Minnesota Bucket List ~ Central Region

Today’s list is much shorter compared to yesterday as we move into the Central portion of the state.

Alexandria

  • Fort Alexandria: A replica of the fort built for protection from the Dakota Indians during an uprising during the Civil War.
  • Legacy of the Lakes Museum: Celebrates the lake tradition and the history of grand hotels and resorts in the area.

Battle Lake

  • Glendalough State Park: Quiet park located along 9 miles of undeveloped shoreline.

Brainerd

  • Crow Wing State Park: Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow Wing rivers, this park celebrates the old 1850s town of Crow Wing.
  • Northland Arboretum: Landfill turned arboretum, this prairie area offers lots of hiking trails.

Darwin

  • Darwin Twine Ball Museum: Home to the largest twine ball in the world made by one man.

Isle

  • Father Hennepin State Park: Located on the corner of Mille Lacs Lake, this park is named for the priest who visited the area during the French expedition.

Little Falls

  • Charles A. Lindbergh State Park: The restored house of the congressman and his aviator son are found within this park.

McGregor

  • Savanna Portage State Park: Park preserves the historic six mile portage between the Mississippi and Lake Superior watersheds.

Onamia

  • Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Posts: Explore the history of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
  • Mille Lacs Kathio State Park: Park located on the lake that preserves habitations and mounds and documents relations between Dakota and Ojibwe Tribes.

Pelican Rapids

  • Maplewood State Park: Park known for its forest/prairie transition zone.

St. Cloud

  • Munsinger Clemens Gardens/Riverside Regional Park: Beautiful Gardens located along the banks of the Mississippi River.

Starbuck

  • Glacial Lakes State Park: Preserves rolling prairies that once covered much of the state.

Underwood

  • Phelps Mill: Old Flour Mill located along the river.

Waite Park

  • Quarry Park and Nature Preserve: Scenic wildlife spot that offers great hiking.

All attractions found on exploreminnesota.com

Minnesota Bucket List ~Northeast Region

Headed to the northeast portion of Minnesota today. Brace yourselves! This is a long list. A few summers back we spent a week along the Northshore of Lake Superior and had the time of our lives! There are so many fun parks to see along the shore, so this list gets lengthy because of that!

Bigfork

  • Scenic State Park: Beautiful wooded, lake area.

Birchdale

  • Franz Jevne State Park: Located along the river, wolves and moose are known to roam the area.

Buyck

  • Vermilion Falls: Stunning falls that empty into the Crane River.

Calumet

  • Hill Annex Mine State Park: Site that explores the open pit mining heritage of the area.

Carlton

  • Jay Cooke State Park: Contains a beautiful rocky gorge and among the top 10 state parks visited in Minnesota.

Chisholm

  • Minnesota Discovery Center: Largest museum complex in the state outside of the Twin Cities area. It details the history of mining in the area.

Duluth

  • Enger Park Tower and Gardens: Overlook the port city of Duluth by climbing to the top of this tower.
  • Great Lakes Aquarium: Small aquarium that hosts a variety of fish and animals that call the Great Lakes their home.
  • Park Point Recreation Area: Beautiful sand dune area where you can also hike to the remains of a lighthouse.
  • S.S. William A. Irvin Guided Tours: Take a tour of a bulk freighter.

Ely

  • Bear Head Lake State Park: Provides great access to the Boundary Waters area.
  • International Wolf Center: Learn all about wolves and how we can help protect their population.
  • North America Bear Center: Visit the only black bear education center.

Grand Marais

  • Judge C.R. Magney State Park: Visit for a fun hike to the Devil’s Kettle Waterfall which disappears into a hole.

Grand Portage

  • Grand Portage National Monument: Visit this fun interactive old fort/trading post. Fascinating history!
  • Grand Portage State Park: Visit the park that sits on the U.S./Canada border and take in the beautiful waterfalls.

Grand Rapids

  • Forest History Center: Learn the history of the north woods and lumberjacks and how they shaped the area.
  • Judy Garland Museum and Children’s Discovery Museum: Take in Judy Garland and Wizard of Oz artifacts.

Hibbing

  • Hull Rust Mine View and Hibbing Tourist Senior Center: Look out over one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

International Falls

  • Voyageurs National Park: Located near the Canadian border, this national park is known for its waterways.

Lutsen

  • Cascade Falls State Park: Hike along the cascading falls the park is named for (and the nearby Cascade Lodge makes for a fantastic place to stay along the North Shore!)

