Stay and Play

Owatonna, Steele County Free Fair

If April showers bring May flowers, then May is the perfect time to stick around and smell the roses. Whether you are looking for in-town adventure or a quick weekend getaway, we feature everything from where to stay during the fishing opener to cozy lodges that offer great spring deals.

Places to Go

Schedule a tee time on one of two challenging courses, fish for crappie, walleye, bass, muskie, and rainbow trout on Bay Lake, or unwind with a massage at the relaxing Aveda Concept Salon while vacationing at the 500-acre Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge in central Minnesota.

“It’s the closest Brainerd Lakes Area resort to the Twin Cities, but feels more North Woods and natural,” Chris Ruttger,  president of Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge, says of the family-friendly resort.

Spend sunny spring and summer days playing tennis, boating, participating in organized activities (families with kids ages 4-12 especially enjoy the Kids’ Kamp), or skating, biking, running or hiking along the Cuyuna Lakes or Paul Bunyan Trails. Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge also offers four on-site shopping venues and a coffeehouse, lakeside bar, and full restaurant.

Kavanaugh’s Sylvan Lake Resort, the only resort set on the shores of Lake Sylvan in the heart of the Gull Lake area, is large enough to offer a complete destination vacation, yet small enough to be attentive to guests’ needs.

In addition to two swimming beaches, pontoon rentals, 108 holes of golf within less than two miles, three large playground areas, and indoor and outdoor pools, there are paved hiking and biking trails on-site connecting to a city-wide system, with bike rentals available to encourage families to get outside and ride.

The resort has been family-owned since 1969, and the pride of ownership is evident in the efficient management, updated units, genuinely friendly service, and meticulous landscaping. Once a week the four Kavanaugh brothers (all co-owners of the resort) do a cookout with guests.

“It’s nice to get out and chat with everyone,” says Tom Kavanaugh, co-owner. “Even as we’ve grown as a resort, we’ve tried to maintain our family atmosphere.”

Visit on Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day) to take part in the first day of the famous Kavanaugh Rubber Duck Races; a fun event hosted on the Kavanaugh grounds every week through Labor Day. “Because of Kavanaugh’s great network of streams, ponds, and lakes, the duck races have become something that both young children and kids at heart enjoy,” Kavanaugh says.

Arrowwood Resort, a two-hour drive away from the metro area in Alexandria, offers something for everyone. Their outstanding recreational facility includes an indoor water park, 18-hole golf course, bike rental, full service marina, and 30-horse stable with riding ring and trails. Families can also play on the basketball court, indoor/outdoor tennis courts, and sand volleyball courts (well lit for nighttime play).

Love is in the air this spring, and if you’re looking for more of a romantic getaway than a family trip, Arrowwood has the perfect date night planned (valid until May 27).  Pay one price and stay one night in a deluxe standard room, and enjoy dinner for two in the Lake Café and two movie passes to Alexandria’s Midway Cinema 9.

If the spring thaw is putting visions of the North Shore in your head, consider staying at an Odyssey Resort. Relax and enjoy the beauty of Lake Superior at Larsmont Cottages, Grand Superior Lodge, Caribou Highlands Lodge, Trapper’s Landing, or East Bay Suites.

The hottest deal right now? If you book a three-night stay at one of the beautiful log homes, cabins, suites, or lodge rooms at Grand Superior Lodge, you’ll receive the lowest-priced night free. During your getaway, dine at the Rock Restaurant & Lounge, swim in the indoor pool, relax in the sauna and whirlpool, and explore nearby Gooseberry Falls State Park.

If your idea of the perfect getaway includes the words romantic, quiet, and secluded, Cove Point Lodge is right up your alley. Located about 80 miles north of Duluth in Beaver Bay, the Scandinavian-style lodge is surrounded by 150 acres of woods and rocks, with all rooms facing Lake Superior—the ideal setting for a romantic getaway.

About 230 miles north of the Twin Cities, Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior is located in the year-round playground of the Lutsen-Tofte region, set against the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains and surrounded by Superior National Forest.

“You can’t get any closer to the magnificent waters of Lake Superior than Bluefin Bay,” says Lori Schaefer, marketing director. Bluefin offers a full summer activities program with guided hikes, kayak lessons, a kids’ activities program and more. And Bluefin will be holding their first annual Vow Renewal Weekend event June 11-13. Guests of the Vow Renewal event can renew their vows in small group or private ceremonies throughout the scenic grounds of the three properties in the Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts (Bluefin, Surfside on Lake Superior, and Temperance Landing), with packages including professional photography, flowers, champagne, and a small celebratory reception.

