A Summer Vacation in Minnesota is Awesome…
6 Adventures Minnesotans will Love
Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Home Travel & Leisure
If you haven’t explored your own state, it’s kind of like living in New York and not visiting the Statue of Liberty. Minnesota has a lot to offer during the summer, including unique destinations, activities and events. Here are a few to inspire your next adventure:
- The Minnesota town you need a passport to get to. Closely examine a map of the northern border of Minnesota, and you’ll find an unusual notch sticking up from the middle of the state. The Northwest Angle, which is on the Northwest shore of Lake of the Woods, exists due to an error by a map maker, though to be fair, it was 1783, and John Mitchell didn’t have access to Google Maps. While settling our independence in the Treaty of Paris, American and British diplomats accepted Mitchell’s depiction of an egg-shaped Lake of the Woods and claims that a line drawn due west from there would intersect the Mississippi (it didn’t). While these inaccuracies were resolved in 1824, the boundaries stuck, creating a piece of Minnesota accessible only through Canada (or a really long boat ride).
Some area resorts offer boat and ice transport services that operate within Minnesota, but driving to Northwest Angle, or just Angle as the locals call it, requires a passport for the U.S.-Canada border crossing. After a scenic journey of about 60 miles, you’ll once again cross into Minnesota, and check in with U.S. Customs by a posted videophone. Bring your boat for epic walleye and muskie fishing, play on sandy beaches and tour around nearby islands. Visitors can explore historic Fort St. Charles which is a restored fur trading outpost from 1732, play the 9 hole-golf course or catch the charming Angle Fest the first weekend in August, and brag about being to the northernmost spot in the U.S. More info: www.lakeofthewoodsresorts.com.
- Viking Spoken Here. The progressive town of Alexandria, Minn., is home to live theater, art galleries, boutique shops and beautiful lakes. What you might not expect is an 1863 military stockade smack in the middle of town. Fort Alexandria was built by the Eighth regular infantry on order of the governor of Minnesota in response to the Dakota Conflict of 1862, which resulted in all of the early settlers fleeing the area. Along with the fort is the Runestone Museum, housing the Kensington Runestone—a much debated artifact. If the lore is believed, it indicates Scandinavian explorers were in the area in 1362 (Don’t try and tell a local they weren’t! Alexandrians love their Norse history.) Nearby, you can have your picture taken under Big Ole, a giant Viking statue built for the 1965 New York World’s Fair. Check out these slices of history at 206 Broadway, Alexandria or www.runestonemuseum.org.
- Ultimate Man-cation. For the past decade, Drive a Tank has been giving people an opportunity to crush a car or drive through a house, or just enjoy the power of driving an armored vehicle. Guests can also get more destructive, shooting circa WWII machine guns. Drive a tank is located in rural Kasota, southwest of Minneapolis. Packages start at $449. Check out www.driveatank.com
- Discover a great flea. From antiques to junk, flea markets offer an opportunity for bargains and unique finds, a stroll in the sunshine and great people watching. About an hour west of Minneapolis, the Wright County Swappers Meet combines a farmer’s market, art fair, antique mall and deals galore. Among 200 vendors (up to 500 on holiday weekends), you’ll often find store closing inventory, as well as typical garage sale fare. There are plenty of lunch options, so plan to make a day of it. Visit www.wrightcountyswappersmeet.com.
- Art off the beaten path. One of the best things about the Franconia Sculpture Park is that it’s free to the public from dusk to dawn 365 days a year. Located in the scenic St. Croix River Valley, Franconia Sculpture Park is a nonprofit arts organization operating a 43-acre outdoor sculpture park, active artist residency and community arts programming northeast of Minneapolis. Go on a scavenger hunt to identify sculptures, or just enjoy walking among art on the grounds. More info: www.franconia.org/about.html
Not to be outdone, the tiny village of Vining in West Central Minnesota has a plethora of unusual metal sculptures, including a giant foot with an extended big toe. Ken Nyberg is the creator of whimsical and traditional pieces made of scrap metal, adorning the roadside along Highway 210 (between the Big Foot Gas Station and the Vining “Purple Palace” Restaurant.) Stop and see Ken’s work or visit www.nybergsculptures.com.
- Sleep in the slammer. In the southern reaches of the state, you won’t mind being detained in the Jailhouse Inn Bed and Breakfast. This one-time prison was built in 1869, and has been updated with 10 luxury suites, while maintaining its historic charm. The Preston area also features biking and hiking on the Root River State Trail and Trout Run Trail and trout fishing in Forestville State Park. Cool off by canoeing or tubing on the Root River, or take an Amish community tour and browse Amish antique and gift shops. See www.jailhouseinn.com for more info.
For more great ideas on being a tourist in your state, check out www.exploreminnesota.com, and get out for some summer fun. If you’re still planning your Minnesota getaway, you might want to make time for a stop at Target Field in Minneapolis. Arvig is giving away a pair of Twins tickets to a customer who can tell us about their Minnesota vacation plans. Comment on our Facebook post about this blog for a chance to win tickets to the game on June 12, when the Twins take on the Seattle Mariners at Target Field at 7:10 p.m. A winner will be chosen May 19. No purchase is necessary. For official contest rules, visit www.arvig.net/rules.
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