Stay and Play

Rather than booking a plane ticket and embarking on a long, expensive trip this summer, save time and money by staying close to home.

WISCONSIN

Quick quiz: What has thousands of acres of cherry orchards, vineyards and farms, 300 miles of shoreline, more than 100 art galleries, studios and museums, over 50 beaches, 19 county parks (and excellent camping), 10 lighthouses, five state parks, plenty of outdoor recreation, an old-fashioned drive-in, a world class fishery, eclectic local cuisine (hint: think fish boils), and glorious waterfront sunsets? If you answered DOOR COUNTY, WIS., you are correct. As a result of the area’s numerous tourism-related amenities, Door County was named by Money magazine as one of the top 10 vacation destinations in North America, and lucky for you it’s less than a six-hour car ride away. Info: www.doorcounty.com

Family-oriented activities like swimming, camping, beach-combing, hiking, biking, canoeing, 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. Info: www.madelineisland.com  & www.madferry.com

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 the amazing gardens (visit on a Sunday morning to get master gardening secrets), 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 offer free wi-fi in every building. Info: www.canoebay.com
 

TWIN CITIES

It’s a hard-knock life for an orphan—until Daddy Warbucks sweeps her away. Take the kids to the award-winning Broadway musical blockbuster Annie at the CHILDREN’S THEATRE COMPANY, running April 12 – June 12, 2011.  Info: tickets@childrenstheatre.org or 612-874-0400.

ST. PAUL SAINTS baseball is synonymous with leisurely summer afternoons. Watch the talented minor league team play excellent ball and enjoy lively between-inning entertainment like Sumo wrestling, human bowling, and wheelbarrow races. Tickets range from $5 (general admission) to $20 (box seats). Info: www.saintsbaseball.com

While visiting Marine on St. Croix, make sure to stop in at new BIKERY DU NORD, a combination bike/Nordic ski store, bakery (try the scones), and gourmet coffee shop. Spinning classes are offered in addition to bike repairs.  Info: www.thebikerydunord.com

Scheduled to open in July 2011, the “Penguins of the African Coast” exhibit at the MINNESOTA ZOO is one of several projects planned over a five-year period in an effort to make the zoo one of the best in the world. See these amazing aquatic birds eye-to-eye, above and below water, in a replica of their wild habitat. Info: www.mnzoo.org/heartofthezoo

Whether you love watching remodeling shows on TV, you’re inspired by good architecture and design, or you’re curious to see what it’s like to live in luxury, you’ll enjoy touring the homes on the MIDWEST HOME LUXURY HOME TOUR June 10-12, 17-19, and 24-26, 2011. Info: www.twincitieshometour.com
 

NORTHWESTERN

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. This scenic backdrop of year-round beauty provides unlimited opportunities for recreation, tourism, business, history (the Runestone Museum houses the famous Kensington Runstone), culture, wine-tasting at Carlos Creek Winery, and shopping (the downtown area boasts a variety of affordable boutiques and antique shops).  Stay at ARROWWOOD RESORT and bring the kids to the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark while you rejuvenate at Arrowwood’s Darling Reflections Spa. Play a round on Arrowwood’s scenic 18-hole course, unleash your inner cowgirl/boy on a horseback riding adventure, and round out your stay by roasting marshmallows by an evening bonfire. Info: www.arrowwoodresort.com

Another lodging option in the “Alec” area is HOLIDAY INN ALEXANDRIA, a full-service hotel with a spacious indoor recreation center including a swimming pool, whirlpool, wading pool, sauna, fitness center, game room, volleyball court, basketball, pool table and ping-pong. Info: www.hialexandria.com 

