5 places close to home to consider for your spring vacation
As the long winter days grow shorter, Midwesterners seek the fresh air that comes with spring – and mini-getaways to get them through until summer.
More often than not, residents opt for tropical vacations thousands miles away. But that's not the only type of vacation spring offers in the four-state area.
"Too often we think of our trips too extravagantly," says Katlyn Richter, global media and public relations director at the South Dakota Department of Tourism. "No matter where you live, there is value in exploring the world around you.”
By setting the bar too high, some people end up forgoing their vacations all together because they don’t have the money or time to plan an extravagant trip across the country. What makes local, mini-vacations so appealing is their simplicity.
"(Local vacations) are the ones that create some of the best memories because they are often spontaneous, and they don't involve a lot of stress in the planning aspect," says Kim Schmidt, public and media relations manager at North Dakota Tourism.
Explore Minnesota spokesperson Alyssa Hayes encourages residents to welcome the often ever-changing spring weather rather than run from it.
"We encourage travelers to embrace the season. Rather than hibernating or escaping to a tropical locale, discover the beauty of this time of year in a new way," she says.
For those of you looking to take a last-minute trip this spring, consider these getaways within Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin:
1. Go yurting in MN or ND
Camping might not be the first thing that comes to mind in spring but “yurting” makes that possible. It's a weird name, but a yurt is basically a round, dome-like insulated tent made of canvas and wood.
"They're almost like a glorified cabin, but more on the glamping (glamorous camping) side of things," Schmidt says.
Cross Ranch, Fort Ransom and Lake Metigoshe State Parks all offer yurts in North Dakota while Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area and Glendalough and Afton State Parks all offer them in Minnesota.
2. Visit the North Shore
Travelers can experience breathtaking views while hiking in Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior. The area offers many activities for kids and adults alike, depending on the weather. If winter persists, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, dog sledding and snowmobiling are an option. If the snow melts and gives way to a beautiful spring, visitors can get outside for a hike or keep warm inside, visiting art galleries, museums, restaurants and breweries.
3. Seek a new perspective
Many people may choose to visit South Dakota in summer, but surprisingly some of the state's most famous landmarks – Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial and Badlands National Park – are breathtaking in the spring as well.
At Mount Rushmore, specifically, visitors (and veterans) can participate in the flag-lowering ceremony, which takes place every evening at dusk in the amphitheater, May through September.
The caves are also a draw for tourists. The Jewel Cave National Monument is hidden beneath the Blacks Hills and consists of 190 miles of passageways, making it the third longest cave in the world. Visitors can see the wonder of calcite crystals, stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, frostwork, boxwork, flowstone and hydromagnesite balloons.
Grown to be one of the world’s largest-known caves, Wind Cave National Park spans 142.75 miles of passages. The park also features 28,295 acres of mixed-grass prairie, Ponderosa pine forest and wildlife including bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes and prairie dogs.
4. Explore the Twin Cities
Minneapolis-St. Paul is home to dozens of parks and trails but also offers upscale lodging, dining, award-winning theaters, museums, a vibrant craft beverage scene, sports entertainment and more.
"Whether an outdoor enthusiast, a theater-goer or someone who loves to shop tax-free, the Twin Cities has activities to fit many interests and budgets," Hayes says.
Thanks to Paisley Park tours – which opened in October 2016 – visitors can now celebrate the life of Minneapolis-born artist Prince by touring his estate and production complex. To complete the unofficial tour, fans can add pit stops at First Avenue and Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant where he once performed.
5. Attend a Wisconsin festival
If you need an excuse for a fun event on vacation, Wisconsin is home to several spring festivals, including:
May 12: Prairie Fling Festival in Sarona
May 17-19: Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival in Ashland
May 27: Lawn Mower Races in Fifield
If you’re looking for something more serene, maybe a ride on the Wisconsin Great Northern Train is for you. The scenic ride follows the Namekagon River, stretching from Spooner to Springbrook, Wis. Themed ride packages ranging from sightseeing to an elegant dinner and America’s only moving bed and breakfast experience are available. Rides lasts between 45 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the excursion.
Though some vacationers might automatically jump to tropical vacations when they're looking to travel, Schmidt, Richter and Hayes says there’s fun to be had close to home.
"The world is massive and immense," Richter says. "But don't forget about the lovely spots you live nearby as well."
Plan your trip
If interested in any of the places mentioned, give them a call (or email them) to make reservations, buy tickets or get more information.
Cross Ranch State Park, N.D.: 701.794.3731, email@example.com
Fort Ransom State Park, N.D.: 701.973.4331, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lake Metigoshe State Park, N.D.: 701.263.4651, email@example.com
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, Minn.: (218) 546-5926, firstname.lastname@example.org
Glendalough State Park, Minn.: (218) 864-0110, email@example.com
Afton State Park, Minn.: (651) 436-5391, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, S.D.: (605) 574-2523
Crazy Horse Memorial, S.D.: (605) 673-4681, email@example.com
Badlands National Park, S.D.: (605) 433-5361
Paisley Park Tours, Minn.: officialpaisleypark.com
Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant, Minn.: (612) 332-5299 (box office), (612) 332-1010 (dinner reservations)
Prairie Fling Festival, Wis.: (715) 635-6543
Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival, Wis.: (800) 284-9484, birdandnaturefest.com
Lawn Mower Races, Wis.: (715) 762-4739
Wisconsin Great Northern Train: (715) 635-3200, firstname.lastname@example.org