Stay and Play

When the weather forecast calls for sunshine and gentle breezes, Midwesterners know how to make the most of it by planning day trips, weekend excursions, and week-long vacations within a few hour’s drive of home. Whether your perfect summer day includes a trip to the beach, relaxing at a lakeside lodge, walking, rolling, peddling or paddling, or going on a fun summer date, don’t leave home without this helpful summer guide.



Arrowwood Resort

Arrowwood Resort’s newly renovated 18-hole Atikwa Golf Club, located  on the shore of Lake Darling in Alexandria, was designed with wetland preservation in mind and focuses on scenic lake views and unique challenges, providing different levels of golfers a chance to hit shorter, straighter shots or longer, more forgiving shots.

In addition to golf, Arrowwood guests enjoy the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark, Darling Reflections Spa, horseback riding, and evening bonfires.

Birch Bay Golf Resort

Situated near beautiful Agate Lake in Nisswa, the 9-hole, Par 36 Birch Bay Golf Course consists of bent grass greens and watered fairways in the vacation mecca of the Brainerd Lakes area. Take a free beginner lesson on Mondays and Fridays at 11 a.m. (some restrictions apply). Discounts available for those 55 and over. Stay in an air-conditioned cabin or room at Birch Bay Resort and golf right out the back door.

Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge

Excellent golfing is just a mile away at Bemidji Town and Country Club when you stay at Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge in Bemidji. During the summer, guests also enjoy a beach, watersports like  swimming, sailing, waterskiing, kayaking, and canoeing, and a complimentary supervised children’s recreation program. Resort guests are also welcome to use the resort’s basketball court, canoes, and basic kayaks free of charge. Ask about the Stay and Play Golf Package when making reservations.

Thumper Pond Resort

Thumper Pond Resort, located three hours northwest of the Twin Cities in Ottertail—“the heart of Minnesota lakes country”—features a scenic and well-groomed 18-hole championship golf course with enough variety to keep things challenging and interesting. Don’t want to golf 18  holes? Play the nine-hole course or tee it high and let it fly on the driving range. Thumper Pond Resort has an on-site restaurant, lounge, gift shop, full-service spa, indoor waterpark, and 78 spacious suites. For the best golfing deals, book the Stay and Play Golf Package.


Canoe Bay

Canoe Bay, located about two hours east of the Twin Cities, in Chetek, Wis., is the ideal prescription for relaxation and romance while the kids are away at camp. Secluded on three private lakes amidst acres of hardwood forest, the long days of summer provide ample time for canoeing, hiking, exploring amazing gardens (visit the three-acre garden on a Sunday morning to get gardening secrets from the gardener), and working up your appetite for exceptional food and wine. And while a visit to Canoe Bay puts every couple at a refreshing distance from the “real world,” the resort does provide free wi-fi in every building.

Caribou Highlands Lodge

Nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains is the family-friendly destination of Caribou Highlands Lodge, with a variety of styles and prices depending on your preferences. Complimentary kids activities  are available, as is guided canoeing, pool volleyball, and water workouts. The lodge features a heated outdoor three-season pool, an indoor pool, three spas areas, two saunas, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball, picnic areas, and game rooms. Accommodations include four-bedroom luxury log homes designed for privacy, condos that sleep up to six, townhomes that can accommodate groups of up to 12 people, and hotel-style rooms in the lodge, all with optional whirlpools and fireplaces.


The air is cleaner, the stars twinkle brighter, and the wolves howl more loudly in Northern Minnesota—a place of wildlife, forests, and pristine lakes and rivers. With 400 fishing lakes in a 25-mile radius, canoeing, boating, biking and hiking trails, geocaching, golfing, and wildlife watching, it’s easy to become immersed in nature. The Bemidji area also offers some of the best birding around, mainly in BemidjiState Park and Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s oldest state park (step across the Mississippi headwaters here). Bemidji is clearly an outdoor oasis, but it’s so much more than that. “The First City on the Mississippi River” offers an impressive summer lineup of festivals (Jaycees Water Carnival July Fourth, Art in the Park July 21-22, the Dragon Boat Festival Aug. 2-4) and musical events—from casual coffeehouse performances to grand symphony concerts—and a vibrant arts community. Art is on display year-round on the outdoor, downtown Artwalk, as well as in numerous galleries. Bemidji has as many artists per capita as the Twin Cities metro—a little-known fact to tourists.

