Glensheen Mansion $5 Tour Tuesdays

If you’ve never been to the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth now is the time to plan a Tuesday to tour it. Why a Tuesday you may ask?? – –  because from now through the end of April you can tour it for $5 on Tuesdays.  So plan a road trip, or schedule a day off from work. Glensheen is just one of the many historic gems we have in our state.  It was voted Minnesota’s 2016 Visitor Attraction of the Year by Explore Minnesota Tourism.  If you can’t make it on a Tuesday, or need the address and information about the mansion, check out their website.

A Family Affair

Chester and Clara Congdon built Glensheen between 1905 and 1908 as their home. This influential family is known for opening up iron mining in this region and setting aside land for public use, such as the North Shore Scenic Highway and Congdon Park.


Few Seats But Great Eats – Best Tiny Restaurants in the Twin Cities

Sometimes going out to eat is just hoping there’ll be a seat when you arrive.  Sure, some of the fancy places take reservations, but if you want down home cooking then that’s probably not an option.  We love to try off the beaten path places and have discovered a selection of few seats but great eats in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We think these are a few of the best tiny restaurants in the Twin Cities for down-home cooking!

Our most recent adventures took us to Our Kitchen, located in South Minneapolis.  This small place only has about 19 seats – yes you read that correctly 19. Some are at the counter and the rest line up to face the seat.  We lucked out and only had a short 5 minute wait before three seats opened up.  We each ordered breakfast and all agreed it was delicious and would be back.  I’m thinking our secret to lucking out and getting seats was the fact that we arrived a half hour before they closed up.  Everyone was friendly and many were greeted by name.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Al’s Breakfast but I recall delicious pancakes. It’s located in the Dinky Town area of Minneapolis, not too far from the University of Minneapolis campus.  I’m hoping to bring our girls this summer. This little gem with only 14 seats means that you need to be prepared to wait a bit.

The third of the few seats but great eats is probably the most of famous of all.  Mickey’s Dining Car is located in St. Paul and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  This is the only one of the three where you can eat at night -the other two are morning and early afternoon only.  When we ate here it was in the evening and we enjoyed some great malts and burgers.  The best part was sitting at the counter watching the cook.  Our girls were in awe of all the tiny drawers and spaces where the food was kept.   Mickey’s does have a few more seats than the previous places I mentioned, but don’t get too excited as it’s still pretty limited seating.

I would love to know if there are other few seats but great eats around the metro or even outstate Minnesota.  Please let us know, we would love to give them a try.

Hudson Hot Air Affair

Near the top of my bucket list is riding in a hot air balloon.  It will remain on my list for a while, it’s just in not quite in my budget. However, watching them is almost just as fun right?  Floating so carefree in the sky, especially when there’s a whole bunch of them at the same time. The Hudson Hot Air Affair, just on the Minnesota border, is an event where we can all enjoy watching hot air balloons.  The event takes place this weekend, February 3-5th.   You can find the complete schedule here on their website.

Hudson Hot Air Affair “Gone with the Windz”

Mark your calendar for the 28th annual Hudson Hot Air Affair on February 3-5. This year, with a bow to mother nature, we will celebrate the theme of “Gone with the Windz.” Hot air ballooning is dependent on favorable weather conditions and Mother Nature calls the shots, deciding if the balloons can go up in the air or they stay on the ground.

“Gone with the Windz” also brings to mind Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara against the backdrop of the American Civil War. This era shares rich history of early aviation with gas balloons, a predecessor to hot air balloons.

Hot Air Affair could not happen without the support of its eight year corporate sponsor WESTconsin Credit Union, as well as over 100 local balloon and event sponsors. For a complete listing of sponsors, please visit

Hot Air Affair is the premier hot air balloon rally and winter festival in the Midwest and while the balloon launches are the main feature, there are many activities offered throughout the weekend, as well as several fun pre-events.

The pre-events include a photo contest throughout Hot Air Affair. On Jan. 21st there is a breakfast and kids crafts at Dicks Bar, and a countdown event at Family Fresh Market. On Jan. 23rd join the hot air balloon canvas party painting class at Belle Vinez (pre-register at County Market will celebrate Hot Air Affair on Jan. 28th with a pre-event, and on Jan. 29th Hot Air Affair will be at the Ice Castles in Stillwater, MN.

Hot Air Affair will kick-off with the “Gone with the Windz” Torchlight Parade at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3rd, which will be followed by a fireworks display at Lakefront Park sponsored by Andersen Windows. Friday also begins the Super Sale and Button instant prizes at participating Hudson businesses; geocaching; and live music at Urban Olive & Vine, Smilin’ Moose, Plaza Lounge, Plaza 94 and Dick’s Bar & Grill.

Saturday Feb. 4th events include: a 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. balloon launch (weather permitting); a pancake breakfast at the Masonic Temple; the Marketplace and Craft Fair; a geocaching demonstration; Up, Up and Away 5K Fun Run/Walk; the Science of Weather presentation; Octagon House Museum tours; crafts for kids with Veggie Races; smoosh boarding competition; and a pet costume contest at Angel’s Pet World. In the evening there is a Balloon Moon Glow or Field of Fire; a Hudson Boosters bingo fundraiser; Taste of Hot Air Affair “Gone with the Windz” fundraiser for Operation Help; live music; and more.

