Cathedral Hill Neighborhood St Paul: In the Footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Frequenting the historic Cathedral Hill neighborhood in St Paul always makes me feel that I am walking in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

St. Paul’s historic Cathedral Hill is one of my most favorite neighborhoods in the Twin Cities. Because I’ve always lived on the Minneapolis side, it seems like a visit to another world, even though it’s a just a short drive across the Mississippi River.

Historic Saint Paul Cathedral Hill neighborhood

Frequenting Cathedral Hill’s side streets and shops, and tarrying in the restaurants and watering holes located in its vintage buildings always makes me feel that I am walking in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

The Saint Paul Cathedral

Cathedral Hill is situated on a bluff overlooking downtown St. Paul, dominated by the majestic dome and imposing edifice of the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul. Archbishop John Ireland (don’t you love that name?) commissioned French Beaux Arts architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray (who’d worked on the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair) to build a centerpiece for the Archdiocese. Construction began in 1906 and was completed in 1915. It was during this time that the neighborhood began to flourish, although it had been a place of elegance and grandeur from the mid-19th century on.

the Saint Paul Cathedral dominates the surrounding neighborhood
Gabriel Vanslette [CC BY (]

When my brother visited Minnesota, we decided upon a whim to go inside the Cathedral, and were fortunate to tag along on a tour already in progress. Spellbinding details were woven into historical, religious and humorous context by the tour guide, an elderly woman who clearly was in love with her work.

The Cathedral’s French Renaissance interior is filled with gilt, marble statuary, stained glass windows, intricate carvings and glorified not only by ornament but its immense, yet intimate, proportions. It is impossible to depict how large this building is with photographs, but its detail will remind you of the places, like the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, which inspired its designers and artisans.

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William Wesen Appraiser [CC BY-SA (]

Legend has it that one of the city’s most prominent citizens, James J. Hill, was unhappy that the Cathedral next door eventually overshadowed the grandeur of his personal residence not only in expense, but proximity to heaven. Closer to God is the mighty dome of the Archbishop instead of the railroad baron. Perhaps as it should be, no? In the photograph you can see the multi-chimneyed abode of Mr. Hill made modest.

in the footsteps of f. scott fitzgerald
Photo Credit: Ramsey Hill Association

The Haunts of St. Paul’s Literary Son: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cathedral Hill began to be developed in the 1850s. It is also known as Summit Hill, after Summit Avenue on which wealthy citizens built residential monuments to themselves. These addresses literally looked down on St. Paul’s crass commercial district and their less fortunate neighbors in the flats leading to the river’s edge. But Cathedral Hill’s glory days may very well have occurred during the Jazz Age of the 1920’s and 30’s.

in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

One of St. Paul’s favorite literary sons, F. Scott Fitzgerald, immortalized this insular world in his stories and novels.  Who couldn’t love The Great Gatsby from its first few pages, evocative as it is of something close to deja vu in sepia tones of forced gaiety and underlying melancholy? Just like the lace-curtained windows on Laurel or Ashland that provide only glimpses of the lives contained within, nostalgia renders Cathedral Hill’s literary portrait.  “That’s my Middle West,” Nick Carraway tells us.  “. . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow.”

in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: W. A. Frost

Early in our relationship, my ex-husband and I spent a romantic evening at a table for two next to the fireplace at W. A. Frost and Company, at the corner of Selby and Western in Cathedral Hill. We’d stumbled and slid through snowbanks into a bar that seemed bathed in Carraway’s golden light, and proceeded into a dining room made intimate and mellowed by woodgrain, oriental carpets, and vintage brick.

Note: For other places in this neighborhood to have a romantic evening, check out Romantic Things to Do in Minnesota.

in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: W. A. Frost

As a boy, F. Scott, named after distant cousin Francis Scott Key before his poetry became famous as our national anthem, was sure to have had an ice cream soda here when it was the neighborhood drugstore.  The building is a handsome sandstone edifice in the Italian Renaissance style, ornamented with copper cornices. Its original tin ceilings gleam in candleglow.

Blair Arcade

Across the street to its west is the former Angus Hotel, dating from 1887, now refurbished as the Blair Arcade with shops and condominiums, including Garrison Keillor’s bookstore for a time. Scott’s mother, Molly, lived here after her husband’s death. The bay windows and turrets on the building are classic Queen Anne with wrought iron ornamentation. The Angus alternately deteriorated and rejuvenated in 20-year increments after WWII, and now is at the nexus of the neighborhood.

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On this visit, my girlfriends and I headed to Cathedral Hill to shop at First Monday at The Commodore Hotel, which had been a temporary home to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in the fall and winter of 1921-22. Another of our friends was displaying her handmade jewelry at this shopping event and we were all excited to be there. While it might be cliche to suggest walking through the Commodore’s double doors was like stepping back in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine a white-gloved doorman standing ready under the broad-striped canopy at our approach.


The Commodore’s Art Deco bar (note: restored, refurbished and reopened in late 2015) is a perfectly preserved example of the clean lines, mirrors and gilding with which the style purveyed swank and sophistication, and still harbors the speakeasy’s secret door to a hidden crawlspace where the booze was stashed.  To replenish the bar these days, the bartenders go on hands and knees into the same closet, deftly passing bottles back toward the waiting hands of their accomplices.  I ordered a cosmopolitan martini and wished I could have a cigarette, although I haven’t smoked in years.


The Commodore’s details set the mood back to the Roaring 20s and 30s in an instant. Little had they changed in the intervening decades, as evidenced by vintage photos. Tile, mirror, lighting fixtures, and even the whimsical painting on the ladies room door harkened toward that time, which has always seemed so familiar.

What is it, I am wondering in this month of ghosts, about those who frequented these places? They seem so vivid to me. Not individually do they manifest, but instead they inhabit an overall mood woven from threads of expectation, glamor, hope, and tragedy. Was life more intense then?  It sometimes seems to me so. Have I lived a past life during this time? Perhaps.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The newly wed Fitzgeralds embarked on an opulent lifestyle from which Scott drew many of the plot lines in his literature, creating financial difficulties that would plague him throughout his life. After being asked to leave the Commodore and getting kicked out of the University and White Bear Yacht Clubs for wild parties, they relocated to Paris and the French Riviera, where they became friendly with other ex-pats, including Ernest Hemingway. This extravagant and worldly way of living accommodated Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and his wife’s flamboyance.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Gangsters and Hoodlums

The vestiges of The Lost Generation lived on at The Commodore long after the Fitzgeralds did, mutating into the gangster days of the late 1920’s and throughout the 1930’s.  In John Dillinger Slept Here, we learn that Ma Barker occupied Apartments 215 to 221 starting in 1933, using an alias.  Her son, Fred, moved in, too, and brought his girlfriend, but, according to a 1936 FBI report, on mother’s orders the girl was ensconced in Apartment 404.  Nonetheless, the FBI went on, Ma Barker made the girl’s life “miserable.”

Other scofflaws besides the garden variety Jazz Babies and small-time hoodlums who holed up at the Commodore were Alvin Karpis, Al Capone, and train robber Jimmy Keating.  Karpis hooked up with the Barker gang about this time to kidnap William Hamm, one of the scions of the St. Paul brewing dynasty, netting the princely sum of $100,000 in ransom.  Next, they doubled their money with Edward Bremer, of the banking family, whose father was a friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Residents of the Commodore lived fast and furious.  Things were all over for the Barker gang by 1935, with everyone either dead or captured.  The Commodore declined, particularly after the second World War, along with the neighborhood.