“Whether it’s your first or 50th anniversary, every year spent together deserves a celebration,” Schaefer says.

Also located along Lake Superior in the Lutsen-Tofte area is Lutsen Resort, celebrating their 125th anniversary this year. The resort is inviting guests to celebrate their long tradition of hospitality during a Spring Food & Wine Weekend May 14-15, a great way to mark the resort as the longest continually-operating resort in the state.

“Our history has been woven into the fabric of Minnesota travelers for many generations, and we continue to see new generations getting acquainted with us,” says Nancy Burns, Lutsen Resort owner. It’s easy to see why so many generations of families choose to vacation at Lutsen Resort, with activities such as beach campfires, hiking, golfing, biking, sea-kayaking, kids’ programs, and simply relaxing and reconnecting in a natural setting.


Lutsen RestortFamily Outings

If you have a week to visit South Dakota, make the road trip part of the fun. Your adventure starts in Rapid City, near Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and the Black Hills. While staying in Rapid City, check out the historic district and the Presidential Walk with life-size statues of American Presidents.

Years of wind, water and erosion have created the chiseled spires, deep canyons, and jagged buttes known as the Badlands in the Badlands National Park, an awe-inspiring collection of unusual formations. Take the 30-mile scenic loop including several pull-offs where the kids can do some climbing and you can take some amazing photos.

The “wild, wild west” is part of the state’s history. Visit the frontier town of Deadwood for gambling, shopping, and sightseeing.

If you’d rather stay in Minnesota, give Owatonna a second look.

“Owatonna offers something for everyone with a variety of year-round recreation,” says Lisa Havelka, Owatonna tourism director.

The city, about an hour south of Minneapolis, boasts 700-plus acres of parkland and walkways within 24 parks—Kaplan’s Woods Parkway alone offers 225 acres for a beautiful May hike, bike ride, jog, or inline skate. The city’s historic sites, newer stores (Cabela’s), and amenities put Owatonna on par with cities many times its size.

When the sun is shining, the air is warm, and the skies are blue, bring the whole family to the River Springs Outdoor Water Park (opened just a year ago). “With a tube slide, body slide, lazy river, kiddie pool, concessions stand, and new climbing wall, this is a great place to spend a lazy summer afternoon with the family,” Havelka says.

The St. Croix River Valley area forms a state line between Minnesota and Wisconsin and is a popular recreational spot in the warm months.

Explore the St. Croix River on a canoe, kayak, or boat, camp along the scenic banks (there are six state parks in the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway), or throw a line out and hope for a bite. The small towns in the area offer a variety of independent restaurants, quaint shopping (especially great for gifts, antiques, and books), and historic B&Bs. Activities include dozens of golf courses, a water park, a sculpture park, Osceola and St. Croix Valley Railway, Star Prairie Trout Farm, and Chateau St. Croix Winery and Vineyards.

Minnesota’s original “Up North” belongs to Leech Lake. Staying at a Walker resort practically guarantees a memorable Minnesota vacation experience. From boating, sailing, and fishing to golfing, biking, hiking, and in-line skating, Leech Lake has it all. 

The lake itself is an often breathtakingly beautiful, scenic lake with 78 percent of the shoreline public and undeveloped. Pelican Island is famous for bird watching, and the largest population of nesting Bald Eagles on the North American continent can be found in nearby Chippewa National Forest.

Three casinos, three golf courses, a winery, six national and state parks or forests, plus theatres, museums and trails are common attractions in this popular vacation destination.

May isn’t necessarily an action-packed month in Bemidji, but that’s the great thing about it. 

“I wish we could bottle the Bemidji air,” says Denelle Cauble, executive director of Visit Bemidji. Not only is the air crisp and clean, the pace is slow and Mother Nature is at her finest in this northern city, about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Minneapolis.

Three state parks in the Bemidji area open in May and offer biking and hiking trails, and 400 fishing lakes within 25 miles offer no shortage of hot-spots for catching “the big one.”  The first city on the Mississippi is also home to three great golf courses, a variety of campgrounds, and luxury hotels. And don’t forget about Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. The statues in the city of the historic lumberjack offer great photo opportunities that make for an excellent family tradition for years to come.


