Minnesota is not a fly over state!

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.

Best Luxury Resorts for Fourth of July

Fourth of July is just around the corner, and perhaps you still haven’t firmed up your plans yet. If you are thinking of getting away for the very long weekend, here are some of my favorite spots to celebrate the holiday with family and friends.

The Ranch at Rock Creek, Phillipsburg, Montana

The Ranch puts on their own Fourth of July weekend celebration on their beautiful 6,600 acre property tucked inside the mountains. What better way to celebrate than waking up in a luxury canvas tent listening to the babble of the creek, then setting off on an adventure of horseback riding, fly fishing, or biking through the mountains, then ending the day with a rodeo show, bbq meal, country dancing and a fireworks display? That sounds like my cup of coffee.

Note: The Moscow Mules here are so delicious and have a kick, so make sure to ask their craft bartender to make up their special recipe.

 

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago

If you are going to enjoy the big Fourth of July celebration that Chicago puts on, then you must have a perfect luxurious room to watch the fireworks from when you are ready to escape the crowds. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago has uninterrupted views of Navy Pier from their Lakeside Rooms and Suites. Sit in the bay window to watch the fireworks display over Lake Michigan, while you sip on your favorite beverage. And for all of you parents and fur-parents, your children and dogs are treated as the ultimate VIPs at Ritz-Carlton, such as spa treatments and special luxury amenities.

Note: The Ritz-Carlton just did a big renovation of their hotel, so all of the rooms are a fresh modern luxury.

American Club, Kohler, Wisconsin

The American Club is the perfect destination for golfers and spa goers. This hidden gem is located 60 miles outside of Chicago and features a Forbes Five Star spa as well as world renowned golf courses that have hosted the PGA and the Ryder Cup. The Village of Kohler puts on a Fourth of July celebration that is perfect for the whole family, including a Sousa concert. After the fireworks, you are just a short walk from your room. Getting away to this resort is quintessential Midwest Living.

Note: When in Wisconsin, you must eat cheese! The Winery Bar offers a cheese flight and the Fourth of July celebration is serving up cheese curds. Cheese curds are a sure way into any Wisconsinite man’s heart.

 

If you know of a great place to celebrate Fourth of July, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Awesome News! Clients of True North Travel Design receive added amenities when booking a Virtuoso rate.

The Ranch at Rock Creek:

  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests (already included in the all-inclusive price)
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • One premium bottle of wine upon arrival
  • $100 Ranch Credit (may be used at The Granite Spa or The Mercantile)
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental Breakfast Daily, for up to two in-room guests, served in restaurant
  • $100.00 Hotel Credit applicable to Food & Beverage and Spa services (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full. Excludes gift shop, parking and club lounge access.)
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

American Club:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability (Not valid on suites)
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests served in Wisconsin Room restaurant
  • $100 USD Equivalent Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Tracy Larson is the owner and Luxury Travel Advisor of True North Travel Design. Contact her to set up a meeting about your next luxury getaway.

How to Avoid Winter Travel Headaches

It’s that time of year again when travel can become a headache due to winter storms. With snowmageddon on it’s way through the north, many travelers can expect delays and cancellations. I want to share some tips to be proactive and then reactive to the headache. First, grab an adult beverage…just kidding, but seriously stay calm and follow these steps.

Proactive Strategies

  1. Use a Travel Advisor: I cannot stress enough that using a travel advisor is your number one key to ensuring you are not having to deal with the stress and hassle of figuring out a solution to your travel woes. Travel advisors have strong relationships and dedicated communication lines to those at the airlines that can make a key decision about your travel fate. All you need to do is make one call to your travel advisor (if your travel advisor isn’t already proactive about keeping an eye on the situation) and ask them to figure out a solution. Sit back and wait for them to do their magic.
  2. Buy Travel Insurance: Always buy travel insurance. Many of my clients think that insurance is useful only if they cancel their own trip. However, many policies cover trip interruption, baggage delays, and any costs incurred due to the delay. Give yourself peace of mind, rather than shelling out a wad of cash at the last minute.
  3. Book Nonstop Flights: Not only is it less hassle to fly direct when possible, as there are no transfers nor running to the next gate, but this also decreases your chances of missing your next flight and having significant delays. If there are no non-stop options, choose a warm weather hub, to decrease the likelihood of a delay or cancellation.
  4.  Get Notifications: Sign up for flight notifications via text, email, or through airline phone apps. As soon as the airline announces a delay or cancellation, you will be notified and can start creating a plan. Why make the trip all the way to the airport to find out you’re delayed when you could still be chilling on the beach?
  5. Have Supplier Contact Info: Have all supplier info on hand, so if you need to contact the transfer company to adjust pickup times, or your hotel to book another night, or the airlines to figure out a new way to get home, you know exactly how to get ahold of them.

