Road Trip: Springtime in Minnesota

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s April 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

article by Aimee Andren

photos by Rebecca Stewart

As we anxiously await spring to work its magic, transforming the grays of winter into the greens of summer, we begin to fantasize about all of the things we hope to accomplish over the next few months. For many of us, a summer vacation is at the top of the list. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, have I got a place for you! Minnesota. It takes a bit of effort to get there, but trust me...It’s worth it. The land of 10,000 lakes has more than its fair share of charm and outdoor activities to participate in, several world class museums and historical sites, a few outlandish tourist attractions (world’s biggest ball of twine, anyone?) and one over-the-top indoor activity; Mall of America. If you have the time and inclination, I recommend taking in a bit of everything Minnesota has to offer.

If you prefer to get there quickly, Delta Airlines does offer a non-stop flight. If your family vacation includes packing up the car or camper and hitting the road, you may want to consider heading east on I94 through North Dakota, where just past Fargo lies a beautiful, forested, lake filled area called Detroit Lakes. This family friendly town offers plenty of hiking, biking, and water activities, including rafting down the Otter Tail River, and a clean, attractive public beach on Detroit Lakes where you can rent anything from paddleboards to boats. If you are camping, the Country Campground offers all the amenities, plus playgrounds for the kids (countrycampground.org). The Wilds Resort and Campground is lakeside, offers six separate cabins, and also has plenty for the kids to do (thewildsresort.com). If hotel camping is more your speed, consider the Best Western Premier or Holiday Inn Detroit Lakes, both lakeside. If you have the time, The Spa Within, located in the Best Western Premier, offers full service amenities, including couples massages. When you need a bite to eat, or just want to sit down and enjoy a beverage, consider one of the local indoor/outdoor favorites, Zorbaz Pizza and Mexican. If Zorbaz is too crowded, Holiday Beach Bar and Grill or Long Bridge Bar and Marina are great options. As you say goodbye to the outdoor activities offered by this lovely area, say hello to the multitude of indoor activities just a few hours down the road in Minneapolis, the Mall of America.

Before the guys in your family have time to protest the word “Mall”, you may want to assure them that this is not their hometown mall. Between the largest indoor theme park anywhere, “Nickelodeon Universe”, which offers twenty-seven rides (nickelodeonuniverse.com), the aquarium, the Fly Over America ride, A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center, mini-golf or the mirror maze (just to name of few), there are PLENTY of restaurants and sports bars to occupy their time. As there are 520 shops, not to mention a variety of ongoing events and new happenings in Mall of America, I suggest downloading their comprehensive online visitor’s guide at mallofamerica.com.

If weather permits and some fresh air is in order, check out the Uptown neighborhood just southwest of downtown Minneapolis / Saint Paul. It’s a bit quirky, with interesting shops and restaurants near a chain of lakes, which offers miles of bike and walking paths. The setting is pretty, and it’s a bit more low-key.

Once you have had your fill of lakes, shopping and fun, you may want to head back home taking I90, through South Dakota this time, stopping in New Ulm, MN, the “Most German Town in America”. If time permits, take a day or two to enjoy the historical and tourist sites of the Black Hills area. Although with so much to see and do there, I suggest considering that your next family vacation.

As Long As You’re Here…

7 Family Friendly “Shouldn’t Miss” Activities In the MSP Area

  1. Water Parks! Check out the newly refurbished Crystal Cove Aquatic Center, or Cascade Bay Water Park. Both are full service water parks, catering to all ages.

  1. Zoos! The 100 year old Como Park Zoo is a beautiful way to spend a day, as is the massive Minnesota Zoo. Either will keep the family entertained for hours.

  1. The Children’s Theatre! A fun and unique way to spend an evening with the family.

  1. Museums! Both the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota offer hours of interesting entertainment, although the Children’s Museum caters to the under ten crowd.

  1. Fort Snelling! Step back nearly 200 years into Minnesota and United States history at Fort Snelling. This is a don’t-miss for military buffs.

  1. Baseball! There isn’t a much more family-friendly, all-American activity to partake in than an evening of watching the Twins play baseball at Target Field. They even have an alcohol-free family friendly section.

  1. Lake Harriet! Lakes are, of course, Minnesota’s thing. Lake Harriet offers 67 areas of land dedicated to walks and bike rides, and 344 acres of water to swim, sun and float on. The bandshell provides occasional music, and there are places to grab a bite or bottle of water.

For more information on the above activities, and/or other family friendly ideas, check out: cityguide.sheknows.com, and minneapolis.org.

about the author...Although a world traveler at heart, Aimee is a born and raised Montanan. After spending a few years exploring, she made her way back to Montana where she raised her kids and worked in both social work and business arenas. Her kids are now grown and exploring their own worlds, which gives her the freedom to combine her work with her passion of travel, writing, and photography.