A kid pets oxen at Oliver Kelley Farm

Three Days of Fun in the Heart of Minnesota

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Petting oxen at Oliver Kelley Farm / MN Historical Society
Groups // Central Minnesota // Article

Three Days of Fun in the Heart of Minnesota

By Explore Minnesota

Throughout the region, explore a land of unspoiled lakes and small towns with busy main streets, museums and historic sites, shopping and dining. Join us for plenty of fresh air and outdoor options, from a scenic lake cruise to charming gardens. Discover the culture of an early Native American tribe inhabiting the area and learn more about some names you know and some you don’t.

Arrive at Elk River and the Oliver Kelley Farm, a historic 1850s farm located on the Mississippi River. Start at the visitor center with a film about farming the food we consume. Continue to the St. Cloud and St. Joseph area and the St. John’s University Pottery Tour and Johanna Kiln, the largest three-chambered woodburning kiln in North America. Check in at any St. Cloud-area group-friendly flag hotels or a locally owned and operated hotel/motel. Hungry? There’s a wide variety of group dining options.

Legacy of the Lakes Museum in Alexandria

Classic Minnesota boats on display at Legacy of the Lakes Museum in Alexandria


Depart for Sauk Centre and a stop at novelist Sinclair Lewis’ Boyhood Home. Allow time to walk the Original Main Street.

It’s 30 miles to Alexandria and the Legacy of the Lakes Museum. Through exhibitions and events, the museum celebrates the traditions and legacies of Minnesota’s lakes. Enjoy lunch on your own and some free shopping time in downtown Alexandria. Arrive at Fort Alexandria and the Runestone Museum. The fort’s nine buildings and the museum share the area’s rich Scandinavian heritage. View the Kensington Runestone and more than 40 additional exhibits. Enjoy an hour drive to New York Mills and the Finn Creek Open Air Museum, an 18-acre interpretive site devoted to preserving Finnish culture. Nearby, the Cultural Center is a must stop with visual art displays in its historic Main Street building.

Relax on the 60-minute drive to Staples for dinner and stay overnight at Timber Lake Hotel.

Native American quilts

Native American quilts for sale at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post / Mille Lacs Area Tourism


Breakfast at the hotel and depart for the 35-minute drive to Brainerd. The Northland Arboretum welcomes groups year-round to its trails for an opportunity to learn and connect with nature. Enjoy a relaxing lunch with Gull Lake Cruises. From the upper deck, capture a photo of the Minnesota common loons.

Depart on the 35-minute drive to Mille Lacs Lake and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post. Throughout the museum, you’ll be immersed in the history and culture of the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe. Tonight, it’s dinner, gaming, entertainment and overnight at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs Hotel in nearby Onamia.

For the adventurers, Paul Bunyan State Trail departs from Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd and continues for 115 miles to Lake Bemidji State Park.

Munsinger Flower Garden in St. Cloud

Munsinger Flower Garden in St. Cloud 


Have breakfast at your hotel and relax on the 45-minute drive to Little Falls. Camp Ripley Environmental Center conserves and preserves natural and cultural resources. At the Fort Ripley Military Museum gain insight into the Gopher State’s military contributions. Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame offers excellent educational tours with wonderful stories. Grab a quick lunch before a visit to the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum. Get a close-up look at the famous aviator in the museum and through a guided house tour.

It’s 35 minutes to St. Cloud and a mid-afternoon stop at the Munsinger Clemens Gardens. From spring through fall, there is always something blooming.