Vail Resort

Travel Guide: How to Make the First Family Ski Trip to Colorado a Success

This year we decided to try something new for our family spring break. Instead of flying south to the sun, sand and beach that most Minnesotans crave by this time of year, we opted to head west for our first family ski trip to Colorado.

Growing up in Minnesota, Colorado has always been a popular place for spring break given its proximity, variety of terrain, cheap flight options and the ability to even gut it out and do the drive (you can make it in around 15-16 hours). As an avid skier, I made the drive to Colorado at least a half a dozen times over the years and most recently have enjoyed the short two hour non-stop flights from Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport (MSP) to Denver. The launch of more no-frills airlines into MSP such as Sun Country, Frontier, and no-frills Spirit Airlines have put pressure on hub-based Delta to keep prices down. All that means Colorado is very accessible yet a family ski vacation is not cheap. Adding on car rental, lift tickets, lodging, food, gear (if you have to rent it) and ski lessons (if necessary) can make a family ski trip to Colorado a very expensive one.

I confess to being a bit reluctant about the notion of skiing in April given our notoriously long, cold winter in Minnesota. However spring skiing in Colorado proved to be an extremely fun, memorable family vacation and although we weren’t wearing our swim suits on the beach the weather in Colorado was equally delightful with baby blue skies, bright, warm sun and fresh mountain air kissing our face. In fact, we had so much fun that we agreed to do it all again next year.

So how did we ensure that our first big ski trip to Colorado would be a success? With careful planning, research and a bit of luck.

Here are my top 6 tips on how to have a fabulous, memorable family ski trip without busting the bank. 

All smiles for a family shot at Mid Vail

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You can see the Grand Canyon off in the distance

A Weekend Skiing the Arizona Snowbowl

“You can ski in Arizona?” asked a friend confused. “How on earth can you ski in a desert”?

Until a few years ago, I would have also been equally in disbelief that it is actually possible to not only ski but ski real mountains in the state of Arizona. Little did I know, the college town of Flagstaff, Arizona, located about two and a half hours north of Phoenix, is home to the Arizona Snowbowl, Arizona’s best skiing.

As an avid skier, I confess to believing that there was no way that the Arizona Snowbowl could possibly compare to the skiing in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana or Utah, all places I’ve skied over the years. Yet after a long weekend skiing the Arizona Snowbowl with my father and two children, I realized that the skiing is actually pretty darn good and worth the trip. If you live in Phoenix and want a taste of the snow and mountains, then even better!

Flagstaff, Arizona

The Arizona Snowbowl is located in Flagstaff, Arizona about 2 1/2 hours north of Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

With an average of over 240 inches of annual snowfall and normally beautiful sunny blue skies, the Arizona Snowbowl has the longest ski season in Arizona as well as the largest beginner terrain in the Southwest. It is a great place to go with kids as there are plenty of nice long cruiser runs, a good ski school and it is very family-friendly. For those who want more challenge, you can take the Agassiz lift up to the top at 11,500 feet and climb up to the Upper Bowl where there are plenty of double black diamonds to take your breathe away. For moderate skiers, there are some nice blues and blacks where you can fly down at breakneck speed and feel the thrill of spring skiing in February. Best of all, are the incredible views on top where you can see the Grand Canyon off in the distance.

Flagstaff, Arizona

View of the sunrise over the mountains from our hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona

So why on earth did we travel from Minneapolis to Phoenix to ski in Flagstaff, Arizona over President’s Day Weekend? Simple. My parents live in Tucson and Flagstaff offered the perfect meeting place for us to do a three-generational ski weekend. We had tried Utah, New Mexico and Colorado before so we decided why not try something entirely new. Plus it is free to ski for those over 70 so my dad was pleased to ski for free.

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El Matador State Park, Malibu, California

A Beautiful Morning at El Matador Beach in Malibu

“The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it.” – Richard Bach

After spending three glorious days in San Diego, it was time for us to head up the coast and check out LA. I haven’t been to LA in years and thought it would be good place for our children to experience. Unfortunately our timing couldn’t have been worse as it was New Year’s Eve weekend meaning everyone was off enjoying all the sights and beaches. Traffic was horrendous, the crowds at Santa Monica Pier and Beach were insane and even our excursion to the stunning Griffith Observatory ended up being stressful due to the swarming crowds and congestion.

