Photo by Paul Pluskwik, courtesy of Giants Ridge
Three children with snowboards
If you’re a Foodie: Lutsen Resort
5700 Hwy. 61 W., Lutsen, 218-663-7212, lutsenresort.com
Or you could consider:
- Inns of the Valley: There’s a smattering of these bed and breakfasts along the St. Croix, but for foodies, we’re particularly fond of Aurora Staples Inn, Water Street Inn, The Outing Lodge at Pine Point, and Cover Park Manor. They all call Stillwater—booming with great restaurants and breweries like Smalley’s and Maple Island Brewing—home. innsofthevalley.com
- Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery: Whether you’re a newbie or a connoisseur, they make food and wine pairings delicious, easy, and fun—even in the dead of winter. 1179 E. Pearl St., Kasota, 507-931-0089, chankaskawines.com
Nothing works up an appetite like winter activities—skiing, snowshoeing, and (yes, we’re going to say it) reading food and dining magazines in a hot tub.
It’s OK, foodies. Your lifestyle is safe and respected at Lutsen Resort, where dining is unabashedly front and center if that’s the way you want to butter your winter roll.
At its Lakeside Dining Room, executive chef Rob Wells—who was born in Puglia, Italy—impresses guests at all hours of the day with breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus that are both contemporary and traditional.
“Rob employs classic European techniques influenced by North Shore traditions and flavors,” says Lutsen Resort’s co-owner Nancy Burns. “His kitchen hand makes our fresh pasta. His culinary focus is a ‘friends-and-family’ philosophy of the importance of the whole dining experience, not just the food or culinary techniques.”
His philosophy isn’t the only thing that appeals to our Minnesota-ness. Surroundings brimming with classic Scandinavian design instantly set the scene. Begin to warm cold hands and feet while nursing a Minnesota-made cocktail or beer (from Vikre Distillery, Far North Spirits, Surly Brewing, and Bent Paddle Brewing to name a few) or choose from its award-winning list of 120-plus wines.
Your dinner options are flush with fresh seafood and home-cooked comforts like seafood fettuccine and beef Wellington, but for a real Up North experience, check out the “Lutsen Traditions” portion of the menu, which features potato-flaked walleye and Swedish meatballs.
PRO TIP: Make sure you get there for Lutsen Resort’s Fall Food & Wine Adventure Weekend, November 13–15. Lutsen chef Rob Wells leads a weekend of delicious sips and nibbles. Friday night food and wine flights turn into a six-course meal featuring chef Jean Robillard of Canada’s Bistro One on Saturday, and a champagne brunch on Sunday closes it out.
If you’re a Romantic: Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts
Or you could consider:
- Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast: With only four rooms available at any given time, it’s an incredibly intimate escape for you and your significant other. 1 LightHouse Point, Two Harbors, 1-888-832-5606, lighthousebb.org
- Grand Superior Lodge: Stay in one of its log cabins for a quintessential Northwoods experience. 2826 Hwy. 61, Two Harbors, 218-834-3796, grandsuperior.com
There are few resorts in Minnesota that bring the romance as well as Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts. Its properties—Bluefin Bay, Surfside, and Temperance Landing—frequently rack up accolades like “best honeymoon resort,” “top wedding resort,” and “favorite romantic spot.” And once you go there, you completely understand why.
Bluefin Bay knows how to cater to couples, whether in a fledgling relationship or an established 25-year marriage. Rooms are so cozy you won’t feel bad for holing up, but with a spa, outdoor hot tub, and weekend campfires near an ice rink, leaving the room is just as romantic.
For a couple’s getaway, check into the Grand Superior Master Suite at Bluefin Bay or the Surfside Superior Suite at Surfside. Both feature never-ending views of Lake Superior, in-suite fireplaces, king beds, double Jacuzzis, and double showers.
To feel truly pampered, schedule an early-morning couple’s massage at the Waves of Superior Spa at Surfside. Choose either the deep tissue or Superior massage—varying massage techniques and aromatherapy—to relax your work worries away so you can spend the rest of your getaway focusing on each other.
“There’s just something innately romantic about being this close to the greatest of lakes—falling asleep to the lapping waves, waking to sweeping watery views, being lulled into Lake Superior’s majesty—that just naturally draws our guests closer to one another,” says Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts marketing director Lori Schaefer. “Romance seems to linger around every corner.”