Pine City

  • Snake River Fur Post: Reconstructed fur post located along the Snake River.

Sandstone

  • Banning State Park: Located along the Kettle River, this park is known for its series of rapids.
  • Minnesota Goose Garden: Native flora and sculpture garden.
  • Robinson Park: Explore this former sandstone quarry.

Schroeder

  • Sugarloaf Point SRA and Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center: Hike along this cove area on Lake Superior’s shore.
  • Temperance River State Park: Access this beautiful gorge area from a highway pull off!

Silver Bay

  • George H. Crosby Manitou State Park: Enjoy the cascades of the Manitou River.
  • Tettegouche State Park: Beautiful park filled with many waterfalls, including the highest falls completely within the state of Minnesota.

Soudan

  • Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park: The mine within the park is Minnesota’s oldest, deepest and richest iron mine.

Two Harbors

  • 3M/Dwan Museum: Museum dedicatd to the early years of the 3M company.
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park: Minnesota’s most visited state park, this area contains several stunning waterfalls.
  • Split Rock Lighthouse State Park: Tour the picturesque Split Rock Lighthouse and enjoy time along the shore of Lake Superior.
  • Two Harbors Light Station Museum: Tour this quaint little light station.

All attractions found on visitminnesota.com

Minnesota Bucket List ~ Northwest Region

Today we begin to explore the state of Minnesota and it’s five tourism regions. I will say that despite many visits to the state, this first region may be the one I am least familiar with. We’ve drive through the Fargo/Moorhead area many times and we did visit Lake Itasca once, but we’ve spent very little time actually exploring the area, so much of today’s post is new to me!

Akeley

  • Akeley Paul Bunyan Historical Museum: Visit and learn the history of the small town that claims to be the “birthplace of Paul Bunyan.”

Argyle

  • Old Mill State Park: Explore historic structures, enjoy a nice swim, and hike over many bridges at this park.

Bemidji

  • Headwaters Science Center: Explore hands on exhibits at this small science center.
  • Lake Bemidji State Park: Enjoy hiking and beautiful sunsets over the lake.

Detroit Lakes

  • Dunton Locks County Park: Small park that offers a lot of hiking.

Hackensack

  • Deep Portage Learning Center: Explore trails through bogs, woodland, and along the river.

Lake Bronson

  • Lake Bronson State Park: Beautiful park located along the lake with great camping and lake access.

Middle River

  • Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge: Enjoy hiking and bird watching opportunities.

Moorhead

  • Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County: Located within the Hjemkomst Center, this museum details the history of the area and also offers tours of the Hjemkomst Viking Ship and Hopperstad Stave Church.

Park Rapids

  • Itasca State Park: Home to the Mississippi Headwaters, you won’t want to miss this park!

Roseau

  • Polaris Experience and Factory Tour: Explore the history of the company and the making of their snowmobiles and ATV’s.

Warroad

  • William S. Marvin Training and Visitor Center: Experience the history and innovations of Marvin Windows and Doors.

Williams

  • Zippel Bay State Park: Located on the white sand shores of Lake of the Woods, great hiking is offered at this park near the U.S./Canadian border.

All attractions found on exploreminnesota.com.

SPAM Museum ~ Austin, Minnesota

After spending the night in Austin, we decided to check out their famous SPAM Museum before heading into Iowa. Andrew and I had tried SPAM for the first time a few months prior, so we figured it would be interesting to visit to learn more about that canned spiced ham.

The museum was recently redone, and we were greeted warmly upon entering. We signed their guest book and were also asked what variety of SPAM we’d be interested in trying as they were going to make up some samples in the next few minutes.

The first area of the museum had several panels discussing the history of SPAM with a neat conveyor belt display running about our heads.

IMG_6748

The museum also has a kids play area that includes both a farm and a house and small market stand.

After this, we entered an area where we could test our skills at packing our own containers of SPAM. We could time how fast we could do one can, and the display would show how many the factory had filled at the same time. We both eventually got down to completing a can in 12 seconds.

The also had a fun sign explaining the entire process of how SPAM is made.

IMG_6755

There was also a section talking about the history of the company and especially it’s role in the World Wars. After that we entered the final section that shows the variety of SPAM found all around the world in a world village.

Near the end of that section, we got some pictures with Spammy, who’s something of a SPAM mascot in Japan.

