Where do you Minne-cation?Posted: August 27, 2012
Obviously I have completely fallen off the map here in the past month but golly it was a rough month! I remember last year at this time all the moms of kids with autism lamenting the end of the school year and wondering how they would survive summer. After this year… I totally get it. It was hard. I about lost my mind. But, school starts on Wednesday and I *finally* got a new battery and cord for my laptop and I am starting to feel a little more connected and am pulling myself together one piece at a time. Plus: Today we go to the State Fair!!!
But, enough about me. I want you to meet Lisa!
Lisa is a fellow mom of twins that I met through the St. Paul Mothers of Multiples group. She recently embarked on her own blogging adventure over at Entertaining Kids in St. Paul and I think: a) you should totally check her blog and b) check out her fantastic guest post on vacation destinations right here in Minnesota.
Without further ado…
One of my absolute favorite things about summer in Minnesota is getting away to somewhere else in Minnesota. This state has more than 10,000 lakes and Lord help me, I’m going to try and see a third of them.
Growing up, we didn’t have a cabin and no one in our extended family had a cabin. But my best childhood friend had one and I loved going there. Something about a longer (but not too long) drive, to somewhere still close to home but away from it all, taking in the stillness of a calm Minnesota lake at night, next to a bonfire on the beach just soothed me. I would never marry for money but I would marry for a cabin. I wanted one that bad.
Well, the man of my dreams was not a cabin-owning man but did share my dreams of one. But life happened, kids came and how do you prioritize “buying a cabin” when you need to buy a mini-van? So we came up with Plan B.
Plan B, also known as Operation Visit Every Minnesota Resort, started in 2009, when my twins, Abby and Ben, were just 15 months old. We decided that after hitting up Duluth as our go-to fall-getaway every year, we needed to check out all that Minnesota has to offer (and potential future cabin destinations). I hadn’t been to Brainerd since I was a kid and wanted to re-visit that area. We booked one night at The Lodge waterpark and hotel, with the plan to visit resorts in the area and book one for the following year.
It was on that trip that we fell in love with Kavanaugh’s. This resort is on Sylvan Lake, just south of the infamous Gull Lake. It was clean, the cabins looked newer, there were playgrounds and indoor/outdoor pools for a break from the beach and trails to explore. What was not to love?
We found that if we booked for the last week leading up to Labor Day, we were going to get a deal so when our twins were just about 2 1/2 years old, we had our first minne-cation with them.
We had a cabin right on the water, in between the two beaches. It was quiet and perfect for our family, at that time. We didn’t need much and this worked. Kavanaugh’s has a few downfalls, we soon realized though. If you want something to eat other than making your own meal in your cabin, it’s a good seven miles back to the main highway. Eating out is a nice break from making every meal (who wants to run the dishwasher every day on vacation?) but it was time-consuming. Also, if you are looking for a resort with maybe an organized activity or two, this isn’t it. We definitely took advantage of the free rental of kayaks and peddle-boats and even rented bikes to explore the trails but overall, it was very quiet, almost too quiet.
So during our Kavanaugh’s vacation, we did what we do best – start researching other resorts for the next year and thus discovered Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake.
In order to make the switch to a bigger resort on the big lake, we dropped our number of nights from seven to four, making the price about the same as Kavanaugh’s (besides we learned that seven nights in a pack n play for toddlers was not our best idea ever).
The resort at Grand View is truly amazing and just so, alive. I commented to my husband that it reminded me of the movie, Dirty Dancing, only to overhear someone else say that while we were there. There were tons of activities to take advantage of, different places to explore, multiple restaurants on the resort for us to walk to including a nice cafe right on the beach. Our only wish was that we could really enjoy it but with two three-year-olds, water-ski lessons just wasn’t happening.
Our cabin itself was pretty outdated, in fact, maintenance had to be called twice to fix our fridge and give us hot water again. Grand View has since torn down our cabin (see, I’m not exaggerating) and gave us a very generous package to return and enjoy one of their newly-renovated cabins next year. The resort itself is worth the price so I’m anxious to experience an even nicer cabin. It’s just one of those resorts you could see your family returning to every year, making it a nice summer tradition. If anything, Grand View gave us even more reason to never want to own a cabin.
We took a break from the Brainerd area and this year explored Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria over the Fourth of July. While Arrowwood is also right on a lake, Lake Darling to be exact, and offers plenty of guest activities, it is a hotel. We definitely liked the indoor waterpark but it just felt wrong to be inside on a beautiful summer day. We headed to the beach, only to be warned of lake itch that had been reported. The beach was very small and dirty – in fact, most of the landscaping was so bad I was afraid all the workers were on strike – and so disappointing but completely explained why I couldn’t find any pictures of the beach area on their website. Basically, Arrowwood made me miss Grand View.
I love all that Minnesota has to offer. I’ve discovered that without a cabin, we don’t have to worry about any maintenance, upkeep, or other work that needs to be done when we arrive. Fresh towels and linens are provided every day, boats to use at our disposal and absolutely, zero clean-up has to be done when we’re ready to head back home and our own beds. Oh, we still dream of that cabin one-day, maybe when the kids are all grown and we’re retired but for now, we’re loving Plan B.
Thank you Lisa, for sharing your favorite Minnesota vacation destinations with us. I have to say, as someone who grew up with a cabin (and secretly wished we got to stay at the resorts instead) I am completely clueless on and when we talk about staying close to home I get totally overwhelmed with my options! There is so much to do and see here!