Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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In a close-to-home example of the cruise industry's recent rough seas, Sun Country Vacations is offering deals on Alaskan cruises that have not yet sold out. Prices for a 7-night cruise on the Star Princess, departing June 22 from Seattle to Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, Ketchikan and Victoria begin at $1009 (based on double occupancy), including airfare from MSP. There's more: A Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas 7-nighter from $1139 (departing July 12 & 26); Holland America Oosterdam 7-night Alaskan cruise for $1145 (departing June 16, 23 and 30); and a similar cruise on the Norwegain Pearl starting at $1199 (departing June 30).
The Paul Bunyan State Trail offers views of sparkling lakes, visits to quaint towns and now geocaching, an open-air, free, GPS-enhanced treasure hunt.
In geocaching, technology meets the great outdoors. Participants look for hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS. The cache -- which range in size from a pill bottle to a mailbox -- will typically hold a log book with names of those who have previously found it. Some also contain trinkets or medallions that cachers can use to trade or move to the next cache. There are more than 100 geocaches along the rails-to-trails paved pathway, which at 112 miles between Brainerd and Bemidji, is the longest trail in the state. Download the GeoTour here.
You'll find caches such as "Paul's Sawmill," described in part like this: "At the location of this cache, one can see the remnants of our early logging heritage. Enjoy the cache and watch for fishermen." And "Northern Troll," which comes with this warning, "This cache introduces you to an area of Bemidji that is oftentimes overlooked. Enjoy the walk and the scenery but be on the look out for trolls."
A canopy tour featuring two suspension bridges and nine zip lines overlooking the Minnesota River Valley will open June 14. Kerfoot Canopy Tours will operate on land that includes a 120 feet-deep ravine along the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway near Belle Plaine and Henserson, Minn. During the two-hour-plus tours, guides will share information on the trees and birds of the region, including eagles and hawks, and how the valley was formed. "You get the thrill of zip lining, but you also get the educational aspect," said owner Lee Kerfoot. How thrilling? The longest zip will stretch 1,150 feet. But tours will warm up with smaller runs, allowing customers to ease into the experience. Kerfoot Canopy Tours will be open year-round. Cost is $89 per tour, or $299 for a season pass, which is good for unlimited tours at the Henderson location and at the Towering Pines Canopy Tour, which opened at Gunflint Lodge near Grand Marais last summer. Tours begin June 14, but you can book now at the website.
Big Macs and other icons of the McDonald's menus will once again be available at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, according to Kate Dougherty of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. The fast-food giant closed in 2012, after the MAC began bringing in local stores and restaurants at the airport. That shift to make the airport more reflective of Minnesota has been widely lauded (hello Ike's and Creative Kidstuff), with one exception. There was an outcry when McDonald's went away (a move made by Delta). Now, Big Mac fans can take heart: The MAC will soon officially announce the return of McDonalds, to be located where concourses D and C meet. Timing and other details are yet to be announced, so stay tuned. For now, know that Big Macs may not be the product of a Minnesota chef, but many Minnesota flyers enjoy them nonetheless.
What about McDonald's former site? Any lingering scent of French fries has been masked by the aromas of soaps and candles produced by Minnesota companies Illume and Thyme. Uptown Minnesota, the store that opened in the space in March, features a host of locally produced goodies. Along with Illume and Thyme products, travelers can find handcrafted moccasins by Itasca Leathergoods, men's ties and wool blankets by Pierrepont Hicks, jewelry designed by local artisans and other subtley Minnesota-centric stuff (no moose T-shirts here, thank you very much). The new store is on the G Concourse, near the international gates G1-G6.
Just as classes at the University of Wisconsin - Madison wind down next month, organizers of the Madison Craft Brew Week will give students at the party school (and perhaps their parents who are in town to retrieve them) a smashing way to ring in summer. A beer and bacon breakfast, a bike pub crawl and a Leinenkugel's Honeyweiss Fish Fry are all on tap for the 10-day festival, which takes place May 3-12. According to a press release, the third annual event will host more than 100 events that celebrate craft beer and are designed to highlight Dane County, Wisconsin's vibrant beer culture. "There is truly something for everyone, from novice to connoisseur."
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