After the relaxing, serendipitous past few days watching sunsets and playing on the wide open beaches in San Diego, LA felt like a madhouse for the kids. They were both cranky and miserable, seeming to take after their mother in not liking crowds. Everything we did ended up being filled with complaints and irritation but I guess I couldn’t blame my children. As a LA rookie, I had no idea that traffic could be so bad and that the city was so spread out. It took hours to cut across and there was nothing worse than sitting in wall to wall traffic when one of the kids was hungry, grouchy or had to use the bathroom.

It took two days to realize that we would need to come up with a better system for navigating the city and also find a little bit of peace and solitude for me and the kids. That meant finding a beautiful, relatively uncrowded area where we could relax but did not take hours to reach. At first, I thought I was dreaming that we could truly find such a place but after a little research on Google maps, I realized that our hotel in Agoura Hills was not far from several amazing State Parks. In fact, the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach in northern Malibu was only about a twenty-five minute drive away without traffic. We were in luck!

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and set off early to explore El Matador Beach, one of three separate but distinct beaches that make up the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. Our drive took us through the winding, lush valley which ended at Pacific Highway 1 along the coast.

We arrived at the small parking lot atop the bluffs of El Matador State Park a little past ten o’clock and gratefully got one of the handful of parking spots in the tiny lot. At first sight, I knew we were in for a very special morning. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was warm and bright and best of all, the tide was rolling in. Soon it would be low tide and we would get the added bonus of seeing El Matador’s tide pools!

El Matador State Park, Malibu, California

What a place for a picnic!

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Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Why I’ll Always Love Torrey Pines

“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go”.-  Alexandra Stoddard

There are some places in the world that seem to cast a spell on you, and always drive you back. For me, one of those places is Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego. Every time we visit San Diego, I feel an incessant pull towards visiting the park on the first night we arrive so I can watch the sunset across the beach. I am never disappointed and I am always mesmerized by the sheer beauty of this magical place.

Located along the rocky coast of the Pacific Ocean between La Jolla and Del Mar, the 2,000- acre Torrey Pines Reserve affords one of the wildest stretches of land along the Southern California coast. Named after the nation’s rare pine tree, the Pinus torreyana, this beautiful wilderness area offers several hikes affording spectacular panoramic views of the ocean and craggy cliffs leading down to a vast, unspoiled beach. It has been a favorite of mine ever since we first visited San Diego for Spring Break in 2015.

Since I am somewhat of a fanatic about sunset, we always try to plan our visits to Torrey Pines at least two hours before sunset so we can first do a hike in the park and then play on the beach before watching the sunset unfold. There are two places you can park your car depending on how long of a hike you want to take. If you want the shorter option (which is great with kids), you can drive your car all the way up to the top of the bluffs and park near the visitor center. The only downside is that someone has to hike back up to get the car at sunset. If you want a longer hike, you can park your car at the beachside parking lot or even out on the street for free. From the beachfront, you can walk up the long, winding road to the top of the bluffs and then hike down to the beach.

This time we unfortunately arrived a little too late to do the hike and only had time to play on the beach. I forgot that the sun sets very early in the winter and the park closes at sunset (which tends to be a little after 5 pm in December).  However, as soon as I saw the sky my disappointment disappeared. We were in for a special treat. The clouds, the sun and the light beams aligned. We could have had fog or no sunset at all. How lucky we were to have such good luck!

As the kids walked along the beach, playing in the water I snapped away at the changing light. Soon I realized my daughter was the perfect subject to capture the serenity of the place. Where earth meets sky, waves strike land and the smell of salt water satiates your soul.

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

I watched my daughter walk along the shore and was engulfed in this moment of time and beauty. At eleven, she is still a girl but it won’t be long until she become a young lady. If only I could bottle up her innocence!

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Sand Beach, NC

The Fight to Save the Wild Spanish Colonial Mustangs of Corolla

“All Good Things are Wild and Free”. – Henry David Thoreau

There are some things in life that are truly miraculous. Before going to the Outer Banks, a 130-mile strip of barrier islands running off the coast of North Carolina, I had no idea that a herd of Wild Spanish Colonial Mustangs called the northernmost part of Currituck Outer Banks their home. The story of how they came to this unique part of the country and their survival for over 500 years is nothing short of a miracle. However, as I would soon learn the future survival of these amazing creatures is in peril.

