As the thaw begins and the first sniffs of spring awaken your wanderlust, you may be lured by our state’s endless outdoor adventures, scenic byways, and natural attractions—but don’t overlook the quaint communities nestled among them. We rounded up 12 towns of all shapes and sizes with one thing in common: They have lots to offer! Explore their unique shops, bakeries, breweries, B&Bs, and everything in between. We call it a town haul!
1) Detroit Lakes
You know this border-adjacent resort hub for twangy extravaganza WE Fest. Settled as the Northern Pacific Railway spread northwest, the city was originally called Detroit—we’re grateful they cleared up that confusion early! Detroit Lakes has its fair share of our 10,000 lakes (more than 400!), but cabin-bound Twin Citians aren’t complaining. This splashy destination is ready for toe-dipping.
Voted “Best of” too many times to count, Fair Hills Resort, just outside of Detroit Lakes, is a destination in itself, with amenities including the Wildflower Golf Course, tennis, basketball, Frisbee golf, and firepits that can be enjoyed even in the off-season. A heavenly stay, Chapel House is a charming 1903 church that was recently renovated as an Airbnb rental. It has three bedrooms, a modern kitchen, and a long dining table for breaking bread. (Fun fact: Original church services were held in Norwegian.) fairhillsresort.com, 218-847-7638; airbnb.com
The town’s newest hops joint, Bucks Mill Brewing, has very Scandi brew names (a glass of the Ole, anyone?). The Fireside has been doling out nostalgia since 1948. West-facing lakeside fine dining with a deck and outdoor firepit means sunset views no matter the temps. And Vintage Cocktail Tuesdays get you discounts on martinis, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds. bucksmillbrewing.com, 218-844-5407; firesidedl.com, 218-847-8192
Sandwiched between prairie and forest, Detroit Lakes is a migration highway in the spring. The Festival of Birds, May 18–20, is set during optimal birding time. Excursions to the Tamarac and Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuges present opportunities to check off your bucket list: Warblers abound, plus nesting bald eagles, and trumpeter swans, kingbirds, bobolinks, sandhill cranes, and more. visitdetroitlakes.com, 218-847-9202
Summer weekends bring the Shady Hollow Flea Market’s 3.5 acres of vendors to life. (We dare you to try the 250-foot slip ’n’ slide!) For extra market vibes, Street Faire at the Lakes takes over downtown DL during the first weekend in June, filling it with vendors, artists, live music, and State Fair–ish flavors. shadyhollowfleamarket.com, 602-809-6661; dlstreetfaire.com, 218-844-7469
To tackle the waves right, 218 Escapes rents pontoons, kayaks, paddleboards, and motorized surfboards, as well as a guided fishing experience, on Detroit Lake. On the Otter Tail River, K & K Tubing hosts two-hour river glides from late May through early September. 218escapes.com, 218-234-2702; 218-847-5734
Home to first Dakota, then Ojibwe Native Americans, Bemidji got its moniker when the Ojibwe elder Shaynowishkung shared the name of the lake—bemijigamaag—with white settlers, who wrongfully assumed it was his name, thus calling the town Bemidji. Now, 135 years later, it’s known as the first city on the Mississippi River and the curling capital of the U.S.
Happy birthday to Lake Bemidji State Park, which turned 100 this year! Its lush pine forest and access to Lake Bemidji provide the perfect setting for swimming, boating, fishing, biking, picnicking, bird-watching, camping, and hiking. As if that wasn’t enough, wildflowers abound: Spy pink lady’s slippers, pitcher plants, dragon’s-mouth orchids, tuberous grass pink, and sundews, which are in full bloom by late spring. dnr.state.mn.us, 218-308-2300
Revel in the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra’s production of “Living Landscapes” at 3 pm Sunday, March 26. This thriving community orchestra, directed by Beverly Everett, will feature acclaimed flutist Hannah Porter Occeña in the Minnesota premiere of Joseph Kern’s “Shenandoah Variations” for solo flute and orchestra, including a catalog of bird songs such as “Blue Jay,” “Great Horned Owl,” and “American Gold Finch.” bemidjisymphony.org, 218-444-7914
Family-owned Minnesota Nice Cafe serves up homestyle eats and treats, including its signature pancakes (we’re looking at you, Baby Blue Platter!) and The French Babe—french toast with cream cheese, homemade berry sauce, powdered sugar, and whipped cream. Don’t miss the gluten-free corner, including breads, pancakes, crepes, and sweets. minnesotanicecafe.com, 218-444-6656
This custom-built getaway, Views on Turtle River, will indeed wow you with its views. Its four floors—strung together by an ornate, winding staircase—include a sauna, kitchen, and master suite featuring a walk-in shower. With 40 acres to roam, this Airbnb is perfect for a spring-break vacay, with a dock on the property to get your kayak, paddleboard, or canoe in the lake. airbnb.com
3) Grand Rapids
Click your ruby reds, and land in a landscape as green as the Emerald City. Judy Garland’s childhood home and birthplace on Pokegama Avenue is open for tours, and the area is laced with trails for biking, ATV-ing, and byway cruising.
