During the extended weekend of the Minnesota Education Association annual conference, families by the vanload high-tail it out of town. But where to go? A Minnesota family with four children ranging in age from 6 to 12 e-mailed to ask me for suggestions. “We’re looking for a place that offers outdoor activities, such as hiking. However, if the weather should be unpleasant, it’d be nice to be near touristy things, such as museums or historical sites,” the mother wrote. Also on the wish list: indoor swimming pool, outdoor basketball or tennis courts and a drive of less than six hours.

Here’s an obvious choice: Duluth. You can’t beat the drive, you can head out of town to hike the Superior Hiking Trail or stay in the hilly city for an abundance of trails. There’s the Great Lakes Aquarium, Bayfront Park with its lift bridge, an alpine coaster at Spirit Mountain and a water park (visitduluth.com).

Another northern Minnesota town, Grand Marais, offers hiking, a community indoor swimming pool and tennis courts with lake breezes. Problem is, the historic site further north, Grand Portage National Monument, is shuttered, a victim of the federal government budget showdown (grandmarais.com).

I suggested the town to a friend with four children last year. She instead headed to a place the whole family adored: Galena, Ill. About five hours away by car, the Victorian gem has miniature golf, a newly opened Gateway Park and a rich patina of history. The town embraces its first family of Ulysses S. Grant with museums. The redbrick downtown is as picturesque as you’d expect when much of an area is protected by the National Register of Historic Places. (See a Star Tribune story on Galena, and go to visitgalena.org.)


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com.