dining room

The Naniboujou Lodge, Grand Marais

Homemade cinnamon rolls or walleye with wild rice pilaf may inspire awe (especially if you've just hiked the trail to Devil's Kettle Falls). But the real showstopper at this cedar-shingle lodge is the dining room itself. Vivid zigzags and Cree Indian designs in blue, red, green and yellow arch across the ceiling and cover the walls. Art deco chandeliers cast a glow. A 20-foot fireplace made with native stone anchors the room. The guest rooms are simple, and alcohol is not served, but that won't matter in this remarkable space. 20 Naniboujou Trail, Grand Marais; 1-218-387-2688;


Burntside Lodge, Ely

Burntside Lodge occupies a wooded peninsula on Burntside Lake. The resort's 22 rustic-chic cabins, most built in the 1920s and 1930s, keep your attention turned to the lake; none has telephones or televisions. Together with the lodge building, circa 1911, the well-kept collection of mostly log buildings earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It feels lost in time, but offers modern amenities, too. You'll find Wi-Fi, cappuccino and a movie screen at the lodge. 2755 Burntside Lodge Rd., Ely; 1-218-365-3894;


Sugar Lake Lodge, Cohasset

A white sand beach and aquamarine water? The color scheme may be reminiscent of the Caribbean, but you're in the heart of Minnesota at Sugar Lake Lodge near Grand Rapids. Why the unusually vivid blue? Sugar Lake contains a high concentration of calcium, so it reflects light differently than most lakes. The resort offers a range of lodging along that stunning waterfront, pontoon rides, water skiing, kayaks and more. It also features an 18-hole championship golf course. 37584 Otis Lane, Cohasset; 1-800-450-4555;


Surfside on Lake Superior, Tofte

The newest of the Bluefin Bay properties offers gorgeous views of Lake Superior, lakeside condos and something else: an onsite destination spa. Waves of Superior Spa offers a range of services from body wraps and massages to pedicures and facials, many inspired by the North Shore location. Its "Back to Nature Experience," for instance, uses ground wild rice as an exfoliant, followed by a detoxifying body wrap, cold stone massage and blueberry-soy hydration massage. Hwy. 61, Tofte; 1-877-361-7873;

Resort for families with young children

Ludlow's, Cook

Let the kids roam; they won't get lost. Want to peek at their fun from the cabin? Check the webcam of the beach, which has a play structure in shallow water. The resort, centered on a 5-acre island open only to guests, has extensive kids programing, from fishing derbies to marshmallow roasts. A pantry sells a range of items — including chips and ice cream bars — on the honor system, so kids can shop as soon as they can scribble on a notepad. Rides in the Amphicar are a treat for all ages. 8166 Ludlow Rd., Cook; 1-877-583-5697;

Runner-up: Dickerson's Lake Florida Resort, 13194 NE. 2nd St., Spicer; 1-320-354-4272;

Best for families with teens

Cragun's Resort, Brainerd

At this classic resort on Gull Lake, there are enough activities to keep even a moody teen happy. Hydrobikes, kayaks and standup paddleboards (with lessons) wait at the beach. Those with a competitive streak can opt for beach volleyball, tennis, basketball and cardbord boat derbies, where teams build and race makeshift boats. Bonfires and moonlight movies light up the night. 11000 Craguns Dr., Brainerd; 1-800-272-4867;

Runner-up: An arcade, pool table and a drumming circle keep it upbeat at Crow Wing Crest Lodge; 31159 County 23, Akeley; 1-218-652-3111;

Resort for golf

Grandview Lodge, Nisswa

No matter which of three courses you choose, you'll find gorgeous expanses of green velvet stretching under the Minnesota sky at this historic lodge. Big cups on the nine-hole Garden course are perfect for families. The 18-hole Preserve, which weaves through forest and wetlands, benefits from a near-million-dollar renovation. The 27-hole Pines has practice putting greens and a driving range. 23521 Nokomis Av., Nisswa; 1-866-801-2951;

resort for tennis

Madden's on Gull Lake, Brainerd

Whether or not you can serve an ace, the Tennis & Croquet Club at Madden's will make you feel like a pro. There are six tennis courts surrounded by well-manicured lawns and a prim yellow clapboard clubhouse, where you can watch play from a shaded patio or recover from your own set. Other sporting options include croquet, lawn bowling and badminton. 11266 Pine Beach Peninsula Rd.; 1-800-642-5363;

