During our Great Movie Roadtrip in 2016 we got to spend a week in the lovely state of Minnesota. While a week is nowhere nearly enough to see everything this great Northern state has to offer, we feel like we got to sample some of its very best. Here are just some of our favorite experiences from the North Star State.
Where to Stay in Minnesota
Canal Park Lodge, Duluth
If you’re ever in Duluth, the Canal Park Lodge is the place to stay. Located in Canal Park, an old industrial area turned into a recreation district, the Lodge is perfectly situated right on the shore of Lake Superior and offers beautiful views of the Great Lake. With easy access to the restaurants and entertainment of Canal Park, it’s an ideal base for exploring the city. It’s also a short walk from one of Duluth’s most recognizable landmarks, the Aerial Lift Bridge. Just try not to get caught in a thunder storm when admiring the bridge like we did…
You can read more about our Duluth visit and the thunderstorm here.
Historic Calumet Inn, Pipestone
Our home away from home in Pipestone was the Grandstay Hotel & Suites which is newly renovated and we had a nice stay in its spacious rooms and a good night’s sleep in the comfy beds. However, if you’re looking for the truly authentic Pipestone experience, we warmly recommend the Historic Calumet Inn downtown. We had a lovely dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and got to tour the hotel. A couple of the rooms have been redecorated by Gordon Ramsay but we have to admit, we preferred the rooms with the original decor which suits the building’s atmosphere a lot better. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building alone is worth a visit. There are also tales that the hotel is haunted, and in the lobby there’s is a book full of accounts from visitors who claim to have experienced a haunting while staying at the hotel!
Grand View Lodge, Brainerd
This was such a fun stay! The Grand View Lodge has a long history in the Brainerd Area and has provided accommodations in central Minnesota for over 90 years. They also have several spaces for events and we were already planning a Supernatural convention in one of their beautiful buildings. In addition to the rooms at the main lodge, there are cottages with fully-furnished apartments and we got to enjoy one of these. Once again our biggest regret was that we could only stay one night in this lovely place…
Apart from our beautiful apartment stay we tasted Minnesota’s own delicacy, cheese curds, for the very first time. Oh, how we miss those now… Northwoods Pub & Patio, could you please send some over? We also took a lovely sunset walk to the beach and the next day, tried something that all the Fargo fans will recognize immediately.
Yes. That is us working a woodchipper.
InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront
What a beautiful hotel! Definitely something we tired roadtrippers could appreciate. Again (sadly) we didn’t have too much time to hang out in our rooms, but we did get a little break after a long day. For dinner, we headed down to the Citizen Supper Club and met up with the local boy Nick from Visit Saint Paul… and started our new friendship by forcing him to take dorky photos of us right there and then. The photo is actually a song reference to Eric Paslay’s High Class – as some of you might remember, we’re quite the fangirls.
Although we don’t always stay in the fanciest of hotels, it has to be said: every once in a while the traveling girl just needs some super luxurious beds and fine dining. That’s what one definitely gets when one stays at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront!
Good eats and tasty drinks in Minnesota
Vikre Distillery, Duluth
Aaahh, Vikre! This visit was one of our favorite things ever. Delicious gin & vodka drinks, lovely staff and our fun Duluth guide Bob there to keep us company and to make sure we didn’t get TOO tipsy on all the fun…
If you’re heading to Duluth, you’ll have to make time for a couple of drinks. Not only has Vikre Distillery a lovely backstory and simply too many delicious cocktails to try in one night, they might also give you a tour of the distillery itself. Which is super interesting and amazing. Just ask nicely!
Mickey’s Diner, St Paul
This classic diner was designed to look like the railroad cars of the 1930’s and is a staple of St. Paul. While it may not look like much, don’t let its humble appearance fool you. Not only is the place chock full of history but the food is ridiculously good! We had one of the best breakfasts of the entire trip here, and that’s saying something. Mickey’s diner is open 24/7 for 365 days a year and hasn’t closed once since its opening in 1939. That means it’s been continually open for almost 70 years! In 1983 the diner was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mickey’s Diner is famous beyond Minnesota; it has made several appearances on food and travel shows and in the 90’s it served as a location for the Mighty Ducks movies.
Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis
This place was recommended to us by the tourism people and even though we wondered if it has anything to do with the popular cooking show, it quickly became clear that this is not the case. What we also discovered was this: if you ever have a chance to have breakfast or brunch (or we’re guessing, any other meal!) at Hell’s Kitchen, do not miss it.
Big plates of food, mouthwatering pancakes, salads, sandwiches, everything. And the atmosphere! The restaurant was already lively, warm and grand… then the live gospel music started. For a few seconds we thought they were playing a live version of a song, then realized there were people on stage. We were already finished with our (massive) meal, but had to stay for a few more moments to enjoy this beautiful performance.