Social Climbing and Ideals

This was all long after young Scott came of age in the shadow of the construction of the magnificent Cathedral.  The cohesiveness of the neighborhood must have impressed the boy as representing haven and strength.  Edward Fitzgerald was fortunate to have “married up” into local McQuillan wealth and Social Register standing.  Whenever he fell upon hard times, and he frequently and inevitably did, the family returned to the financial safety of one of his mother-in-law’s houses in Cathedral Hill.

The sense of stability and place permeating Fitzgerald’s work, according to Patricia Kane, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul: A Writer’s Use of Material, was more symbolic than actual. Fitzgerald’s family “lived always in houses on the periphery of the city’s ‘best’ residential district. Fitzgerald’s letter to a friend described himself as living:

‘In a house below the average
On a street above the average
In a room below the roof. . .’ “

while at 599 Summit Avenue, now listed on the National Register, and working on This Side of Paradise. It was here that he learned of his book’s acceptance for publication, which in turn prompted a renewed liaison with Zelda and led her to consent to marriage now that he was appropriately successful.

All Fitzgerald’s stories, Kane tells us, include men “whose expectations exceed their experiences.”   Another Minnesota writer, Sinclair Lewis, who also resided for a time at the Commodore, similarly immortalized in the character of Babbitt an “admiration for the energy of the city and the Ivy League athletes come home to business success.” Fitzgerald wrote of an ideal city, whose values and experiences were predictable and sturdy.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The irony of this repetitive theme isn’t lost on someone who traces Fitzgerald’s transient life, his parents having lived at six addresses on and off Summit Avenue between 1908 and 1918 alone.  The newly wed Fitzgeralds lived at the Commodore in the fall of 1921, but also during that short period of less than a year, he and Zelda moved frequently between White Bear Lake and Cathedral Hill, most frequently as a result of eviction for the effects of wild parties they hosted.  By 1922, they were gone from Minnesota for good.

Walking Tour of Cathedral Hill

in the footsteps of f scott fitzgerald

It was a beautiful Midwest autumn evening to walk through the neighborhood from the Commodore to W. A. Frost, where we friends were anticipating good food and wine.  We decided to meander a bit in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald to take in parts of the Walking Tour on our way. Ambling west on Laurel, we admired beautiful examples of mid to late 19th-century architecture as the leaves fluttered from the trees and the streetlights came on. It wasn’t hard to imagine a young boy skipping down the street and glancing up at the different homes up and down the block, taking in the atmosphere in indelible imprints to be resurrected later in his writing.

Did he admire the detailed simplicity of this one or that one, or perhaps know the family who lived over there?  Would he and his playmates have scampered in the garden behind the hedge or opened the turquoise door on the spindled porch to beg a sweet treat from someone’s mother?

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At # 481 Laurel, one of a twin set called San Mateo Flats by its builder, Scott had been born in 1896, in the third-floor apartment at left. On this waning fall afternoon with the sunset filtered by buildings and trees, the golden lamplight such as Nick Carraway described in The Great Gatsby was glowing in the front flat like a beacon for a boy on his way home to dinner.

We turned on Mackubin northward toward Selby, and then east again. The streetlamps were lit, and the dome of the Cathedral rose up at the end of the street, the ever-present landmark that the boy saw on his way for an ice cream all those years ago.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

in the footsteps of f scott fitzgerald

We friends dined that lovely evening among the shadows of what had gone before. We spoke of our own hopes and dreams, laughed and confided in one another, all in the space of a few golden hours. Amid the quiet streets, we saw the romance and heard whispers of the past as the city settled in. The days are shorter now and we will return again.

Check out places to stay in and near the Cathedral Hill neighborhood, and use our handy interactive map to book directly:

A Nostalgic Visit to Paul Bunyan Land

Many Minnesotans have fond memories of visiting Paul Bunyan Land as children. Nowadays, this famous attraction has even more for all ages!


“Oh boy!” said Pete to the rest of our group. “One of the highlights for us kids on our summer trips to the cabin was visiting Paul Bunyan Land. You know, he talks to you and everything! He even knew my name!”

Photo Credit: Paul Bunyan Land
Photo Credit: Paul Bunyan Land

If you grew up in the Northern United States, chances are you know the mythical legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Formulated out of anecdotal storytelling from logging camps in the late 19th century, the legend appeared in various print publications beginning in 1904 with a story in the Duluth News Tribune. Paul Bunyan was a lumberman’s Goliath, capable of superhuman feats. His folkloric exploits were co-opted into advertising and promotional campaigns for destinations, consumer products, and services. At the same time, the stories were adapted into children’s storybooks and even a short animated feature in technicolor by Walt Disney Studios.

In the Upper Midwest, statues of the mythical lumberjack and his sturdy blue companion are found all over: the Mall of America, Bemidji, Eau Claire, the Brainerd (Minnesota) Welcome Center and Ossineke (Michigan). But arguably the most famous Paul is the one at Paul Bunyan Land, now located six miles east of Brainerd on Highway 18. After the original 6-acre amusement park’s location was acquired for retail development, the current owners of Paul Bunyan Land moved Paul, Babe, his dog, and all the rides and buildings in 2003. They expanded the operation by incorporating an existing attraction, The Old Farm Pioneer Village, which had occupied part of the new 23-acre site.

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Vintage Amusement Park Rides at Paul Bunyan Land

The Old Farm Pioneer Village features more than 40 buildings and contents dating from the late 1800s to the 1940s.

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The entrance to This Old Farm at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Beautiful settlers’ cabin at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Vintage implements outside the settlers’ cabin at Paul Bunyan Land

The antiques and displays spark all kinds of nostalgia: a pioneer’s log home, a vintage one-room schoolhouse, an old-time gas station and general store, mechanical sheds, farm and firefighting vehicles, barber and beauty shops, and even a petting zoo.

Paul Bunyan Land
Vintage Buildings at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Vintage Building at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Storefronts at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Classic cars at Paul Bunyan Land
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Storybook building at Paul Bunyan Land with Mrs Pumpkin Eater!

But the biggest attraction at Paul Bunyan Land is Paul himself. The mechanical statue weighs over 4,000 pounds and was moved intact to the new location so as to not traumatize young spectators along its route. We got to ask Paul a few questions during our visit and he even sang a version of an old Dave Clark Five song to us, changing the lyrics from “Glad All Over” to “Plaid All Over.” It’s all in great fun!

Speaking of fun, one of the weirdest Paul Bunyan stories has to do with his dog, Sport. Known as the “Reversible Dog,” Sport, who was accidentally cut in two by a lumberman’s ax, was hastily stitched back together with his hindquarters upside down. As the story goes, Sport doesn’t really care. When he gets tired, he just flips over and runs on his back legs.

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Pete recreates a childhood memory of having his photo taken with Sport, the Upside Down Dog

A visit to Paul Bunyan Land will be fun for the entire family. Admission includes full access to the vintage displays and unlimited rides on 20 vintage amusements such as Dodgem cars, Ferris Wheel, and Tilt-a-Whirl. The Amusement Park’s Memorial to Labor Day season is augmented with a Haunted House and Corn Maze at Halloween, and an Enchanted Village open for three weekends in December with more than 40 holiday displays. Other special events such as Pioneer Days in August (which features a parade of vintage vehicles) add to the enjoyment. Concessions, a cafe and a gift shop round out the offerings.