Lutsen Resort

Lutsen Resort is another popular destination in the Lutsen/Tofte area for those who want the total vacation experience. Amenities include complimentary childrens’ programs, kids’ camps, shuffleboard, guided hikes, disc golf, fly fishing, naturalist programs, and kayak tours led by members of the activities staff. Guests can pick and choose activities off the itinerary,  or simply relax on the beach and watch the many moods of Lake Superior. For a fun summer day on the slopes, head over to Lutsen Mountains. An all-day pass includes unlimited rides on the gondola, which takes you up to Moose Mountain, and rides up the chairlift to Eagle Mountain, featuring the alpine slide. Ski trails are well-marked for hiking and biking. Bikes and helmets are available.

Best Western Superior Inn

Part artists’ colony and part staging point for wooded treks, harborside Grand Marais is known not only for outdoor adventures, but also wildlife, and charming galleries, restaurants, and shops. You can’t beat the lakefront views from the Best Western Superior Inn.

The clean, comfortable, and reasonably-priced hotel is within walking distance of downtown. Treat yourself and book the Renewal Steam Suite, with a large hydrotherapy Jacuzzi, steam shower, and fireplace.

Madeline Island

Family-oriented activities like swimming, camping, beach-combing, hiking, biking, canoeing, playing tennis, golfing, boating, exploring, and picnicking are often part of a vacation on Madeline Island, a short ferry ride from Bayfield to LaPointe, Wis. Along with wonderful beaches, the Island features a museum, golf course, gift shops, restaurants, two campgrounds, trails, a rec center, and a full-service marina.;

Dickerson’s Lake Florida Resort

Unplug and enjoy Mother Nature—and one another—at Dickerson’s Lake Florida Resort, less than two hours from the Twin Cities in the town of Spicer. In addition to a pristine sandy beach, guests enjoy excellent fishing and biking, the use of paddleboats, rowboats, kayaks, and hydrobikes, and modern and clean lakeside cabins.

Okoboji, Iowa

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 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, an expansive trails system, beaches and parks, and a variety of restaurants and lodging.




Northfield’s Defeat of Jesse James Days

Voted “Best Re-Enactment of the West” by True West magazine, Northfield’s Defeat of Jesse James Days, set this year for Sept. 5-9, pays tribute to Northfield townspeople who defeated the infamous James-Younger Gang when it attempted to rob the town’s First National Bank on September 7, 1876. Witness the re-enactment of the bank raid that includes live horses, gunshots, and brave townspeople standing up against the gang. There’s also a professional rodeo, antique tractor pull, parade, live entertainment, and more.

Sleepy Eye’s Buttered Corn Days

Last year was the 50th annual Buttered Corn Days Celebration in Sleepy Eye—a festival that celebrates all things corn (with free buttered corn!)—and this year the festival will celebrate in conjunction with the Sleepy Eye Fire Department’s 125th anniversary. The grand parade will feature fire departments from all over. A dance at the Eagles Club Orchid Inn will follow the parade. This year’s Buttered Corn Days Celebration is Aug. 17-18. Sleepy Eye is in southwestern Minnesota, west of New Ulm.

Grand Old Day

Live outdoor music, fresh air, a fantastic parade, summery street fare, people-watching, local vendors selling crazy gadgets, and area bars and restaurants getting in on the fun are all part of what makes St. Paul’s Annual Grand Old Day, running from Fairview down to Dale on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, such a successful event. This year’s Grand Old Day “kickoff to summer” is June 3 from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to carpool, walk, bike, or take public transportation to the event.

