The ABCs of Summer Fun

An A to Z list of the region’s hottest summer attractions and destinations


You’ve waited all year for the summer season, and finally (finally!) the signs of summer are around us: the crack of bats, the ice cream truck, birds singing, kids playing outside, lemonade on the patio, bare feet, flowers blooming, and endless days filled with warm sunshine. If you’re looking to experience the best of the region this summer, you’ll find it here in this alphabetical guide.


Art Classes/ Festivals >
The oldest art colony in Minnesota, the Grand Marais Art Colony celebrates a 60th anniversary this year, proving that it’s not only a great place to take art classes, but a mainstay in the community. The art colony is the generous sponsor of the Grand Marais Arts Festival July 14-15 on the harbor in downtown Grand Marais. During this exciting weekend, there will be art, art, and more art, fiber guild demonstrations, an old-fashioned pie social, a silent book auction, musical performances, and special activities for kids.


Beach Bonfires >
The lively, upbeat, fun summer song “Walking on Sunshine” could easily describe Breezy Point Resort in the summer months. Adults return for the comfortable amenities, 20-foot pontoons, reasonably priced championship golf, great food, live bands, and outdoor Elvis shows. Kids love swimming in Pelican Lake, the two large indoor pool areas, bocce ball on the lawn, and evening bonfires on the beach. Gather a group together and stay in the new four-bedroom reunion cabin (complete with full kitchen, pool table, and large deck).


Comedy Cruises >
The next time you plan an evening out, do something different than the ordinary dinner-and-movie combo and take your date on an Afton-Hudson Cruise Line comedy dinner cruise, running May 25 through October 12. Enjoy prime rib and chicken marsala, pristine St. Croix River scenery, and the comedy of such hilarious headliners as Scott Hansen and Dave Mordahl of “Last Comic Standing” (see the website for a full list of performing comedians). After the cruise, stay overnight at the charming Historic Afton House Inn.


Day Trips >
Have a day or two to play and don’t know where to go? If you’re planning on staying within state borders, head to Minneapolis North, encompassing the 11-city area of Anoka, Arden Hills, Blaine, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Coon Rapids, Fridley, Ham Lake, Maple Grove, Mounds View, and Shoreview. From great restaurants to wonderful shopping; diverse sports facilities to beautiful parks; any time spent in the Minneapolis North area is time well spent.

When the temperatures soar, get in your car and head across the St. Croix River for a fun day or weekend in Hudson, Wisconsin. Tour the Octagon House, stroll downtown for one-of-a-kind boutiques, restaurants, and Mom-and-Pop shops, visit the always fun Wine Bar, hang out in Willow River State Park (with campsites, hiking trails, a waterfall, and two lakes), see a show at the Phipps Center for the Arts, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it from a sunny spot in Lakefront Park, right on the St. Croix River. A classic song that sums up Hudson’s carefree, happy days of summer could be “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago. “Saturday in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July, people dancing, people laughing, a man selling ice cream, singing Italian songs … I’ve been waiting such a long time for Saturday.” 


Escape to Lake Country  >
Kick off your shoes and sink your toes into a mile of sugar sand beach as you celebrate the arrival of summer in the Detroit Lakes area. In addition to golfing on nine area courses, fishing in over 400 lakes, tubing down the Otter Tail River, mini golfing, biking, shopping, and visiting amusement parks, downtown Detroit Lakes is transformed into a summer jamboree during the Street Faire June 2-3 and Arts and Crafts in the Park July 29. One of the area’s largest celebrations, the Northwest Water Carnival July 7-15, offers volleyball, water skiing, mountain biking, and sailing tournaments, a pageant, water fights, a parade, and a chili cook-off. Other fun events in the area include the White Earth Pow Wow June 8-10, Becker County Fair July 25-28, Pine Point Pow Wow August 11-12, and annual WE Fest country music festival August 2-4.

While visiting Detroit Lakes, stay at The Lodge on Lake Detroit, a lakefront lifestyle hotel located less than two miles from downtown Detroit Lakes. The focus is on positive energy, pampering, and experiencing the beauty and charm of the Detroit Lakes area. Each of the large, smoke-free rooms and suites face the lake and sunset. The sunset is also the focus during sunset serenades, when guests are encouraged to relax in the lakefront fireside lobby—with drinks and appetizers if they so choose—as soft piano music fills the room. Other unique lodge features include a full-service spa, indoor pool and hot tub, fitness area, sandy beach, dock, and boat slips.


