You can usually hear them before you see them: trios and quartets of women who have been apart far too long. There’s that spark of laughter that catches on and explodes, then heads leaned together as arms rise to mark the occasion with a selfie.
Whether it’s for a gathering of moms giddy at being off-duty or empty-nesters and retirees with the freedom to feel like a kid again, here are four destinations ideal for some footloose fun.
A city once home to the country’s highest number of millionaires per capita, Duluth’s grand mansions provide luxurious, award-winning bed-and-breakfasts with wraparound porches and elegant fireplaces perfect for kicking back and reminiscing.
The Duluth Experience takes groups on history tours (some of which stop at the famed Glensheen Mansion) and seasonal waterfront walking tours. Other fresh ways to see the city include bike tours, kayaking and brewery tours. On balmy days May through October, grab a seat on the breezy upper deck of Vista Fleet boats for Lake Superior sightseeing.
Boutique shoppers and art appreciators can find regionally inspired clothing, accessories, photos, paintings and pottery at galleries and shops in Canal Park, downtown Duluth and Fitger’s. Freshwater fish and old world Iron Range heritage inspires the menus at restaurants such as Grandma’s, with its rooftop bar, and Va Bene, with its pastas and patio seating facing the lake.
Bikes can also be rented for touring Canal Park or pedaling across the Aerial Lift Bridge to Park Point with its broad, sandy beaches.
For some of the sweetest views in the city, take a scenic trip along Skyline Drive to Enger Tower Park or a ride up the chairlift or down the Alpine Coaster at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park, with sweeping views of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.
Pick a spot near glass cases arranged by decades at LARK Toys, and the conversations they inspire can be as entertaining as what sits inside: Chatty Cathy dolls and Howdy Doody. Operation and Monopoly. Sesame Street and Charlie Brown. Batman and Luke Skywalker. This one-of-a-kind complex blends mini-golf, a cafe and toys galore while doubling as a free museum that gets everyone talking about favorite childhood toys. Don’t miss the handcrafted carousel with creatures from a troll and a dragon to a moose and a goldfish.
The area also draws nature lovers with hikes, road-tripping along scenic Mississippi River bluffs, the National Eagle Center, guided trips into serene back channels with Broken Paddle Guiding, and day trips to state parks known for birdwatching.
Adventurers spot bald eagles while biking the Heartland Trail or following it to the Paul Bunyan State Recreational Trail, now the longest in the state and the longest rail-to-trail project in the country. Another epic option: sampling segments of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which will be the longest continuous footpath in the United States when its 4,600-mile route from New York to North Dakota is finished.
For a fragrant blend of north woods and blue waters, head to Walker on the shore of Leech Lake. Shaped roughly like a paw print, Minnesota’s third-largest lake nestles into the 1.6-million acre Chippewa National Forest with 290 miles of hiking trails.
Many properties put visitors right on the shore of Leech Lake, whether its Historic Chase on the Lake Hotel with a spa and patio dining, luxury resorts, vintage cabins or national forest campsites.
Indoor recreation includes shopping for trendy clothes, outdoor gear and gifts at downtown shops and catching a concert or gambling at Northern Lights Casino.
For an easy getaway near the Twin Cities, Stillwater consistently ranks as a favorite for its charming mid-1800s downtown paralleling the scenic St. Croix River. Brick buildings beckon with more than 70 stores selling art supplies and antiques, home decor, spices, cheese and candy.
Foodies can join culinary walking tours or roll up their sleeves for hands-on classes in fermented foods, Italian cooking, pizza or pastry classes. Other shops host knitting and painting nights, and offer ladies night out incentives several times a year.
For pure relaxing, leave time for spa treatments, a gondola or riverboat cruise along the St. Croix, a little fortune telling, and drinks and dessert to cap off a day.