Winter Getaways 2016

“Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.” – John Boswell

Now that the holidays have come and gone, winter can seem like it’s going to stretch on (and on and on and on). Change your attitude. Look forward to the remaining frosty months by planning a winter getaway. Think peaceful hikes, cozy cabins with wood-burning fireplaces, sleigh rides, wine tastings, skiing and snowboarding, indoor waterparks, puffy coats and stocking caps, hearty brews on tap, hot tubs, full-service spas, and more. 

Arrowwood Resort

Courtesy Arrowwood Resort

Arrowwood Resort

It may be winter outside, but at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, it’s summer inside, kind of like “traveling to the tropics with no baggage fees.” The “tropics,” in this case, is the 38,000-square-foot Big Splash indoor waterpark, where the water is warm and the rides are cool. There’s a basketball shoot-out, lily pad waterwalk, lazy river, swimming pool, and small arcade for the kids; and for the adults, a hot tub, poolside bar, full-service on-site spa, and beautiful views of the lake. Carlos Creek Winery and the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum are a few miles down the road. Waterpark packages are available online.

Best Western Superior Inn

This Grand Marais hotel has a reputation for attentive and friendly service, as well as modern and comfortable lakefront rooms and luxury suites overlooking Lake Superior. Guests appreciate the affordable rates, clean and quiet rooms, whirlpool spa, non-smoking designation, and complimentary hot breakfast. The real draw, though, is the location on Lake Superior—beautiful in any season. “Imagine lying in bed, resting, enjoying a quiet peaceful environment,” one guest commented. “All you can hear is the methodic crashing of the Lake Superior waves against the shore.” The hotel is convenient to the shops and restaurants in town, just a short walk to Artist’s Point, and near Lutsen Mountains and the Gunflint Trail. 

Lutsen Mountains

 Courtesy Lutsen Mountains

Lutsen Mountains

The North Shore is a breath of fresh air in the winter months. Not only do you have some of the prettiest scenery around, with the ever-dramatic Lake Superior and the snow-capped Superior National Forest, you also have some of the best skiing and boarding in the state at Lutsen Mountains. And while it’s true that the snow was late coming this season, there’s still plenty of powder to make a trip worth your while, thanks to the help of snowmaking technology and a recent boost from Mother Nature. At press time, 38 of 53 primary runs were open, as well as one terrain park. Non-skiers can purchase a gondola ticket—the state-of-the-art $7 million gondola system just opened in November of 2015—for a visit to the summit of Moose Mountain, and enjoy a meal and drink from the Northwoods chalet or on the deck overlooking Lake Superior. Where else are you treated to 100-mile views of the lake? Lutsen Mountains has a lively nightlife, too. Papa Charlie’s is home to a number of festivals and concerts this winter, including Charlie Parr, Haley Bonar, and Har Mar Superstar January 29-30, sponsored by 89.3 The Current, and Cloud Cult February 6. Ski packages and deals are available at area lodges and resorts.

Caribou Highlands Lodge


Caribou Highlands Lodge

With ski-in and ski-out access to Lutsen Mountains, Caribou Highlands Lodge simplifies the process of getting to and from the slopes, leaving more time to ski, swim, work out in the fitness center, get a massage, or explore the area. The location allows for some spectacular hillside views of the mountains, as well as slopeside dining at Moguls Grille and Tap Room (try the chicken wild rice soup). You can even bring your pet (Caribou Highlands Lodge offers a limited number of pet-friendly units for an additional fee; reservations are required in advance). Special deals in winter include Ski and Stay Packages and the Beer Lover’s Weekend Getaway for Two, including two nights of lodging, a beer lover’s basket, a complimentary tour of Voyageur Brewing Company, and dinner for two at Moguls.  

Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior

Just eight miles down the road from Lutsen Mountains you’ll find Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior, with accommodations designed around the resort’s proximity to the largest freshwater lake in the world (those views!). Spend the afternoon skiing or boarding at Lutsen Mountains—a shuttle will drop you off and pick you up—before returning to your little piece of paradise. Stroll along the lakewalk, soak in the outdoor hot tub (open year-round), and enjoy an outstanding supper at the on-site Bluefin Grille before relaxing in front of a wood-burning fireplace. Guided activities are also available to guests, including weekend yoga, cross-country skiing, hikes/snowshoeing, crafts for the kids, and live music.