Fish, Boat, Camp  >
During the sun-soaked days of summer, get away to the Mille Lacs area for some quality fishing, camping, boating, picnicking, biking, and hiking.  This is one of the largest lakes in central Minnesota and the fish are always biting—especially the walleye. Other points of interest include a State Indian Museum off U.S. 169 and Wealthwood State Forest on the northern shoreline.




Golf >
Dacotah Ridge Golf Club, a certified Audobon Cooperative Sanctuary Golf Course, is located just four miles east of Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel. Golf Digest rated the 18-hole championship course as one of Minnesota’s best. The natural, classic course blends seamlessly with the surrounding prairie landscape, attracting golfers from around the country.


Horseback Riding >
Enjoy some of the best horseback riding in the state at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center’s 30-horse stable, complete with riding ring and trails. Other activities at this Alexandria resort include an 18-hole golf course, an 18-hole executive putting course, a full-service marina, the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark, Darling Reflections Salon, and Camp Arrowwood for kids ages 4-12. Guests will run out of time before they run out of things to do.


Ideal Romantic Getaway >
Designed as a true retreat from the stresses of the real world, Canoe Bay’s setting is unspoiled, peaceful, and secluded. Guests are treated to privacy, friendly service, memorable cuisine, and opportunities to swim, canoe, kayak, or hike in a smoke-free, kid-free environment. When Louis Armstrong sings “What a Wonderful World,” the lyrics could aptly describe this romantic destination located near Rice Lake, Wisconsin.


Jackpot Junction >
Located in southwest Minnesota, just under two hours from the Twin Cities metro, Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel offers 325,000-square-feet of live casino action with video slot machines, table games, and a 375-seat bingo hall. Adding to the excitement is a $153,000 cash and Mustang giveaway throughout June, July, and August. Come for the gaming, great food, full-service bars, and live entertainment. Clay Walker will be performing May 18, Phil Vassar will be performing June 15, and Paul Rodriguez will be on stage July 27.   


Kayak, Hike, Bike >
Whether you’re in search of an active vacation or a relaxing escape, you can’t go wrong at Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior. Take a sea kayaking lesson on the world’s largest freshwater lake, borrow a complimentary mountain bike, trailer, or stroller and head out on the nearby paved Gitchi Gami Bike Trail, soak in the indoor/outdoor hot tubs, unwind with a massage at the Wellness Center, or take a complimentary shuttle to hiking and biking trailheads.  Kids can’t get enough of the Children’s Play Area and indoor and outdoor pools at this spectacular resort.    


Lutsen Resort’s “Meet at the Beach” >
Wooden kayak and canoe builders will meet on Lutsen Resort’s beautiful beach June 16-17 to show off their one-of-a-kind boats and let others test their beauties in the waters of Lake Superior. The event is free and open to the public.

“There are great events happening almost every weekend,” says Adam Harju, Lutsen Resort activities and recreation director. Guests enjoy everything from Kids Camp and Adventure Club to romantic Bed and Breakfast packages at this legendary resort, in the area since 1885. 


Macy’s Flea Market/ Macy’s Day of Music >
Starting on June 6, Macy’s Flea Market—in the lower level of Macy’s Minneapolis—will feature fantastic finds from Paris, London, and Amsterdam. The Flea Market, with trinkets and treasures ranging from vintage to ultra-modern, will run through August. Macy’s Day of Music, from noon to noon July 13-14, will feature free performances by Tim Mahoney, the Minnesota Orchestra, and for the wee ones, a Saturday morning performance by Brady Rhymer and the Little Band that Could.


North Woods Excitement >
From a tour of a working bison ranch, to a bird-watching trip via canoe, to hiking or biking along the famous Heartland State Trail, there is plenty to see and do in Park Rapids. Spend a quiet day horseback riding in the north woods, visit antique shops, fish in crystal-clear lakes, or tour a local winery. See where Lake Itasca gives birth to the Mighty Mississippi at Itasca State Park. Lodging options include bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels, vacation homes, and campgrounds.