PRO TIP: Bluefin Bay resorts offer special romance packages. In addition to the option of meals at Bluefin Grille, Waves of Superior Café, and Coho Café, you can customize a package with fun add-ons like rose petals scattered throughout the room or a bouquet of roses waiting upon arrival.
If you’re a family: Afton Alps
6600 Peller Ave. S., Hastings, 651-436-5245, aftonalps.com
Or you could consider:
- Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center: Families who are starting to get mid-winter cabin fever head to Arrowwood’s 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, featuring a lazy river, huge waterslides, and a whirlpool spa. 2100 Arrowwood Ln. NW, Alexandria, 320-762-1124, arrowwoodresort.com
- Caribou Highlands Lodge: Even the furriest member of your family will feel included at Odyssey Resorts’ Caribou Highlands Lodge when you participate in ski-joring—a winter activity similar to cross-country skiing where you’re harnessed to your dog and they pull you along. 371 Ski Hill Rd., Lutsen, 800-642-6036, caribouhighlands.com
For years, Afton Alps has been proving that you don’t need to go far—or spend a lot of money—to get a high-quality ski and snowboard experience. This is especially important to the minivan set. Since the Hastings recreation area was taken over by Vail Resorts (you know, the company that owns icons like Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, and, of course, Vail, among others), $10 million worth of upgrades has gone into reimagining the experience—especially for families.
“There is really no better way for a family to enjoy the outdoors together in the winter than skiing,” says Joe Yasis, the general manager for Afton Alps. “And Afton Alps is one of those places you go as a family and it just feels right. There’s no pretense, no hassle. Just a laid-back, inclusive vibe, which makes families feel like they’re at home.” With 300 skiable areas, 48 trails, 18 lifts, and four terrain parks, that’s quite a large home.
But as any parent knows, when you’re skiing with kids, the time you spend off the hills is just as important as the time you spend on—which is why there are five chalets to warm up, rest, and grab some grub. “It’s OK to take a couple runs and then hit the lodge,” Yasis says. “For little ones, skiing is as much about Skittles, hot chocolate, pizza, and French fries as it is about ski tips.”
PRO TIP: For families willing to cross state lines together, check out the passes offered by Afton Alps, which allow you to ski here and out west. With the Epic Pass, for example, you get unlimited, unrestricted access to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Colorado, Utah, California, Michigan, and even Australia.
If you’re an Adventure-Seeker: Giants Ridge
6325 Wynne Creek Dr., Biwabik, 218-865-8000, giantsridge.com
Or you could consider:
- Granite Peak Ski Area: Consistently ranked one of the best ski areas in the Midwest, the drive into Wisconsin is worth it. 3605 Mountain Rd. N., Wausau, Wis., 715-845-2846, skigranitepeak.com
- Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area: We have no idea what the rad name means, but we do know it has great snow tubing, snowboarding, and skiing. 2232 100th Ave., Dresser, Wis., 651-433-5141, trollhaugen.com
- Lake Mille Lacs: With cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, Lake Mille Lacs proves we love our Land of 10,000 Lakes—even in the winter. millelacs.com
Clocking in at three hours north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, “Giants Ridge is close to the Twin Cities, but is a great northern getaway with connections to nature,” says marketing specialist Danae Beaudette. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, but the tiny town of Biwabik and the Up North locale make it particularly great for adrenaline junkies who want everything they can get from a Minnesota winter.
A popular location for golfing in the summer and fall, the resort changes its tune come winter, with outdoor adventure activities that suit every personality and skill level.
Skiing and snowboarding are arguably the most popular activities among resort guests, who take advantage of the area’s 35 downhill runs and terrain parks. But for those who don’t feel like their Ollie is quite ready for the big leagues, there’s Nordic skiing through the Superior National Forest, snow tubing for the entire family, snowshoe trails to explore, or ice fishing on nearby Wynne, Sabin, and Embarrass lakes.
If you really want to test out the fresh powder on Giants Ridge’s hills, you can sign up for group or private lessons during your stay.
PRO TIP: When you’re ready to wind down your day on the slopes, head into downtown Biwabik for Weihnachtsfest, the town’s annual winter lighting festival, held the first Saturday in December (this year on December 5). There’s a children’s musical, crafts, horse-drawn carriage rides, and an area to purchase homemade sweets.