We left our rented vacation home in Duck for the short drive north on Highway 12 to the neighboring town of Corolla where we would begin our tour with Wild Horse Adventure Tours. After signing in at the friendly front desk we met our guide, Tom Baker, a Virginia Beach native who has lived in the area for decades and goes by the suitable nickname “The Outlaw”. We boarded the open air, custom-designed 13-passenger Hummer H1 and followed Highway 12 to where the pavement ends at North Beach. The remainder of the drive would be on the beach.

I sat upfront next to “The Outlaw”, taking notes and asking him tons of questions about the history of the Corolla Wild Horses. Tom, a man in his sixties by my estimation, had grown up in Virginia Beach and spent his teenage years driving down the vast open, uninhabited stretches of shoreline to go surfing with his friends. He recalled with sadness the immense isolation and remoteness of what was once a landscape filled with sand dunes, trees and thousands of wild horses roaming free. However, over time as more and more people discovered the beauty and miles of endless beaches of the Outer Banks, the surge in commercial and residential development caused the decline of the wild horse population which was once estimated at over 7,000 back in the 1930s.

The most significant change happened in 1985. Before then, the 17-mile stretch of road between Duck and Corolla was unpaved, untouched and infrequently travelled. This allowed the area to be the perfect sanctuary for the wild horses as it was one of the most remote, isolated and undeveloped areas in the country. Once this road was paved everything changed. The area became open to mass development and tourism and the wild horses were in constant danger, being struck and killed by cars and roaming around strip mall parking lots. Something had to be done or else all the wild horses would disappear.

Thankfully, It was decided that the wild horses would be relocated further north where they would be safe. They were rounded up by cowboys and moved to the North Beach area where Highway 12 ends and only a 4 x 4 “road” runs along the beach. With the help of The Corolla Wild Horse Fund, a South to Sea fence and sanctuary were established which includes roughly 7,544 acres of land heading 12 miles north to the Virginia border. The land is unique as it is one-third public and two-thirds private land, meaning the wild horses live alongside people. There is no other place where wild horses live in such close contact with humans but it is better than nothing. Tom said that this has helped the wild horses yet there are still many challenges ahead.

When we finally reached the end of Highway 12 and pulled into the entrance at North Beach, Tom beamed and said “Welcome to the door to my office“. I had never seen a highway on the beach before. It was quite bizarre. The speed limit is 15 mph and it is patrolled by a Sheriff who is ready to ticket any offenders. Tom said that there is one tow truck driver named Larry who has the rights to working the beach. At $200 a pop to tow out all the cars that get stuck in the ruts along the beach, he is apparently always in a good mood. I finally understood why we needed a hummer for the tour. We were going to be doing some serious off-roading and climbing sand dunes.

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Duck, Outer Banks

What to Do Off-Peak in the Outer Banks

The Outer Banks, a 130 mile stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina is perhaps best known for its endless beaches and luxurious vacation homes for rent for those craving a beach vacation in the heat of the summer. However, there are many other amazing things to do in the Outer Banks when you visit off peak and best of all, the hordes of crowds have long gone home.

My husband and I took our two children to the Outer Banks in the middle of October and it was a magical time to visit. First of all, I hate crowds so having stretches of beach all to ourselves was delightful. Second, I am not a person who likes to lay in the sun. If I’m on a beach, I need to be doing something active and it is just too darn hot in the summer to be very active. If we had visited in the high season of summer, we would have had an entirely different experience and perspective of the Outer Banks. October in the Outer Banks was magnificent!

We stayed in the quaint, less developed seaside town of Duck. After much research, we found a wonderful home to rent that was less than a five-minute walk to both the beach for sunrise and the Sound for sunset. Duck is more upscale than the other popular hyper-developed towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills which were developed long before Duck. Those towns felt like row after row of enormous vacation rental beach homes looking out at ugly strip malls and lacking character and charm. The only advantages I saw in staying there is you have close access to the beach and also many of the restaurants in Duck shut down for the season in October. We found ourselves doing at least a thirty minute drive to dinner each night but staying in Duck was worth it given its unique charm and character.

Duck, Outer Banks

Where else would you find an oversized red Adirondack Chair with a beautiful sunset like this all to yourself? Duck, Outer Banks

If you go off-season, here are some of the highlights of wonderful activities you can do.