Northwoods meets industrial at Hotel Rapids, with geometric patterns and rugged wood accents. The boutique hotel is leveling up local lodging with a French-style restaurant on-site, specializing in crepes and craft cocktails. hotelrapids.com, 218-326-3457
The downtown grape house UnWined Up North regularly hosts “alcohol-infused” art classes to pair your pinot with a paintbrush. The first to tap the town, Klockow Brewing has a plethora of wheaty drinkables: The smoked chocolate stout can escort that spring chill out the door. Though newer to the block, nothing about Rapids Brewing Co. is novice, from beers and whiskeys to wood-fired pizzas. unwinedupnorthmn.com, 218-999-9234; klockowbrewing.com, 218-999-7229; rapidsbrewingco.com, 218-999-9712
The Mesabi Trail stretches 150 miles from the Mississippi to the Boundary Waters. Tackle the terrain by bike or ATV. The Tioga Recreation Area, west of Grand Rapids, counts 25 miles of mountain biking trails. Soak in the landscape on one of the area’s lakes: Paddle Hoppers rents canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks. Or paddle a four-hour tour of the Mississippi. mesabitrail.com, 218-744-1388; tiogarecreation.com, 218-328-6225; paddlehoppers.com, 218-326-5853
The 47-mile Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway twists north from Grand Rapids through the Chippewa National Forest, which contains the largest population of bald eagles in the continental U.S.—keep your eyes on the sky for their white crowns. edgeofthewilderness.com
4) Two Harbors
The North Shore can feel passé. But with new pubs, old bands, and a lighthouse you may not have seen, there’s a host of reasons to brake for this two-bay town.
Harbor Rail is a double-whammy Airbnb and eatery. Upstairs, the industrial-chic loft apartment has a private rooftop deck with a gas fireplace and grill. The Pub downstairs was brought back to life in 2022 with new owners and an interior refresh, serving up pizzas and cocktails inspired by the harbor. harborrail.com, 218-343-5036
Any Minnesotan worth their suds has tasted a Castle Danger Cream Ale, but have you sipped it a block from its key-ingredient frigid waters? Refill your cup at Cedar Coffee Company, an angular coffee cabin tucked in the woods, serving wild rice bowls like a good Minnesota place should. castledangerbrewery.com, 218-834-5800; cedarcoffeecompany.com, 218-510-0160
At the town’s band shell within Thomas Owens Park, the Two Harbors City Band—Minnesota’s oldest continuously operating city band—plays at 7 pm every Thursday in summer. friendsofthebandshellpark.com
Sure, you’ve done Split Rock. But Two Harbors Lighthouse is the state’s oldest operating lighthouse. The foghorn building, which has remained relatively unchanged since it was built in 1892, is now open for tours. Talk about a night-light—the keeper’s quarters are now the Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. lighthousebb.org, 1-888-832-5606
Welcome mat of the most visited wilderness area in the United States, Ely earns its stripes by providing all the small-town charm and amenities visitors could dream of—from its outfitters and shops to its eateries and resorts. On your way Up North, tune into the My Ely Story podcast, which details the history, culture, entrepreneurship, resilience, and creativity of the town, told by the vibrant people who live there.
