June 18, 2014 8:24 PM   Subscribe

The soon-to-be-Mr-Vortex and I are getting married in September! Hooray! We are thinking about taking a mini-moon instead of a honeymoon after the wedding, because we're also going to be moving and I will be starting a new job. We'll do a nice, longer vacation once we're settled into our new lives. Trouble is, we're having a tough time thinking of somewhere to go. We've traveled in the upper midwest quite a bit, and would like to find somewhere new to go. Help us, Metafilter!

This is what we are looking for:

- natural beauty. It'll be early September, so we're interested in hiking, biking, and just plain old hanging out outdoors.
- relaxed environment. I foresee many hours spent playing Cribbage and board games. It would be preferable to have a nice deck, a view, etc. instead of just sitting in a hotel room.
- interesting stuff nearby: we're nerds and enjoy touring historic sites, old mines, trains, museums, etc. We enjoy scenic drives.
- within a 6ish hour drive from the St. Cloud, MN. We don't want to spend the whole mini-moon driving. We're thinking a 4-day weekend, so nothing that would require two whole days of driving. Mr. Vortex DOES NOT FLY, so that's out. We do not want to try a train trip this time due to the short trip length.

We originally considered a trip to Chicago but are thinking that we'll hold off on that until we're settled and taking a longer vacation. We're really interested in baseball and museums, but not in a packed city weekend this time.

Additional complicating factor: If we were any other midwesterners asking this question, the first (and best) answer would be "Go to Minnesota, the North Shore of Lake Superior! Beautiful place, hiking and biking and everything you want!!!" Well, I actually LIVE on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It would be a perfect mini-moon destination if it were not my current backyard. I'd like to go somewhere different!

Places we've already been:

UP of Michigan (Copper Harbor). That would be perfect too, but we've already been there.
Thunder Bay, Ontario
All up and down the North Shore from Duluth to Grand Portage
NW Wisconsin (Siren)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND. That was also pretty awesome.
Mount Rushmore, SD.
Rocky Mountain National Park, front range of CO

Places we're considering:

Somewhere in the SE MN river valley
Door County WI
Back to South Dakota to visit the Black Hills
Apostle Islands & Bayfield, WI

Any suggestions? Any other ideas?
posted by Elly Vortex to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Galena, IL, is just barely within 6 hours, Google informs me, and has nice scenery and lots of great historic stuff. Another hour or so will get you to Starved Rock State Park, which is lovely and has great hiking and has cabins and whatnot. Also nice romantic weekend packages.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:34 PM on June 18, 2014

Lanesboro, MN. It is on the Root River bike trail, is an artsy little town with decent live theater, and is close to Mystery Cave State Park and the Minnesota Historical Society's Historic Forestville site. There are inns and b&bs in the town. Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center has hiking trails.
posted by Area Man at 8:53 PM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I take it Mackinac Island would be out? That seems to me to be a perfect honeymoon spot, but having spent ten years on the shore of Lake Michigan, it's downright exotic to this naturalized Midwesterner.

In the case of Door County, the farther north you go, the better, IMO. I recommend the hotel on Washington Island (you get there by ferry).

I was kind of underwhelmed by Galena, though it probably meets most of your criteria. That area of Illinois is probably its most exciting, geologically speaking--limestone bluffs, highest point (Charles Mound, 1000 feet, yay!).

One place in Wisconsin I've always wanted to visit is the House on the Rock, which apparently is also now a hotel (or attached to one). From all accounts (including Neil Gaiman's, who includes it as a setting in one of his novels) it's...unique.
posted by tully_monster at 8:57 PM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have heard lovely things about Lanesboro (as mentioned by Area Man). You say you like biking, that is one of the biggest things to do there. I think it'd be great for a quick romantic getaway.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:01 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Door County is one of my favorite places on the planet to spend a few days at a time. I grew up in WI and spent a few summer vacations there with my family. It is a great place to chill if you don't have a lot of touristy demands (although there are fun things to do there).

Have you considered the Boundary Waters in MN? I've heard nothing but good reports from people who have spent time there.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:08 PM on June 18, 2014

Also, I've been to the House on the Rock a few times, and it's a very excellent day trip, but it is hard to plan a vacation around it, in terms of other activities.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:10 PM on June 18, 2014

I love Door County. It is beautiful that time of year. Lots to do, lots to eat, lots of cute places to stay. Go up to Washington Island if you want something even more remote - we went up in October last year and it was basically deserted, and therefore perfect.

