Tuesday, April 5, 2011

a short list of amazing places in MN

i've lived in Minnesota my entire life.  my paternal ancestors, from which i gained my maiden name, traveled to this basic area in Minnesota way back when, and most of my relations from that small landing crew have pretty much stayed put.  this is a beautiful place.  lush grasslands (okay, so there's not so much prairie around these days), green forests, creeks, rivers, lakes, cities, towns, fine arts and farming.  it's nothing like New York (though my travels there were amazing) or other big city destinations, but i take that as a compliment.  Minnesota has everything... almost.

and i have to say that i feel a strong sense of safety here.  we do have murders, accidents and crime.  but we rarely have natural disasters that are unpredictable, devastating and massive.  we can predict tornadoes, for the most part.  and floods are generally apparent before they spill over river banks during spring thaws.  i don't know that i'll ever be able to wrap my mind around how areas of Japan, Haiti, New Zealand and smaller lands that have been obliterated by the earthquakes and tsunami waves.  my heart goes out to everyone who knows the beauty of these people and these areas that have been destroyed.  my prayers are ongoing, and i look to God to guide this scrappy bunch of humans here on Earth to come together to bring healing to their hearts and lands.

on that note, i look out my window here in middle Minnesota, in the calm of the fresh spring air.  i want to appreciate this place, as it is during my life - so i now think toward summer vacations.  from my livingroom windows, i see no more snow.  the grass is drying out, and starting it's slow progress towards green.  I'M READY TO GO OUTSIDE!!

for anyone looking for some interesting and enjoyable places to visit in Minnesota, the following are the few that have popped into my head this afternoon.

1. Duluth/Grand Marais/Lake Superior Shore Towns:

In the city of Duluth, there are many amazing places to visit.

With small children in mind, everyone HAS to go to the Duluth Children's Museum/Union Depot 
It is so much fun to see full sized trains - engines and train cars - walk through most with places to sit and imagine life during a different time, see model trains set up with great detail, and even stop in an ice cream and gift shop that fit in with the era of steam trains.
THEN, head over to the Children's Museum for some MORE fun!!  Our last trip included an indoor fishing trip, complete with a row boat and fabric fish; and what I sort of remember as being a frontier military fort, child-sized, with different buildings and costumes to fit each career.

A walk along Canal Street is great in warmer weather, with a multitude of shops to satisfy everyone's shopping needs.  The Maritime/Marine Museum next to the lift bridge is always a treat.  The ore "boat" (ship) permanently docked closeby is an interesting stop.  The Aquarium is a good one, especially if you can take in the view of the lake on a clear day.  There are loads of places to stay and so many other places to visit and things to do, that i'd rather you looked through their site on your own.  i've gone to Duluth countless times during these nearly four decades and have never been disappointed.

If you'd like to continue on passed the "big city", follow along the North Shore Drive (Old Hwy. 61) to enjoy Lake Superior on your right and many tourist stops along the road.  i would STRONGLY suggest stopping for the pie.  And Grand Marais isn't too far away.  A lovely little-ish place.  Light house, cool town, great history & hiking.  wonderful shopping.  WONDERFUL SHOPPING.  i wish they were closer.

You could continue on up to Canada, which i also think is a lovely place to visit, but passports weren't part of this post today.

2. Minnesota State Parks
They can be found all over this state, and each offers their own take on fun, family, natural experiences.  We haven't stayed in every park, but one's we REALLY enjoyed were - Bemidji State Park, William O'Brien (just outside of Stillwater), Gooseberry Falls St. Pk., and Itasca.  We try to visit at least one new park each year, so we've got years to go with all the choices there are.  You can rent a cabin, pop a tent, drive or pull in an RV, or in select parks, even rent a room.  (And you can set up your reservations online, and in some parks, even enjoy free wi-fi).  Then, you just pack snacks and lunch and go for a hike!  Play in the dirt!  Go for a swim!  A bike ride!  A nap!  And your summer memories will be so much better when they include campfire marshmallows and a soft cricket lullaby.  (did i fail to mention how exhausted little people get on these trips?  or how EASY it is to put them to bed after a full day in fresh air, having fun?)

3.  Wabasha

If you've seen the movies, "Grumpy Old Men" and "Grumpier Old Men" you've had a small taste of life in Wabasha, MN.  Set next to Lake Pepin, Wabasha is the quintessential small, sort-of-tourist town you'd like to visit.  It's a short trip South of the Twin Cities, which conveniently avoids most of the "cabin traffic" of summer weekends.  There are loads of campgrounds in the area, as well as hotels/motels, and i'm sure a few B&B's.  For anyone who enjoys toys, the Lark Toy Store is next door in Kellogg.  We spent a good part of the day there last summer, riding the gorgeous Carousel, eating fudge, shopping, playing with toys (there are 1000's) and learning how Lark Toys got it's start.  There's more to see around Wabasha too, but i'll let you look around their website so i can move on.

4.  Small resort towns

Now I've never actually stayed at the big resorts like Craguns but i've bunked many times in the cozy beds of small, mom &  pop resorts.  i know they are still out there, fewer than i remember, but great places to spend a great week or weekend of summer fun.  These little gems are found all over the state, but one that remains close to my heart is Hackensack, MN. 

After meeting my best friend, and essentially being adopted by her crazy but loving family, i spent many happy summer days soaking in sun and fun in this small, quirky town.  Painted turtle races, sandy swimming beaches, good enough fishing (i was a teenage girl on my last stay there), fun tourist shops, and enough fun to keep a family of five kids, each with a friend along, busy for the duration.  It was always at the Pleasant Pines Resort, which couldn't have changed much, unless they've added more to it (and it was great already).

So i hope you all have a wonderful Spring to look forward to an amazing Summer, which should really include some great vacations around this gorgeous (and safe) state.  Fill your hearts and minds with the greens and blues; the calls of the loon, the song of the cricket, the crackle of the campfire; and do all you can before all that goes quiet again in the cool months that send us inside, yet again.  But then, we'll have our photos, fading sun tans and memories to keep us sane.  Or at least, sort of sane.

1 comment:

  1. Never been to MN, but would love to go one day. It is pretty funny, I live in Duluth, but in GA :)


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