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How did Pete fare during our nostalgic visit to Paul Bunyan Land? He may just have had a better time than anyone! This attraction is timeless, and like many visitors, we’ll look forward to bringing our grandkids (when we’re so blessed) here and re-live the magic!

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Tips and Particulars: Paul Bunyan Land is located on Highway 18 six miles east of Brainerd, Minnesota. Open daily from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, 10am to 6pm. Check out Hidden Hollows, their Halloween seasonal attraction and the Enchanted Village with free admission to more than 40 displays on weekends in December.

Disclosure: We were the guests of Paul Bunyan Land during a recent press trip with Explore Minnesota.

The Magic of Madden’s on Gull Lake

In the perfectly pristine setting of an upstate Minnesota summer, we left the real world behind for the magic of Madden’s on Gull Lake.

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Natural water elements in the Classic’s course design by Madden’s Golf Course Superintendent, Scott Hoffmann

Disclosure: We were the guests of Madden’s on Gull Lake as part of a press trip with Explore Minnesota Tourism, in conjunction with Explore Brainerd Lakes.


After you turn off highway 371, the upstate Minnesota landscape unfolds as part of a shimmering promise. And that promise is: in the space of the few minutes, you’ll leave your real world somewhere back behind you, obscured and protected from intrusion by the perfection only this part of the world can bring. Here is a paradise wrought in a hundred shades of green, in the call of a red-winged blackbird or the glimpse of a firefly. It’s a world of misty sunrises and lingering summer twilight, of sandy beach and sparkling water. Gosh, you say to yourself, it’s so beautiful up here. Such is the magic of Madden’s on Gull Lake.

Madden's on Gull Lake
Water, land and sky at Madden’s

Visitors have been coming to Madden’s on Gull Lake for almost ninety years. They’ve brought their children and grandchildren, and now those children and grandchildren are bringing theirs. Madden’s can hold more than 600 guests at a time in a variety of accommodations: hotel rooms, villas, cottages, and entire houses. “Our philosophy,” says Ben Thuringer, of the third generation to run the resort, “is simply to provide the best that Minnesota has to offer.”

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A lakeside vista at Madden’s on Gull Lake

To be sure, there are beautiful vistas in other parts of the world; they’re showy and exalted, written and sung about, haughty and prominent. But part of the charm in these parts – north Minnesota lake country – is quiet modesty. “Yes,” this region whispers, with a wink and a conspiratorial smile. “it’s gorgeous here. But shhhhh. Let others make outrageous claims and show off. We know who we are.”

Maddens Resort
Fairway Vista on The Classic Course

Mention Madden’s on Gull Lake and the first thing you hear will be about the golf. Rated in the Top 100 and 5-Stars by Golf Digest, The Classic at Maddens bills itself as Minnesota’s “Signature Course.” Check out the video from our recent visit (click here if you’re in a reader):

Other on-site courses – Pine Beach West and Pine Beach East (Minnesota’s first 18 hole course, dating from the 1920s), as well as the shorter Social 9 – bring the total number of holes at Madden’s on Gull Lake up to 63. No matter your skill level, there will be a fit. Looking to improve your game? Check out the two driving ranges, three pro shops, or arrange for lessons tailored to your needs.

Maddens Resort
This heavenly fairway goes on forever

With 1000 acres to enjoy at Madden’s, there’s more than golf to experience. Vacationers can do just about anything, or soak the woodsy lakeside atmosphere all in by doing as little as possible, if that’s their wish. Guests can get on the water in kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, rowing sculls, SUP boards, pontoons, speedboats, a 12-person “banana boat” tube, and old-school fishing boats with 15hp motors.

Maddens Resort
It’s possible to relax in a big way at Madden’s

Land sports include tennis and croquet, trapshooting, ball courts, traditional horseshoes and shuffleboard, lawn bowling, cycling, and an Adventure Club just for kids. Learn to waterski or hire a fishing guide. Nearby off-site excursions include mountain biking, river canoeing, horseback riding and ziplining.

Maddens Resort
Lofty shade trees frame a fairway

Dining at Madden’s ranges from five-star to casual cafe. On our recent visit, we enjoyed a fantastic meal at the comfortably elegant Classic Grill. Featuring a large patio at which thirsty foursomes could relax with liquid refreshment and a sandwich, the Grill’s dining room overlooks The Classic Course. We started with cocktails and a salmon appetizer and then indulged with tasty steaks. The dessert menu was tempting, but we wisely refrained, contenting ourselves with glimpses of what other diners were enjoying.

Salmon Appetizer
Salmon Appetizer

Breakfast the following morning was equally enjoyable, with the nicest server ever!

Our room at Madden’s on Gull Lake was brand, spankin’ new, located in the rebuilt Voyageur buildings, in the west end of the resort. A year prior to our visit, a super storm with straight-line winds had blown in, knocking out 85 guest rooms and meeting spaces, one of the golf courses, and the resort’s all-important wedding venue. With typical Minnesota understatement, Marketing Director Kathy Reichenbach, told us, “We viewed it as an opportunity to refurbish.”

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And refurbish they did. Our spacious king room was designed to take advantage of the breezes and a serene view of Gull Lake’s Wilson Bay. Even though the last thing a visitor might want to be is connected to a digital device while on vacation, we appreciated the fast internet speed, convenient desk and counter space, as well as the handy wet bar with coffee, microwave and refrigerator. Our sparkling ensuite bathroom was outfitted with quality toiletries and fluffy, oversize towels. We fell asleep like babies to the sounds of lapping waves and singing frogs, on one of the most comfortable mattresses we’ve ever experienced.

Maddens Resort
Twilight on Wilson Bay

Adjacent as our room was to the Spa at Madden’s, we regretted we did not have time to choose something from the full complement of stress-reduction services offered for women and men: massage, facials, wraps, waxing and nail services are available a la carte and in packages suitable for couples and group getaways. This spa is the only one located right Gull Lake. Girls’ weekend away, anyone?

Maddens Resort
Water feature on the Classic course

Other amenities at Madden’s on Gull Lake include 4 swimming pools (3 indoor and 1 outdoor), a full-service marina, 5 restaurants and 2 lounges, a coffee bar and gift shop, and an art gallery featuring painting classes.

Maddens Resort
Local color
The Inn at Maddens
The Inn at Madden’s

Madden’s on Gull Lake offers a variety of package rates based upon your interests and favorite activities. In addition, special events such as holiday weekend getaways, a renowned Food & Wine Event, and seasonal opening and closing parties enable you to choose a memorable way to play and stay.

Vintage vibe coffee and ice cream shoppes
Vintage vibe coffee and ice cream shoppes

Romance and reunion packages can include spa services and group lodging options. Golf packages range from classic to deluxe.

Maddens Resort
Shooting the breeze with a pro at Madden’s

Tips and Practicalities: Madden’s is located on Gull Lake, outside Brainerd, Minnesota, between two and three hours northwest of the Twin Cities. Open seasonally between April and October. Rated 53rd Best Resort in the World and Top 10 Resort in the Midwest by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.

Maddens Resort
Serene scenery

Fun Adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota

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With summer brings the opportunity for a variety of fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota on land and water, and even in the air!

adventures in central and northwest minnesota

Summer fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota abound for all ages! We recently rediscovered this region with new eyes after an absence of several years. Active enthusiasts will be amazed at all the options, no matter how you roll. There is no more perfect environment than a Minnesota summer to get your groove on! Come along and be inspired as we count some of the ways!

