Local & Eco Minnesota Getaways

Brett Olson

With the environmental impacts of long distance and international travel, consider a local and eco vacation this year. Here are some itineraries from Green Routes for the family, a solo trip or a romantic getaway all in the great state of Minnesota! Green Routes is made up of destinations that subscribe to a “triple bottom line” business strategy. They are peer reviewed and user certified weighed by their environmental and social benefits as well as their economic positive impact in their community. By visiting this business’ you are supporting local economies and helping to encourage other businesses to adopt greener business models as well. Be sure to go online to see full descriptions and get many more Green Routes destinations in the Midwest at greenroutes.org.

Weekend Option: Outdoor adventure

DAY 1: Cass Lake, MN

  1. Visit the Ojibwe Indians interpretive center at Northern Lights Casino. Pick up crafts made by local, native artists. 800-252-7529.
  2. Take a tour of Forest Edge Winery and sample wines made from local berries. More at forestedgewinery.com or 218-224-3535.
  3. Arrive in Cass Lake and camp at Norway Beach Recreation area in the Chippewa National Forest. Hike the trails in the park and take in a program offered by a park naturalist. Find more detailed information at recreation.gov.
  4. Have dinner at Great River Pizzeria. 218-339-7609.

DAY 2: Leech Lake, MN

  1. Rent bikes for $5/day from Leech Lake Fitness Center and ride the Migizi bike trail around Pike Bay Lake. 218-335-2081.
  2. Tour Lyle’s Logging Camp. 218-335-6723.
  3. Drive to Camp Rabideau and tour a 1930s CCC camp. Find more information at the US Forest Service website at www.fs.fed.us.
  4. Hike the one-mile trail in the Lost Forty. Find out more at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at dnr.state.mn.us.
  5. Drive back to Cass Lake along the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway. ladyslipperscenicbyway.org.

DAY 3: Bena, MN

  1. Drive to Bena. Stop and have your picture taken next to the Big Fish (Famously featured in the film, National Lampoon’s Vacation). 218-665-2333.
  2. Stay at the Historic Winnibigoshish Resort and General store. 218-665-2585.
  3. Rent a boat at Beckers Resort and go fishing on lake Winnibigoshish. beckersresort.com or 218- 665-2268.

For additional green travel ideas visit greenroutes.org.

Week Long Option: Train/Bike in Southeastern Minnesota

Explore Southeast Minnesota’s Bluff Country—Pack your tent and helmet for a wonderful week of biking the bluff lands and river bottoms. The Root River offers great trout fishing and a well maintained bike trail. Downtown Lanesboro is postcard perfect!

While this trip can be done by car, consider taking an Amtrak train from St. Paul to LaCrosse and renting a bike there. (Train cost is from $55.00 each round trip—amtrak.com)

DAY 1: LaCrosse, WI

  1. Arrive in Lacrosse, Wisconsin on the Empire Builder train.
  2. Stop by the great Farmers’ Markets in the downtown area and stock up on some seasonal foods—Friday nights from 4 pm to 8 pm or Saturday mornings from 6 am to 1 pm.
  3. Rent bike in LaCrosse. Speedy’s Bike Shop. speedsbike.com or 608-269-2315.

DAY 2: Spring Grove Soda, MN

  1. Hit your Farmer’s Market stash for a quick breakfast.
  2. Bike to Spring Grove Soda, roughly 10 miles. They have been making caffeine-free soda pop in small batches using a very hands-on method with pure cane sugar, not fructose, for over a hundred years. 507-498-3424.
  3. Explore the scenery, various bike trails, and head over to Lanesboro approximately 17 miles away.
  4. Rest up at the Hillcrest Hide-Away Bed and Breakfast. In the morning, a basket of fresh baked bread and coffee or tea will be brought to your door! hillcresthideaway.com or 800-697-9902.

DAY 3: Niagara Cave, MN

  1. After a great breakfast, pack a lunch and snacks for the day.
  2. Bike to Niagara Cave, just 20 miles, and tour this unique geological attraction. This natural limestone cave has been rated as one of the top ten show caves in the United States. niagaracave.com or 800-837-6606.
  3. Head back toward Lanesboro for a great supper at Pedal Pushers. pedalpusherscafe.com or 507-467-1050.
  4. Hit the hay at the Scandinavian Inn Bed and Breakfast. This bed and breakfast offers one of the most environmentally sensitive stays in historic Lanesboro. scandinavianinn.com or 507-467-4500.

DAY 4: Lanesboro & Whalan, MN

  1. Spend some time walking around Lanesboro, checking out the sights and unique artist shops.
  2. Stop by Frank Wright’s shop. He carves unique standing spoons from locally gathered wood.
  3. Wander up the road to Whalan to visit the Sustainable Dream Green Houses. 507-467-3314.
  4. See a play at the Commonweal Theatre back in Lanesboro. commonwealtheatre.org or 800-657-7025.
  5. Rest up before your trip tomorrow morning because the first hill out of town for Day Five’s aventure is going to get you! While we recommend staying at least 2 nights in a b&B you may also be interested in one of Lanesboro’s oldest operating B&Bs—Mrs. B’s. mrsbsinn.com or 507-467-2154.