Resort for sailing

Pehrson Lodge, Cook

A fleet of sailboats, from Sunfish to a Nacra catamaran, take to the pristine waters of Lake Vermilion from the shores of this lodge. Free sailing lessons for guests ensures that everyone can catch a breeze. Windsurfing is also available. 2746 Vermilion Dr., Cook; 1-218-666-5478;

small towns

Small town for cyclists


In the rolling Driftless Area of southeast Minnesota, Lanesboro is nestled along the Root River and the bike trail that runs alongside it, the Root River State Trail. Pedal a ways, and you hit the Harmony-Preston Trail. Both trails, 60 miles total, run fairly flat on old railroad beds. The charming downtown, dotted with great restaurants in historic brick buildings, makes a nice spot to begin and end a day of biking. Two outfitters in town rent bikes. 1-800-944-2670;

Small town for walking


Two colleges keep this small town on the Cannon River vibrant. Its central spine, Division Street, offers proof of that, lined with great shops like Content Books and Swag of Northfield. Nearby, you can stroll the Riverwalk; on Saturdays in June through October the paved walkway hosts the Riverwalk Market Fair, with artists, performers and organic farmers. If conifers interest you more than commerce, stroll the 880-acre Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College. 1-800-658-2548;

Small town for dining

Grand Marais

If you want to dine at all of the top-notch eateries in Grand Marais, prepare to stay a while. For starters, there's World's Best Donuts. That morning spot sits near Lake Superior, just down the road from the old classic, Sven & Ole's Pizza, and the new classic, the Crooked Spoon, where a rotating menu relies on fresh ingredients and keeps the locals stopping by. Less expensive but equally fresh prepared foods can be had at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op (eat-in or carry-out). It makes the best mulligatawny soup in the world. Also not to be missed are Harbor House Grille, Angry Trout Cafe, Dockside Fish Market, and the place to wash it all down, Voyageur Brewing Co. 1-888-922-5000;

bed & breakfasts

Urban B&B

AG Thomson House B&B, Duluth

This cheerful retreat in Duluth's Mansion District has earned many accolades: Trip Advisor's Travelers' Choice 2016 named it the top bed-and-breakfast in the country. Chalk it up to the multi-course breakfasts, fireplaces in each room, luxurious beds and Midwest hospitality. Summer is a terrific time to hang in a hammock among the gardens. 2617 E. 3rd St., Duluth; 1-218-481-1940;

Rural B&B

Blue Heron B&B, Ely

If you prefer to end a day of adventure in the Boundary Waters by sleeping in a comfortable bed and waking to a hearty breakfast, this is your place. The six-guestroom Blue Heron is on a lake adjoining the wilderness area, a 10-minute paddle away. Moose and other wild creatures have been seen on the grounds. Canoes, kayaks, snowshoes and bicycles are available free of charge. 827 Kawishiwi Trail, Ely; 1-218-365-4720;


Place to pitch a tent, riverside

Hay Creek Valley Campground, Red Wing

In the shadow of forested hills, the lively Hay Creek is next door to miles of trails in the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest. There is trout fishing, a swimming pool and a playground, plus a western vibe. Horses have their own camp area, and a brick-sided old western saloon offers lunch, dinners and a game room. 31655 Hwy. 58 Blvd., Red Wing; 651-388-3998;

Place to pitch a tent, lakeside

George Crosby Manitou State Park

Strap on your hiking boots. For intrepid backpackers who want to get far away from it all, there are a few select campsites next to Benson Lake at this wilderness state park. They are strictly hike-in, and one-half to 4½ miles from the parking lot. You'll share the pristine sites with nothing but wild creatures. 7616 Lake County Rd. 7, Finland; 1-218-353-8800;

Best tepee

Blue Mounds State Park

Spend a night in a tepee, near land where buffalo roam, at this park in the state's southwest corner. The tepee has a cedar deck inside, and sleeps six. Wake with gentle light seeping through the fabric wall. Then walk across a road to a platform for viewing the park's bison herd and explore the prairie, including a 100-foot cliff of Sioux quartzite. 1410 161st St., Luverne; 1-507-283-6050;

Best yurt

Glendalough State Park,

Battle Lake

Wake to the call of loons at this state park in the transition zone between prairie and hardwood forest. Two yurts lie on the far side of Annie Battle Lake, a quiet waterway closed to motorized boats. Want to spend the night? Paddle across the lake in a canoe, or bike or walk on a paved path. 25287 Whitetail Lane, Battle Lake; 1-218-864-0110;