If you know all the words to Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” and “Look Away,” visit SHOOTING STAR CASINO and Event Center in Mahnomen (approximately 4.5 hours from the Twin Cities) to see Chicago in concert May 12. Come for a weekend of gaming action (complete with award-winning poker rooms), and enjoy golf at the Mahnomen Country Club, excellent restaurants, spa treatments at the Sereniitee Spa, a heated indoor pool, and deluxe accommodations. Go to www.starcasino.com and join Star Rewards, Shooting Star’s rewards program. The complimentary membership gives gamers all the perks they deserve. Depending on the level of play, members can receive discounted and complimentary hotel rooms, meals, limo service, and concert tickets. Info: www.starcasino.com
 

 

SOUTHERN & CENTRAL

Just a short 35-mile jaunt from the Twin Cities area lies the quaint town of NORTHFIELD, best known for unique shopping and dining, a historic downtown area, two outstanding liberal arts colleges (Carleton and St. Olaf), an eclectic mix of artisans, musicians, and craftsmen, a beautiful arboretum, excellent golfing, biking, and hiking, and a long list of fun events, including Girls Nite Out May 6, the Rice County Steam and Gas Engine Swap Meet and Flea Market, May 28-29, the June Bug Festival of Music June 22-25, Crazy Daze July 28, and the Defeat of Jesse James Days Sept. 7-11. Info: www.visitingnorthfield.com 

Drive one hour south of the metro to OWATONNA, home to the first Cabela’s World’s Foremost Outfitters store in Minnesota, the second largest tourist attraction in the state after the Mall of America. Classic, small town charm can be found everywhere you look, from the Central Park Bandshell (featuring outdoor concerts all summer long) to the friendly shop and restaurant owners and residents. There are 24 parks, numerous trails, an aquatic center, the RAD Zoo, featuring creatures of the reptile and amphibian world, and three championship golf courses, in addition to interesting historic sites like the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children (the only state school orphanage in Minnesota’s history) and the Steele County Historical Society’s Village of Yesteryear. Visit during the Steele County free fair Aug. 16-21, 2011. Info: www.visitowatonna.org

THUMPER POND RESORT, located in the heart of the Minnesota lakes country, is near fishing, shops, antiques, state parks, and local attractions. The resort features not only the 18-hole championship Thumper Pond Golf Course and Pro Shop, but a nine-hole course, driving range, conference center perfect for family reunions, restaurant, lounge, gift shop, full-service spa, indoor waterpark, and 78 spacious suites. Info: www.thumperpond.com
 

NORTH SHORE, SD & IA

A trip to the Lutsen-Tofte area should be on every Minnesotan’s “must-do” list at least once a year. The area, less than five hours from the Twin Cities, is within close proximity of the Superior National Forest and Golf Course, Lutsen Mountains (check out the gondola ride and alpine slide), hiking or biking along the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, high-adrenaline mountain biking in the Pincushion Mountain Recreation Area, sailing, canoeing, kayaking or charter fishing on the big waters of Lake Superior, fly fishing on quiet inland waterways, and exploring the quaint towns nearby. Whether it’s a romantic getaway, family vacation, or girls’ weekend, CARIBOU HIGHLANDS LODGE, BLUEFIN BAY ON LAKE SUPERIOR, and LUTSEN RESORT ON LAKE SUPERIOR feature complimentary resort activities and guest services, a variety of accommodations, and luxurious spa services. At the end of a full day, light a campfire, breathe in the crisp, clean North Shore air, and relax under a blanket of stars. Info: www.caribouhighlands.com, www.bluefinbay.com, www.lutsenresort.com

Drive along I-90 heading west from the Twin Cities for approximately eight hours to your vacation destination of RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA and experience a variety of shopping, dining, attractions, and outdoor recreation. Stay in Rapid City and play in the Black Hills where you can discover Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park and much more. Info: www.visitrapidcity.com

The IOWA GREAT LAKES REGION (collectively known as OKOBOJI) is only three hours southwest of the Twin Cities, a quick drive to six natural lakes covering more than 15,000 acres.  Along with endless water recreation, the area is home to Historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park, the Queen II excursion boat, golf courses, trails, museums, theatre, boutique shopping, unique dining, and fantastic nightlife. Info: www.vacationokoboji.com
 

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