Grandma’s Saloon & Grill, Duluth
Awwww so much love for Grandma’s! Another lovely Duluth spot that we discovered thanks to Bob and yet another place we visited with a fascinating story behind it. Some great food, swift and friendly service combined with the incredible vintage decor including authentic, old advertisements from the area and all sorts of cool collectibles. There’s also a gift shop and we may have picked up a few souvenirs as well as some delicious salted caramel chocolates.
Firelake Grill and Cedar + Stone, Mall of America
Mall of America has no shortage when it comes to places to eat and we got to sample two restaurants from its large selection. The Firelake Grill served as a very nice, peaceful spot to eat in, perfect for the little gathering we had with the local tourism ladies. Serving delicious dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, this is the perfect place for a break from the hectic adventures of the Mall. We also got our second taste of the delicious Minnesota cheese curds and we can safely say we are in love. For dinner we headed to Cedar + Stone, Urban Table with our Mall of America host, Leif. Here too the emphasis is on locally sourced food that are used to create a fusion of different cuisines. For those in a rush to get back to the shopping and the attractions there’s also a food court with loads of quick and easy options.
Stuff to do and places to see in Minnesota
Headwaters of the Mississippi
While most Minnesota visitors head for the twin cities and Mall of America, the northern part of the state also offers some interesting places to visit. We spent a night in Bemidji, the first city on the Mississippi and where both the movie and TV show Fargo are set (though not filmed). And when in Bemidji, you just have to get a photo with the legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his companion Babe the Blue Ox.
From Bemidji it’s a short drive to Itasca State Park and Lake Itasca. This is where the mighty Mississippi River starts its journey towards the ocean. It’s hard to believe that the shallow babbling brook that meanders down from Lake Itasca is the beginning of the the world’s 4th largest river, whose massive estuary we’d seen in New Orleans. We also took off our shoes and socks and waded across the river. According to legend crossing the headwaters brings you good luck and long life!
St. Urho’s Statue in Menahga
This is a fun, short stop especially for any Finnish visitors! According to legend, Saint Urho was a patron saint of the Finnish vineyard workers. Now what’s funny is that we, as born and bred Finns, have never even heard of St. Urho, let alone the grand celebration in his honor on March 16th. We’re also pretty sure that there have never been vineyards in Finland as the climate is less than ideal… Turns out, the legend of St. Urho actually originated in Northern Minnesota in the 1950’s among descendants of Finnish immigrants. It sounds so wonderfully peculiar that we think we need to start celebrating St Urho’s day also in his native Finland!
Brainerd Zip Line Tour
We’d dreamed of doing a zip line for a long time and finally got to experience the thrill at the Brainerd Zip Line Tour, the longest zip line in Minnesota. Afterwards, we briefly considered becoming a blog specialized only in zip lines because it was just so much fun! The tour starts with a brief training before you climb to the treetops and soar through them. There are seven lines total and a suspension bridge in between two of the towers. The whole tour takes about 2,5 hours. At the end, if you’re brave enough, you can take a leap of faith with a 50 foot free-fall experience… which we both did! A very special shout-out to our guides Bean and Grant! Not only were they super fun but they did an amazing job calming the nerves of one particular blogger with a pretty bad fear of heights… *cough*Satu*cough*
The Endless Bridge and the Amber Box in Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
The Guthrie Theater has been an integral part of the Minneapolis theater scene since the 1960’s. Even if, like us, you don’t have time to take in a show, the theater is worth a visit. There are two view points in the building and both can be visited free of charge. The Endless Bridge, though actually neither endless nor a bridge, stretches 178 feet outside of the building. At 50 feet above the road below the bridge offers a spectacular view of the Mississippi River. Several levels above the Endless Bridge is the Amber Box offering sweeping views of the city with its wide windows. The tinted windows also make for some great, old-timey looking photographs.
Mall of America, Bloomington
It’s not hard to see why the largest mall in the US is one of the most popular tourist destinations not just in Minnesota but the whole country. We could’ve easily spent the entire week at the Mall of America but we made good use of our limited time. There’s an entire amusement park inside the mall and we braved some of the many rides (and only got sick on one or two of them…). We also explored the Sealife Aquarium and even managed to grab some shark selfies aka sharkfies. While we had nowhere near enough time to check out all of the more than 500 stores, we did manage to burn some money in a few of them. The best part about shopping here: it’s all tax-free! Our favorite attraction however was one of the newest additions to the mall: Flyover America. Using the same technology as Flyover Canada in Vancouver you’re taken on a breathtaking ride over The United States, and we only hoped we had time to ride it more than once.
Getting to Minnesota is easy! With daily flights to Minneapolis via Reykjavik from many European cities, Icelandair is a comfortable and convenient connection to this Northern state. You can also add a Stopover in Iceland for a few days to your itinerary at no additional cost to the flight!