Sunday, Feb. 5th begins with a 7:30 balloon launch; at 1 p.m. Carpenter Nature Center presents “Soaring with the Windz;” and from 2-4 p.m. the Hudson Rod, Gun & Archery Club and St. Croix County Sportsmans Alliance will hold a free kids ice fishing derby on Lake Mallalieu.

All Hot Air Affair spectator events are free to attend. Some participation events require admission fees, tickets or pre-registration. For event details visit For lodging or questions please contact the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau at 715-386-8411or visit Hudson Hot Air Affair is also on Facebook.


Laura’s 150th Birthday Celebration

Laura Ingalls Wilder would be 150 years old this year, and the museum in Pepin Wisconsin is hosting a birthday celebration.   Typically the museum is closed during the winter months, however it will open for a few hours on Saturday February 4th to host the event. As long as the weather cooperates it will take place from 12-4pm.   It’s suggested you check the facebook event page before going, just to make sure the weather doesn’t postpone it.

The museum will be open noon – 4pm, with food, birthday cake, and a performance on our reed organ. At the Little House Wayside, join us at 1pm for Laura’s traditional gingerbread and activities in the cabin.



Winterfest in Lake City

One of the best things about Minnesota, we don’t let the weather stop us from having fun.  Well, except when the weather doesn’t cooperate, then that hinders things a bit.  For the most part, we find fun in every season.  This coming weekend Feb 3-4 you can celebrate the cold and snow at the Lake City Winterfest.  There will be lots of indoor and outdoor fun including: live music, a snow sculpture contest, used book sale, fat bike tour, chili feed, fireworks and more.  Check out the whole schedule here.

Barn Bluff


Our November feels more like September, maybe that means December will feel more like October?  Can always hope, but I do enjoy a white holiday season.  Either way, the change of seasons are one of the best reasons for living here.  If hiking is something you enjoy, then the Red Wing area offers some great options. Are you hoping for a view to reward you at the end of the hike?  The Barn Bluff hike offers a view of the Mississippi River on one side and Red Wing on the other.  You can find the trail map here.


Prairie Trail (Moderate) – This trail runs along the summit of the entire bluff and must be accessed by hiking the South Trail. On both ends of this trail there are scenic overlooks which offer magnificent views of the area. Due to vertical cliffs: Caution should be taken at both scenic overlooks, especially the East Scenic Overlook. Trail Lengths as follows:

  • from West Scenic Overlook to East Scenic Overlook – .55 miles

Midland Trail (Moderate) – This primitive trail runs parallel to the South Trail and offers an alternative route along the south base of Barn Bluff.

South Trail (Easy/Moderate) – – This trail starts at the Main Park Access and leads to the Prairie Trail. The trail runs along the southern edge of the bluff before rising to the summit on the new Kiwanis stairway, which runs along the eastern edge of the Linne Quarry. This trail is the easiest way to reach the summit of Barn Bluff. Trail Lengths as follows:

  • to Linne Quarry/Kiwanis New Stairway – .43 miles
  • to East Scenic Overlook – .83 miles

Carlson Lime Kiln Trail (Dead End) – .30 miles round trip. Rock climbing on the Kiln Structure is strictly prohibited. Violators will be prosecuted.


A fall hike near Winona


This time of year, everyone’s trying to find fall colors.  Some just want to drive by, viewing from their car window.  Others prefer to lace up the hiking boots and explore.  If hiking is your preference, there are some great options in MN.  A fall hike near Winona, means several options. One option is Garvin Heights Park, which provides a scenic overlook.  Directions can be found here.


Garvin Heights Park

A park literally above the rest

Follow the winding mile-and-a-half road up the bluff side, and immerse yourself in rich oak savanna atop Garvin Heights scenic overlook. A flight of stairs as well as a dirt path run along the bluffs edge, from the lookout to the valley below.

Bring your hiking boots and explore the restored goat prairie while you take in sweeping views of our island city, or boost your cardio with a hike to the bottom of the bluff on a winding, maintained trail.

High altitude feast

If you have a hankering for a snack while taking in the sights and sounds of Winona from the best seat in the house, stop up at Garvin Heights for an unforgettable picnic. Picnic tables and trash bins are available to help keep the heights in pristine condition, and hiking trails lead to sky-high perches along the ledges of the bluff.



An Unexpected Visit to the North Shore

Disclosure Affiliateimg_2424

This time of year many of us make plans to visit the North Shore area, to see the fall colors.  We all hope to see the orange and red leaves, get some fabulous photos and have amazing weather.  But what happens when we make the plans, take time off work, and the weather doesn’t cooperate?  Do you cancel or go anyway?  If you’re like my family, you go anyway and you find fun things to do. We were up near Two Harbors recently, the nice weather didn’t cooperate.  We could have canceled, but instead we dug out some rain gear and found adventures.