IMG_6758

Overall we spent about an hour at the museum and got to try the Hickory Smoked SPAM. We liked it so much that we opted to buy a can of that and two other varieties from the gift shop. They offer all their varieties there, including two kinds that aren’t sold anywhere else in the U.S.

We had such a great time, loved the helpful staff, and learned a lot about SPAM at this interactive museum. We highly suggest visiting if you are in the area, or even detour off to make a stop!

Follow along with our adventures by following sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or get e-mail updates from the blog!

Green Giant Statue Park ~Blue Earth, Minnesota

Near the end of July, we had to make a short trip to the Quad Cities area and decided to make Austin, Minnesota our first stop along the journey. While en route to Austin, I remembered that I’d read you could see the Jolly Green Giant just off of I-90, so we decided to pay him a visit.

You can find the Green Giant in the aptly named Green Giant Statue Park behind the Dairy Queen in Blue Earth.  There is a small parking lot located beside newly built visitor center that houses a small museum dedicated to Jolly Green which was sadly already closed upon our visit.

IMG_6741

As you can see, a visit to the Green Giant also allows you to view his little buddy, Little Green Sprout. Can he get any cuter?

IMG_6742

Another feature of the Green Giant himself is that you can stand beneath him in his shadow for a fun photo opportunity.

IMG_6746

There is also a small information sign that details the history of how Green Giant came to be in this location and how he also receives a scarf to wear every winter, as the Minnesota winters can be quite harsh!

We had fun at this quirky stop off. It was great to quickly stretch out legs and seemed to be well visited and maintained. Two other families stopped off as we were leaving. I’d love to return again when the museum is open to see what other kinds of memorabilia they own.

For more information on our travels sign up for e-mail updates from the blog and follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram!

Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham ~ Moorhead, Minnesota

The night before Andrew’s half marathon in Fargo, we stayed across the Red River in Moorhead, Minnesota, as prices were slightly less. I was a little nervous to stay in a Microtel, as the one other memory I have of staying at one was in Tennessee when I was 11 on our way down to Florida and I just recall lots and lots of big bugs making their way into our room! Ha! But that could just be because we were in the South! This Microtel, however, greatly impressed me as it looked to be quite new and close to a plethora of restaurants just across the interstate, (including a Noodles and Co., which is a staple before any race Andrew runs!)

Our room was on either the second or third floor and was very spacious! The bathroom was off to the left and while small/standard hotel size, it had lots of shelving space to store items.20190517_151454

The room was divided into two sections, the main living area and the bedroom area with a small divider between.

20190517_151830

As you can see the TV could be viewed from either area and the desk area was somewhat shared between the two.

20190517_151512

To the left in the living space area there also was a small kitchenette area that contained the bare basics of coffee maker, microwave, mini fridge and a small sink.

20190517_151524

Our room contained a king bed, and we also greatly enjoyed the small window seat in our room. It gave it a nice homey touch.

20190517_151531

This hotel was definitely worth our money and also so courteous to those running the race. Breakfast hours started after we left, but they had a small bowl of fruit out with a sign wishing runners good luck, so we were well taken care of in that realm.

I would certainly stay here again for future races or trips to Fargo in general as it certainly beat the prices of hotels in Fargo. Do plan ahead if you stay here for marathon weekend though as streets were already being closed off as we followed Google Maps directions to reach the FargoDome. We would have been much better off sticking to the interstate to avoid those closures!

For more updates on our travels follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram (we’ve got a new trip coming soon!) and sign up for e-mail updates for this blog!

Hampton Inn Minneapolis Bloomington West~ Bloomington, Minnesota

Finding a hotel in the Twin Cities area can be a bit overwhelming. Do you want to stay in the heart of one of the cities and be able to walk around the downtown? Do you want to stay in the suburbs and drive from place to place or find public transportation? If you are visiting multiple sites around the city, which of these would you like your hotel to be closest to? Decisions, decisions, decisions. For our trip we were on a somewhat tighter budget, so we didn’t want all of our money to go to waste on lodging, as many of the attractions we were going to visit cost money. That pretty much vetoed out any hotels located directly downtown as they always cost a bit more, plus have an additional cost of parking your vehicle. If you’ve been following out blog, you’ll know that I recently became a huge fan of the Hilton brand, which while on the slightly pricier side than the Wyndham hotels we previously stayed at, offer a nicer breakfast and usually much quieter hotel stays. That found me looking at Hilton brand hotels near the Mall of America. While there were a few closer to the Mall of America than where we wound up staying, our hotel was actually a newer build and located near a business park, which made for a much quieter stay.