Disclosure: We visited Central and Northwest Minnesota on a press trip with Explore Minnesota Tourism, and were the guests of its business partners.

Fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota on the Water!

Fishing: Dropping a line in has always been foremost when visitors to Central and Northwest Minnesota contemplate their choices. Anglers of all ages and abilities will discover that they can enjoy an experience tailored just for them on any number of the plentiful lakes for which this region is famous. Numerous private guide services using all kinds of watercraft are available.

We had a fun-filled fishing adventure on Lake Mille Lacs with Mike Verdeja and his crew from McQuoid’s Inn. Located on the southeast side of this enormous lake in the lovely little town of Isle, McQuoids offers condos, cabins, hotel rooms, and conference facilities.

But the real story at McQuoid’s is their guided fishing experiences. Signature red and yellow launch-style boats are comfortable and spacious for groups. Mike and his crew know all the best spots to fish for walleye, crappie, perch, bass, and even muskie on this enormous lake, which is larger in area than several Minnesota counties. If you’re at all squeamish, they’ll even bait your hook and net your catch.

Fun Adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota - fishing with McQuoids

If you are or know a senior citizen, military veteran, or person with a disability who doesn’t have a means to get on the water easily, the Let’s Go Fishing program is ready to help. We spent a wonderful evening on Big Detroit Lake with Detroit Lakes Area Chapter (phone: 218-847-5670) skipper Dave Hochhalter and other volunteers.

Regaling us with Ole and Lena and Lutheran jokes on our sunset pontoon ride, our hosts downplayed their chapter’s impressive statistics: over 600 trips in eight years serving 5,600 people and over 100 organizations. Last year, the chapter made 131 trips during May – September at no cost for participants. LGF’s pontoon boats are safe, handicap-accessible and come equipped with life vests, fishing gear and bait, refreshments and a volunteer guide.

fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota
Photo Credit: Let’s Go Fishing Detroit Lakes Chapter

Paddling: The Crow Wing River, east of Park Rapids, has long been a watery highway. Ojibwe and Dakota Indians used its high banks for gatherings and religious ceremonies. Hudson Bay Company representatives met native and voyageur trappers at boat landings with ox carts; evidence of the landings and ox cart trails still exists.

Today, the Crow Wing River State Water Trail will provide both flatwater and gentle whitewater paddling opportunities for couples, family and group trips. Abandoned logging settlements and “dead heads” (logs which were sunk or wedged to create passageways for lumber to float downstream for milling) can still be seen in its crystal clear waters.

Plan your Crow Wing River outing with Huntersville Canoe Outfitters, who provide long-term parking, personal attention geared toward your experience level, delivery and pickup shuttles, aluminum canoes, kayaks, tubes, life preservers and cushions, rain and camping gear. Groups of 12 or more can take advantage of a full canoe and camping package for as little as $22 per person.

Cruising: We happen to think sometimes the best exercise is that of hand to mouth!There is absolutely no shame in shaping your active water experience to include a luxury cruise! On beautiful Gull Lake, outside of Brainerd, Destiny Cruises offers a day of great cuisine and scenic perfection, viewed from its new multi-deck yacht, the North Star.

Our excursion was made all the more enjoyable by the custom libations expertly poured by General Manager Michele Baker and pithy commentary from the North Star’s captain. Our group hung out on the sunny top observation deck and enjoyed a fabulous gourmet meal. Other passengers had a wonderful experience in the spacious indoor salon below us, as well.

fun adventures in central and northwestern Minnesota
Destiny Cruises General Manager Michele behind the top deck bar
fun adventures in central and northwestern minnesota

Fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota on Land!

Golf: Minnesotans love their golf! This can surprise visitors who think the majority of the year here is spent under snow and ice. But in fact, according to, Minnesota “exudes golfiness.” More golf is played per capita in Minnesota than any other state. Even more impressive: Minnesota is the only state to have hosted every one of the 17 separate U. S. Golf Association championships over the past 100 years (beginning with the 1916 U.S. Open).

Near Lake Mille Lacs: The Minnesota National Golf Course, designed by famous architect Joel Goldstrand, is an 18-hole course covering over 600 acres, surrounded by a wilderness of dense forests and wildlife habitat. Resort courses include Izatys, Northwood Hills and Fiddlestix Golf Clubs by Appeldoorns, and Ruttger’s Bay Lake. Other courses open to the public include Stones Throw, Spring Brook, Emily Greens and Cuyuna Rolling Hills.

Near Brainerd Lakes Area: More than 24 public courses feature affordable summer fees, and award-winning championship courses designed by famous names such as Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Arnold Palmer Design Group. Resorts such as Cragun’s, Grand View Lodge, Breezy Point, and Madden’s on Gull Lake (see our separate review here) offer distinct options to serve all handicaps.

fun adventures in central and northwestern Minnesota
The beautiful 11th hole at the Classic Course at Madden’s on Gull Lake

Near Park Rapids: Headwaters Golf Club offers a par 72, 18 hole course; Eagle View Golf Course (tel. 218-732-7102) is a par 64, 18 hole experience. Resort options are Bears Den at Timberlane Resort and Blueberry Pines Golf, Dining and Event Center.

Near Detroit Lakes: Numerous options to play 9 or 18 holes include Detroit Country Club, Ironman, Wildflower, Forest Hills, and Maple Hills.

Biking: A variety of options draw biking enthusiasts throughout Central and Northwestern Minnesota. The multiple use, paved Heartland Trail covers 49 miles between Park Rapids and Cass Lake, linking Park Rapids, Dorset, Nevis, Akeley and Cass Lake mostly along abandoned railroad lines. This affords a level biking experience, part of which has parallel grassy surface for horseback riding and studded snowmobiling in winter.

The Paul Bunyan Trail goes from Brainerd to Bemidji along 120 paved miles, connecting diverse communities along former railway lines. Additional trails, such as Mi-Gi-Zi and Itasca Wilderness, feed into the system.

Detroit Mountain Recreation Area is unique in offering 15 challenging mountain bike downhill segments along with 4 gravity trails. Contour and downhill flow trails along with skills courses designed to teach technical proficiency, as well as an Adventure Zone for younger riders are offered. This is one of Detroit Lakes’ newest attractions, the result of unique, cooperative fundraising efforts.

Adverse weather prevented our planned biking experience at Detroit Mountain, but we were impressed by the culmination of efforts to make this a go-to destination for adventure-seekers throughout the year.

fun adventures in Central and Northwestern Minnesota
Fat bikes lined up for rent at Detroit Mountain
fun adventures in Central and Northwestern Minnesota
Photo Credit: Detroit Mountain

Northern Cycle, with locations in Park Rapids (tel. 218-732-5971) and Bemidji (tel. 218-751-2453) offers mountain and cross bikes, trail-a-bikes, child trailers, tandem and recumbents, and road bikes (all including helmet) at hourly, daily and weekly rates.

Hiking: North Country National Scenic Trail‘s Laurentian and Itasca Moraine segments are part of the overall 4,600 mile hiking route which runs from New York to North Dakota.

Trails at Itasca State Park range from 200 feet to just under 10 miles in length. Self-guided, accessible and interpretive options.

Additional trails in the Detroit Lakes area can be found at Maplewood State Park, Buffalo River State Park, the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail, Dunton Locks County Park, Sucker Creek Preserve, and in the vicinity of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

Fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota in the Air!

If you had suggested I’d spend my 62nd birthday ziplining and undertaking a rope bridge suspended over 50 feet in the air, I’d have said you were crazy. Except now that I have, I heartily recommend you try it! Facing my fear of heights head on was exhilarating!

