If taste buds inspire your vacations, give them a delicious trip through the North Shore. Operated by former Twin Citians who headed north after retirement, North Shore Winery ages red wine in French oak and uses Minnesota apples, maple syrup, and berries in its ciders. Enjoy sips of the different varietals at a wine tasting, which is complimentary if you buy three bottles. Call ahead about special tours with the winemakers.
Pairing wine with meals is an art at Lutsen Resort, which has more than 125 wines that’ll enhance the blend of flavors from dishes crafted by Italian-born executive chef Rob Wells of the Lakeside Dining Room. Wells says one of his favorite plates is the duck hash—pair it with a full-bodied red; the acidity of the wine will tone down the sweet duck.
If you’re looking for something closer to home, explore the St. Croix Valley’s historic inns and experience the area’s impressive restaurants. Quaint B&Bs include Afton House Inn, with a wine bar and two restaurants on site. Spy Goldie’s Walleye on the menu? This Minnesota favorite was renamed after Goldie Hawn stayed at Afton in 2006 and loved the walleye dish she had. Near the historic Stillwater shopping district, Cover Park Manor offers a quiet respite situated between Cover Park and Valley View Park. Book one of the four suites for your own two-person double whirlpool, private porch, and fireplace. They’ve got a four-course breakfast that’ll be outside your door when you wake up.
Shopping in Stillwater is a must, and it works up an appetite, which has inspired a bubbling food scene. For nibbles, The Wedge & Wheel’s cheese flights pair with local craft beer and wine. Another option for a solid cheese plate is Domacin Restaurant & Wine Bar, which also has an enviable white wine list that’ll nudge your taste buds to the dinner menu—try Aleksandar’s Risotto. For dessert, don’t miss Mara-Mi’s fluffy, sweet cupcakes.
North Shore Winery, 202 Ski Hill Rd., Lutsen, 218-481-9280, northshorewinery.us; Lutsen Resort, 5700 Hwy. 61 W., Lutsen, 855-732-6248, lutsenresort.com; Afton House Inn, 3291 St. Croix Trl. S., Afton, 651-436-8883, aftonhouseinn.com; Cover Park Manor, 15330 N. 58th St., Stillwater, 651-430-9292, coverpark.com
Mark your calendar:
Lutsen Resort’s annual Fall Food and Wine Weekend is November 11-13. Friday night opens the weekend with a cocktail reception, Saturday includes a duel-chef six-course dinner designed specifically around the wine pairings, and Sunday’s jazz brunch concludes the weekend.
1 of 3
Couple at Bluefin Bay
2 of 3
Waves of Superior Spa at Bluefin Bay
3 of 3
Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast in Two Harbors
Sometimes a trip without the kids is preferred, maybe even necessary. And rekindling romance is easier with the right setting: majestic Lake Superior backdrop, delicious food, and access to heavenly couples massages.
A bed and breakfast is the traditional approach to a kid-free weekend, but add in a lighthouse and you’ve got romance. Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast in Two Harbors has four rooms to choose from and a common area to read a good book or enjoy the view. If you plan your stay over February 10 and 11, you’ll be around for the annual Two Harbors Winter Frolic, which includes a chili cook-off, beer tent, bonfire, and vintage snowmobile rides. The event concludes with a daylong Snow Ball dance set to live music.
Nestled between the Sawtooth Mountains and Superior National Forest, Bluefin Bay has up-close views of Lake Superior—perfect for a long walk with a camera. Spend the rest of an afternoon at the resort’s Waves of Superior Spa. Here, estheticians use Éminence Organics products, which are highly concentrated and activated with water during facial services. You can also add services onto your package like a mud mask, specifically designed with skin-penetrating nutrients that nourish skin while removing dead skin cells. For $15, a massage therapist will use touch to stimulate blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, releasing muscle tension and relieving stress—so worth the package addition.
East Bay Suites in Grand Marais has stunning views of Lake Superior. Let the morning light filter into the room as it glitters off the lake, or listen to the waves lapping against the shore outside your room at night. Book the Romance Package, which includes a bottle of champagne, chocolates, and candles. The resort doesn’t have an on-site spa, but it works with local massage therapists who set up shop right in your suite.
Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, 1 Lighthouse Point, Two Harbors, 888-832-5606, lighthousebb.org; Bluefin Bay, 7192 Hwy. 61 W., Tofte, 218-663-7296, bluefinbay.com; Waves of Superior Spa, 20 Surfside Dr., Tofte, 218-663-6888, bluefinbay.com; East Bay Suites, 21 Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 800-414-2807, eastbaysuites.com
To have a different kind of adventure, head to Glensheen Historic Estate at night from January through March for a flashlight tour of its storied—and tragic—history in the dark. Tour guides lead groups through the home, including spaces that haven’t always been open to the public. While certainly not a haunted experience, the tour is thrilling. Or, for a more wholesome experience, grab a mug of hot cocoa from the Carriage House and begin Glensheen’s annual December Christmas tour, which winds through 39 rooms, and features 25 decorated trees throughout the mansion—as it would have appeared decorated for the holidays more than 100 years ago.