Most hotels offer complimentary items that you may have forgotten, but what about fishing poles, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and hydrobikes? Grand Ely Lodge offers all that and more, from its spacious suites with lakefront views to its authentic log furniture, heated pool, and on-site Evergreen Restaurant and Antlers Lounge. grandelylodge.com, 218-365-6565
A stay in Ely wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Ely’s only brewpub, Boathouse Brewpub, slicing up unique pizzas (Chapel of the 5 Meats includes pepperoni, sausage, bacon, pulled pork, and Canadian bacon), smoked Gouda mac bites, the Motorboat burger (with bacon, onion, garlic mayo, BBQ, and sharp cheddar), and its classic pub house specialties, such as the Boathouse Dip—a strip dip loaded with peppers, onions, banana peppers, and pepper jack cheese. Fourteen bucks gets a round for all the kitchen workers (’cause it’s hot back there!). For some jazzy brews, try the Blueberry Blonde Ale or Peanut Butter Chocolate Porter. Cheers! boathousebrewpub.com, 218-365-4301
Besides the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness—spanning more than a million acres—Ely offers countless opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. The International Wolf Center offers interactive programs and exhibits designed for learning about wolves, including its new Discover Wolves exhibit. On April 15–16, step into a biologist’s shoes with the Tracking the Pack overnight program, where folks aged 7 and up can learn about wolf research and management with a hands-on approach. Registration required ($180 for members, $200 for non-members). wolf.org, 218-365-4695
Beginning April 21, say hi to Lucky, Holly, and Tasha—three black bears who live on 2.5 acres of natural forest at the North American Bear Center, a unique black bear and wildlife educational facility that educates about bear behavior and ecology. bear.org, 218-365-7879
Ely’s Dorothy Molter—a nurse whose kindness and medical training touched more than 7,000 wilderness explorers—began making root beer in the early 1950s. She brewed and bottled thousands of her Isle of Pines Root Beer, reusing old glass pop bottles to serve to canoeists who stopped by. Her mark on Ely’s history is remembered at the Dorothy Molter Museum, which features Molter’s original cabins, hourly guided programs, and outdoor natural areas: Birds’ Landing and Dorothy’s Discovery Trail. rootbeerlady.com, 218-365-4451
Alex isn’t exactly an under-the-radar gem. Known for lakes and a glass of good grapes, here are new ways to discover a tried-and-true central Minnesota fave.
Alexandria is a magnet for water warriors. Ice fishing turns to Jet Skiing as the melt rolls north. And for landlubbers, the Glacial Ridge Trail Scenic Byway is a 220-mile route, tracing landscapes formed by a glacier about 30,000 years ago. The full route spans five counties and four state parks. glacialridgebyway.com
Posting up in Alexandria demands a cozy A-frame cabin, and The Lake Place delivers. The three-level cabin sleeps nine, and expansive windows wash the clean interior with natural light. Will we ever get tired of hygge vibes? No, just no. At Brophy Lake Resort, 14 modern white cabins hug the shore of Lake Brophy. Optimize your PTO with kayaks, canoes, and a water trampoline, plus hammocks, horseshoe pits, and volleyball and badminton setups. Instagram @thelakeplacemiltona; brophylakeresort.com, 320-762-8386
Known for its wine culture—from Carlos Creek to seasonally open Burr Vineyards, L’Etoile du Nord, and 68 and Vine—this small town is big on refills. Every scoop of Peachie O’s gummies and Spree candies brings you back to childhood at The Sugar Shack of Alexandria, with its black-and-white tile floor like every candy store should have. Rest your road trip–weary seat in the green booths at Travelers Inn, offering big plates of homestyle cooking. Call it “Travs” to sound like a local. carloscreekwinery.com, 320-846-5443; burrvineyards.com, 651-726-4397; letoiledunordvineyard.com, 320-298-4686; 68nvinevw.com, 320-298-1518; facebook.com/sugarshackofalex, 320-759-1843; travelersinncafe.com, 320-763-4000
Time to pick your own parfait toppings. Strawberries and honeyberries are ripe for plucking starting in June at Country Blossom Farm. Earn a hole punch in your MN Card by tossing an axe on your rural road trip at Woodsman Axe Throwing. For sharpshooters, there’s a tic-tac-toe board and a lane with simulated games like axing zombies. From Glenwood to Eagle Bend, nine golf courses in the Alex area make up the Chain of Links Golf Trail, a bucket list to keep you swinging. countryblossomfarm.com, 320-334-1620; woodsmanaxe.com, 320-219-7716; explorealex.com/chain-of-links
At the heart of the 218, Nisswa is a resort-studded, forest-flanked lake town and one of the many map dots on the 115-mile Paul Bunyan State Trail. Proximity to the Brainerd Lakes is a plus—and avid shore-lunchers know its Gull Lake has excellent walleye fishing—but this town has enough boutiques, coffee shops, brew spots, and entertainment to hold its own.