Check in was a breeze and we even got to opt into a program where we could earn more points if we were staying two nights or longer and opted to not have housekeeping come clean our room. I haven’t checked to see if they actually panned out, since a few times we’d be gone for the day and realized they did still come make our bed or provide new towels, but I digress.

Our room was located on the third floor, so we took the elevators up and then realized we were located at the far end of the hall, so the stairs may have been the easier way to go. The bathroom was directly to our right upon entering and unlike many rooms contained just a shower rather than tub/shower combo. I’m not sure if all they rooms are this way, or just some in particular. What we did enjoy was that what look like drawer pull outs, actually gave you extended counter space on which you could place other bathroom necessities as you prepped for the day.

Our King Bed was actually against the bathroom wall and faced the window, with a small desk are to the right of the bed and the TV stand/microwave/fridge unit to the left. We’ve had a few hotel rooms now set up this way, and actually really like it as you bed isn’t sharing a wall with the neighboring rooms bed, hence cutting down on neighbor noise.

20190321_180037

This Hampton had a huge breakfast area. The serving area was in a “room” of it’s own that opened into their larger dining/lobby space. Despite all the tables they had, nearly every morning most tables were full. Luckily with just two of us, we usually were able to find a few free seats at which to eat. Every morning they always had a few hot options, waffles, fruit, assorted breads, cereal, and coffee. Sometimes they would list the hot options on a small chalkboard in the lobby.

20190322_084846

Since we were there for three nights, we had ample time to check out the amenities the hotel had to offer. We did not actually use the exercise room, but made sure to check it out for this post. As you can see, it was larger for a hotel exercise room and had plenty of different machines and equipment available for use, as well as I nice water dispenser and shelf for towels.

The pool area was also very nice with lots of lounge chairs, a large swimming pool (that was a bit cool in my opinion,) and a standard sized hot tub. We found that the pool area could get a bit rowdy in the evenings, not just with kids, but with adults who would choose to bring some select beverages with them, despite the rule board saying not to. Thus we found we limited our pool time to the afternoon, as that’s when many families were out exploring the Mall or had checked out/not yet checked in for the day.

This Hampton also offers a free shuttle that can take you to the airport or to the Mall of America. The Mall of America has a light rail station located nearby should you want to take that into the cities. A friend advised us not to go that route, because while the light rail seems inexpensive compared to parking your vehicle downtown, it sucks up a lot of time that you could be out exploring the town. There are plenty of restaurants located just a short distance away (especially if you shuttle back to the Mall,) and also a nice lakefront recreation area that we decided to take a stroll along our final night there. I highly recommend checking out this hotel if you will be in the area for more than one night and know you may be spending a decent part of your time wanting to just relax!

To never miss out on the details of our trip, sign up for e-mail updates for this blog, or follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram to see where we head next!

The Nook ~ Saint Paul, Minnesota

After our time visiting the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, we drove back into St. Paul’s to try another restaurant that had been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. You are limited to street parking outside of The Nook. We actually parked on a side street and found that much easier to navigate than the main roads that run in front of and to the side of the building that houses The Nook.

The Nook is aptly named as it is quite small inside, but we were lucky enough to snag a small table toward the back where the kitchen is located. We also felt pretty important as we had Guy staring down at us from his signed poster.

20190323_114420

Once again, we came here on a mission to try their version of the Juicy Lucy. They have several different stuffed burger options on their menu. I went for the Paul Molitor, which is a Juicy Nookie stuffed with pepperjack cheese. I’ve included both the before eating and after taking a bit photo so that you can understand the full effect of how stuffed the burgers are!

Andrew opted to try Guy’s Big Bite, which was a pepperjack stuffed burger, topped with roast beef, shredded cheddar, and bacon. Again, two photos are included so you can fully appreciate their full deliciousness.

These burgers are hands down the very best restaurant Juicy Lucy’s we have found to date. I finished mine all in one sitting because it was just that amazing. Andrew had some to take back seeing as how his was topped with quite a bit more meat and therefore more filling. We definitely plan to make this a stop anytime we are in the Twin Cities area because they were so tasty.

Guy summed it up best in his signed poster….”The Nook is off da Hook”.