DAY 5: Austin & Preston, MN

  1. Bike to Hilltop Pastures Family Farm, a small scale sustainably operated farm. hilltoppasturesfamilyfarm.com or 507-867-0096.
  2. On the way back, drive south through Preston and visit Windy Ridge Heritage Farm. Call ahead and make an appointment. 507-765-5222.
  3. Stay another night in Lanesboro.

DAY 6 : Houston, MN

  1. On the way back to La Crosse, stop in Houston and set up your tent in one of the many campsites in the area, like Cushon’s Peak Campground. www.camppeak.com
  2. Visit the VanGundy Elk Farm and Antler Shelter. Make sure you call ahead! 507-459-1029.

For additional green travel ideas visit greenroutes.org.

Extended Weekend: Romantic Getaway on the North Shore

DAY 1: Duluth, MN

  1. Arrive in Duluth and unpack your suitcase at Solglimt B&B. solglimt.com or 877-727-0596.
  2. Walk to the end of the pier in Canal Park and watch the lift bridge let ships in and out of the canal area.
  3. Visit many of the art shops in the Dewitt-Seitz marketplace and don’t miss Northern Waters Smokehaus to pick up some fresh smoked lake trout.
  4. Stop at the Fitger’s Brewhouse for dinner and try one of their many in-house brewed beers. brewhouse.net or 218-279-BREW.

Day 2: Duluth to Grand Marais, MN

  1. Head to the Whole Foods Co-op just up on the hill to pick up provision for a picnic to go with your smoked fish. wholefoods.coop or 218-728-0884.
  2. On your way to Grand Marais stop by Blue Skies Glassworks near Two Harbors. www.blueskiesglassworks.com.
  3. Stop at the Split Rock Lighthouse for your picnic lunch with an incredible view. www.mnhs.org/places/sites/srl.
  4. Then make your way over to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. wolf-ridge.org or 218-353-7414.
  5. If you are too tired to make the trip back to Duluth, stay at the Cedar Cliff Retreat in Lutsen. cedarcliffretreat.com.
  6. After your scenic travels along the North Shore, have dinner at the Angry Trout Café angrytroutcafe.com or 218-387-1265.

Day 3: Gunflint Trail

  1. Hike, bike, or ski one of the many beautiful Gunflint trails. gunflint-trail.com or 800-338-6932.
  2. Rent Bikes in town at Superior North Outdoor Center. superiornorthoutdoor.com or 218-387-2186.
  3. After a long day on the trails, sleep well at the Poplar Creek Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast. littleollielodging.com.

For additional green travel ideas visit greenroutes.org.

Short Weekend: Art & Wine

In Montevideo, stay at the Moonstone Bed and Bagel. 320-269-8971. Moonstone is a haven for the community’s art, crafts, history, nature and cuisine.

Day 1: Art

  1. Stop by the Milan Village Art School. Although the school’s core is Scandinavian folk art, they offer a wide range of art classes. milanvillageartsschool.org or 320-734-4807.
  2. Pick up food for lunch at the Pomme De Terre Co-op. pdtfoods.org or 320-589-4332.
  3. View unique Nordic inspired pottery at Tokheim Stoneware. tokheim-stoneware.com or 320-769-2424.

Day 2: Wine

  1. Sip coffee and nibble on delicious treats at the Java River Café. javarivercafe.com or 320-269-7206.
  2. Check the local Historical Societies sites. Find out more information by going to Explore Minnesota and searching for Chippewa County and Renville County Historical Societies. renvillecountyhistory.com.
  3. Enjoy wine at Minnesota’s only underground winery at Morgan Creek Vineyards. morgancreekvineyards.com or 507-947-3547.

For additional green travel ideas visit greenroutes.org.

Day Trip: Leech Lake, Minnesota

Spirit of the Forest Enrichment Center

Sleep in a tipi and learn about Native culture and local foods from tribal leaders. Call ahead for a reservation. 218-335-2285.

Leech Lake Tribal College Workshops

Attend a community education workshop offered by Leech Lake Tribal College. Past workshops included a day canoe trip to Star Island or a forest walking tour of edible plants and wild foods. 218-335-4267.

Camp at Norway Beach Recreation area in the Chippewa National Forest

Hike the trails in the park and take in a program offered by a park naturalist. Rent bikes for $5/day from Leech Lake Fitness Center and bike the Heartland Trail from Cass Lake to Walker. Find more detailed information at recreation.gov.

For additional Leech Lake travel ideas in Indian Country visit journeys.greenroutes.org.

10 Free Things to Do in Duluth, MN

Excerpted from the Duluth Travel Planning Guide

1. Watch the sun rise over Lake Superior.

2. Take a hike the Superior Hiking Trail.

3. Drive or bike Skyline Parkway or Scenic Highway 61.

4. Watch the bird migration at Hawk Ridge.

5. Squeal down the twisty slide at Bayfront.

6. Watch ships from Canal Park.

7. Have a picnic at Enger Tower.

8. Skate, bike or walk the Lakewalk.

9. Toss a Frisbee at Chester Park.

10. Skip rocks at the beach

Minnesota Getaways

Our Sponsors