When it comes to weekend trips in Minnesota, the mind conjures images of waterfalls and lighthouses and beautiful state parks galore. That central part, typically reserved for bathroom stops on your way to drop siblings off at whatever north dakotan college they attend, isn’t what typically comes to mind. But don’t let that fool you. There is still plenty there to offer! Below is a sample itinerary plotted out to make the most of a weekend trip from the Twin Cities.
Start the trip off by making the westward trek from the Twin Cities to St. Cloud, the first city on our list and the capital of Stearns County. Along the way, you will be driving the commuter route along I-94, so I recommend leaving either a few hours early or a few hours later so you’re not stuck in rush hour.
The trip itself is a little over an hour, depending on where in the cities you’re leaving from. Now, there’s two things to keep in mind when driving to St. Cloud. First of all, there’s very few stops along the way. But on the other hand, the trek up I-94 goes by pretty quick.
Being a mid-to-large midwestern city, there’s a few good AirBNB options in the St. Cloud area. If you prefer traditional hotel options, many are located in the downtown area and near the river’s edge convention center. While you’re in the area for the night, go out for some late-night pizza at House of Pizza.
Start the day off by stopping by the Stearns County History Museum. Learn more about Stearns County and the impact of the granite industry on community development, the history of the Pan Motor Company, and other major historical events associated with this unique area.
For the museum, take the (approximately) fifty minute drive up to Sauk Centre. Strolling through the town’s main street, it will become very clear of the pride Sauk Centre takes in their most famous former resident, Sinclair Lewis. Be sure to take the time to stop by the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center and take a tour of his boyhood home. During the month of July, Sauk Centre even hosts the annual Sinclair Lewis Days. Get your midwestern hometown festival on, and stop by for the parade!
Be sure to book a night in in the Palmer House Hotel. Long considered one of the most haunted buildings in Minnesota, the Hotel was built in 1901 and is only a three block walk from the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center. Be sure to book a historical tour of the building, or check out the restaurant and bar at the entrance.
Start the morning by driving about thirty minutes to Alexandria. After getting your picture with Big Ole, a stop by the Runestone Museum is an absolute must. Read up on this interesting and controversial piece of Minnesota history (or “history,” if you will).
Stop by one of the many restaurants and cafes in downtown Alexandria before making your way back eastbound on I-94 once more. If you have the time, stop by the Assumption Church in Cold Spring, just southeast of Sauk Centre. The Assumption Church, better known as Grasshopper Chapel. The church was built back in 1877 in response to the vicious swarms of grasshoppers that were plaguing the parishioners. After its completion, the grasshoppers had mysteriously disappeared the following year. Two grasshoppers can be spotted over the entryway, next to the Virgin Mary.
Lastly, if you find you have the time and are looking to spend some time outdoors, Quarry Park and Nature Preserve is legendary amongst the young and old alike. Located in Waite Park, the Quarry is most well-known by thrill-seekers for Quarry No. 2, which, at forty feet deep, visitors can leap from the rock formations into the water. Be sure to visit the park after your visit to the Stearns Historical Museum, as the permanent exhibits will give you some more context into the parks history and formation.
Photo from Explore Alexandria Minnesota