including the Maple Syrup Festival in Cedar Rapids, Kites Over Hoover Park in West Branch, Tree Town Music Festival in Forest City, and tulip festivals in Pella and Orange City. It’s also a great time to get outdoors at county and state parks.

Where do the locals hang out?

Locals love hiking to waterfalls, fishing, biking, white water rafting, and more. There are also many attractions, like the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden in Des Moines, Maquoketa Caves State Park just south of Dubuque, and Big Spirit and Okoboji Lakes, known as the “Iowa Great Lakes.”

Distance from the Twin Cities

Iowa’s northern border is less than two hours south of the Twin Cities. Mason City is about two hours away, Decorah is about three hours, and Des Moines is about 3.5 hours.

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Beautiful scenery, charming small towns

Insider tip

The best way to see Iowa is to get off the interstates and explore the back roads and quaint communities.

traveliowa.com

A marina filled with sail boats in Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Bayfield, Wisconsin

photo courtesy bayfield chamber and visitor bureau


Bayfield, Wisconsin

Why visit in spring?

Spring is a great time to visit Bayfield because the gardens and orchards are blooming. In town, visitors can see 50,000 blooming daffodils and beautifully maintained public and private gardens. Just outside of town, tour the Bayfield Fruit Loop, made up of 15 orchards and berry farms.

Where do the locals hang out?

People like to get out on Lake Superior and experience the Apostle Islands by taking a narrated cruise with Apostle Islands Cruises, chartering a sailboat or powerboat, or taking the ferry to Madeline Island.

Distance from the Twin Cities

About four hours northeast

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Picturesque, fresh, creative, historic, fun

Insider tip

When visiting Bayfield, be sure to take some time to explore the shops and restaurants on historic Rittenhouse Avenue. Bayfield is the berry capital of Wisconsin, so fresh fruit and berries are available all summer, starting with strawberries in late June, then cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and apples.

bayfield.org

A view of a lake from a patio shows a dock and lush forest surrounding it.
Canoe Bay

photo courtesy canoe bay


Canoe Bay – Chetek, Wisconsin

Why visit in spring?

Visit with our gardener and the chefs at our amazing onsite organic garden. The remarkable garden-to-table meals by Chef Randall Prudden and his team are a bona fide must-try. Visitors can delight in hearing birds singing and spotting newborn fawns, blossoming flowers, and ferns in the forest.

Where do the locals hang out?

Hope & Anchor Coffeehouse is a popular in-town spot, offering patio seating with a neighboring gift shop.

Distance from the Twin Cities

Two hours east

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Peaceful, private, romantic, gourmet getaway

Insider tip

Visitors enjoy extensive book and movie libraries; a fleet of canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards; miles of hiking paths; an indoor fitness center; and a phenomenal 3-acre garden.

canoebay.com

A room at Hawks View Cottages with wooden floors, exposed wooden ceiling beams, a wicker chair, dresser and bed.
Hawks View Cottages

photo by kate maher and jean mueller


Hawks View Cottages – Fountain City, Wisconsin

Why visit in spring?

Spring is a great time to see migrating eagles all throughout the river valley. Springtime also brings all other birds and wildlife on display as they take advantage of the newly warm weather and green landscapes.

Where do the locals hang out?

Locals hang out at the Monarch Public House, a historic Irish Pub; the Golden Frog Saloon, which has been in business in Fountain City since 1878; and Seven Hawks Vineyards (don’t miss the free wine samples).

Distance from the Twin Cities

About two hours south

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Cottages on the Mississippi River

Insider tip

Fountain City has a variety of nearby historic sites, including Elmer’s Toy and Auto Museum (Fountain City), Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden (Cochrane), Minnesota Marine Art Museum (Winona, MN), and the National Eagle Center (Wabasha, MN). 

hawksview.net

A waterfall in Hudson, Wisconsin.
Hudson, Wisconsin

photo by sobottka photograhpy


Hudson, Wisconsin

Why visit in spring?

Restaurant patios are starting to open for al fresco dining in historic downtown Hudson. Visitors can take a dinner cruise on the St. Croix River from Afton-Hudson Cruise Lines, golf at one of the many courses, and hike to Willow Falls at Willow River State Park.

Where do the locals hang out?

The locals like to hang out by the St. Croix River and in Willow River State Park. A lot of time is spent enjoying the amazing independent restaurants as well as local wineries and breweries. Locals love the arts, so you’ll find them at The Phipps Center for the Arts for classes and performances, as well as viewing contemporary craft and fine art at Seasons on St. Croix Gallery.

Distance from the Twin Cities

About 30 minutes east

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

Art, nature, and food experiences

Insider tip

People come to Hudson for the beautiful St. Croix River and Willow River State Park and discover that Hudson is a destination for dining, wineries and craft beer, boutiques, and the arts.

discoverhudsonwi.com

A shoreline with crystal clear water blanketing rocks in Madeline Island, Wisconsin.
Madeline Island

photo by rachel hershberger


Madeline Island, Wisconsin

Why visit in spring?

Spring is a good time to visit because the island is not as busy compared to the crowds that appear in July and August. Visitors will find that there is still plenty to do and can enjoy the slower pace of island life.

Where do the locals hang out?

Some of the local favorites to grab a bite to eat include Beach Club, Café Seiche, and Mission Hill Coffee House. To find local art, visit the Bell Street Gallery, Woods Hall Gallery and Studios, and Island Carvers.

Distance from the Twin Cities

About five hours northeast with a 20-minute ferry ride from Bayfield

Describe your destination in 5 words or less

History, arts, shopping, dining, and beaches

Insider tip

Rent a bike or scooter at Motion to Go, visit the Madeline Island Museum, shop at the Madeline Island Market, and hike around Capser Trail, Big Bay State Park, and Joni’s Beach. 

madelineisland.com

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