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Memorial weekend road trip guide

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Rising sun
Rising sun as seen driving into Minneapolis.
Nikki Tundel | MPR News

Families with young children might have a hard time getting away on holiday weekends. The cost of air travel, for example, can be prohibitively expensive for a growing family.

If you long to get away, Jenn Singer has some suggestions. Singer created and runs the blog DayTripper. She wanted to travel with her family, but couldn't afford to go far. She decided that short road trips were her best option for getting her son and daughter out into the world.

From her bio page on the blog: "My family and I usually hop in our car and [check] out a new part of the state. We only spend the day there, but we have an amazing time. This lifestyle has filled my adventurous spirit."

Singer joined host Angela Davis to talk about options for day trips around Minnesota. Here are some highlights.

Keeping your children busy on long car rides:

Singer keeps her children happy in the car by piquing their interest in their destination.

"I've created travel binders and printed off different activities or information about our trip in color form so they can get excited about where we're going," she said. The children also get involved in the planning process.

Car rides are also a great way to catch up. "A lot of it is just talking. We talk about what we're going to see, about their lives and school."

But if the ride is longer than four hours, "we'll put a phone in their faces."

Singer also recommends following random signs, because the trip is about more than the destination.

"If there's some sign that says 'the world's best,' follow it," she said. "Take the scenic route."


One of Singer's favorite destinations is Lanesboro. It combines the best of outdoor adventure and small-town charm. The Root River bike trail is 60 miles long and connects with towns along the way. The trail is flat, said Singer, perfect for kids and all skill levels.

Kayakers on the South Branch of the Root River
A couple of kayakers navigate the fast-flowing water of the South Branch of the Root River on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.
Elizabeth Baier | MPR News

"It's a relaxing getaway," she said.

Singer said Lanesboro is perfect for a day trip, but private and state campgrounds allow for overnight trips, too. However, she believes they're all booked up for Memorial weekend. There are also private resorts along the Root River.


"Half the fun is getting there and visiting the towns and shops along the way," said Singer.

Paul Bunyan statue at Paul Bunyan Land
The Paul Bunyan statue at Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Minn. It's about 26 feet tall and animatronic. This statue was originally part of the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1949 and was moved to Brainerd in 1950. Fun fact: He's still wearing his original pants and shirt, under the new ones, from 1949.
Courtesy Paul Bunyan Land

She and her family love to play mini golf and visit Paul Bunyan Land, a theme park that is "one of the biggest draws" to Brainerd. There is a giant statue of the namesake, operated by park staff, that will wave and say hello to children as they walk by.

"[My children] were terrified at first, but we got a picture and they were best friends," she said.

Singer recommends the park for children 10 and younger.

Grand Marais

Taking a dip in Superior
Following the end of the Minnesota State Logrolling Championships, the female competitors joined hands to take a dip in Lake Superior on Aug. 8, 2014. The logrolling took place in a tank in downtown Grand Marais in warmer water.
Judy Griesedieck | MPR News

Singer said Grand Marais is worth the drive, even from the Twin Cities. The small town on the shores of Lake Superior offers plenty to do, from sailing to visiting Artists' Point, a rocky hiking destination. And, of course, it has the World's Best Donut Shop.

"We went back for seconds," Singer said.

Lake Carlos
Lake Carlos, located five miles north of Alexandria, Minn., is one of 24 lakes across Minnesota that are being studied to see how the lakes are handling global warming, development, invasive species and urban runoff.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News

Wineries in central Minnesota

Local wineries are always on Singer's to-visit list. Many are in the central part of the state.

"You can bring your children, as long as they're well behaved," she said. "I got really into grape stomping." She made particular mention of the Crow Wing Winery in Hutchinson and the Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria.

Where to go for more information

Singer loves hiking, so she recommended going straight to one of the state park websites and looking for guided hikes. She also suggested reaching out to tourism bureaus across the state.

Use the audio player above to listen to the segment.