Where Minnesota Escapes

Brainerd, MN
Photo by Mike Miley

If there's one thing that unites us all in Minnesota, it's the desire to get out of town when the winter thaw is in full swing. Whether it's towards a lake, a campgrounds, or a little city up north, we checked in with some Twin Cities influencers to see where they kick their feet up, come summertime.

Eric Dayton on Lake Vermillion

Co-owner of The Bachelor Farmer/Marvel Bar and Askov Finlayson

My escape to my family’s cabin on Lake Vermilion starts with the drive north. When we were young, my dad used to tell my brother and I made-up stories about our favorite superheroes to pass the time. And we had to stop at Tobies for caramel rolls and at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth. I always used to think it took five hours to get to our cabin, but once I got older, I realized we just stopped a lot. If the weather is warm, we’re out enjoying the lake, and if it’s cooler, everyone is most likely in the cabin by the fireplace reading. I actually prefer it a little cooler—there’s nothing better than starting the day warming up with a roaring fire and a cup of coffee. My family is pretty active, so someone is usually leading an excursion somewhere. At the end of each day, after a big family dinner, the younger generation often stays up for Ping-Pong. I wish I could say that I’m the reigning family champion, but my brother now beats me regularly. I have no idea how that happened.

lindsay whalenLindsay Whalen on Cass Lake

Guard, Minnesota Lynx

My grandparents had cabins on Cass Lake and Lake Bemidji, so when I was a kid we were really lucky because we got to go up there all the time. Sometimes we’d stay for a week and learn how to play golf or go Jet Skiing and tubing. My grandparents still have that cabin on Lake Bemidji, so I try to get up there once a year, usually in the fall between my WNBA season and overseas season in Russia. I think the most fun thing is to not really have a plan, to just get in the car and go. I’ve done that with my husband before. Those are the memories you make that last forever.

Betsy HodgesBetsy Hodges on Taylors Falls

Mayor of Minneapolis

My husband and I don’t get to travel a lot, but when we do, we like to pull out the map, see where we’ve been, and choose a city based on where it is in the state. We always try to look up a fun or unusual bed and breakfast to escape to and reconnect with each other. One of our most memorable trips was to The Old Jail Bed & Breakfast in Taylors Falls—it’s where we got engaged. We were getting ready to go out to dinner and I heard my husband say he was looking for something. He turned around and had a ring in his hand. So we got engaged in an old jail! Wherever we end up going, we like to hike, look for out-of-the-way museums, and try the local cuisine. I also love to walk Main Streets—I’m always looking for the clothing or thrift store. You learn a lot about communities from their Main Streets, so my advice is to take a walk down Main Street.

DessaDessa on LaCrosse, Wisconsin

Musician, essayist, poet

A couple of years ago, I went to La Crosse to speak to a university class. After my academic duties were fulfilled, my hostess, Marie Moeller, invited me to ice cream. I have the sweet tooth of an 8-year-old child, so I accepted immediately. The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor looks like it was lifted from a Willy Wonka set, with tight rows of brightly colored candy lining the display cases. Marie then invited me up to Grandad Bluff. I’m an indoorsy type, but not wanting to offend, I agreed to go. Rounding the last turn, the woods opened into a gilded panorama, magic-hour light filling the valley with a coppery haze. My native skepticism collapsed; I found myself posing for a picture with arms outstretched, Titanic-style, against the luminescent backdrop. I’ve returned to La Crosse since, usually dragging someone along, seeing the awe break across his or her face as we turn that last corner.

Senator Al FrankenAl Franken on the BWCA

U.S. Senator

When I really need an escape, I like to go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I’ve been going there for 40 years to commune with nature, loons, eagles, and walleye (which I more catch and eat than commune with). I always go with friends, because if I went alone, I’d be in trouble. My greatest memories are going there in my 20s with my comedy partner Tom Davis and a few other close friends. There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire, looking up at the stars, listening to the water lap against the rocks, seeing a shooting star, and having all the time in the world to talk about anything—and nothing at all.