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Coastal Kayak Tours, Alligator River Wildlife Refuge, NC

An Afternoon Kayaking in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

We arrived at our arranged meeting point promptly before 3 at the Walgreens parking lot in Kill Devil Hills, a sprawling seaside town in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A tall young man, barefoot and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, greeted us with a smile and introduced himself as Brett, our tour guide from Coastal Kayak Tours.

Brett would be taking our family of four to kayak in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, an area of over 152,000 acres of protected and preserved wetland habitat that is home to black bears, red wolves, snakes, birds, and American alligators. He advised our group to use the facilities and buy any water at Walgreens before we headed out in the 12-passenger van to the refuge. It would be around a 35 minute drive over two bridges and an island, to reach the refuge and once there we would only have access to a Porta Potty.

Grinning ear to ear as he told us to climb inside the van, I could tell that Brett was going to be an excellent guide. Originally from Ohio, this was Brett’s first summer spent working as an adventure tour guide in the Outer Banks with Coastal Kayak Tours. The Alligator River Tour was one of his favorites and the weather was perfect for a late fall day. Bright blue sky, no wind and temperatures in the 80s. We couldn’t have asked for a more picture perfect day.

As we headed east towards Roanoke Island, Brett told us a bit about the history of the area as well as the wildlife refuge. Unbeknownst to me, the first group of English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island in 1587, three decades before the Pilgrims arrived in Jamestown, VA and Plymouth, MA. The mysterious, unexplained disappearance of these settlers gave the name “The Lost Colony” to this area which later became called Manteo. I was amazed to have never known this important historical fact.

As we continued east along Highway 64 past Manteo and onto the mainland, the windows were rolled down and the music on. I watched the beautiful landscape out the passenger seat of the van, the place I always prefer to sit so I can get the scoop on my surroundings from the driver.

The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is located on the eastern shore of North Carolina. It is bordered on the west by the Alligator River and the Intracoastal Waterway, which is crossed by the 2.8 mile Lindsay C. Warren bridge; on the north by Albemarle Sound; on the east by Croatan and Pamlico Sounds; and on the south by Long Shoal River and corporate farmland. Map used with permission from VisitOB.com.

Nestled by the Alligator River in the west and the Intracoastal Waterway in east of North Carolina, lies the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established in 1984 to protect the unique wetland habitat that runs roughly 28 miles from north-south and 15 miles from east-west along North Carolina’s Coastal Plain. There are many diverse types of habitats in the refuge however the most dominant habitat is known as “pocosin”, a name given by the Algonquin Indians meaning “swamp on a hill”.

In addition to pocosin habitats, there are also pine and cypress-gum forests, fresh and brackish water marches, swamps, bogs, rivers and lakes as well as farmland. The refuge is home to the densest population of black bears in the eastern United States and also has the world’s only population of red wolves. If we were lucky, perhaps we would see some wildlife.

We arrived at a long gravel road that brought us to the entrance of the refuge. A few bumpy minutes later, we pulled alongside one of the many creeks in the refuge and unloaded the kayaks. We had both single and double kayaks, and all in all our group of nine were on six. I had my son with me and my husband brought my daughter. I figured I’d sit up front so I could take lots of pictures and let my son do the arm work when I needed a break (silly me, I forgot he is only 12 yet he already towers over me in height).

Slowly, we drifted into the dark murky waters of the creek and paddled out to a larger, open waters of Mill Tail Creek which feeds into the Alligator River. All I could hear was the splashing as our paddles hit the water and the cry of the birds.

Coastal Kayak Tours, Alligator River Wildlife Refuge, NC

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Duck, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Watching the Sunrise on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

“The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway traverses one of the nation’s great wild and scenic coastal landscapes encompassing the unique maritime culture of 21 coastal villages”. – The Outer Banks Travel Guide 

On our first morning in the sleepy beach town of Duck in the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina my alarm went off at 6 am. The entire beach house we rented was fast asleep yet I was wide awake with jittery anticipation. I had planned to wake up and walk to the ocean to watch the sunrise.

The sky was still inky black except for the glow of light from the moon and the brilliance of the stars shining high above. It was too early to go so I laid there in bed, staring out the bedroom window waiting for a tiny sliver of light and a sign that it was time to get dressed and head out. I tossed and turned but couldn’t fall back asleep. Thankfully by 6:30, I saw the first streak of light off in the horizon and knew it wouldn’t be too much longer until the sun began to rise and paint the sky.