A Gull Lake icon, Grand View Lodge and cabin complex should be on your bucket list. The resort offers bike rentals, shuffleboard, bocce ball, sand volleyball courts, paddleboards, kayaks, yoga classes, banana boat rides, and pickleball courts. Tanque Verde Cantina is a seasonal beachfront joint on the property serving tacos and colorful tropical drinks. grandviewlodge.com, 1-866-801-2951
Your sugar-high fuel stop, The Chocolate Ox has wall-to-wall candy jars and oversize ice cream scoops. Topping waffles with anything and everything is the bread and butter of The Iron Waffle, which extended its iron skills into a food truck last fall. We brake for clever beer names, and Roundhouse Brewery’s Angel Seat amber ale, Coal Train porter, and Whistlestop blonde make the cut. WineDown uncorks nine varieties of wine from around the world each month in a cozy, modern spot in Nisswa (and one in Walker!). thechocolateox.com, 218-963-4443; facebook.com/theironwafflecoffeecompany, 218-963-6317; roundhousebrew.com, 218-963-2739; winedownmn.com
Slow and steady indeed wins the Turtle Races (which, yes, involve actual turtles!), every Wednesday from June 7 to August 16. For a dose of summer no matter Mother Nature’s plans, duck inside Copper Creek’s greenhouse. The garden center also hosts seasonal classes for potting (and watering your green thumb). If you’re saddling your plaid up to the bar at Big Axe Brewing Company, slide outside for Insta-friendly eye candy: A 13-by-25-foot mural by Samantha French and Aaron Hauck washes the side of the building. business.nisswa.com; coppercreeklandscapes.com, 218-961-1294; bigaxebrewing.com, 218-961-2337; samanthafrench.com
Get your adrenaline fix in the tippy-tops of the Northwoods trees at Brainerd Zip Line Tour, totalling 15 miles with a suspension bridge and seven lines, ranging from 50 to 950 feet through the Pillsbury State Forest. zipbrainerd.com, 218-656-1111
8) New Ulm
Guten Tag from New Ulm—the most German town in America! Many residents can trace their ancestry to Baden-Württemberg, Germany—New Ulm’s sister city, near Ulm. The town recognizes its German roots with icons such as the Hermann Monument (known to locals as Hermann the German), its traditional Glockenspiel located downtown, the German Heritage Collection of the New Ulm Public Library, and spätzle makers available at the local hardware store. The town’s first newspaper, the New Ulm Der Fortschritt, was published exclusively in German—though its current newspaper, The Journal, is published in English. Domeier’s German Store is known for its traditional German Christmas ornaments, German candies, and cuckoo clocks.
A Victorian-style boutique B&B, the Bingham Hall Bed and Breakfast posts modern comforts, including whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, a collection of 6,000 movies, and full-body shiatsu massage chairs. Owners Shannon and Todd McKeeth originally took culinary classes in Mankato, intending to open a restaurant, but their bed and breakfast is now named “Best in the Midwest.” bingham-hall.com, 507-276-5070
At 163 years old, Schell’s Brewery remains the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the United States! Sample suds galore: Vienna-style amber; German-style pilsner; and Sangria, a red citrus lager. Dunk yourself in brew culture at BockFest in March, a celebration of the brewery’s Bock—dark, malty, robust, and meant to keep you warm through the last spring snowstorm. schellsbrewery.com, 507-354-5528
The city’s iconic Minnesota Music Hall of Fame reopens for the season in April. Nestled in the former public library, the hall recognizes musicians and educators who have made the state’s music scene what it is and includes music, memorabilia, and photographs of musicians like Bob Dylan, Judy Garland, Prince, Eddie Cochran, and The Andrews Sisters. A new audio tour supplements descriptions and history of each inductee as you wander through the extraordinary past—and future—of Minnesota’s iconic music makers. $6 admission, mnmusichalloffame.org, 507-354-7305
If you notice a colorful, Queen Anne–style home like something out of a children’s book, you’re probably looking at the childhood home of Wanda Gág, a Bohemian immigrant and author of Millions of Cats—the oldest American picture book still in print, featuring millions of cats modeled after her own Noopy. Now, the museum features lithographs, paintings, and drawings by Gág. wandagaghouse.org, 507-359-2632
The city of Winona—named for the daughter of a Dakota chief—was originally the village of Keoxa. After European immigrants settled in 1851, industrial development boomed, resulting in the opulent interiors of its downtown businesses; stained-glass windows made by famous studios, including Tiffany; and its striking basilicas—notably the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka, which pays tribute to the population’s Polish-Catholic heritage. Winona has more than 100 sites on the National Register of Historic Places but looks to the future with a robust downtown development plan. Its picturesque parks (including Great River Bluffs State Park and the Levee Park boulders) and its niche music hot spots (including No Name Bar) assert Winona as a must-see stop in Minnesota.