Both Pete and I had a great time at the Brainerd Zip Line Tour from Minnesota Zip Lines and Adventures. Their Brainerd location includes seven zip lines, a 50ft. suspension bridge and an optional 50ft free-fall. You’ll spend a couple of hours in the company of experienced guides who will train and assist you. Check out our video and photos below!

Outside Park Rapids, Trust C4 Character Challenge Course offers a high ropes course, zip line, high low challenges and team building programs for families and teams from schools, colleges, corporate and faith-based environments. Custom adventures are geared toward trust, teamwork and leadership.

Where to Stay: Your fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota can be planned around a variety of accommodations ranging from small resorts to 4-star all-inclusive to branded hotels. From this recent trip, we can recommend the following:

Eddy’s Resort – Established in 1960 as a place to stay with handcrafted launches for guided fishing on Lake Mille Lacs, Eddys has been completely refurbished by its current owners, the MLCV (formerly the Corporate Commission of the Lake Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe).

Eddys has 64 guest rooms, including suites and four separate cabins. Our luxury lake view suite came equipped with a spacious seating area, free wifi, coffee service and refrigerator, and 42″ flat screen TV. The ensuite bath had a separate shower and soaking tub.

Fishing with experienced guides on Eddys signature launches and small boats is available for groups ranging from two to 45 people. The Launch Gastropub at Eddys serves up a variety of craft beers, cocktails and a tasty menu with signature appetizers, sandwiches and entrees.

Eddys Collage

Madden’s on Gull Lake is a classic choice for visitors in the Brainerd Lakes area. See our full review here: The Magic of Madden’s on Gull Lake.

In Detroit Lakes, we stayed at Holiday Inn on the Lake, a three-star property with private beach, restaurant and beach bar and grill. Our king jacuzzi suite overlooked the lake. Holiday Inn on the Lake bills itself as the entertainment and sports hub for Big Detroit Lake, featuring DJ and karaoke on Friday nights, and a multi-tiered outdoor patio with fireplaces.

fun adventures in Central and Northwest Minnesota
Our jacuzzi room at Holiday Inn Detroit Lakes

Disclosure: We were the guests of Explore Minnesota Tourism, Lake Mille Lacs Area Tourism, Eddys Resort, McQuoids Inn, Brainerd Chamber of Commerce, Madden’s on Gull Lake, Destiny Cruises, Brainerd Zip Line, Visit Park Rapids, Let’s Go Fishing Detroit Lakes, Detroit Mountain, and Holiday Inn on the Lake on this fun-filled trip.

Although we’ve long been familiar with Central and Northwest Minnesota by virtue of being life-long Minnesotans, we hope you’ll be inspired by the wealth of activities available to active summer adventure-seekers.

New Prague Minnesota: One of the Best Day Trips from Minneapolis for Small Town Traditions and Old World Influences


Looking for interesting day trips from Minneapolis? Old world influences in New Prague, Minnesota with 19th-century charm make it a winner!

When our medical emergency in Colombia forced a return to the United States for health care followup, we began bunking with our kids at their farm in Helena Township, outside the city of New Prague, Minnesota.

Having been raised in a small town, I’ve long thought it would be fun to live in one again; the Universe responds to our desires in ways we don’t anticipate!

New Prague Minnesota gateway monument
Photo by Betsy Wuebker

Life in New Prague has a distinct middle American veneer. It’s the kind of place where you jump in your son-in-law’s vehicle and the radio is pre-tuned to a country music station.

There are only a couple of stoplights in town and the flags come out on Main Street for Memorial Day and the 4th of July.

downtown New Prague Minnesota with twin spires of St Wenceslas Catholic Church
AlexiusHoratius [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

In this part of Minnesota, you can seemingly visit the whole of Europe within a 50 mile radius of New Prague. Communities of varying sizes were named to reflect their immigrant founders’ reverence for home along with the optimism associated with a fresh start: Kilkenny, Veseli, Norseland, Dundas, Heidelberg, Cologne, Hamburg, New Ulm, Warsaw, New Sweden, Elysian, New Trier, New Germany.

St Wenceslas Church in New Prague Minnesota
The Church of St. Wenceslas in New Prague is a copy of one in the Czech Republic.

Folks in New Prague meet each other in coffee shops whose owners have names like Angie and Patty, who know their customers by name. The local cafe gears up for the Sunday after-church crowd, and business is done in the shadow of the grain elevator next to the railroad tracks.

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The recently closed Con-Agra Mill and Grain Elevator in New Prague

Sometimes coastal elites in America dismiss towns like New Prague as “flyover country,” not worthy of a traveler’s attention. Others who grow up in small communities feel confined and can’t wait to escape out into the “real world.”

Only belatedly might we realize that greener grass is actually grown in the rich, fertile, black dirt here that reliably delivers on its seasonal promise.

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Side view of Hotel Broz on a beautiful spring day in New Prague

This is the steady sort of grounding – how the phrase originates? – that comes from growing up with your neighbors and going about your business with them for decades. While their forefathers may have traveled thousands of miles to begin again, many current residents of New Prague (pronounced “prayg” here) bear the old names one sees on the original plats. There is plenty to reward and sustain a good life.

St Wenceslas Cemetery in New Prague Minnesota with 19th century Bohemian settlers' graves
19th Century Bohemian Settlers Graves in St. Wenceslaus Cemetery, New Prague

For travelers, there is much to discover in a town like New Prague: cultural legacy, architectural interest, wholesome food and drink, and welcoming places to wander in.

Grab an ice cream cone and amble along the Main Street sidewalk, pull into a parking lot without worrying if you locked the car door, and chat up friendly locals whose hospitality is genuine. Read on for more background and ideas. . .

Bohemian Settlers Spearheaded Old World influences in New Prague Minnesota in the 19th Century

Like many small towns in the Midwest, the Old World influences in New Prague, Minnesota trace back to a specific region in Europe. The USA’s Midwest is relatively young by comparison with other parts of the world: what is now the city of New Prague only saw its first European settler less than 200 years ago.

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Combined panoramas of New Prague ca. 1900(?) Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

What County is New Prague MN In and What Was It Like Back Then?

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The Big Woods in Minnesota. Photo Credit: Minnesota Dept of Natural Resources

Minnesota Territory lawmakers created Scott and Le Sueur Counties in 1853, when treaties with the Sioux began to allow access to areas west of the Mississippi River.

Ahead of the first Bohemian families to arrive three years later, New Prague founding father, Anton Philipp, bought acreage in Helena Township, Scott County just south of our kids’ farm, in 1856.

the grave of Anton Philipp, founder of New Prague Minnesota
The grave of Anton Philipp, founder of the settlement which would become New Prague

Helena Township in those days was smack dab in the middle of the Big Woods (name taken literally from Grand Bois, dubbed by early French explorers). This was an eco-region dominated by thick, old-growth hardwoods in a 40 mile wide swath grown out of glacier deposits, which stretched diagonally for about 100 miles in Central Minnesota.

Tip: Today, you can see a preserved portion of the Big Woods as they appeared in the 19th century in the nearby Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

While its 45 mile distance makes New Prague one of the more popular day trips from Minneapolis, in those days the dense Big Woods precluded rapid travel. The trees were so close together that carts pulled by oxen could not pass.