To stay up to date on our travels follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up for e-mail updates for the blog.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden ~ Minneapolis, Minnesota

My main reason for wanting to visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was to finally be able to check out the famous Spoonbridge Cherry that the city is so well known for. The Garden was recently revitalized (along with the Science Center and state capitol, seriously, half the town was being revitalized for several years and it made visiting iconic places a challenge!) The Sculpture Center was located next to the Walker Art Museum and you can park in their underground lot for a small fee. There also is a paid lot nearby, but we just parked on the road in a nearby neighborhood and walked to the park.

IMG_6670

We started out viewing that famous spoon and cherry, I’m sure it looks far more impressive when the water below isn’t frozen and the sculpture can actually reflect into it, but it was still really neat. They even place some Adirondack chairs nearby so you can work yourself into a photo of Spoonbridge quite easily.

We came to quickly realize that it would be very easy to spend far more time in the sculpture garden than we originally thought. We made a fun game out of naming the sculptures as we approached them, and then checking to see if our original interpretation matched the name and description. You’d be surprised at how many we guessed rather close on!

One sculpture became quite an interactive experience as you could swing below it!

IMG_6677

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is also well known for it’s Blue Rooster sculpture.

IMG_6678

Our other fun discovery was the Love sculpture that finds it’s way onto so many postage stamps!

IMG_6680

Overall, I think we spent nearly an hour exploring the sculptures and had a great time! Even the pedestrian bridge across the busy highway is it’s own work of art. Sadly as we drove away, we noticed that their actually were several more sculptures located across the street from the main gardens up by the art center. So if you go, plan to explore those as well!

What do you think? Have you ever been to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden? If so, what was your favorite work of art?

To stay up to date with our travels, follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram and also sign up for e-mail updates from the blog to get all the details!

Minnehaha Regional Park ~Minneapolis, Minnesota

How I’ve never visited the famous Minnehaha Falls before this year is beyond me, but when we switched our Omaha trip to a Twin Cities trip, I knew it had to be a stop we finally made. After doing some research online, I’d heard that the park quickly gets busy most days, so we opted to make it our first stop in order to ensure that we could find parking. Turns out we didn’t need to worry!

The park has ample parking, we weren’t exactly sure where the falls were located in the park as we drove in, so we just kept driving until we got a close street parking spot nearby the restaurant located in the park. We fed the meter quite a bit since we didn’t know how far we’d have to walk…..turns out we didn’t need to feed it quite as much as we did!

When we began walking we noticed we’d have to cross a stone bridge to get over to where the restaurant was and figured that’s where we would find a map or some other signage telling us where to find the falls. We could already hear rushing water at that point, but figured it made sense since snow melt had been significant the past week.

IMG_6650

As we crossed the bridge we came to the realization that finding a map or sign was not necessary as we were standing right on top of Minnehaha Falls.

We crossed the bridge and came to an overlook from the side.

IMG_6654

As we walked a little further along, we came to another overlook which gave us a better full view.

IMG_6655

Despite the recent snow melt, you can see the falls themselves were still quite frozen. I thought this made for a neat experience as it was a unique way to experience the falls two seasons at once!

There was a steep set of stairs (that were also still a bit icy) open on that side that we thought we’d slowly make our way down to see the falls up close.

IMG_6659

There also was a set of stairs coming down from the side where we parked our car, but they were still blocked off for obvious safety reasons.

IMG_6663

Here’s a photo of the side we trekked down. As you can see, snow and ice was still an issue on that side as well, but not nearly as bad as the photo above.

IMG_6664

The area beneath the falls also had a little bridge that allowed you to cross the creek to access either set of stairs. It appears a trail would also normally extend out below the falls when there isn’t as much snow. They had lots of neat rock formations situated in that area.

IMG_6667

Of course, Minnehaha Regional Park also offers far more than the falls. We walked around for a bit noticing their disc golf course and dog park. They also have a restaurant that I mentioned earlier. It did not appear open the day we visited, which could be because we were there so early, or could be that they have different hours in the winter/spring. There also are a ton of other trails to walk and hike along.

I’m sure Minnehaha Falls is “more” beautiful when the grass and plants are green, but I’m truly glad we got to experience it when we did as the water flow was much stronger and we still got to check out the frozen falls. If any of you have ever visited the falls, drop a comment for your favorite time to visit!

Sign up for e-mail updates from the blog to get all the details on our travels as well as follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram to stay up to date on our current travels!