Outdoor Adventures >
With nonstop activities for the whole family, Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen is all about summer fun. Guests can sign up for guided canoeing and hiking trips, treasure hunts, lawn games, bingo, Lake Superior rock hounding, bonfires, and ice cream socials. Zip down the nearby Alpine Slide, zigzag across Lutsen Mountain ski runs on a mountain bike, or hike along the always-beautiful Superior Hiking Trail. The resort features indoor and outdoor pools, a restaurant, tennis courts, a coffee shop, and a variety of lodging styles and options.


Pottery and Unique Jewelry >
Head over to Hutchinson this summer and check out Clay Coyote Pottery and Gallery, featuring handcrafted, functional pottery at reasonable prices. Clay Coyote carries the handcrafted work of 160 artists from all over North America. Find unique pottery, jewelry, blown glass, leather, and purses in this charming husband-wife studio (he does the throwing, trimming, and finishing; she does the glazing and firing).




Quiet in the North Woods >
Unwind in a peaceful resort home at Trapper’s Landing Lodge, located on Leech Lake. Utilize the 51-slip full-service marina, dine in the restaurant and lounge, and enjoy the many recreational opportunities that go hand-in-hand with a 112,000-acre lake, thousands of acres of forests, and a number of scenic trails in the Leech Lake area.


Riverboat Concerts >
You might not have cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis, but you can be “rollin’ on the river” this summer in a riverboat, listening to upbeat music and your favorite radio personalities during the new “Rockin’ River Radio Concerts” on the Padelford Riverboat. July 6 will be hosted by KLBB, July 20 by K102, August 3 is Kool 108, and September 14 is Cities97.


St. Paul Saints >
Not only are St. Paul Saints fans treated to an open-air ball game in the heart of summer, they’re entertained between innings by ball-bearing pigs, massage-giving nuns, fun contests, and silly races. Get there early if you want to tailgate in the parking lot.


Tea parties >
The elegant, charming Saint Paul Hotel is the perfect setting for sipping tea and improving your manners. Visit the elegant lobby during a Russian tea party June 2 and 16; Austrian tea party July 14 and 28; or Scotland tea party August 11 and 25. All summer teas are from 3 to 5 p.m. The cost is $26/person. Children’s and Business Etiquette Classes will also be offered at the Saint Paul Hotel this summer on June 24 (children 8 to 13/$40 per child) and June 14 (for those in the work force/$50 per person).


Unspoiled Nature >
Whether you crave adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities (sea kayaking, anyone?) or prefer to sit on the sidelines and take it all in, the city of Bayfield, Wisconsin should be on everyone’s “to visit” list. The chain of 22 Apostle Islands creates unique recreational opportunities, and Bayfield’s orchard and berry farms, seasonal celebrations (the berry season, from late June through September is an ideal time to visit, with tours, sampling, and sales), shows in the Big Top Chautauqua, sailing charters, ferry rides, gallery tours, and great shopping and dining prove that this quaint harbor village is a hot spot of fun summertime activities.


Vacation near Two Harbors >
Inspired by traditional Scandinavian fishing villages, Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior are tucked away in 40 acres of private woods, south of Two Harbors. The cottages feature a spectacular lodge and Ledge Rock Grille restaurant, a massage cottage, an indoor pool, and a Finnish sauna. Activities include kayak lessons, use of Trek bicycles, North Shore Scenic Railroad rides, and more.

For large doses of spectacular North Shore scenery, gourmet meals at Splashing Rock Restaurant and Lounge, a heated indoor pool and whirlpool, canoe rentals, lawn games, and cozy bonfires on the pebble beach, look no further than Grand Superior Lodge, on Lake Superior near Two Harbors. The Superior Hiking Trail, Tettegouche State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse, and Gooseberry Falls are a short drive away.


Wine Tours >
This summer, make it a goal to travel along the Three Rivers Wine Trail and tour six Minnesota wineries located in the St. Croix, Mississippi, and Cannon River Valleys. Wine lovers can spend a day or a weekend sampling high quality, locally produced wines in lush river valley settings. In the words of Kenny Chesney, “Perfect song on the radio, sing along ‘cause it’s one we know, it’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine, it’s summertime. Sweet summertime.”