Winona’s Video Vision was both the first and last video store in town, operating from 1987 until 2019. It’s also perhaps the first video store in Minnesota to transform into a swanky, cinematic-centered Airbnb rental. Sarah Johnson, Winona’s first creative laureate, created signature art pieces to convey the theme of “fictional moments in Winona history” in each of the four boutique-style rooms: 1958 NASA Code Name Video Vision, 1928 Giant Squid Discovery, 2078 Alien Robots Invasion Room, and 1974 Bigfoot Devours Bloedow’s. Each pays tribute to some of owner Michael Onstad’s favorite parts of town: Bloedow Bakery’s donuts, Sugar Loaf Bluff, the lakes, and—of course—the iconic video store itself. Instagram @videovisionvacation
Make a day out of your stay in Winona by stopping at some of the delish local eateries. Don’t sleep on the sweet maple latte and house-made granola with fruit from Blue Heron Coffeehouse, made from organic and locally sourced ingredients. Try locally inspired beers at Island City Brewing Company, such as the Dam Near Water lager or Mrs. Sippi fruit beer. More of a wine gal? Take your honey to a wine tasting at Garvin Heights Vineyards, where you can choose four wines from each week’s specialties. Grab something exquisite—like grilled octopus, seared duck breast, or caramelized pineapple tart—at Nosh Scratch Kitchen, a farm-to-table eatery that serves western Mediterranean–influenced cuisine using many ingredients from the region. blueheroncoffeehouse.com, 507-452-7020; islandcitybrew.com, 507-961-5015; ghvwine.com, 507-474-9463; noshrestaurant.com, 507-474-7040
Mid West Music Fest—an annual music festival in the Driftless region of Minnesota that has featured regional artists for more than a decade—on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, including regionally popular Humbird, Sleeping Jesus, Beet Root Stew, Sheep for Wheat, The People Brothers Band, Texas Toast, Clay Fulton and The Lost Forty, The Lavender Project, Clams, and—making their MWMF debut—The Reach Outs. Plus, jam out to big-name headliners UltraBomb, Your Smith, and NNAMDÏ. midwestmusicfest.org
Take a walk through Winona’s history with these five must-see museums.
• Minnesota Marine Art Museum, mmam.org, 507-474-6626
• Rural Heritage Museum, Winona Historical Society, winonahistory.org/museums, 507-454-2723
• Watkins Heritage Museum and Store, visitwinona.com, 507-457-6095
• Polish Cultural Institute and Museum, polishmuseumwinona.org, 507-454-3431
• The Bunnell House, winonahistory.org/museums, 507-454-2723
Nestled in the scenic bluffs of the Root River valley, this southeastern Minnesota charmer is well worth the two-hour drive from the Twin Cities, especially in spring.
For the full Lanesboro experience, try Anna V’s Bed and Breakfast, a picturesque Victorian mansion built in 1908 that offers elegant historic rooms with modern amenities. Stone Mill Hotel and Suites, completed in 1885, is sure to catch your eye with its vibrant red exterior, located in the old feed mill of historic downtown Lanesboro. annavbb.com, 507-424-9021; stonemillsuites.com, 507-467-8663
The fresh, local ingredients and Minnesota-made craft beer make Pedal Pushers Cafe a must—but don’t leave town until you’ve enjoyed the view (and a cocktail!) from one of the decks at High Court Pub, overlooking the Root River. Those who loved and lost the gourmet pizza of Riverside on the Root should come hungry to seasonally open Juniper’s Restaurant, which opened last January, helmed by Tyler Shipton (you know him from Minneapolis notable Borough). Top off your weekend with Dinner on the Bluff. pedalpusherscafe.com, 507-467-1050; highcourtpub.com, 507-467-2782; junipersrestaurantmn.com, 507-467-4040; eaglebluffmn.org, 507-467-2437
Once the snow clears, the 60-mile-long paved Root River Trail is spectacular for bikers and joggers alike. Enjoy the fresh spring air and learn more about Amish culture by taking a tour of the largest Amish community in Minnesota through Bluffscape Amish Tours or R&M Amish Tours. bluffscape.com, 507-467-3070; 507-467-2128
Mark your calendars for the high comedy and human drama play Bernhardt/Hamlet by Theresa Rebeck from March 25 through June 24 at the Commonweal Theatre. Or see Deathtrap, a devilish thriller by Ira Levin, from May 6 through August 19. Also check out the historic St. Mane Theatre, originally the Elite Theatre that opened in 1915, for live music, theater, dance, and documentary film. commonwealtheatre.org, 800-657-7025; lanesboroarts.org, 507-467-2446
Some of Lanesboro’s many noteworthy designations include Rhubarb Capital, B&B Capital of Minnesota, and America’s Top Small Town.
