Near escapes in Minnesota
Skiing or skyways? Here are 10 places for a great winter getaway.
© Beth Gauper
In downtown St. Paul, the Landmark Center hosts many free concerts and events.
Before Valentine’s Day, and as winter drags on, everyone starts thinking about romantic getaways.
Well, we already have a story about romantic places to stay, and beyond that, who can say what romance is?
Especially since “romantic’’ often is code for “expensive.’’ We think romance has very little relationship to expenditure; we’ve found it in tents and camper cabins as well as luxurious inns. It’s everywhere, if you look for it.
Here are 10 great Minnesota getaways for everyone, whether you’re with your sweetie, your kids, your pals or just yourself.
For budget travel, see Cheap winter getaways.
North Shore. This is hallowed ground year-round
for Minnesotans, a breath of fresh air along the shore of a vast inland sea.
The craggy shoreline and river gorges are even more fun to explore when they’re draped in ice, and there’s great skiing at Lutsen Mountains and on cross-country trails in the forests and state parks.
Of course, there are many cabins, cottages and
lodges, many with inviting wood-burning fireplaces and views of the big lake.
Gunflint Trail. This is where you go
when you really want to be around a lot of reliable, long-lasting snow; we like it best in March, when the days are longer
and sunnier and people in the cities think winter is over.
There are many great lodges along this 57-mile road into wilderness, and they'll arrange all kinds of fun activities for
their guests, including horse-drawn sleigh rides, dog-sledding and snowshoeing into the BWCA.
Stay at Le Meridien Chambers and you'll be a stone's throw from the grand Hennepin Avenue theaters. Or just get the best winter hotel rate you can find and walk there by skyway.
St. Paul. The
capital city has skyways, too. In the heart of downtown, see the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra or Minnesota Opera at the Ordway
Center or a concert or hockey game at neighboring Xcel Energy Center.
© Beth Gauper
Skiers glide along the South Branch of the Root River on the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail near Lanesboro.
On Rice Park, the Landmark Center holds many free concerts and family events.
The Fitzgerald Theater, which hosts "A Prairie Home Companion'' and many folk concerts, is on the north end of downtown. The Minnesota History Center, State Capitol, Cathedral of St. Paul and James J. Hill House are on the hills around downtown.
Treat yourself with a night at The St. Paul, overlooking Rice Park . . . then economize with a fun meal at Mickey's
In the off season – that’s winter – the deals are really good in the many shops of this boutique village on
the St. Croix River. After shopping, stop at one of the many wine bars and restaurants.
Stay at one of the painted-lady Victorians or downtown at the Water Street Inn.
Lanesboro. This little
hamlet in bluff country is best known for bicycling on the Root River State Trail, and it’s pretty quiet in
But the trail is groomed for cross-country skiing. One of the most scenic stretches is west of town, from Isinours to Preston on the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail. It's flat, perfect for beginners and expert skiers alike.
There's also nightlife at the Commonweal and St. Mane theaters, art to see and buy at the Lanesboro Arts Center, weekend
theme dinners at the Old Village Hall restaurant and the occasional barn dance.
This far-north town is the home of the original giant Bunyan and Babe, who inspired a thousand roadside mascots.
It's a university town, so there's a lot of live music, at the college and downtown at the historic Chief Theatre and Brigid's Cross Irish pub.
But it's also wild about winter sports, so it's the place to place to see curling (the city regularly contributes members of
the U.S. Olympic team) and speed-skating (the U.S. Speedskating National Marathon is on the lakefront in February).
There's alpine skiing, tubing and horse-drawn sleigh rides at at Buena Vista Ski Area, and cross-country skiing at Three Island County Park, Movil Maze and Hobson Memorial Forest. Snowshoeing at Lake Bemidji State Park
© Beth Gauper
The 1877 Archer House River Inn is the anchor of Northfield's Division Street.
Stay at the Villa Calma B&B on the lake or, farther up the lake, at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge.
Northfield. This little college town just south of the Twin Cities makes a fun day trip, though there are a couple of good places to stay, too.
Shop in the many one-of-a-kind shops along Division Street and stop by the Northfield Historical Society Museum to learn how the townsfolk dealt with the James-Younger Gang when they tried to rob the bank.
In the evening, go to one of the world class — and free — concerts at St. Olaf College. For snowshoeing, head down the street to Carlton's Arboretum along the Cannon River or to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.
On one weekend, you could catch two concerts, and sometimes three.
There's also shopping downtown and at Pottery Place, and plenty of good places to stay and eat. Colvill Park, on the south edge of town, is a good place to watch for bald eagles.
Itasca State Park. This park is wonderful in summer and fall, but it's also crowded. Have it to yourself when snow drapes the old-growth white pines, the headwaters and miles of trails.
Stay cheaply at the hostel, near the headwaters, or inexpensively ($99 a night) at the Itasca Suites next to Douglas
Last updated on February 7, 2013
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter
Get our weekly stories, tips and updates delivered a day early directly to your Inbox. Wondering what you'll get? Take a look at our newsletter archive.