The Lodge on Lake Detroit

Country music lovers know about Detroit Lakes—host city of the wildly popular WE Fest, a three-day celebration of Country Western music set this year for Aug. 2-4, but do they know about The Lodge on Lake Detroit in the same area? At the eco-friendly lakefront lifestyle hotel in the Detroit Lakes area, the focus is on positive energy, pampering, and fun. Stay at The Lodge on Lake Detroit during the 15th Annual Festival of Birds  May 17-20, Mother’s Day weekend for a Wine Tasting Dinner, or Father’s Day Weekend for a Beer Tasting Event. Guests enjoy on-site spa services at The Spa Within, fishing, paddleboating, or kayaking on Lake Detroit, and making s’mores by the lake.


Chanhassen Dinner Theatre

Whether it’s your first date or your 50th wedding anniversary, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre is the perfect spot for casual dining in a fun, friendly environment. You don’t have to think about small talk, there are no awkward pauses, your only job is to sit back and watch the story unfold (as you sneak glances at your date). Winner of the 2008 Broadway critics’ award for “Best New Musical,” Xanadu the Musical—at the Chanhassen June 1-Sept. 29—is a rollerskating, disco-dancing comedy adventure; a spoof of the 1980s film featuring Olivia Newton-John of the same title.

Minnesota Zoo

The Music in the Zoo organizers recently revealed an amazing lineup of shows at the Minnesota Zoo’s Weesner Amphitheater, featuring everyone from Feist to the Bare Naked Ladies, perfect for a date night on a balmy summer evening. Shows start at 7 p.m.

Social Science at Science Museum

In this case, it’s perfectly alright—even encouraged—that your date is into playing games at Social Science at the Science Museum event from 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday, June 21. The theme is “Game Theory,” featuring games of skill, chance, and strategy, and will range from the games you grew up playing to games you’ve never seen before. This 21+ night is complete with cocktails and food samples; a great way to encourage adults to enjoy the innovative programs at the Science Museum without little ones underfoot.

Midwest Home Luxury Home Tour

If you’re curious to see what it’s like to live in luxury (come on, Powerball!), take your date on a self-guided tour of multi-million dollar homes on the Midwest Home Luxury Home Tour June 8-10, 15-17, and 22-24. The Luxury Home Tour is all about Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

Three Rivers Wine Trail

Wine lovers can spend a day or a weekend on the Three Rivers Wine Trail, visiting wineries amid lush valley scenery and sampling award-winning, locally produced wines. The Three Rivers Wine Trail is comprised of five of Minnesota’s oldest wineries all located within the Saint Croix, Mississippi, and Cannon River Valleys—WineHaven, Northern Vineyards, Saint Croix Vineyards, Falconer Vineyards, and Cannon River Winery. At the Saint Croix Vineyards, you can tour the winery, stroll through the vineyards, listen to live music, and picnic near a peaceful pond.

Call or visit the individual websites for up-to-date information. Each winery has different hours of operation and tasting fees.

St. Croix River Valley

The St. Croix River Valley is a great date destination, with options ranging from Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours and Canoe and Kayak Rentals to Wild Mountain Waterpark. Shop, dine, see a show, and spend the night in the St. Croix Falls, Wis. or Taylors Falls area.

Plymouth Playhouse

The Plymouth Playhouse Stay and Play Package is the perfect trifecta of fun for those celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or “just because” you need a night out! The package includes dinner at the Green Mill, a hilarious comedy at the Plymouth Playhouse (book before Aug. 26, 2012 to see The Church Basement Ladies in A Mighty Fortress is our Basement), and overnight accommodations for two at the Best Western Kelly Inn. Call to reserve tickets at 763-553-1600.

Hawks View Cottages & Lodges

The five well-appointed cottages at Hawks View Cottages & Lodges, located about 45 minutes north of La Crosse in Fountain City, Wis., are set high up on a steep, wooded bluff with “hawk’s eye views” of the Mississippi. It’s hard not to relax in this peaceful setting.

Shout House

What is there not to love about dueling pianos?  Bring your date to The Shout House, located in downtown Minneapolis, for an unforgettable night out in a fun, energetic environment.

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