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 retirees with the freedom to feel like a kid again, here are four destinations ideal for some footloose fun with your best gal pals.
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 at Cooks of Crocus Hill. Other shops host knitting and painting nights, and offer ladies night out incentives several times a year.
For pure relaxation, visit the Himalayan salt cave at Just for Me Spa, where you can also spend the night in a cozy cabin. Other options for fun include gondola rides and riverboat cruises along the St. Croix River, historic trolley tours, and drinks and dessert all along Main Street.
A city once home to the country’s highest number of millionaires per capita, Duluth’s grand mansions have become luxurious, award-winning bed-and-breakfasts, complete with wine and cheese hours and cozy 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 at Fitger’s, an indoor mall that's also home to the city's oldest brewery, several restaurants and a cozy inn. When it's time to eat, freshwater fish, wild rice and old world Iron Range heritage inspire the menus at restaurants such as Grandma’s, with its rooftop bar, and Va Bene, with its pastas and patio seating facing the lake.
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, with sweeping views of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.
Relive your childhood at the whimsical Lark Toys in Kellogg, where Chatty Cathy dolls, old Operation and Monopoly games, and classic Barbies are on display in the on-site museum. Pick up a souvenir for your kids or grandkids back home, including handmade wooden toys you can only buy here. Before you leave, play a round of mini-golf outside or hitch a ride on the troll, dragon or moose on the handcrafted carousel.
The Wabasha area also draws nature lovers for hiking, road-tripping along the scenic Mississippi River bluffs, guided canoe trips with Broken Paddle Guiding, and day trips to state parks known for birdwatching.
Most notably, the National Eagle Center is the place to learn about these magnificent birds of prey both inside and in the wild, where they congregate along the river just outside the center. Right downtown, the center is close to several other worthwhile stops, including Stacy’s Kitchen for a hearty, homemade breakfast, the new Big River Kombucha, and Hoppy Girl Brewing, part of Turning Waters Bed, Breakfast & Brewery.
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.
Spot bald eagles while biking the Heartland Trail or Paul Bunyan State Trail, now the longest in the state and the longest rail-to-trail project in the country. Another adventurous option: hiking 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.
Many area lodging options put visitors right on the shore of Leech Lake, whether it's the historic Chase on the Lake with its spa and patio dining, smaller family-run resorts, lakefront hotels or campsites in the national forest. Indoor recreation includes shopping for trendy clothes, outdoor gear and gifts at downtown shops and catching a concert or gambling at Northern Lights Casino.
Lisa Meyers McClintick is a prolific travel writer for outlets including USA Today, Midwest Living, the Star Tribune and her website lisamcclintick.com. A mom of three, she especially enjoys family travel, hands-on learning vacations, local food and farms, living history and outdoor adventures.
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