Hitting the road in Minnesota

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 24-30, 1998
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Hitting the road in Minnesota

Hitting the road in Minnesota

By Grant Davis

Question: I am planning a driving trip through the state of Minnesota. What would be the one place I shouldn’t miss?

Carol Desch
Berryton, Kansas

Adventure Adviser: The one place you shouldn’t miss is different for every person. I love my Aunt Ethel, but her fervent recommendation of the Liberace museum in Las Vegas has all the appeal of, well, Liberace. Fortunately, Minnesota has enough not-to-miss attractions to accommodate everyone. Here’s my list according to personality.

Consumer Paradise

The Mall of America in Bloomington, just south of Minneapolis is the largest mall in the U.S. People actually fly in from other states to shop here. Watch in amazement as more people than visit Disneyland spend millions of dollars a day on consumer items. Plenty of parking of course.

Kitsch Stop

Bemidji and Brainerd both have massive statues of Paul Bunyon and his Ox, Blue towering over their fair towns. Brainerd’s Paul Bunyon gets kudos for a minor role in the movie “Fargo.” Best spot on the state for kitsch. Just make sure you ask for a pop when you want a soda.

Tree-lovers Paradise

Head north and get lost in the Superior National Forest near Ely. You’ll be near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, deep in the Minnesota woods. Sure, people have been talking about the Boundary Waters for years, but in the fall you’ll probably have the whole place to yourself, minus the locals, and the wolves. Get going soon if you want to catch the fall colors. When you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, remember that the entire nation of Canada north of you is even more remote.

Mouth of the Mississippi

Lake Itasca. Here’s where the Mississippi River starts her long journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The source itself might not resonate with immediate visual satisfaction, but symbolically Lake Itasca and the Mississippi carry deep cultural meanings. Soak them in and step across the river. You can’t do that anywhere else.

Jack Kerouac Experience

I know you said “one shouldn’t miss spot,” but the Great River Road should qualify as one separate entity. It starts at the topmost point in the continental U.S., Lake of the Woods, and winds its way south through the Twin Cities and down to Iowa. You’ll pass through river towns rife with history and backroads where time has essentially stopped. Campsites are easily accessible within a few miles of the road — except around the cities — all the way down the state.

The Rolling Stone Stop

Chisholm is the birthplace of Bob Dylan. Otherwise, it’s a blue collar mining town. If you don’t love Bob Dylan, see above selections.

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