Visit Niagara Cave in nearby Harmony beginning weekdays in May for a peek at 400-million-year-old fossils, stalactites, and a 60-foot waterfall. Or head to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park near Preston for great camping and more underground caves to explore. niagaracave.com, 507-886-6606; dnr.state.mn.us, 507-352-5111
Välkommen till Lindström, or welcome to Lindström—America’s Little Sweden! Incorporated in 1894, this charming locale includes all the trademarks of a quintessential small town in the Midwest, with an iconic Swedish coffeepot water tower; a wholesome old-school bakery (hello, Lindström Bakery!) with the best donuts in Minnesota; and vibrant event venues, such as the Panola Valley Gardens. The question is: Where to start?
A site on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gustaf Anderson House was built in 1897 by a Swedish immigrant who struck it rich in Montana’s gold mines in the 1870s. Now a locally owned restaurant, Gustaf’s on Main Eatery brings flavorful Scandinavian specialties to the table, including its spring exclusive: the Reuben, stacked high with corned beef, sauerkraut, provolone cheese, and Gustaf’s house-made sauce on marbled rye. Honestly, who doesn’t always eye the kids’ meals? The Little Swede is kid-size Swedish pancakes served with strawberries, or real maple syrup, and whipped cream—or, for lunch, a classic PB&J with organic strawberry spread. gustafseatery.com, 651-263-0737
Murals make a colorful splash throughout downtown Lindström, and spring is the perfect time to seek them out. Start at the downtown “Greetings from Lindström!” mural on the side of Lindstrom Bakery (12830 Lake Blvd.), just a few steps away from the popular shop Rose’s Collectibles (12815 Lake Blvd.). Keep walking, and you’ll find a mural of the Swedish flag on the side of All Is Wellness (12760 Lake Blvd.), which was painted in anticipation of the king and queen of Sweden’s visit to Lindström in 1996. Finally, spot the seafaring Viking-inspired mural located at Northwest Camera and Video Repair (12731 1st Ave N.).
Go and Grow at These Spring Events in Lindström.
• Fantasy of the Lakes Festival. An annual Renaissance festival in mid-May. Dates TBA at press time, facebook.com/fantasyofthelakes
• 31st Annual St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. A journey through seven local pottery studios in rural Chisago County. May 12–14, minnesotapotters.com
• Memorial Day Paddle. An annual kayaking paddle from Paradise Park on Chisago Lake to Center City’s downtown dock. May 29, clla-lakes.com
• Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours: Mother’s Day Daily Cruise. See the scenic St. Croix River, thanks to a fifth-generation family-owned business. May 14, taylorsfallsboat.com
Though known for its wineries, this nearby town just west of the Twin Cities has pottery to be sipped from, llamas to be petted, and a new old island to traverse.
Tip your sailor’s hat to the sunny season ahead at Lola’s Lakehouse on Lake Waconia. Awash in natural light and turquoise walls, Mocha Monkey uses and sells Jon Schmidt Pottery, spun by the café owner himself. Iron Tap boasts beer, cocktails, and barbecue. St. Louis ribs, pulled pork mac ’n’ cheese—need we say more? lolaslakehouse.com, 952-442-4954; three locations, themochamonkey.com; irontapmn.com, 952-442-4447
Ripe with wine culture, Waconia cradles Schram Vineyards, Sovereign Estate, and Parley Lake Winery. Add to the list of notoriety: J. Carver Distillery, with a top-tier Old Fashioned, plus tours and cocktail classes on weekends. schramvineyards.com, 925-442-5105; sovereignestatewine.com, 952-446-9957; parleylakewinery.com; jcarverdistillery.com, 952-442-2433
Spread your mat amid party animals at Yoga with Llamas at Carlson’s Llovable Llamas farm, where spring is especially llama-full: Pet baby llamas in April or May. In Lake Waconia, a 34-acre historic island was recently opened to the public. Accessible via watercraft (you’ll need to use your own!), Coney Island of the West has picnic areas, hiking trails, remains of several seasonal villas from a 1911 construction, and ruins of a resort that operated on the island until the late 1930s. yogaananda.life/llamas, 507-593-9931; carlsonslloveablellamas.com, 952-442-4244; co.carver.mn.us, 952-446-5250
This article originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.