Foot travelers followed waterways branching off from the Minnesota River, such as Sand Creek, on the banks of which Anton Philipp built his first log cabin. Others tied ropes and cut notches in the trees to mark their routes. It took several days to get back up to Shakopee on the Minnesota River, a distance of 22 miles.

The Big Woods also made it nearly impossible to accurately survey county lines. It’s probable early settlers in New Prague didn’t realize their new settlement was growing in both Scott and Le Sueur Counties. Philipp subdivided his property without platting it and began selling to Bohemian arrivals shortly thereafter.

Early History of New Prague

Czech Bohemian immigrants by way of Iowa appear to have shown up in what would become New Prague by accident. Stopping in St. Paul for guidance from the Catholic bishop there, they intended to find land with the help of the Benedictine monks at St. John’s Abbey (incidentally, where Pete attended college at St. John’s University).

Instead, they mistook the bishop’s directions to follow the Mississippi westward and got lost along the Minnesota River.

grave in St Wenceslas Cemetery New Prague Minnesota
gravestone in St Wenceslas Cemetery New Prague Minnesota

Bohemians by the thousands had begun to flee the semi-feudal system in their European homeland and continued to do so over a period of 40 years from 1850 onward to escape hunger and oppression.

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Depiction of Bohemian settlers in traditional dress for New Prague’s Diamond Jubilee, 1931

Staking claim, therefore, in the Big Woods must’ve seemed like “sticking it to the man” on a certain level. But the forest was difficult to clear for planting, so subsistence depended upon a combination of hunting, planting and foraging.

A run on valuable wild ginseng found in the forests only lasted for about three years before it was tapped out, and life in the extreme weather was challenging.

history of New Prague
Harvesting grain in the New Prague area, ca. 1920. Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

European settlers also only belatedly realized the potential of prairie lands, mistakenly believing that the different eco-system represented lack of nutrients.

They soon discovered, however, that it was easy to grow wheat. It became even easier to transport crops to market when railroads arrived in the 1870s, bringing along with them new machinery and milling techniques.

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Main Street New Prague approximately 1890. Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

This led to a prosperous period in New Prague beginning in the 1880s and lasting through WWI. Afterwards, industrial modernization led to fewer and larger farms and agribusiness growth.

The New Prague Flouring Mill Company developed into ConAgra and International Multifoods, expanding their headquarters to Minneapolis.

While the recently closed milling and elevator complex still dominates the landscape in New Prague today, in the meantime agriculture branched out to other crops and animal husbandry.

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Robin Hood Flour Company around 1930. Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Small Town Midwest Values and Historic Legacy Are On Display in the City of New Prague

The history of New Prague is on display for visitors and residents alike today. The city has a rich architectural legacy reminiscent of its Central European roots, strong religious affiliations, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Twin spires and the back of St Wenceslas Catholic Church in New Prague Minnesota
Old World Influences in the Architecture of St. Wenceslas Church

Architecture lovers on day trips from the Twin Cities will delight in the beautiful examples of public, commercial and residential buildings still around today. A healthy combination of original use and re-purposing lends to the historic atmosphere.

Other buildings in town await visionary ideas, which we hoped would come to fruition. A current residential development spurt adds new families and their expectations for amenities and services.

Notable Vintage Architecture in New Prague

Church of St. Wenceslas, Rectory and School Complex – Organized in 1856 with a log building, St. Wenceslas parishioners in the first years of the 20th century were directed by their priest not to bother coming back to church if they didn’t donate to the building fund.

Completed in 1907 using a combination of neoclassical and Romanesque styles, the church’s twin domes flank the entrance to a spacious, light-filled interior. This is adorned with traditional Czech symbology used sparingly and effectively.

Stained glass windows bear Czech inscriptions. Named for Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia, the church is listed on on the National Register of Historic Places.

St Wenceslas Catholic Church in New Prague Minnesota
interior of St Wenceslas Catholic Church
interior of St Wenceslas Catholic Church
interior of St Wenceslas Catholic Church
St Wenceslas Catholic School

Broz Hotel – Designed by famed Minnesota State Capitol architect Cass Gilbert in the Georgian Revival style and built in 1898 by Wenceslas Broz, currently under renovation and restoration. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Hotel Broz – New Prague, Minnesota. Photo Credit: By Bobak Ha’Eri [CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

First National Bank of New Prague – Built in 1922 on the Main Street site of a previous building with a distinctive glazed terra cotta facade. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

history of New Prague First National Bank building
First National Bank of New Prague. Photo Credit: By Bobak Ha’Eri [CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

St. Wenceslas Cemetery Chapel – Built in 1899 of marble after the cemetery was established in 1884. Older monuments and remains were moved ahead of the new church’s construction in 1907. The chapel’s copper dome features the angel Gabriel.

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The former Klondike Hotel – Built by Joseph Wrabek in the 1890s using distinctive yellow Chaska brick as a boarding house for workers at the mill across the street. Now a private residence.

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Czech Traditions Alive in New Prague and Environs

Vomacka (Vomachka) – a hearty, cream-based vegetable soup is on the soup of the day menu all over town. Touted as a hangover cure, vomacka means “gravy” in Czech. Those in the know add vinegar at the table to kick it up a notch.

Kolache (Kolacky, pronounced “ko-latch-key”) – a semi-sweet dessert pastry originating in Central Europe, the kolacky is flavored with fruit or jam in the center of a puffy, buttery pastry. Find them in different fruit flavors at Lau’s Czech Bakery.

Czech Slovak Century – 2018 marked 100 years since Czechoslovakia was formed, 50 years since the Prague Spring, and 25 years since the Czech and Slovak Republics’ formation. The Czech Heritage Club meets monthly March through December in New Prague City Hall (for more information, click here).

Dozinky Days Harvest Festival – Held on the 3rd Saturday of September on Main Street, includes an open air market, beer garden, vintage car guise, farm pride parade, and food booths. The Czech Heritage Village set up outside the Tupy Insurance Agency building has booths featuring Czech souvenirs, music and dancers, and resources for those interested in history and genealogy. Click here for more information.

Tip: If pastry and a summer festival is more your thing, check out Kolacky Days in Montgomery (8 miles south of New Prague) in July. Celebrated for more than 80 years, the event includes a torchlight parade, fireworks, traditional Czech dinner, classic cars and vintage tractors, eating contests and the US National Prune Spitting Contest!

Things to Do in New Prague

Besides festivals like Dozinky Days and Kolacky Days, the city of New Prague offers visitors quality products and experiences to try.

Farmhouse Market – Local organic and natural foods in a membership-based unstaffed retail location which uses a keycard entry and self-checkouts. Open to the public with staff for varying 3 hour shifts on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Click here fore reviews and information.

Mainstream Boutique – a contemporary fashion franchise with a hip local esthetic. Click here for more information.

Humble Pie Gifts – Browse in 1700sf of gift collections, clothing and accessories, baby and children’s items, and New Prague souvenirs. Click here for more information.

Enjoy Bohemian Specialties and Small Town Hospitality at New Prague Restaurants

A day trip from Minneapolis is going to require sustenance at some point, and New Prague restaurants will satisfy. A few of our favorites:

Sugar Rose Bakery – this little gem belies its strip mall location by offering a sophisticated array of muffins, bars, cupcakes and cookies, making it a perfect stop for coffee and a little something sweet or savory. Click here to see their Facebook page.

Patty’s Place – A Main Street morning hangout with coffee, pastries, lunch menu, cakes, cupcakes and ice cream. Click here to read TripAdvisor reviews.