Reactive Strategies

  1. Tag Team: If you’re already at the airport when the delay or cancellation is announced (and you don’t have a travel advisor) call the airline or supplier you booked your flight through and get in line at the airline help desk to see which one is faster. Ask if there are options to reroute through a different city and ask for them to provide a voucher for meals and hotels if you are significantly delayed.
  2. Be Nice: I mean this! Airline agents will likely have suffered abuse by other angry passengers. Being rude and demanding towards airline agents will not change your reality nor will it get you any perks or helpful assistance. Be a shining light in the airline agent’s life and they will make your life easier if they have the power to.

Good luck winter travelers and may the winter gods be ever in your favor!

Tracy Larson is the Founder of True North Travel Design, a travel agency specializing in off-the-beaten path luxury travel for people of all abilities. Follow her at @truenorthtraveldesign.

 

 

 

 

Is Your Bucket List Still Waiting?

Do you spend your spare time dreaming about travel destinations and experiences you want to have before you die? Maybe you spend hours upon hours doing research, or you subscribe to a plethora of travel magazines, or you follow your friend’s travels on social media, only wishing you were there.  So, you write down your bucket list items and maybe it includes seeing your favorite musician at Red Rocks, base jumping in New Zealand, visiting the Seven Wonders of the World, traveling to every continent, making a trek to Antarctica, or taking your kids out of school for a year or more to use the world as their classroom. However, you get lost in the day to day shuffle of your life and push off your bucket list in order to do what you deem as responsible. Before you know it, you realize you haven’t checked anything off of your bucket list. There is a yearning in you to throw caution to the wind and just make it happen, no matter the consequence. But luckily, you can still be responsible AND make your bucket list a reality.

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No matter what your dreams are, there is a way to make it happen with good planning. How, you ask? Through a planning tool called  Wanderlist®. By working with a travel designer from True North Travel Design, you will create a bucket list of destinations and together we will map out your travel portfolio plan, much like you would with a wealth advisor (but much more fun and exciting).

macchu-picchu

We have five simple steps in creating your travel portfolio plan.

  1. Audit – the process starts with a short 10 minute survey. Once completed, we host a planning session to gain a better understanding of your hopes and expectations.
  2. Design – we get started on your plan by cross referencing your destinations against a dozen or more filters such as price fluctuations, geographic combinations, political environments, etc.
  3. Review – we present our preliminary plan and listen to your input.
  4. Revise – using your thoughts and comments as guidance we finalize your Wanderlist.
  5. Wanderlist – we present final documents, which strategically organize your travel dreams.

kenya

This is a travel portfolio plan that you can use with your wealth advisor to assist in strategically planning out your investments. You can work with your trust advisor or estate planner to create a plan for your children or grand children so they can start creating their own bucket lists. There other benefits of using Wanderlist as well.

  • Enjoy peace of mind with a master travel plan
  • Always have your next trip to anticipate and enjoy
  • Achieve more efficient use of your time by eliminating hours of personal research
  • Save thousands of dollars by eliminating backtracking to destinations that can be easily combined into one trip
  • Secure your spot during peak periods by planning ahead
  • Maximize your travel dollar by locking in favorable rates, negotiating prices for repeat bookings and adjusting trip timing
  • Strategically earn and redeem frequent flyer miles and credit card points

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Instead of just wishing that you could fulfill your bucket list, make it a reality. You have nothing to lose and only the world to gain.

Tracy Larson is the founder of True North Travel Design based in St. Michael, MN. You can read more from her on her blog or follow her on social media @truenorthtraveldesign.

The World is Now More Accessible Than Ever – Travel and Enjoy It!

The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. These people need to, want to, and can travel. If you’re part of that twenty percent, a world of travel awaits you.

Travel professionals such as myself who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs Group www.specialneedsgroup.com, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip. There are many travelers with physical disabilities and unique mobility needs that are out there exploring the world and looking for the thrill of the adventure.

Joe Stone soaring high above the ground with the beautiful mounrains in the background, in his adaptive speed flying equipment.
Photo Credit: Mike Packard

How it works:

With True North planning your travel, we will work together on the below areas to ensure that when you travel, you are ready to go.