Great Lakes Candy Kitchen is located in the tiny town of Knife River.  Nestled along Lake Superior, between Duluth and Two Harbors.  With chocolates made on site as well as other fun treats.  This is great stop, for anyone wandering around the north shore area. The tough part is deciding just what to buy!


We enjoy the views of Lake Superior, and the ships are always a highlight.  Even with the weather not cooperating, it’s still fun to be near the lake.  On the day we were there, in Two Harbors, it was misty and as you can see a bit foggy, but it didn’t stop us.



Minnesota weather can be unpredictable, especially with the changing of the seasons.  Even if the weather isn’t quite what you hoped for, there can still be adventures to be found.  Sometimes that makes things even more memorable.


An Unexpected Visit to the North Shore - Weekend travel fun in Two Harbors, Minnesota

Music in The Park Event at the Red River State Recreation Area

Music in The Park Event at the Red River State Recreation Area

Labor Day weekend is when we sort of bid farewell to summer.  A three day weekend for some, others are still working hard at their regular jobs so the rest of us can enjoy the long weekend.  If you happen to be traveling up north near the East Grand Forks area, check out the Music in The Park Event at the Red River State Recreation Area.

Music in The Park Event at the Red River State Recreation Area

Music in the Park

Event details

event location map
Red River State Recreation AreaDate
Sept. 3, 2016Time
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

515 2nd Street NW, East Grand Forks,MN. In East Grand Forks, 1 mile south of Hwy. 2.

Enjoy an afternoon of games and activities. Also, music from local musician Jonathan Moorman 3:00-4:00p.m. Picnic tables will be provided for seating, but feel free to bring lawn chairs or blankets to make your stay more comfortable. Hotdogs and refreshments will be served for a fee with proceeds going towards future programs and projects. Event is free and open to the public.

Red River State Recreation Area

The creation of the Red River State Recreation Area was a grass roots effort that came about as a result of the flood of 1997 that devastated the communities of East Grand Forks, MN and Grand Forks, ND. After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers redrew the floodplain, the Federal Emergency Management Agency bought 500 homes and other buildings in East Grand Forks along the Red and Red Lake Rivers. Various structures and homes were removed and the land — now a 1,200-acre greenway — became a state recreation area. Included in this greenway area is a new campground that features 113 campsites, including 85 electric sites that have full hookups (sewer and water). The new recreation area also includes trails for walking and biking, areas for picnicking, and rivers for fishing and boating. The recreation area’s setting in an urban area offers visitors access to outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as shopping and dining facilities within walking distance of one another.

MN State Fair Favorites: Cheap and Free Fun!

MN State Fair Favorites: Cheap and Free Fun!

We love the MN State Fair! We started taking our kids when they were 4 months old, double stroller and all.  We usually go at least once if not twice, spending almost a whole day there.  Typically we don’t arrive when the gates open, we get there around 9 or 10 but we are there until it closes.  This year we arrived in time to see the Milk Run take place yesterday, before many of the buildings were even open. We still stayed until almost close, and enjoyed a full day. Even spending an entire day there, we still didn’t have enough time to see everything.


The best part about the fair is that it’s for all ages and it can be a thrifty fun day.

One of our must do’s at the fair is to head to the Educational building.  Each year we get a free calendar with our picture on it. The Minnesota Education booth, just inside the big doors, has been giving out free photo calendars for many years.  It’s a simple, free, process and the line moves fast.  A great free souvenir!

One of our favorite inexpensive foods that we seek out is the Apple Freezies.  These are great, especially on a hot day. With a bargain price of $1.50, it won’t break the bank.  Located in the Horticulture building in the apple area.



There are countless places to stop and relax your tired feet.  A smaller unique venue is a seat inside in the Blue Moon Cafe.  Not only do they have some unique food (this year the new thing is the Monkey Onion Bread), but they show old movies.  Yes old, like the black and white movies from the 1950’s era.  When we were there yesterday, one of the films was “Teenagers from Outer Space”.


We decided to ride the Space Tower ride yesterday, three of us had never been on it.  At only $3 a person, it wasn’t very expensive and cheaper than some of the food choices.  A fun birds eye view from the top:



With kids, we don’t always move through the fair really fast, but we cover a lot of ground.  Believe it or not, we actually do not go to the midway area.  It can be done: go to the fair and not do midway.  Some years we do the Giant Slide or the Skyway rides, this year was the Space Tower.


The Eco Experience building is at the north end of the fair, each year they change it up a bit.  A great place to take kids, they offer a bingo card program for them to go through the building and get a prize after they complete the card.  We found a great “bench” made out of jeans from our favorite store Arc Value Village.  Even a giant Paul Bunyan, made out of recycled clothing.


With almost a week left to enjoy the fair, there’s sure to be something for everyone.  Food, Fun and variety is the name of the game for the Minnesota Fair.  You can find all the information on their website if you’ve never been, or just need a refresher course on the hours, schedule or layout.