The New, New Thing
THE HYPERACTIVE WEEKEND
PICK UP YOUR GANG BY 5 p.m. on Friday and drive 45 miles south on U.S. 52 to Cannon Falls for a quick in-line skate along the 19.7-mile Cannon Valley Trail ($3; www.cannonvalleytrail.com). Grab a burger at the Mill Street Tavern and hop back on U.S. 52 for the two-hour drive to Harvest Farm Campground (tent sites, $10-$14; 563-883-8562, www.harvestfarmcampground.com), five miles south of Harmony.
On Saturday, bike 12 miles on the Harmony-Preston Bike Trail, accessible from downtown Harmony. At Preston, head up Filmore Street, turn right on St. Paul Avenue, and head to Minnesota 16 via U.S. 52. Bike 12 miles through rolling farm country on Minnesota 5 to Forestville State Park ($4; 507-765-2785, www.mnhs.org), an 1860s-era trading outpost. Hike a steep one-mile path to the spooky hilltop cemetery. Back in Forestville, straddle your bike and follow signs to Mystery Cave, ten miles away ($7; 507-937-3251, www.dnr.state.mn.us). Take a two-hour guided tour of Minnesota's largest cavern, then bike 28 miles back to Harvest Farm via Minnesota 44, eat s'mores, enjoy the blissful wind-down, then gratefully hit the sack.
On Sunday morning, drive 15 minutes to Kendallville, Iowa, on Iowa 139 to paddle on the swift Class I-II water of the Upper Iowa River past limestone palisades to Bluffton (canoe rental at Hruska's Canoe Livery, $37, including shuttle; 563-547-4566, www.bluffcountry.com/hruska's.htm). After the shuttle drops you at your car, drive three hours north on U.S. 52 to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park ($4; 507-334-8848, www.dnr.state.min.us). Hike the 1.5-mile Fox Trail in the last remains of the Minnesota Big Woods, what was once a 3,000-mile swath of thick forest. Drive 20 minutes to Northfield to nosh on bar snacks at The Tavern, then hike up the hill to join Carleton College students playing Ultimate. Postpone Monday by staying Sunday night at the Archer Historic Inn, a 100-year-old French Revival manor on Northfield's Main Street (doubles, $75-$140; 800-247-2235, www.archerhouse.com). Get up at 6 a.m., drive an hour back to Minneapolis, suck down a Turtle Mocha from Caribou Coffee, and let the caffeine work its magic.
THE ADRENALINE RUSH
LAKE WACONIA, 30 miles west of Minneapolis, is the Midwest's answer to Maui's Kanaha Beach Park. But Hawaiians, take note: Minnesota kitesurfers are getting big air on that chilly lake watermust be those prairie typhoons (lessons with Scuba Center Windsurfing, $75-$100 per hour; 612-925-4812, www.windancing.com).
THE WILDERNESS FORAY
IF A FIVE-HOUR drive north to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness sounds daunting, get your paddling fix on the Upper St. Croix River, only 70 miles from downtown St. Paul. Put in at Thayers Landing, near Danbury, Wisconsin, and you'll paddle past rocky pine islands and blazing maples. Camp at one of 15 primitive sites along the way, and be sure to bring a fishing rodwalleye and smallmouth bass love that clean St. Croix water. On Sunday, 32 miles downstream, pull out at Minnesota 70.
THE RECHARGE SPOT
THE MOMENT YOU STEP onto the Stout's Island ferry, 2.5 hours from the Twin Cities in Birchwood, Wisconsin, life's hassles melt away. After all, you're headed for "The Island of Happy Days." The private 26-acre rock in Red Cedar Lake is home to Stout's Island Lodge (doubles, $179-$229, including breakfast; 715-354-3646, www.stoutslodge.com), a 100-year-old Adirondack-style retreat on the National Registry of Historic Places, with 42 guest rooms. On crisp fall evenings eat fresh walleye, fall veggies, and artery-clogging Wisconsin cheeses next to a roaring fire. Work it off the next morning by doing laps on the one-mile path that circumnavigates the island. Then indulge in a facial in the renovated boathouse spa.