Also in Wisconsin, but expensive, the American Club in Kohler is super nice and relaxing, and the toilet museum and showroom is SO FUN. Close to Sheboygan and the lake. Cedarburg, nearby, has lots of shops and a winery and various historic things in its cute downtown. Washington Street B&B is super charming.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:31 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ooh SpacemanStix makes a good point about House on the Rock! That is the best and weirdest place. We did a maybe four day vacation once - we combined it with a trip to New Glarus (cutesy town and great brewery) and Madison/Middleton (the mustard museum; downtown Madison which is great). Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright house, is also right by HOTR. American Players Theater is there too, and great. You could eeeeeasily take a nice long trip to that part of the state.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:34 PM on June 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing House on the Rock. The Spring Green/Richland Center area is gorgeous in the fall. Plus there's a bookstore there that sells beer! I was there for a weekend event in late October 2010 and the trip was really magical - taking in amazing landscapes, the unbelievable strangeness of House on the Rock, learning some Wisconsin and Midwest history, and exploring the odd little restaurants and shops. I'd go on another short trip there in a heartbeat, especially in the fall. Plus it's a shorter drive for you than northern Door County, and if you do get bored, Madison's very close.
posted by augustimagination at 9:51 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I spent ten of the best days of my life canoeing in the Boundry Waters. There are outfitters who will provide whatever gear you might need and you can go as far or as not far from your starting point as you like. Memail me for more specifics if you like.
posted by rip at 11:29 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We did the mini-moon then proper-moon thing this year and it worked really well for us. We're in the UK so I don't have any suggestions for you as such, but we popped to the Lake District (3 hours on the train), used a hotel we'd stayed in and liked before, told them it was our honeymoon and got upgraded to the biggest, nicest room, then just chilled out among the beautiful scenery, read a fair bit and just got some relaxation time in. By the time we went to Iceland this month, we were ready for a bigger event again. And I'm saying that after a wedding with just 12 attendees.

So your idea is a good one, and I hope you have a lovely time!
posted by LyzzyBee at 12:14 AM on June 19, 2014

I haven't been (yet), but friends in the area rave about Apostle Islands in northwestern Wisconsin, about four hours away from you.
posted by DrGail at 4:47 AM on June 19, 2014

I was going to recommend a short flight to Denver or a longer one to somewhere like Boston, but the whole WILL NOT FLY bit threw me off.

That being said: Come to the cities! Catch a ballgame! We have trains now! Ride a streetcar! Go to an award winning theater! Check out some awesome historical museums! Stay at fantastic hotels with great views! Ride bikes!

I'm not gonna even try to link the local food and beer scene, because frankly, it's gotten ridiculous.
posted by Sphinx at 5:34 AM on June 19, 2014

I came in to represent Lanesboro. We live in the Cities and try to make it there at least once a summer. Biking the Root River trail is great in fall and if September is warm, you can float down the river too. Make sure you stop in Whalen for the Aroma Pie Shop. Check out Mystery Cave State Park while you are down in that neck of the woods.

I also love the boundary waters, but 4 days just isn't enough for me.
posted by advicepig at 6:45 AM on June 19, 2014

The Boundary Waters seem a little primitive for a honeymoon. Lanesboro was perhaps the most enjoyable bicycling I've done in the Midwest. Bayfield / Apostle Islands is more interesting than Galena; you might be able to catch a Lake Superior Big Top Chataqua concert.
posted by coldhotel at 7:56 AM on June 19, 2014

Wow, Lanesboro wasn't even on my radar. It looks great. I will run it by Mr Vortex to see what he thinks.

A BWCAW trip is in the works in the next few years or so. I've done a lot of camping/canoeing, but Mr Vortex is a camping n00b. We'll start him out with a tent in the backyard a few times before heading out into the wild. :-)

Thanks everybody! This was really helpful.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:36 AM on June 19, 2014

PS - I've been to House on the Rock. I hate clutter so it was basically my worst nightmare. I had just read American Gods so I was totally excited about it, wound up nearly having a dust-and-clutter induced panic attack. I swear I went home and scrubbed off two layers of skin afterward.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:39 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Mystery Cave if you are close to it. There was a rogue herd of cattle wandering around as we left.

Lake Itasca is pretty nice and close to the Brainerd Lakes area which has a lot of recreational activities. You could probably get a good deal on a nice room in September since the kids

There are some cool things around Southwestern MN:
The Jeffers Petroglyphs seem cool, but note that they are only open on Saturdays in September.
Fort Ridgely, the Lower Sioux Agency and Birch-Coulee Battlefield
Pipestone National Monument
Split Rock Creek and Blue Mounds state parks (there are bison at Blue Mounds, but it is currently closed due to flooding).
posted by soelo at 10:02 AM on June 19, 2014

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