We all love a good mini-road trip. The only problem is, we all love a good mini-road trip. Nothing kills the vibe faster than congestion where there should be solitude. Fortunately, Minnesota has plenty of road-trip-worthy destinations that are worth the drive, yet rarely crowded. Here are a few:
Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park
Travel 2,341 feet below the surface in a cage, then hop into a mine car to journey through Minnesota's oldest iron ore mine. The Soudan mine opened in 1882 and closed in 1962; today's visitors explore the last level where miners worked. Before or after the 1.5-hour tour, you can explore the other amenities at the park, located on the rocky south shore of Lake Vermilion: hiking trails, fishing, boat access and a visitor center with interpretive exhibits. A 33-site campground and three group camps are expected to open in mid-summer 2017; mine tours open for the season Memorial Day weekend. dnr.state.mn.us
Soudan Underground Mine. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota.
Vast swatches of flat rock dot the prairie, concealing a 7,000-year-old secret: Native American carvings featuring ancient stories of humans, deer, buffalo, turtles, and more. Try your hand at Native American skills such as using an atlatl. The site opens Memorial Day weekend. sites.mnhs.org
Jeffers Petroglyphs. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota.
Little Falls, one of the oldest cities in the state (established in 1848), sits midway between St. Cloud and Brainerd along the Mississippi River and offers a fascinating look into Minnesota’s past. Tour Charles Lindbergh's childhood home; see tanks, artillery and helicopters at the Minnesota Military Museum/Camp Ripley; or go to Pine Grove Zoo, the second-oldest zoo in the state. Toast your busy day at A.T. the Black & White, known for innovative, fresh, seasonal food and a large selection of craft beer and wine. littlefallsmn.com
Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota.
OK, so you might run into more people here, but every once in a while it’s okay to join the mob flocking to one of Minnesota’s crown jewels. One such summer-weekend-worthy destination is Grand Marais.
North House Folk School
Situated between Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains, Grand Marais may make you think you’ve teleported yourself “out west.” Climb the highest (and only) mountain range in Minnesota and watch the sun set from 2,301 feet. Hike a portion of the 310-mile Superior Hiking Trail, discover the tallest waterfall in the state, or sail the deepest of the Great Lakes. Channel your inspiration into creating a work of art at the North House Folk School or into telling a great story over fish stew and a craft beer at Gun Flint Tavern. Regardless of the adventure you choose, teleporting yourself back home will be the hardest thing you have to do. visitcookcounty.com