With nowhere to go, no one to see and no airfare to speak of, spring break may feel like a drawn out prison sentence — either spent rereading old “Boxcar Children” novels in a childhood bedroom or camped out on a friend’s couch downing bags of the new flavors of Lay’s.
To avoid spring break stagnation, get out of town and explore your surroundings. A day or two on the road either riding shotgun or on the upper deck of the Megabus can curb wanderlust until the end of the semester.
Southern Minnesota bears a poor reputation due to its close geographical proximity to Iowa. But unlike the flat, square cornfield past state lines, southern Minnesota’s rolling hills and bluffs sport plenty of scenic views, great food and unusual daytime activities.
Stay: The Moondance Inn — 1105 W. Fourth St., Red Wing, Minn.
$125-219 a night
Wallpapered walls, four poster beds and antique furniture set the stage for the quintessential bed and breakfast experience. On-suite fireplaces and whirlpool baths provide a quiet escape from Minnesota’s March chill, and in the morning a full spread of sustenance is served in the dining room.
Eat: Victoria's Ristorante & Wine Bar — 7 First Ave. SW, Rochester, Minn.
This Italian family restaurant has all the finesse of a cozy downtown spot without the hefty urban price tags. Even the priciest items on the menu, seafood and steaks, don’t exceed $30 and come with a side. Victoria’s authentic pasta dishes, smothered in rich, savory sauces, will haunt your dreams.
See: The Spam Museum — 1101 N. Main St., Austin, Minn.
A whole museum in our great state is devoted to the premiere canned meat product of the 1950s. Wandering the halls of the Spam Museum, the history and production process of Hormel’s bestseller are on full display. Self-guided tours — enhanced by the knowledge of Spambassadors — begin with a Spampling (Spam sampling), and end with a trip to the Spam gift shop which sells Spam-logoed everything and all 12 varieties of Spam.
The lumberjack territory to our north is often labeled as a brazen no man’s land unfit for city-slickers. While a huge portion of the northern terrain is more densely populated by forestry than people, it too has corners to be explored by the most timid suburbanite.
Stay: Hungry Jack Lodge — 372 Hungry Jack Rd., Grand Marais, Minn.
Prices vary for group size.
Situated minutes from the Canadian border, Gunflint Trail and Boundary Waters Canoe Area, this resort is a safe haven for voyagers afraid to stray too far from the comfort of modern amenities.
The winter season here usually lasts until April. A rustic log cabin can serve as a base for ice fishing or snowmobiling excursions, and the main lodge dishes out three squares a day of filling woodsman’s grub.
Eat: Betty’s Pies — 1633 Highway 61, Two Harbors, Minn.
For 55 years Betty has been slinging out slices of fresh flakey pastry to regulars and tourists alike. This destination diner serves up plate-licking good breakfasts, lunches and dinners, all with a side of pie.
See: North House Folk School — 500 W. Highway 61, Grand Marais, Minn.
This school focuses its specialty instruction on teaching Northern crafts. This includes everything from Anishinaabe bead-working to twig furniture building. Check calendars for class availability.
Wisconsinites take a lot of guff from Minnesotans. We say they’re beer-guzzling cheese-heads; they say we haven’t had a winning football team in years. Fair enough.
Stay: Wilderness Waterpark Resort — Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
$130 and up a night.
A crowned jewel of the landlocked wet ‘n’ wild wonderland that is the Wisconsin Dells, Wilderness is not just a park but a series of interconnected parks with indoor slides, pools and attractions. Sharing water space with excited six-year-olds is gross, but for a one-night stay, this spot can make for a great mini-getaway.
Eat: Fromagination — 12 S. Carroll St., Madison, Wis.
Doing the dairy state proud, this slow food shop offers local artisan cheeses, wines and cured meats. Huge glass cases bursting with wheels of cheddar, brie, gruyere and every other variety of cow, sheep and goat cheese imaginable encircle a crew of bustling cheese mongers ready to cut samples and assist customers. Stop in at lunch time for a specialty sandwich with freshly sliced layers of strong Wisconsin cheese.
See: Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery — Milwaukee, Wis.
Bike-riding, mustache-sporting Minneapolitans may love PBR as of late, but Milwaukeans have been chugging this brew for over a century. A guided tour of the old brewery building, which is no longer in use, offers a complimentary pint to sip on as you listen to the story of Capt. Frederick Pabst and his quest for a blue-ribbon beer.