Ettlin’s Cafe – a sophisticated take on old fashioned diner food, Ettlin’s is always packed, but worth the wait. Local ingredients and honey from their own bees. Click here to read TripAdvisor reviews.

The Flip Side – a list of New Prague MN restaurants, or any small town for that matter, wouldn’t be complete without a favorite dive bar. We like the Flip Side because it has great food – try the burgers and o-rings! – and a modest, family-style atmosphere.Click here to read TripAdvisor reviews.

history of New Prague
Interior of the Bartyzal Saloon in New Prague – 1930s. Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

The Fishtale Bar & Grill – bills itself as a a “modern, down home joint” with wholesome food, weekly specials and full bar in a rustic northwoods atmosphere. Click here to read TripAdvisor reviews.

Carbone’s Pizza and Sports Bar – not just pizza but a varied menu of generous proportions includes Italian specialties, sandwiches and burgers, pizza and options for kids. Click here to read TripAdvisor reviews.

Lakeside Supper Club – a more elegant, yet still casual fine dining atmosphere south of town with beautiful sunsets on Lake Pepin. Click here to read TripAdvisor reviews.

Hotels in New Prague MN

Sometimes day trips from the Twin Cities can turn into weekends away. The list of best New Prague MN hotels, unfortunately, is a very short one. If there is one thing we wish New Prague had but doesn’t is more fun places to stay. We’re hoping the planned re-opening of the Hotel Broz adds more choices to the mix.

For now, the only hotel in the city of New Prague proper is the Quality Inn and Suites. Click here to see Trip Advisor reviews. For a list of hotels within comfortable driving distance of New Prague as ranked by Trip Advisor, click here.

We hope this post has given you a glimpse of why we liked living in New Prague so much. While returning to the US was unexpected, our adopted home town here has turned on the charm and we’ve become enamored. Make sure you plan a visit should you be in the area!

Pinnable Images

downtown New Prague  Pinterest Pin fun day trip from Minneapolis - St Paul

Romantic Things to Do in Minnesota: 5 Great Areas

Romantic things to do in Minnesota: our list includes the best spots in Minnesota for weekend trips from Minneapolis, the most romantic things to do in downtown Minneapolis, and great ideas for a fun date night whether it’s a first date or an important anniversary.

Those seeking romantic things to do in Minnesota have so many wonderful choices that it’s hard to narrow them down. All the typical vacation spots in Minnesota offer experiences that make it a great place for romantic dates and quality time with that special someone. Depending upon the time of year, components of a great date might include a romantic dinner accompanied by a delicious bottle of wine in a lovely place, or a romantic walk along the shores of Lake Superior.

romantic things to do in minnesota

Some of the best date ideas might include outdoor activities ranging from miniature golf or a visit to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Winter date ideas ranging from dance lessons to taking advantage of a hotel romance package and warming up in your hotel suite’s hot tub are great activities to consider during the winter months.

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Image by Rick Kuntz from Pixabay

Because most Minnesota getaways involve weekend trips from Minneapolis, we’re going to focus on destinations that are within easy driving distance. Longer weekend getaways for couples in MN are perfect for relaxing and reconnecting. But the Twin Cities metro can be a perfect place for a good time, too, so read on for the perfect date night idea.

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Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Those who are spiritually minded may opt for a couples retreat. MN can provide peaceful and private settings for unstructured time or spiritual exercise.

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For Minnesota honeymoon or anniversary getaways, MN fills the bill with luxurious and comfortable accommodations, romantic venues and special services to commemorate.

For Minnesota honeymoon or anniversary getaways, Minnesota fills the bill with luxurious and comfortable accommodations, romantic venues and special services to commemorate.

We’ve organized our recommendations within the following 5 regional options for you to consider as you make your plans.

1. Weekend Getaways from Minneapolis to Duluth and the North Shore

Romantic Things to Do in Minnesota: North Shore

If you’re like us, the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “romantic getaways in Northern Minnesota” is the North Shore. There is something about heading up Highway 61 from Duluth and watching all your cares down south melt away in the rearview mirror. The North Shore is one of the best places to experience scenic views of Lake Superior’s majesty while partaking of the unique North Shore lifestyle. 

Those searching for romantic cabin getaways in MN have a variety of choices, but our money’s on Solbakken Resort. This is a great choice: a six-cabin resort located in the near north shore community of Lutsen, still an easy drive from the Twin Cities.

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Image by Shelly Havens from Pixabay

Solbakken’s two 1 bedroom cabins are the perfect option for couples. Each is equipped with a fully outfitted kitchen and a lakeside deck with outdoor charcoal grill. You bring your own food to prepare together or visit one of the romantic local restaurants we recommend: The Strand Waterfront Dining Room at Lutsen Resort or The Bluefin Grille.

Click here to see a list of other accommodations located on Minnesota’s near North Shore.

Things to do during your stay:

Romantic Getaways in Duluth MN

Some couples would rather base their North Shore stay in Duluth, particularly if they’re considering one of any number of romantic winter getaways in MN. If choosing from romantic hotels in Duluth sounds like something you’d prefer, we suggest you consider South Pier Inn on the Canal or Fitger’s Inn. Both are located close to Canal Park, which is one of the best things about Duluth. Take in the Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace and the Great Lakes Aquarium, and thrill when the Lift Bridge raises for Great Lakes shipping traffic into the Port of Duluth from the Lakewalk Promenade.

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Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Click here for a list of other romantic places to stay in Duluth MN.

2. Romantic Getaway – Minneapolis and St Paul

A romantic night in Minneapolis and St Paul hotel room can feel like a soft cocoon in the midst of a vibrant, sparkling city. The way to accomplish this is to choose your accommodations with just the right amount of luxurious style and comfort.

If you’re searching for romantic hotels, Minneapolis has any number. My all-time favorite is the Nicollet Island Inn. Located in a heritage building on a small island in the Mississippi, this boutique hotel feels like a secluded hideaway. Book a great Valentine’s Day experience here by choosing from among the best romance packages in Minneapolis, and supplement the great time you’ve planned with award-winning dining experiences.

If “romantic hotels in Minneapolis MN with jacuzzi” are what you seek, check out the suite options on the penthouse floor at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel. The hotel’s Cosmos restaurant on the 4th floor offers elegant breakfast and dinner options. Or opt for a romance package here and indulge in their exceptional room service.

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Image by Kevin Sorensen from Pixabay

Urban sophisticates will appreciate the vibe at The Hewing Hotel, located in the North Loop District. An eclectic atmosphere comprised of luxurious amenities complements the exposed wood and brick elements in the hotel’s decor. Dine on eclectic bites at the on-site roof-top restaurant, and indulge in the Nordic sauna and spa pool.

If an historic bed and breakfast is your thing, look no further than 300 Clifton, located in the Loring Park neighborhood. Describing itself as a “whimsical Queen Anne Victorian turned commodious Georgian Revival,” this National Historic Register residence dates from 1887. Inside, you’ll appreciate the original furnishings and fixtures in spacious guest rooms offered in three configurations.

