Haven't planned something fun to do over your long Memorial Day weekend? Don't worry! Here are a few ideas for fun and easy trips if you live in my neck of the woods (Minnesota). These are perfect weekend road trips for you and a friend (or your whole gang). Pack a light suitcase, fill up the gas tank, and get out of the house! It's time to do something different this year, so follow along with me...
1. Lake Minnetonka
Just a 20 minute drive from Minneapolis is one of Minnesota's hottest lakes that is sure to be hopping on Memorial Day Weekend.
The Landing Hotel, downtown Wayzata. Book your room here!
What to Do: Don't have a boat to take out on this great lake? No worries, Al and Alma's has got you covered: they offer 5 different public cruises which include Sunday Funday, Sips and Sights, a Picnic Cruise, and more!
You can also book your own private cruise on one of their beautiful boats. If you're looking to head out onto course and play a round or two, make a tee time at Orono Public Golf Course. You won't want to miss out on these all-time favorite lake restaurants: Cov, Lord Fletcher's, and Maynards.
Refer to my Wayzata Food Guide for more great restaurants, and don't miss out on the fantastic shopping Lake Street has to offer!
This small, southeastern city lies 2 hours from Minneapolis and is blessed by location. The stretch of river lined by towering green bluffs is the loveliest on the Mississippi, often compared to the Rhine in Germany. With a river, lakes, and plenty of walking and biking trails, you won't be short of outdoor activities in Winona.
The view from the Garvin Heights Lookout. You can see the Mississippi River in the background.
The Carriage House, Minnesota’s oldest single-owner Bed & Breakfast, was established in 1986.
What to Do: Bring your bike (or rent one in town at Adventure Cycle) and head outdoors to bike the 5 miles around Lake Winona. Just across the bridge in Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, you can head south on the 24-mile Great River State Trail. Also along the river is the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, a place you won't want to miss!
The MMAM is the public home to masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, O'Keeffe, and many more. This museum pushes the boundaries of what marine art can be.
Drive up the beautiful bluffs to the Garvin Heights Lookout. A flight of stairs as well as a dirt path run along the bluffs edge, from the lookout to the valley below. Bring your hiking boots and explore the restored goat prairie while you take in sweeping views of the island city, or boost your cardio with a hike to the bottom of the bluff on a winding trail!
Once you've tackled that, head over to Garvin Heights Vineyard and treat yourself to a glass of wine. There are kayak and canoe rentals on Lake Winona, where you'll also find a great frisbee golf course. Stroll through the historic streets of downtown Winona and find some favorite dining options: Jefferson's, Bub's, and Signature's (at The Bridges Country Club).
Take a short, half-hour drive east of Minneapolis to the quaint little city of Stillwater. It was rated one of the "prettiest towns in America" by Forbes magazine, and once you're there, you'll see why. Experience the natural beauty of the St. Croix River, bluffs, and historic architecture Stillwater has to offer.
The St. Croix River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, and is approximately 169 miles long.
Where to Stay: Would you prefer to stay in a historic mansion, hotel, or rent your own vacation home? Here's a whole list of places to stay depending on how adventurous you're feeling.
What to Do: Discover the 100+ independently owned boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, pubs, and specialty shops along Stillwater's historic Main Street. Some beautiful riverside restaurants are Dock Cafe and Portside.
View the natural beauty of the St. Croix river valley as you wind down the trails, and then end up in downtown Stillwater for more food and fun. Did you know you can bike from downtown Stillwater to downtown St. Paul? Check out all the bike trails here.
Enjoy a public cruise (offered daily) or charter your own private boat with Stillwater River Boats!
The St. Croix River is one of Stillwater's prized possesions. Enjoy swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or large chartered cruises aboard an authentic all-American paddlewheel ship. Have your own boat? There are 14 free boat tie-up slips available downtown including 4 overnight slips...pretty sweet!
This small Minnesota town is popular because it's near Gull Lake, and is only 2.5 hours north of Minneapolis.
Where to Stay: The best place to stay in Nisswa is at the Grand View Lodge! This place is pretty spectacular, and is enormous. This historic lodge rests on Gull Lake and offers plenty of lodging options (I would totally rent my own high-end cabin!), 2 golf courses, a spa, an indoor pool and waterslide, and plenty of dining options.
Above: The Grand View Lodge main property, which also has rooms available. Below: Some of the cabin rentals on property at GVL.
What to Do: If you do stay at the Grand View Lodge, they have a ton of activities for you to do right on site! Go on a guided fishing outing or rent your own boat, jet ski, or paddle board. There's beach yoga, zip lining, mountain biking, and a beautiful waterfront beach to relax on.
Grand View Lodge offers 7 dining options and atmospheres, ranging from casual to intimate. Try their new steakhouse, Char, or head to the beach for a taco at Tanque Verde Cantina and watch the sunset over Gull Lake with a margarita in your hand.
The Grand View Lodge is fantastic for a romantic weekend as well as a getaway with many friends and family! Curl up around a bonfire at night, and enjoy the beautiful Minnesota summer weather we have been waiting so long for.
Another great spot, just on the other side of the lake in Brainerd, is Madden's. It's a lot like GVL and has many great activities for Memorial Day Weekend!
4. Grand Marais
One of my personal favorites, Grand Marais is the ultimate "up north" getaway. It takes about 5 hours to get there from Minneapolis, but you may want to stop in Duluth along the way for lunch, so plan accordingly!
You'll always see sailboats by the lighthouse when you're in Grand Marais.
Where to Stay: If you'd like to stay right in town, The East Bay Suites offer a cozy, lodge-style stay. However, if you're feeling a little adventurous take a small drive out of town to the great Naniboujou Lodge! I wrote about this in my Grand Marais Travel Guide, and absolutely loved visiting this place. There's also a brand new "glampground" in town called Wunderbar ...and it looks REALLY cool!
What to Do: Take a hike on the Superior Hiking Trail. You can actually hike this trail all the way from Two Harbors to the Canadian border if you'd like. Otherwise, pick a portion of it and enjoy the beauty of Lake Superior.
Looking out across Grand Marais from the Gun Flint Trail.
The town of Grand Marais wraps around Lake Superior, and is full of sail boats and an epic lighthouse. There are so many great shops offering Minnesotan and Canadian trinkets. One of my favorite places to stop in to is the Sivertson Art Gallery. Grab a bag of saltwater taffy and stroll through town until it's happy hour.
Walking up the epic Grand Marais Light!
My favorite place to grab a drink in town is on the rooftop of Gunflint Tavern, which overlooks Lake Superior and has live music in the evening. Other great dining options include Wunderbar, Harbor House Grille, The Angry Trout Cafe. Don't forget to grab breakfast at Blue Water Cafe followed by a hot cappuccino at Java Moose!
Wow, I think that covers everything! I love all of these places so much, and each of them has their own unique quirks and beauty. I can't say I have a "favorite" Memorial Day Weekend spot, because there are too many good ones. I hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday weekend, cheers!