I quietly got dressed, grabbed my camera, hat and house key and was out the door descending into the darkness. The humid ocean air gently blanketed my face and the smell of salt and sand awakened me. The sound of birds, wind and waves reminded me of where I was. On a thin sandy stretch of land that would give me sunrise and sunset all within a five-minute walk.

To the west laid the shoreline of the Currituck Sound, an impressive habitat for waterfowl who migrate here every winter and return north in the spring. To the east awaited the sandy shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean with its powerful waves evolving and changing the landscape of the Outer Banks every single day. All in all, the 130 miles of barrier islands that form the Outer Banks is covered in endless sand, water and beach as far as the eye can see. It is quite a unique place.

I walked the short distance to the beach under the moonlight sky. When I looked up, I could see thousands of stars sparkling making me smile. My heart fluttered with excitement and anticipation. I was finally going to watch the sunrise!  Unfortunately it is not very often I wake up to see the sunrise and it is even less often that I see it over the ocean. The memory of the last sunrise I saw months ago at the top of a mountain in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica brings me joy and gratitude. I knew that I was in for a special gift.

When I reached the steep sandy incline to the beach, I could hear the thunder of waves crashing against the shore and the cry of the sea gulls. I climbed up the slippery slope of sand and arrived on top with an extraordinary view of the shore. The beach was endless and I could see for miles upon miles. There was not a soul on it except for me.

Sunrise on Duck, Outer Banks

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Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

The Glow of Autumn in Northern Minnesota

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”.-  Albert Camus

The magical glow of autumn colors in Northern Minnesota is one of the most beautiful displays of color I have ever seen. Given the fact that we have over 12,000 lakes to choose from in the state, there are plenty of beautiful places to see Minnesota’s fall colors. One of my favorite places to go is about a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis to Ely, one of the launching off points to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area (BWWCA) that borders Canada.

The BWWCA is one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States with an area of 1.1 million acres of untouched lakes, streams and forests, and is also one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited. If you are lucky, you may see a bear, wolf or even a moose in the wild and you will always hear the melodic song of the loon, Minnesota’s state bird.

Fall is one of the best times to visit Ely as the light graces the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue sky is vibrant and pure. The fresh scent of the air or even the smoke of a campfire fills me with warmth and happiness. There is no place I’d rather be than outside hiking in the wilderness taking in the beauty of the changing leaves.

Unfortunately this fall we did not make it up north and instead opted for a visit out east to North Carolina and Virginia. Although we had a fantastic trip with gorgeous weather, we missed the peak colors this year (the leaves peaked about two weeks later than normal given our warm September). It is still beautiful here in Minneapolis yet I am sad to have missed our annual trip up north this fall. To ensure we make it back next fall, we have already reserved our accommodations. In the meantime, I will settle with remembering these lovely photos from our trip last October to Ely.

Ely, Minnesota

Ely, Minnesota

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The Peace Foundation, New York City

A Slice of New York at 110th and Amsterdam

“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role”.  – Yehuda Berg

I got off at 110th and Amsterdam to the of sea of humanity and life that defines New York. As I walked down Amsterdam through the neighborhood of Morningside Heights in the Upper West Side, I was flooded with curiosity at what I’d find. It only took a few blocks for a potpourri of senses to settle in. Flower stalls, coffee shops, a Hungarian bakery, and any ethnic eatery under the sun caught my attention. The smell of greasy hotdogs, freshly baked bread and chicken curry infiltrated my nose while the sound of car horns, trucks braking and the distant hum of Mexican music rang in my ears. And I had only walked a block.

At 111th, I see a homeless couple sleeping on a plastic mattress on the dirty sidewalk, he shirtless with his arm stretching across his bare chest and resting upon her smooth sweaty shoulder. Shoes off, dirty sheets, and all their life’s possessions in a couple of see-through plastic bags. A few blocks later comes the grand entrance to the elite grounds of Columbia University where students of every color are abound, wearing ear buds, texting on cellphones and toting backpacks in route to class. Millennials eating lunch inside the fenced off green grass at the university or atop the grand stone stairway to their future success. Meanwhile a bum wearing rags and pushing a shopping cart collects trash from a full garbage can about a block away.

As I continue on, I hear a melodic harmony of sounds floating out an open window of a piano hall. I stop for a moment and close my eyes to listen but am interrupted by the piercing sirens screaming towards the Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital up at 113th. I then realize that within these four short blocks is a slice of New York and I am dumbstruck of how every spectrum of humanity seems to live within this small radius of space.