Glensheen Historic Estate, 3300 London Rd., Duluth, 218-726-8910, glensheen.org
A three-hour drive north of the Twin Cities to Biwabik will land you in an adrenaline-seeker’s paradise, Giants Ridge, where you can snowshoe, ski, snowboard, snow tube, and more. A new chalet opened this year with Burnt Onion restaurant, featuring beer and donut fondue, along with a full food and drink menu—perfect after a day on the slopes.
While Minnesota’s got its fair share of places to play in the snow, cross the river to Wisconsin, where there’s something to do for everyone: the youngest family member, the pickiest teenager, and the partner who craves fast-paced adventure. Just being in a new state can make you feel further away from your worries—the goal of any getaway. About 50 minutes northeast of the Twin Cities, kid-friendly Trollhaugen ski and snowboard resort offers a variety of classes (including adult beginners!) so even the youngest snow bunny can have a blast with the other 4- and 5-year-olds as their parent guides them through ski training with the instructor. Trollhaugen has 23 trails and four terrain parks, and offers skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.
Traveling even farther east into Wisconsin, Granite Peak Ski Area has 75 runs, four terrain parks, and a vertical 700-foot drop. It’s the tallest ski area in Wisconsin. Granite Peak’s got classes for kids starting at age 3. Head to the website or call ahead for Family Festival Weekend lodging and ski packages—happening one weekend per month.
Giants Ridge, 6329 Wynne Creek Dr., Biwabik, 800-688-7669, giantsridge.com; Trollhaugen, 2232 100th Ave., Dresser, Wis., 651-433-5141, trollhaugen.com; Granite Peak Ski Area, 3605 Mountain Rd. N., Wausau, Wis., 715-845-2846, skigranitepeak.com
These casinos offer nearby entertainment for the weekend or give you a good reason to stop along the way to your destination.
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd.,Prior Lake, 800-262-7799, mysticlake.com
Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort 5616 Prairie’s Edge Lane, Granite Falls, 320-564-2121, prairiesedgecasino.com
Treasure Island Resort & Casino 5734 Sturgeon Lake Rd., Welch, 800-222-7077, ticasino.com
Plan a day or weekend of skiing and snowboarding at nearby Afton Alps, which has more than 300 skiable acres, 48 trails, 18 lifts, and six terrain parks, plus a new snowmaking machine with enough powder to get you serious air time. Mark your calendar for December 2 and 3 for Afton’s Village Holiday with free horse and wagon rides, and special promotions from local shops.
Venture to northern Minnesota where Buena Vista Ski Area is a hot spot for winter activity in Bemidji. From mid-November through March, skiers, snowboarders, and snow tubers take advantage of the powder at Buena Vista. It’s got four chairlifts, two terrain parks, and 16 runs—including a 2,000-foot-long run with a 230-foot drop. If you wants to learn a new skill or brush up on existing skills, Buena Vista offers private and group lessons for adults and kids as young as 3. Close the day by gathering the whole family for a private 25-minute horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Or, head to Spirit Mountain in Duluth—it’s open throughout the year with skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, Nordic trails, and fat biking. There are 175 skiable acres with a 700-foot drop, and a run capacity of 5,400 feet. There are two chalets on site when you need to refuel, one at the top and one at the bottom of the hill, so no matter where you are in your day, you’re sure to restore your energy. In the summer, Spirit Mountain also packs adventure into every moment with an alpine coaster along a 3,200-foot elevated track along the mountain and through the forest, a 700-foot-high zip line, chairlift rides, and disc and mini golf.
Afton Alps, 6600 Peller Ave. S., Hastings, 651-436-5245, aftonalps.com; Buena Vista Ski Area, 19600 Irvine Ave. NW, Bemidji, 218-243-2231, bvskiarea.com; Spirit Mountain, 9500 Spirit Mountain Pl., Duluth, 218-628-2891, spiritmt.com
Night We Light
If you’re in Bemidji on Thanksgiving weekend, be sure to head out Friday night for the Night We Light Parade, which kicks off the holiday season. A glowing parade of floats moves through the streets, and giant figures Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are illuminated by lights. At the Bemidji Visitor’s Center, there’s carol singing, food trucks, and a spot to make holiday ornaments—which are later hung on the center’s tree—and an awards ceremony for the best parade floats. Close the night with a winter bonfire.