Fun date ideas for romantic things to do in Minneapolis for a single night or a weekend getaway:

Get Away in Romantic Saint Paul

romantic things to do in minnesota st paul
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Saint Paul doesn’t lack options for romance. Minnesota’s capital is a great spot offering unique ambiance! Consider the following ideas for a great night or weekend getaway:

  • The Saint Paul Hotel is the city’s grande dame in accommodations, offering a premier experience with modern luxury in a building steeped with history. We are charmed by the description of the Hotel’s romance packages: “for those who are falling in love and those who never stopped.”
  • Celeste St Paul is the newly-invigorated, historic former Catholic convent and arts conservatory, offering a top boutique hotel experience with the atmosphere of an historic urban sanctuary in a Beaux Arts landmark.
  • Located in Cathedral Hill, our favorite Saint Paul neighborhood, the Historic District Bed and Breakfast Inn is located within walking distance of two of our restaurant recommendations below in a residence dating from the 1880s. Choose from the original master bedroom, the amazing former wardrobe room, a two-room suite, or a separate carriage house dating from 1910.

For romantic dining options in Saint Paul, we recommend:

  • W. A. Frost & Company – the site of very romantic evening early in our own relationship, this landmark restaurant has been serving upscale traditional American fare for more than 40 years.
  • Moscow on the Hill – also located in Cathedral Hill, here you’ll find authentic Russian comfort cuisine and a vodka bar to chase away any chill.
  • The St. Paul Grill is a classic option located in the Saint Paul Hotel, serving up classic American cuisine. Check out the amazing selection of single malt Scotches.
  • Joan’s in the Park is a relative newcomer by comparison with others on our list, having opened in 2011, offering up a four-course, dining from scratch, white tablecloth experience.

For a list of other romantic hotels in the Twin Cities, click here.

3. Romantic Things to Do in Minnesota: Greater Twin Cities Romantic Getaways


A quick half hour or so from the metro, Stillwater is a picturesque, historic river town on the St. Croix, which borders Wisconsin. Stillwater offers historic appeal, Main Street shopping, picturesque paddle riverboats, winery and brewery experiences, and friendly sightseeing.

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, photographer not specified or unknown [Public domain]

Stillwater’s solid reputation as one of the best Twin Cities romantic getaways is due in no small part to these accommodations: 

  • The Lora – built on the cliffside foundation of the historic Wolf brewery, with vintage warehouse vaulted ceilings and cave entrances. One of the most unique settings for romantic getaways near Minneapolis. Deluxe and premium rooms and suites have luxurious amenities. Long weekend packages allow you to extend your experience.
  • James Mulvey Inn offers packages for cyclists, massage renewal and romance, as well as custom experiences tailored especially for you. All this takes place in an Italianate mansion with stone carriage house, which has 3 luxury guest suites.

Other hotels in Stillwater for you to consider for weekend getaways near Minneapolis: click here.

We recommend the following things to do in Stillwater:

Lake Minnetonka Area

Weekend trips from Minneapolis don’t need to involve lots of driving. Just a few minutes west is the lovely Lake Minnetonka area with plenty of things to do.

New in Wayzata, the two year old Hotel Landing harkens back to when Lake Minnetonka was a thriving resort location. Sequester in an elevated experience with more than 90 rooms, onsite fine dining and luxurious Läka Spa.

For other hotel options in the vicinity of Lake Minnetonka, click here.

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Elkman [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Things to do in the Lake Minnetonka area that we recommend:

4. Romantic Getaways in Southern MN


In a beautiful setting amid the Root River Valley’s bluffs, Lanesboro is home to a number of artists and creatives. As the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Minnesota, Lanesboro may be one of the most romantic vacations Minnesota has to offer.

Sidewalk in Lanesboro Minnesota

For places to stay in Lanesboro, please click here.

Things to do in Lanesboro:

Redwood Falls

As far as Minnesota romantic vacations go, Southwest Minnesota’s largest community, Redwood Falls is under the radar. Located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Redwood Rivers, Redwood Falls is part of the region in which the storied Ingalls family settled; their daughter, Laura, would later chronicle their sojourn in a book series. On the Banks of Plum Creek was written about their home in nearby Walnut Grove.

Redwood Falls Gazebo panoramio
Jon Platek [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway celebrates the area’s beauty in every season. Birders will be enamored of the Minnesota River Valley Birding Trail. You’ll definitely want to visit Alexander Ramsey Park, which is the largest municipal park in Minnesota. Home to the beautiful Ramsey Falls, the park also boasts impressive structures built by the national Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Stay at The Vintage Inn Bed and Breakfast in downtown Redwood Falls, just a few blocks from Ramsey Park and the falls. Your accommodations will be in one of three suites housed in a former brick photography studio dating from 1911. Romance packages and goodie baskets can enhance your visit.

Other hotels near Redwood Falls are listed here.

Dining options in Redwood Falls we recommend:

  • Duffy’s Riverside Saloon – hearty, plain speaking fare with nightly, happy hour and Vikings specials
  • Plaza Garibaldi – despite the seemingly Italian name, this was some of the best Mexican food we’ve ever eaten

5. Romance in Central and Northern MN

Brainerd Lakes Area

A very popular region for weekend getaways for couples in MN, the Brainerd Lakes have lots to offer every type of visitor.

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Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States [CC BY 2.0 (]

We recommend Lost Lake Lodge – a more than 70-year traditional, all-inclusive experience in a natural setting on 80 lakeside acres. Individual cozy cottages in various configurations will suit every visitor. Weekend getaway specials available. The Lodge Dining Room is often fully booked with good reason: chef-inspired menus create a top dining experience. Full cocktail bar, sophisticated wine list and craft beers.

Other ideas for places to stay in the Brainerd Lakes area, click here.

For additional fine dining experiences in the Brainerd Lakes area, we recommend The Classic Grill at Madden’sCru Restaurant and Wine Bar at Grand View Lodge, and the Bar Harbor Supper Club.

For those wanting to schedule a spa experience during their stay in the Brainerd Lakes region, check out Glacial Water’s Spa at Grand View Lodge.


Alexandria is a popular destination in western Minnesota for its proximity to many recreational lakes. Self-described as a booming “micropolitan” area, Alex is another under the radar option for weekend getaways. MN lakes such as Carlos, Darling, Miltona and Le Homme Dieu offer popular recreational activities.

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Omar David Sandoval Sida [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Places to stay during your getaway in Alexandria:

  • Cedar Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast – aspires to “pamper you with old world charm” in a 1903 residence built by a prominent citizen of Alexandria in its “Silk Stocking District.” Now on the National Historic Register, the Inn offers four spacious ensuite rooms, some with whirlpools. Full breakfast served in the Inn’s dining room.
  • Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center – a fully inclusive resort experience in all seasons, Arrowwood presents traditional guest room and suite options amid its townhomes and cottages suitable for larger groups. Take advantage of on site golf and water park, as well as seasonal activities.

Things to Do in Alexandria:

  • Head over to the Carlos Creek Winery to taste a variety of wines and listen to live music. Valkyrie Wood Fired Pizza and 22 Northmen Brewery on site.
  • All the references to Viking lore will have you wondering if the legend is true. Visit the Runestone Museum to learn the mysterious story of thousand year old Viking artifacts discovered in this region and decide whether you believe.
  • If beer is your libation, you’ll want to try what’s on tap at the Copper Trail Brewery.
  • Bike, skate, or walk a portion of the 55 mile Central Lakes Trail, a 14 feet wide, level and paved byway built on a former Burlington Northern rail bed.
  • Dine out at La Ferme for classic American contemporary bistro, and Zorbaz for lakeside seasonal seating.

Whether it’s your first time planning a romantic date, or you’re considering a special event with your sweetheart, a great experience is available in every corner of the state with so many romantic things to do in Minnesota. Expanding your horizons to the north, south, east and west of the Twin Cities is a better way to have a little fun and acquaint yourselves with everything on offer for romantics in the North Star State!