Outline your travel needs

  • We’ll take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace.
  • We’ll evaluate your unique needs and find the best destinations and accommodations for you.

Plan Ahead

  • We’ll check on the access to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area and other amenities. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TDD kits and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.
  • Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel or all-inclusive resort, we’ll double check for wheelchair access at that venue, plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip.
  • We’ll confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. And early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator, if these issues are important.
  • If you want to participate in soft or hard adventures, we’ll set you up with companies that already have adaptive equipment to make it possible. From white water rafting and speed flying to hand cycling and Stand Up Paddle Boarding, there are companies around the world that are already making these experiences accessible to travelers.
  • We need to know if you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, the policy and procedures are different for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and be prepared to fill out forms.
  • If road travel or car excursions are part of the trip, we’ll secure vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. We’ll check ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, we’ll make sure the company is aware of your special needs.
  • When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised.
Bikiing
Photo credit: Kevin May

I look forward to helping you with all of your accessible travel needs!

Contact Tracy Larson at tracy@truenorthtraveldesign.com and follow her on social media @truenorthtraveldesign.

#WhatsYourTrueNorth

Minnesota Isn’t a Flyover State

Ever since my West Coast friend (he knows who he is) referred to Minnesota as a flyover state, I took a deeper look at what makes Minnesota my favorite place to be. 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 more. However, in the end, my heart yearned for Minnesota. Although some of that is rooted in the comfort of familiarity, it is primarily because each destination 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. Lakes are dotted all across the state and their waters pump through our veins.

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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. With all of our lakes, we are a prime fishing destination both in the summer and in the winter. If you love to canoe and camp, then the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) will be your dreamy escape to nature. There are over 310 miles of rugged hiking trails on the Superior Hiking Trail. Minneapolis is the only U.S. city to rank among the best bike friendly cities in the world and we’re only getting better. We are the home of the Jucy Lucy, food on a stick, Silver Butter Knife Steak, James Beard awarded restaurants and a plethora of tasty food trucks surrounding local brew pubs.

Our art scene is spectacular with many world-class art museums, sculpture gardens with the infamous Spoon and Cherry installation. 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.

Have I convinced you yet? If so, below are some extended weekend itineraries (not for winter) 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 shore line and has many great shops, restaurants, and art stops along the way.
  • Hike around Gooseberry Falls State Park. The waterfalls are especially powerful in April and May.
  • Go mountain biking from Gooseberry Falls up to Silver Bay on the Gichi Gami trail.
  • Hike along the Superior Hiking Trail.
  • Head out on a guided kayak tour around Lake Superior. Learn about the ship wreck of Madeira, paddle through sea caves and photograph Split Rock Lighthouse.
  • 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 from the garden in front of the restaurant, overlooking Lake Superior. Food is outstanding. I always have great luck ordering the duck.
  • Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse. You need to buy some smoked trout and cheese, then head over to a lakeside spot and munch on these local treats.
  • 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:

  • Rent a bike and grab a map of the Grand Rounds Scenic Bike Trails.
  • Check out the Mill City Museum to learn more about what made Minneapolis so explosive!
  • Grab tickets to a world class show at the Guthrie Theater.
  • Rent a canoe or kayak at Lake Calhoun in the Uptown neighborhood. Since this is on the Grand Rounds Trails, you can ride your bike around the lake too.
  •  Walk Nicollet Avenue down Nicollet Mall to enjoy high end shopping, great restaurants, and interesting sights.
  • Attend a game at the Twins outdoor stadium. The views and energy in the stadium are enough to draw you to a game.
  • Take a river cruise on the Mississippi aboard the Minneapolis Queen paddle boat. It provides breathtaking views of the downtown skyline and is a great way to see more of the city.
  • Go hiking at Minnehaha Falls Regional Park, surrounded by beautiful gardens, with extensive trails leading to the historic Fort Snelling State Park. Grab a bite to eat at Sea Salt and listen to live music. If you have time, play a round of frisbee golf.
  • 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. You will find a seasonal menu based on Midwestern ingredients. 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 (and my West Coast friend) 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.

Quadriplegic BASE jump!

Life is awesome and so is Joe Stone! Check out this amazing base jump at Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho. #AccessibleAthlete #AccessibleTravel #WhatsYourTrueNorth

Destination Ranchspiration

When I travel, I want to feel a sense of place, the daily life, local flavors, sights, sounds and smells. I want to unlock what is unique about the destination. From the moment my husband and I pulled on to the dirt road leading up to The Ranch to the moment we pulled back on to the pavement headed for home, I was enjoyably immersed in the ranch life of Montana.

dude-ranch-montana

I knew leading up to our arrival to this rugged yet bucolic landscape, that I would go horseback riding, zip lining, fly fishing and shooting at the range. Even though I could anticipate these experiences, I couldn’t predict these three surprise glimpses into the life of a rancher.