St. Paul SaintsThings to Do

Mark your calendars for the 2010 Midwest Home Luxury Home Tour June 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27. During three weekends, tour attendees can enter a world teeming with awe-inspiring ideas for interior design, architectural treatments, landscape design, home technology, ‘green’ living, and exquisite finishes—all of which can make a home truly shine. Fully furnished, the homes encapsulate the stunning design and construction skills of some of the Twin Cities’ most sought-after builders. Save $5 by purchasing discount Passport tickets at more than 180 Twin Cities Caribou Coffee locations.

There are few things more “summer” in Minnesota than an outdoor baseball game. Tailgate outside at Midway Stadium before a St. Paul Saints game (you can almost hear the sizzle of the grill) before watching the awesome minor league ball team. Half the fun is watching the lively between-inning competitions such as Sumo wrestling, human bowling, and wheelbarrow races. With a noisy, boisterous crowd, it’s nearly impossible not to have fun at a Saints game. 

It’s also nearly impossible not to have fun at the Minnesota Zoo, no matter your age. May 29 marks the opening date of the zoo’s newest exhibit, “Faces of the African Forest.” Elegant Colobus monkeys will join DeBrazza’s monkeys, fruit bats, dwarf crocodiles, red river hogs, and rock hyrax in the Zoo’s Tropics Trail. The zoo isn’t just home to over 2,000 animals; it’s also a phenomenal outdoor concert venue. Adults looking for a fun date night should check out the Music in the Zoo Concert Series this summer.

Opera is all about emotions and history. The story can be suspenseful, humorous, fun, sensual, or foreboding. A good opera will leave you riveted on the edge of your seat, and seat-riveting productions is exactly what you’ll get from talented local, professional artists at the Skylark Opera. The summer festival kicks off June 12 and will run until June 20. Skylark will present Franz Lehar’s masterpiece The Merry Widow (sung in English) and Noël Coward’s operetta tribute to Viennese operetta, Bitter Sweet, with performances at E. M. Pearson Theatre on the Concordia University campus in St. Paul.

Looking for something different to do in May or June? Head east to the Saint Croix Vineyards in Stillwater for some wine tasting in their rustic tasting room (a restored century-old barn). The vineyard sells over 15 varieties of white, red, and dessert wines. If you’re interested in learning more about how grapes are grown in Minnesota and the winemaking process, Saint Croix Vineyards offers tours in May and June. Or feel free to pack an old-fashioned picnic lunch and enjoy it at a picnic table overlooking their quiet pond before taking a stroll through the picturesque vineyards.

If you’re craving fast-paced action, head to Shooting Star Casino. Exciting promotions (win a car May 9) make Shooting Star, located in Mahnomen, the spot to be for gamers, partiers, or those wanting relaxation. 

Not a gamer? Shooting Star’s still got you covered. “With the delicious gourmet restaurant, 2 ONE 8, and specials at Sereniitee Spa, even non-gamblers can enjoy our luxurious retreat or a dip in the indoor pool,” says Mallory Ellis, media supervisor.

If your idea of adventure is more backpacking, climbing, canoeing, and kayaking than playing indoors, let the experts at Midwest Mountaineering, located in the Cedar-Riverside area, help you find the gear you need.

If your summer adventure includes kayaking, drive over to Schulze Lake Beach in Lebanon Hills Regional Park for a free Midwest Mountaineering kayak demo on Saturday, May 15 at 1 p.m. Midwest Mountaineering will bring the boats, paddles, and personal flotation devices; you just need to come “dressed to play.” The 40th Anniversary Sale starts May 27.

August might seem like a long ways off, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the annual Uptown Art Fair, set this year from Aug. 6-8. Make sure you’re in town that weekend to choose from a variety of creative and original works of art including sculptures, paintings, photography, woodcarvings, glasswork, jewelry, multimedia compositions, and more. Hundreds of juried artists will line Hennepin Avenue from 28th Street to 31st Street, and along The Mall from Hennepin Avenue to Lake Calhoun. Vendors will sell tasty food and cold beverages, and live on-stage bands (and other performers) will keep the crowd entertained. The Art Fair attracts 375,000 people annually, making it the No. 2 statewide event as far as attendance, second only to another highly-anticipated summer get-together—the Minnesota State Fair, set this year for Aug. 26-Sept. 6.

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