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Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota

Exploring the Beauty of Minnesota’s Grand Portage State Park 

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. John Muir

Growing up, I was surrounded by nature. Our home in the suburbs of Minneapolis was on a wooded one acre lot, and we lived only a block away from one of the largest lakes in the Twin Cities. I spent my childhood playing in the woods, riding my bike around the lake or chasing my siblings in the large grassy marshland across the street. In the fall, the biggest chore was raking the thousands of red, orange, and sunflower yellow fallen leaves off our yard and never-ending driveway. In the winter we played in the snow, building giant snow forts at the top of our driveway where all the snow piled up from the plow. I was always outside no matter what the weather, and I strongly believe that my childhood instilled my great love today for nature and being outdoors.

My husband and I have also tried to instill a passion and curiosity of nature in our children. We love to spend time as a family outdoors exploring. Lucky for us, Minnesota is home to well over 15,000 lakes and has over 70 State Parks, 25 State Trails, The Boundary Waters Canoe and Wilderness Area, and tons of regional and urban parks. Those seeking nature are not far from it, even in the city. Just outside my door is the Chain of Lakes, a collection of four urban lakes that are all connected by running, walking and bike paths. They are accessible year-round and even plowed in the winter so I can run through the coldest days of January. I’ve seen bald eagles, wild turkey, deer, egrets, great blue herons, owls, loons, migratory birds and ducks, fox, possums and muskrats all within the confines of the city. It is a pretty remarkable place however it is still a city.

When we want to escape for a weekend, we head north. There are tons of options however we prefer to go to the North Shore of Lake Superior. I have been going “up north”  (as we Minnesotans call it) with my family before I could walk and I’ve continued this tradition with my own family as well.

Over the years we have visited tons of parks along the North Shore however we had never made it as far as Grand Portage State Park on the northeast border of Minnesota. I had heard that the park is quite spectacular and is home to Minnesota’s highest waterfall. During a recent visit to the North Shore, we decided to check out the park and see for ourselves what we were missing. We were not the least bit disappointed. It was stunning.

Grand Portage State Park is located roughly 36 miles north of Grand Marais next to the U.S./Canadian border. It is a stunning drive along Highway 61 affording sweeping views of Lake Superior and the rugged coastline. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. The sky was baby blue and filled with powder-puff clouds. The sun was radiant and the wind coming over Lake Superior was gentle and calm.

After we passed Grand Marais, we made a brief stop at the Susie Islands Overlook. The overlook is perched 400 feet above Lake Superior where you can see the Susie Islands, an archipelago of thirteen islands off the North Shore in Lake Superior. The closest island, Susie Island, is located about a half mile off shore.

The Susie Islands Overlook

The Susie Islands Overlook, Minnesota

The Susie Islands Overlook, Minnesota

A view of the Susie Islands

The Susie Islands Overlook, MinnesotaSusie Island was named after the daughter of the Falconer family who had lived on the island and mined copper ore in the early 1900’s. Today, Susie Island is protected under The Nature Conservancy and is home to the Francis Lee Jaques Memorial Preserve. I bet it is a beautiful place given its rugged remoteness.

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My Favorite Corner of Minnesota: The Gorgeous North Shore

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”.- John Muir

Extending for 150 miles along the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior from Duluth to Canada, lies the North Shore, a place of unspoiled beauty and pristine nature. Home to a multitude of scenic waterfalls, rivers, state parks and the 310-mile long Superior Hiking Trail, the North Shore is a hikers paradise and offers a treasure trove of opportunities to explore wild, relatively untouched nature.

It is here that the water looks like a vast ocean, and at many points you can not see to the other side to the shores of Wisconsin. The waves can be just as large and loud as the sea, crashing fiercely against the shore at night lulling you to sleep. The fresh scent of pine and morning dew is always present as is the crisp unpolluted air kissing my lungs with unequivocal joy.

The rugged shoreline is the perfect place to build a bonfire at night and listen to the roar of the waves smashing against the shore or to search for agates along its pools of rocks. Sea gulls and occasionally even a pair of loons can be seen swimming along its shore or a distant iron-ore freighter off in the horizon heading out to sea. It is a place of awe and wonder that such raw beauty exists only four hours away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is my special corner of Minnesota where I go to unplug, unwind and embrace the simplest pleasures of all: Solitude and Nature.

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