There comes a time when you need to escape your busy life, and just get away. Fortunately, Minnesota is teeming with places for romantic escapes, weekend adventures, or communing with nature. In fact, picking one can be overwhelming. So, we trimmed the field a bit for you.
In a park named for the the fur traders who navigated the area by canoe, it only makes sense that the best way to explore is by water. Get away to Voyageurs National Park and rent a houseboat. You’ll see the clear lakes, cliffs, and deep North Woods from a voyageur’s point of view, but you won’t pitch a tent, break camp, forage for food… or paddle. Trés bién, non?
If you want add a unique experience to your getaway, camp in a tipi at either Blue Mounds or Upper Sioux Agency State Park. Both parks are steeped in Native American History and offer a glimpse into the stunning prairie ecosystem that dominates western Minnesota. Hike along quartzite cliffs and listen to songbirds, as you feel the big bowl of a sky above you. Blue Mounds State Park is also home to a native bison herd.
Spend a weekend at this historic hotel in the river town of Red Wing. Enjoy browsing art galleries in the quaint downtown area, or take a stroll along the Mississippi. Drive a few miles south of town for hiking and a sandy beach at historic Old Frontenac. When you get back to the St. James, head downstairs to the Port for a local brew or craft cocktail, and a gorgeous meal.
If you’re looking for a true getaway—as in get away from pretty much everything—apply for a permit to camp in the BWCAW. Inaccessible by car, most visitors paddle and portage from lake to lake, campsite to campsite. The BWCAW offers a real backcountry experience, so if you’re going, make sure you’re physically up to it and properly equipped. There is no cell service, no TVs, and no other amenities. You need to pack everything in and out. Your hard work will be rewarded with clear, starlit skies, the wind in the trees, perhaps a glimpse of a moose or a black bear, and the singing of wolves.
If you’re looking for an urban getaway with a twist, head to Harriet Island in downtown St. Paul. There, you will find the state’s only floating B&B, the Covington Inn. Housed in a refurbished towboat, the Inn is docked on the Mississippi, beneath the St. Paul skyline. You’ll easy have access to all the city has to offer, like the Xcel Energy Center, CHS Field, and the Science Museum of Minnesota. When you return to your quarters, though, you’ll feel like you’re worlds away.
Duluth’s Canal Park is a popular getaway destination—and for good reason. Plenty of lodging and shopping (including the original Duluth Trading Co. store), along with the some of the city’s best restaurants, like the Lake Ave. Café, draw people in. The Maritime Museum, LakeWalk, Adventure Zone, and the award-winning Vikre Distillery, as well as 1,000-foot ships passing below the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge keep them in the area. Try Park Point Marina Inn. It’s just over the bridge from Canal Park Proper, but offers free parking, harbor views, and a respite from the rabble.
Folks looking for a unique getaway in the Detroit Lakes area should roll on into the Whistle Stop Bed & Breakfast. Guest suites hearken back to the turn of the century in restored rail cares or a inside the Victorian-era main house. With cozy quarters and amenities like hot tubs, you may find it difficult to drag yourself away.
Naniboujou sits halfway between Grand Marais and the Canadian Border, where the Brule River empties into Lake Superior. Located the on edge of Judge C.R. Magnet State Park and surrounded by the Superior National Forest, Naniboujou is the place to go if you want to unplug but don’t want to work too hard at it. There are no TVs, phones or Wi-Fi at this historic lodge. With spotty-at-best cell coverage, you’ll have to entertain yourself—without a screen. Hike along the Brule River, visit the Devil’s Kettle, or just chill with a book on the lodge’s pebble beach.
If you want to be in the middle of it all but feel like you’re not, the Nicollet Island in is the place to be. Located, obviously, on an island in the Mississippi, the Inn is located in Minneapolis’ most historic neighborhood, in easy walking distance of both downtown and the bustling Northeast district. Stroll (or take a carriage ride) along cobblestoned Main Street. Walk across the Stone Arch Bridge to the Guthrie Theater or cross over to Riverplace and up Hennepin Ave. for sushi at Mass or award-winning wings at Ray J’s.
Another way to get away from it all, get back to nature, and burn some calories, to boot, is to hike, bike, or ski the Superior Hiking Trail. You don’t have to do the whole 300 miles, instead just pick a section or two. Bring your own gear, or hit one of the outfitters in Duluth, Tofte, or Grand Marais. It will feel like a true backcountry experience, but you’ll be within reasonable reach of supplies and amenities if you need them. The trail tracks the bluffs and Sawbill Mountains, above Lake Superior and just a few miles off Hwy 61.
As you descend toward Grand Marais and see this former-fishing village’s peninsula stabbing out into the forever-blue of Lake Superior, sailboats bobbing inside the harbor’s breakwall, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you’re in Minnesota. Over the last few years, magazines have called Grand Marais “America’s Coolest Small Town” and a “Top 100 Adventure Town.” A year-round gateway for adventure, whether you’re heading up the Gunflint Trail, fat-tiring the Superior Hiking Trail, or mushing in the John Beargrease dogsled race, Grand Marais is your headquarters. Grab a room at a B&B or one of the town’s few small hotels. Coffee from Java Moose and a fresh glazed from the World’s Best Donuts will get you going in the morning. Sven & Ole’s pizza is a tradition, but don’t miss a craft pint and fresh fish at the pier-perched Angry Trout Café—the restaurant with the best views in Minnesota.
Grab a partner, a bike, and fishing gear, throw ‘em in the car, and drive toward the Southeastern corner of Minnesota. Book a B&B (it’s that kind of a town) ahead of time. Once there, hit the Root River State Trail on your bike, but bring your tackle with you. The Root offers some of the State’s best trout fishing opportunities. Once back in Lanesboro, re-energize at Intermission or the Old Village Hall.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway in the Brainerd Lakes area, but want to escape the Brainerd Lakes crowds, make a beeline for Ruttger’s. The difference between Ruttger’s and some of the area’s other lodges is the lack of other big lodges on the lake. You’ll enjoy all the same amenities—meal plans, golf, kids activities, boating, and fishing—but you wont’ have to share the beach or the water with folks from Grandview, Cragun’s, or Madden’s.
Lutsen is an all-seasons homebase. Not only is it Minnesota’s biggest ski resort, its Lake Superior lodging options make for great sea kayaking and lakeside bonfires on summer nights. Home to the North Star State’s only gondola, Lutsen offers some of the best fall foliage vistas in Minnesota. The trail networks along the Sawbill Mountains give hikers and single-track riders a backcountry feel without being too far off the beaten path. In winter, cross-country skiers and fat-tire bikers take over. The Superior National Golf Course overlooks Lake Superior, for those so inclined. And then there’s the downhill skiing. With nearly a hundred runs and 900 feet of vertical, Lutsen feels more like New England than Minnesota.