1. Surprise on the Range

First, as we wound our way through the dirt trails in the property Jeep to the shooting range, we found a herd of grazing cattle blocking the targets. Our cowboy guide looked at us and said, “I need to wrangle these cows up. You can either get out or you can join me in wrangling them up.”

luxury-dude-ranch

We had never done anything like this, so of course, we went along for the ride. He honks the horn, drives straight for the cattle and starts making a whooping sound. The cows moved and the range was clear for us to shoot the rifles. With the expert guidance of Gavin, I learned that I was left eye dominant and could shoot really well left handed.


2. A Buckle Barn Dance

Thursday night, The Ranch threw a barnyard dinner and dance at the Buckle Barn, which is decorated with repurposed John Deere tractor parts and circular-sawn fir floors, and added to the ranch style flare. Guests were lassoing fake cows on hay bales with the guidance of cowgirls. Others were enjoying a game of bean bag toss (known as Corn Hole or Baggo to those outside of Minnesota), and others were noshing on delicious appetizers while classic country music played in the background.

barn-weddings-montana

Chef Josh Drage prepared a massive ranch style dinner, with lots of locally sourced meats, vegetables, and fruit. Micah, their craft bartender, served up the best Missoula Mules my mouth has ever had the privilege of drinking. The atmosphere in the barn allowed for mingling with other guests and left me feeling like I was part of the community. After dinner, guides led classes in country line dancing. Suddenly, Ranch owner, James Manley, takes the hand of Ranch staffer, Mariah, and begins country swing dancing with her. This was a great finale to all of the fun we were all having.


3. Horseback Riding— Rain or Shine

Lastly, we arrived at the Rod & Gun Club to get ready for horseback riding. Our guide offers us cowboy hats and cowboy boots to get us in the role of cowboy and cowgirl. We trotted through the property, ascending the rolling hills, following the streams babbling through the property, and listening to the sounds of nature. Thankfully, I obliged with the cowboy hat because during the last hour of our ride, nature decided to start raining…hard.

horseback-riding-ranchspiration

At first it was bothersome, and I wanted to get back to the property. However, it occurred to me, this is how cowboys and girls really live. They’re out in the elements with only some tough boots and a brimmed hat to protect them from the elements. It was in this uncomfortable moment, that I was able to feel a part of this Western culture and it allowed me to enjoy the rest of the rainy ride.

Experiential travel is something that can be planned and intentional, but sometimes the best part of experiential travel is the surprise you could never anticipate.

The best layover airport

Do you look forward to a layover? I sure don’t. Mediocre over-priced food, stale air, no comfortable place to snooze, poor internet connection and ultimately, you just want to get to your final destination where the real exploration begins. I have good news for you!

Seoul Incheon International Airport in South Korea has shattered the mold. Their transit lounge experience includes a theater, lay flat chairs on a first come first serve basis, computer stations, an art museum and a hotel just steps away. If that isn’t enough to make you fall in love, get this, they help you get out of the airport to explore Incheon and Seoul for FREE as long as your layover is 2 hours or more. You can reserve your spot in advance, but I advise waiting until you get there. You never know if your flight will arrive late and you may not know which tour you should take based on the length of your layover. However, the staff at the Transit Tour Desk do know, so just show them your connecting flight info and before you know it, you’re on the tour bus listening to a local giving you a tour in English.

I opted for the 1 hour Incheon City Tour, because I had a 7 hour layover and was interested in catching some Z’s too. The tour went to a Buddhist temple overlooking the city below and then ended at the Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall, which centers on the successful operation led by UN Commander in Chief General McArthur during the Korean War. The mountainous views were beautiful, the air was fresh, the sights were a nice peek into the local culture, and it’s a great opportunity to ask a local about Korea.

If you are looking for a longer tour, you can also choose from the Seoul City Tour, Temple Tour, and many more. Tour durations are 1.5-hour, 2-hour, 3-hour, and 5-hour tours. Beyond the genius of allowing fliers to get out of the airport, it also gives flyover passengers a taste of what it would be like to make South Korea their next destination. I can tell you that their genius worked on me. This is now on my short list of places to visit soon.