Photo courtesy of CH - visitnorway.com
Sleep in a Fisherman’s Cabin in Norway
One hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle on a Norwegian archipelago known as the Lofoten Islands, you’ll find a stunning landscape of mountains and well-preserved fishing villages, not to mention a surprisingly mild climate. Stay in a rorbu, an authentic fisherman’s cabin built on stilts and complete with views of the wharf. Minneapolis-based tour operator Borton Overseas specializes in travel to Scandinavia and offers a seven-day Lofoten package that includes an overnight stay in one of the traditionally red-and-white cabins.
“We see an interest from clients who want to experience the cultural elements of Scandinavia, to see how people live, or used to live,” says Betina Kohler, Borton’s Scandinavia director, who adds that many Minnesotans of Norwegian heritage are interested in experiencing the region’s rich history. “It is more interesting to them to experience a part of the actual culture.”
Kohler says the area’s diverse landscape offers active visitors endless options, from hiking to kayaking to deep sea fishing and whale watching. Its villages boast quaint restaurants—where you can try local dishes like stockfish and reindeer—art galleries, and museums. bortonoverseas.com
Photos courtesy of Franconia Sculpture Park
Molten iron being poured into molds to make sculptures
Watch as molten iron is poured into the molds to make sculptures.
Make a Cast Iron Sculpture in the St. Croix Valley
If the Franconia Sculpture Park has been on your bucket list, the Valentine’s Day Hot Metal Pour is a great excuse to explore the 43-acre plein-air “gallery” while participating firsthand in one of the area’s unique annual events. Gather around a bonfire to witness molten iron being poured into sand molds to create original works of art. Take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn more about the process of casting iron, or visit the Q&A booth to get to know the artists.
For a full-blown fire-and-ice experience, create your own cast iron sculpture by participating in a workshop the weekend before to “scratch” a sand mold. Return for the event to watch it be poured and take home your very own work of art.
Can’t make it for the Valentine’s Pour? The park- offers interactive tours from May to October with a visit to the outdoor studio to learn about works-in-progress and the creative process from Franconia’s resident artists. For more information, and to register for a workshop, visit franconia.org.
Where to stay? Make it a romantic weekend and stay in the scenic St. Croix Valley. Many nearby inns and B&Bs offer February specials. innsofthevalley.com
Photos courtesy of Bayfield Chamber & Visitor Bureau
When weather conditions allow, Lake Superior provides a magical playground of ice caves on the Apostle Islands.
Explore the Ice Caves in Bayfield
On the Wisconsin side of Lake Superior, among the biggest draws in the winter months are the famous ice caves of the Apostle Islands in Bayfield. There’s no guarantee they’ll be accessible, and ice conditions aren’t usually known until early February. The caves were open in 2014 for 10 weeks, but in 2015 for only nine days, so be prepared to move fast, says Kelley Linehan of the Bayfield Chamber & Visitor Bureau. In those two years alone nearly 200,000 visitors descended on the town of 487 people to see the caves. Linehan recommends a midweek visit to beat the crowds.
If the ice caves aren’t accessible this year, you can still cross the “ice road” from Bayfield to Madeline Island. Once the ice on Lake Superior becomes too thick for ferry traffic, visitors can travel the two-and-a-half-mile stretch by car. It’s the perfect spot to view the Northern Lights in their vivid, wintery glory, says Linehan. Plus, Big Bay Town Park and Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island offer hiking, snowshoeing, and their own mini ice caves. bayfield.org
Did you know? After the holidays, locals pile up their discarded Christmas trees, which are picked up by road crews and installed as markers along the ice road in case of whiteout conditions.
Photo courtesy of North House Folk School
Birch bark weaving
Take a birch bark weaving class at North House Folk School.
Learn a Craft In Grand Marais
One of the many gems found on the shores of Lake Superior is North House Folk School in Grand Marais, which offers a wide variety of classes for locals and visitors alike. Many of its programs teach skills and crafts that have particular significance to the area, from sailing tours on the schooner Hjordis (harking back to pre-freighter days) and timber-framing classes (one of only a few places in the country to offer this) in the warmer months, to ski-carving courses in the winter. In February and March, it’s all about birch bark, a plentiful resource rooted in northern culture. northhouse.org
Where to Stay? East Bay Suites, with stunning views of the lake, is within walking distance of the school and offers midweek specials November–April. eastbaysuites.com
Photo courtesy of Visit Denver
Beer from Denver Beer Co.
Soak Up Beer History in Denver
Known as the “Napa Valley of Beer,” the Mile High City has a long brewing history, originating 144 years ago with a German immigrant by the name of Adolph Coors, whose now ubiquitous brewing company is one of the largest in the United States. Denver brews more beer than any other American city, with more than 60 breweries in Denver, more than 100 in the metro area, and a multitude of tap houses and brewpubs. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that former Denver mayor and current Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is a founder of the city’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Company. So strong is the interest in experiencing the local beer culture that the city’s tourist office has created a map of the Denver Beer Trail. To download the map, and for more information about guided brewery tours, check out visitdenver.com.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
Mountains in Wyoming
Live Like a Cowboy in Wyoming
To get a taste of life out West, try your hand at one of Wyoming’s many ranches. For the real deal, choose a working ranch, where you’ll be put to work on horseback to tend to livestock. There are several operating sheep and cattle ranches in the state that are open to visitors.
Not ready to fully rough it? Choose a traditional dude ranch for a nice balance of authenticity and comfort. Dude ranches offer organized outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, and lots of horseback riding, plus nightly entertainment and wilderness-focused kids’ programs.
For a more pampered experience, stay at one of the many resort ranches in the region, which exude western appeal but also include top-notch dining, spa amenities, and entertainment. travelwyoming.com