Hudson Hot Air Affair

 Hudson Hot Air Affair photo by Deanna Gigus.  

Hudson, Wis.  

For a close-to-home escape, spend a night or weekend at a historic B&B in the picturesque riverfront town of Hudson, Wis. During the day, go hiking, snowshoeing or cross country skiing in beautiful Willow River State Park, or bring a camera and photograph the trumpeter swans on the St. Croix River—Hudson is home to the largest wintering site in the state of Wisconsin. Warm up indoors at a boutique, gallery, or unique restaurant or wine bar in historic downtown, where small town charm is in full force. The weekend of February 5-7, 2016 is the Hudson Hot Air Affair, a fun winter festival featuring hot air balloon launches, an evening parade, geocaching, smooshboarding, arts and crafts and more.

Good Ol' Days Family Resort

Courtesy of Good Ol’ Days Resort

Good Ol’ Days Family Resort • Wilderness Point Resort 

In the winter months, it’s all about ice fishing and snowmobiling at Good Ol’ Days Resort and nearby Wilderness Resort in the Brainerd Lakes area of central Minnesota. Good Ol’ Days, on Lower Cullen Lake, is just six blocks from downtown Nisswa; while just a few miles down the road there are cabins and villas for rent at Wilderness Resort, situated on beautiful Middle Cullen Lake. Guests staying at Good Ol’ Days have access to Wilderness Resort amenities, including a fitness center, indoor swimming pool, game room, sauna and hot tub. Pets are welcome.  Hot Deals and Stay and Play weekend packages are available online to nearby Mount Ski Gull, where the snowtubing hill and limited runs are currently open (weather permitting). 

Hawks View Cottages

Courtesy of Hawks View Cottages

Hawks View Cottages

Since opening in 2000, visitors from every state in the U.S. have stayed at Hawks View Cottages in Fountain City, Wis., just two hours from the metro area along the Great River Road. The treehouse-like cottages are modern, clean, comfortable, and private—and best of all, provide incredible views of the Mississippi River (and if you’re lucky, the occasional eagle or hawk). Popular winter activities include snowshoeing, wine tasting, and visiting Elmer’s Auto and Toy Museum, Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden, art galleries, Seven Hawks Vineyards, and other wineries on the Great River Road Wine Trail.  Everything you need is provided with your stay, from towels and bedding to cooking pots and dishes. Even breakfast fixings are provided: bread, orange juice, sausages, instant oatmeal packets, coffee, eggs, and condiments. As one reviewer commented, “I will do this trip again …it refreshed my soul.” 

The Lodge on Lake Detroit

Courtesy of The Lodge on Lake Detroit

Detroit Lakes • The Lodge on Lake Detroit 

There are many reasons to visit the city of Detroit Lakes in winter: ice fishing, Historic Holmes Theatre, Becker County Museum, and the newly-reopened Detroit Mountains, with downhill skiing and boarding, a terrain park, tubing hill, and equipment rentals available. Just a few miles from these popular attractions, on the shore of Big Detroit Lake, is the luxury lakefront hotel The Lodge on Lake Detroit. Not only will guests find clean and modern rooms (book a Renewal Spa Suite with fireplace and whirlpool), but live music in the fireside lobby, the city’s only day spa, The Spa Within, and fun themed weekends like the Valentine’s Sparkling Wine Tasting Dinner Event February 14 led by sommelier Scott Lindman of Paustis Wine Co. Ski and Stay Packages include one night of lodging and two adult ski tickets at Detroit Mountains. For more information, call 218-847-8439, or book online.


Photo by Cynthya Porter, courtesy of Visit Winona


For a city with a population of less than 30,000 people, there are impressive arts and cultural offerings in the southeastern river town of Winona, just two hours south of the metro. The city is home to four museums—the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Watkins Museum/Store, Polish Museum, and the Winona County Historical Museum—as well as Garvin Heights Vineyard, and Treasures Under Sugar Loaf (formerly Sugar Loaf Antiques and Crafts), complete with 120 vendors in one building. Winona is also home to the Frozen River Film Festival (FRFF), set this year from February 24-28, 2016. The festival brings together dozens of fascinating independent documentaries on every subject, as well as workshops, speakers, live entertainment, and food.