All eyes are on the North and it’s time for us to show the country what they’ve been missing all this time. I’ll be honest that when I became an adult, all I could think of was getting out of Minnesota. I started traveling a lot, studied in England and Vermont and then traveled a ton more. However, in the end, my heart yearns for Minnesota. Although some of that is rooted in the comfort of familiarity, it is primarily because each destination I visited reflected back to me how wonderful my home state really is.

Minnesota, the land of 11,842 lakes.  You may have heard of Lake Superior or Lake Minnetonka (if you love Purple Rain and Prince). The land where water skiing and Paul Bunyan were born. The state where you can find rocky cliffs and waterfalls in the northeast, coniferous forests blanketing the northwest, vast prairies in the southwest where Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie called home, and then you have the rolling hills of deciduous trees and bluff country along the river border over to Wisconsin. Bald Eagle spottings are guaranteed down here any time of the year. Lakes are dotted all across the state and their waters pump through our veins. Well, right now their ice pumps through our veins. Winter is where it gets really good in Minnesota.

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Rock Art on Lake Superior

If our beauty isn’t enough to get you to visit, then let’s talk about the fun you can have while here.

Our art scene is spectacular with many world-class art museums, sculpture gardens with the infamous Spoon and Cherry installation and now includes a big blue rooster. We have more theater seats per capita in the country, second only to New York, including the world-renowned Guthrie Theater. Not only is the theater scene large, so is the music scene. A must see is the iconic First Avenue, which will surely please you with their nightly line ups. If you missed seeing Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, then check out Circus Juventas over in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. You’ll thank me!

Shopping is of course an international draw for travelers. Show up with an empty suitcase, head over to the Mall of America and shop till you drop. Thankfully they made that convenient…drop your bags right into a comfortable room at the newly opened JW Marriott, which is connected to the mall on the north end.

Our food scene has been hot for quite a few years and the brewery and distillery scene is exploding due to recent changes in laws. So, hop on a tour and see why Minnesota’s water is key to our success in beer.

Winter is a special time here, as we truly embrace what unique offerings it brings. But, did I mention that downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul have an extensive skyway system connecting all of the buildings downtown so you never have to go outside in the cold? Nice, right? Have I convinced you yet? If so, below are some extended weekend itineraries that I suggest, based on your style of travel.

North Shore for Outdoors Travel

Where to stay: Larsmont Cottages. The decor is modern north shore luxury, but makes you feel like you just unplugged from the world. It overlooks Lake Superior so you can hear the waves from your room.3br-cottage-living-room

Tip: Book a 1 bedroom lakeside cottage because it is very spacious and comes with a full kitchen. The next room category down is only a bedroom with bathroom, so you lose the relaxing spaces and convenience of the 1 bedroom cottage.

What to do:

  • Drive up Scenic Hwy 61. It hugs Lake Superior’s picturesque shore line.
  • Go ice fishing on an inland lake or fly fishing on the open streams.
  • Hike around Gooseberry Falls State Park. The waterfalls will be frozen in time.
  • You’ll also find that there are plenty of trails for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, skijoring, mountain biking, and snowmobiling.
  • Have a winter bonfire next to the lake.
  • While stargazing, you might spot the Northern Lights.
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Lake Superior in Schroeder, MN

Where to eat and drink:

  • New Scenic Cafe on Scenic Highway 61. The seasonal menu is sourced locally and overlooks Lake Superior. Food is outstanding. I always have great luck ordering the duck.
  • Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen. I never leave without a bag of their toffee. It is out of this world. You can find truffles, sponge candy, and lots of other sweet treats.
  • Castle Danger Brewery is a great local brewery in Two Harbors.
  • Betty’s Pies is iconic to family trips to the North Shore. I don’t have a favorite pie here, as they are all so delicious.

Twin Cities for the City Dweller

Where to Stay:

Minneapolis: For a hip and modern hotel in a historic building, stay at W Minneapolis – The Foshay. If you want modern luxury, then head over to the newly renovated Hotel Ivy – A Luxury Collection Hotel.

St. Paul: The St. Paul Hotel is a historic landmark right in middle of the action.

What to do:

  • Winter Carnival in St. Paul kicks off a ton of fun winter events. You’ll find intricately chainsawed and ice picked ice sculptures in Rice Park. My cousin has been part of an ice sculpting team for years and it never gets old going to check it out.
  • You’ll find ice bars, ice skating, and an ice palace.
  • Red Bull Crashed Ice is an exciting and edge of your seat type of event you can find #OnlyInMN.
  • Prince fans will love a visit to Paisely Park, which is open to the public for tours.
  • Grab tickets to a world class show at the Guthrie Theater.
  •  Walk Nicollet Avenue down Nicollet Mall to enjoy high end shopping, great restaurants, and interesting sights.
  • Go hiking at Minnehaha Falls Regional Park with extensive trails leading to the historic Fort Snelling State Park. Minnehaha Falls turn into a magical array of blue shades frozen in time.
  • Schedule a tour of the Cathedral of St. Paul. It is an architectural marvel that will take your breath away.

Where to eat and drink:

  • Kramarczuk’s: try their Szegeden Goulash or Varenyky, or anything really. It’s all delicious.
  • Pracna: the oldest restaurant in Minneapolis on the oldest street in Minneapolis. This location provides great views of the river and the downtown skyline of Minneapolis. Plus they have a great beer selection and some very tasty cocktails.
  • Spoon and Stable is owned and led by James Beard awarded chef, Gavin Kaysen.  Bison tartar and Steelhead Trout are a must!
  • Psycho Suzie’s Motor Lounge and Betty Danger’s Country Club in Nordeast are owned by the same person and you can tell because both restaurants are like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
  • Matt’s Bar: This is THE place to get a Jucy Luicy. Other locals will argue that 5-8 Club, The Nook, or Blue Door Pub are really where to get the best Juicy Lucy, but if you want the classic that made this style of burger famous in the first place, then head to Matt’s Bar.
  • Bachelor Farmer: Minnesota meets Nordic roots. They have a great menu Monday through Saturday, but my favorite day to go is on Sundays when they have Sunday Supper. The chefs decide what will be served for supper each Sunday. It’s comfort food that makes you feel like you went home to your mom’s for dinner. Note: due to its location in a protected historic building, there is no signage for the restaurant. Trust your navigation on this one!
  • W.A. Frost: Fine dining in the quaint St. Paul neighborhood, Cathedral Hill. They have the best patio spot in the Twin Cities, hands down! I adore any place that has an extensive world-class wine menu paired with a vast cheese selection.
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Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis

So, this is my invitation to you to discover for yourself why Minnesota is no longer a flyover state.

To book your trip to Minnesota, contact Tracy Larson at tracy@truenorthtraveldesign.com, and follow her on social media @truenorthtraveldesign.

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