By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Michele Tafoya's My North
Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tafoya is something of an icon in the Minnesota media landscape, and her presence here feels as engrained in the culture as the Vikings themselves. But despite fitting in like she was born here, you might be surprised she’s originally from LA—Tafoya didn’t move to the Twin Cities until 1994. Tafoya says there’s a lot to love about living in Minnesota, but if she had to pick one favorite Minnesota to-do it would have to be her family’s annual vacation at Grand View Lodge. Tafoya and company take their trip in the summertime, but we’re here to tell them—and you—that Grand View is a swell wintertime destination as well. Here are five Minnesota resorts worth a relaxing weekend away this winter.
Newsflash! Grand View Lodge on the northern reaches of Gull Lake is just as amazing during the winter as the summer. The food is just as good, the spa just as relaxing and the outdoor activities just as varied and plentiful. You can do anything from ice fishing to snowmobiling to dog sledding to ice skating all winter long, but if you pick the right dates, you’re in for an especially grand weekend. January 26-27 is the Ice Fishing Extravaganza, February 16-19 is the Northwoods Pond Hockey Classic, and February 23-25 is the Gull Lake Frozen Fore ice golfing tourney.
Our great inland ocean Lake Mille Lacs may be even greater once it freezes. What was once vast space, navigable in an infinite number of ways by boat, transforms itself into a nuanced gridwork of ice roads—and Appeldoorn’s in Isle is the perfect jumping-off point to go explore them. Even without access to the ice roads, skating rink, ice house and snowmobile rentals, Appeldoorn’s is a worthy winter’s stay because of the off-season deals. Take, for instance, the Couples Weekend Winter Getaway, which nets you two nights of lodging, breakfast and dinner daily, plus a bottle of wine, all for only $199. No matter how cold it gets, that’s still a smoking hot deal.
Naniboujou Lodge is a classic Minnesota resort any time of year, but there’s no denying its spectacular winter charms. With vibrant pops of red and yellow trim on the outside, otherworldly-elegant uber-colorful Cree-inspired mural work on the inside, and massive stacked-boulder fireplaces throughout, the magical resort is like a scene from out of Disney’s Frozen. By day you can go dog sledding, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing in and around Judge C.R. Magney State Park, and you’ll enjoy peak comforts back at the lodge itself, where dinners and breakfasts are included in all winter getaway packages.
Literally surrounded by water, the Grand Ely Lodge is one heckuva summertime destination, but there’s nothing quite like the snow-covered trees and frozen lakes of Ely in the winter. Sagawa Lake, the aforementioned water that surrounds Grand Ely Lodge, is great for snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice fishing, plus the nearby International Wolf Center is always a worthy trek. Or, if you prefer, stay inside and enjoy a winter steam at the lodge’s indoor sauna area.
No one can deny the phenomenal skiing at Lutsen, but the cozy comforts of Caribou Highlands might make you think twice about just how much time you want to spend on the slopes. Moguls Grill & Taproom is a solid bite, the Woodlands Spa is solid relaxation, and whether you go big with a townhouse or condo, or keep it smaller with an in-lodge room, you really can’t go wrong with those options. With ski and stay packages starting at just $200 per night, Caribou Highlands is a winter getaway that won’t break the bank.