Xplore the North Shore >
Cove Point Lodge is a nature lover’s paradise. Hike, bike, canoe, or watch the Lake Superior waves roll in as you adventurously explore or simply relax amid beautiful north shore surroundings. Dine at restaurants on the property, walk to nearby shops in Beaver Bay, pick blueberries at Palisade Head, or read a book in front of a crackling fire. The pebble beach, pool, and a Frisbee golf course appeal to the younger crowd.


Yellowstone Country >
Plan an unforgettable vacation out West to Park County, Wyoming, encompassing the cities of Cody, Garland, Ralston, Powell and Meeteetse. Buffalo Bill’s legacy remains in Cody, east gateway to Yellowstone National Park, as do the natural wonders and wildlife that make a visit to Cody so exciting.

Visitors to Cody, Powell or Meeteetse will also enjoy abundant outdoor recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, golf, river rafting, rock and ice climbing, hiking, mountain biking and camping. Attractions include the world-renown Buffalo Bill Historical Center, the Cody Nite Rodeo and of course Yellowstone National Park and Old Faithful.


Minnesota Zoo >
“Happy trails to you” could be the theme song for the Minnesota Zoo, with more than hundreds of fascinating animals both indoors and outside along various trails. The new Minnesota Trail will open July 7, featuring wolves, coyotes, otters, lynx, and other Minnesota critters, giving guests an up-close view of their animal neighbors. Other zoo favorites include monkeys, tigers, dolphins, meerkats, turtles,sharks, camels, horses, piglets, an amazing free-flight Bird Show, a tree-top ride on the Monorail, and even jungle gyms and slides. Adults looking for a fun date night should check out the Subway Music in the Zoo Concert Series.


Summer Fun in Southern Minnesota >
Tired of the daily grind? Rather than head to popular “Up North” hot spots this summer, head to the sunny southern side of the state.

Southern Minnesota is a calm respite for those who enjoy antiquing; hiking, biking or skating along serene state trails; taking part in unique local festivals and celebrations; visiting historic river towns; and staying in cozy bed and breakfasts. You’ll find interesting museums and historic sites, beautiful golf courses, Minnesota’s only Amish community (Harmony), a National Eagle Center (Wabasha), the largest outdoor gear store in the Midwest (Cabela’s in Owatonna), unique shopping, the natural beauty of the Mighty Mississippi River, and so much more.

Start your southern adventure with a trip down Highway 61 to Treasure Island Resort and Casino, located in the small town of Welch. The only casino in southern Minnesota, this Caribbean-themed entertainment mecca features 2,500 state-of-the-art slot machines, 44 blackjack tables, video poker, video keno, and bingo, in addition to entertainment and great food. Headliners in the Indigo Bay Showroom range from stand-up comedy to country, pop, R&B, and classic rock bands.  The Parlay Lounge is the perfect place to enjoy a tropical drink with friends, and the Emerald Bay Lounge boasts a lively locale where guests can gather, play slots, and enjoy free weekend entertainment. Guests can relax in Treasure Island’s luxurious 250-room hotel. Additional guests amenities include a 137-slip marina, 95-site RV park, and a 120 passenger cruise yacht.

A little further down Highway 61 is Red Wing, the kind of pretty little river town that inspires poets and dreamers. Bring your skates, bike, or athletic shoes and head out on the Cannon Valley Trail. The trail parallels the Cannon River, offering dramatic glimpses of the lush river valley.

If fishing, boating, rock climbing, or canoeing is more your speed, the Mississippi River winds through Red Wing, offering plenty of recreational opportunities. When you’re ready to explore the area, wineries, golf courses, and scenic picnic grounds are conveniently located nearby. And if your idea of burning calories involves shopping, Red Wing is home to a variety of unique shops, specialty stores such as Red Wing Pottery, Red Wing Stoneware, and Red Wing Shoes, antique dealers, and restaurants. Be sure to check out The Uffda Shop for a great assortment of Scandinavian-themed gifts; Moments on Main for fabulous gifts for yourself, your home, or someone special; a Cut Above Home for candles, gifts, furniture, gourmet foods, pictures, and home decor; and Inspired Home & Flower Studio for home accents, fresh flowers, and interior design.

Visit downtown Red Wing June 22 from 5 to 9 p.m. for the very fun Second Annual Pajama Party. Girls of all ages will be strolling around downtown in their pajamas, where one lucky shopper will be crowned the “Queen of Shopping,” a noble reward for spending the most money during the event. There will be promotions, specials, drawings, music, vendors, henna tattoos, and much more.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Throughout the summer, Red Wing is celebrating its 150th Sesquicentennial birthday with multiple activities. “The Guess Who” will be performing under the big top at Bay Point Park June 16 (presented by Treasure Island Resort and Casino). The weekend of June 29-July 1 is also packed with celebrations, including a DJ Teen Party, old-fashioned parade, Civil War reenactment camp, horseshoe tournament, Kids Fest, and Pearl of the Lake Boat Cruises. The cruises will feature a presentation, live music, or guided tour.

One of the best places to stay in Red Wing is the St. James Hotel, established in 1875. The historic ambiance and Victorian charm of the hotel exudes romance; each guestroom is decorated with antiques and antique reproductions. Romance and B&B packages include meals in the hotel’s restaurants, drinks and entertainment at Jimmy’s Pub, champagne, and his-and-hers massages. Many of the rooms offer river views.

Also located off Highway 61 is the “historic island city” of Winona. Founded in 1851 by a steamboat captain, the lumber industry helped the city grow, and grow, and grow. By 1900, Winona had more millionaires per capita than any place in the country. Winona’s history lives on in over 100 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with one of the state’s largest collections of Victorian commercial architecture on the Mississippi River. There are state parks with spectacular bluff-top views of the Mississippi River Valley, enclosed deer parks and campground on Prairie Island, open air concerts at Lake Park, and arts and culture such as the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and six weeks of critically-acclaimed theater during the Great River Shakespeare Festival from June 29-August 5, held at the Performing Arts Center at Winona State University.

Located at the foot of the bluffs, The Village House in Winona, located in University Village, offers easy access to hiking, biking, state parks, and the Mississippi River.

“We at the Village House officially call ourselves a guest house, although the arrangement is like a bed and breakfast, except we don’t live on the premise,” explains Colleen Petters, president of Collegeville Communities.

There are four individually decorated rooms (the main floor bedroom is handicap accessible), a common living and dining room shared by guests, and a pergola and patio for enjoying summer weather.

An underpass below Highway 14 connects the Village House to the walking trails and woods at Saint Mary’s campus, for those who like to walk or bike. The Village House appeals to families with its location on a private street, with green space that allows children to play safely outside. A small kitchen with a microwave gives parents the option of heating baby bottles or baby food, or serving their children a light meal if necessary.

Another southern town waiting to be explored is the city of Faribault, within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities off Interstate 35E. In addition to more than 40 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there is more than ten lakes within ten miles, an outdoor aquatic center, miles of bike trails (the Sakatah State Trail takes you on a 45-mile adventure), beautiful parks, and the kind of lodging and restaurants you’d expect from a friendly small town. Visit in June for the annual Heritage Fest, the Rice County Fair July 17-22, or the Tree Frog Music Festival and Faribault Airfest and Balloon Rally in September.

Visitors will find a variety of lodging accommodations, restaurants, shops and attractions of interest in Worthington, located in the southwest corner of the state. The Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, scheduled this year June 8-10, is a great time to head down to Worthington’s Lake Okabena, Sailboard Beach (on the east side of the lake). Worthington has the geographic good fortune of being located between two of the largest wind generator fields in the world, and the city is taking advantage of it. The weekend will include a regatta, beginning instruction, advanced clinics, a swap meet, and live music. If you like to windsurf or jam, this is the place to be!

North of Worthington is the town of Marshall, recently named a “Best Small Town in America.” If you’ve never been to this charming city, a three-hour tour from the Twin Cities, you should definitely pencil in a trip. Plan a camping trip at Camden State Park, hike along the wooded river valley, climb the Dakota Valley Trail, and admire the summer scenery while canoeing in Brawner Lake (where you can fish for bass or bluegill). Also nearby is the 700-acre Garvin Park (13 miles south on Highway 59), an excellent bird habitat for woodland species, and Lake Shetek (33 miles south near the city of Currie). Lake Shetek, the largest lake in southwest Minnesota, offers great fishing and pelican watching, and Loon Island, a 45-acre bird sanctuary, is accessible on foot. With an increasing number of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, public facilities, and city parks, Marshall is the perfect stop for a summertime getaway.