Archive for the ‘Day Trips’

Taking Your Kids to See National Treasures

For the last few months I’ve been using this great app on my phone called Flipboard. It provides a super nice way to get at a bunch of the latest news in a variety of my favorite topic areas quickly and easily in a format which is conducive to quick reads. Yesterday I was literally thumbing through Flipboard when I came across this article from Parents entitled, “7 Places to Take Your Kids (Before They Grow Up)”.

The list is more than 7 items as it groups a bunch of potential spots into groupings:

    A Natural Wonder
    An American Monument
    A Civil War Battlefield
    A Great American City
    An Unspoiled Beach
    A Desert Landscape
    A Man-Made Wonder

I am an East Coaster and as such I have seen a lot of the individual suggested areas listed (Gettysburg, Lincoln Memorial, Boston, NYC, and the Statue of Liberty to name a few) and through my travels later in life I have (or will soon have) seen some others. However, I’m not sure if taking my kids to these places as children will do that much for them.

Let’s take, for example, Gettysburg. I visited the area with Scouts when I was probably 12 or 13. While I remember the trip itself, a whirlwind 3 day weekend, and the fact that one of the other Scouts’ fathers had a van with a TV and a Nintendo in the back, I couldn’t really tell you all that much about Gettysburg itself. However, since I saw Niagara Falls when I was 17 and the Hoover Dam when I was in my late 20s, I have a much better remembrance of those visits.

I have told The Wife that I really want to take the kids to see Mount Rushmore (I’ve never been to the Black Hills myself) and to the Grand Canyon where smog may eventually severely limit visibility on a regular basis but I really hope they can get something more out of it than remembering about some random unrelated memory like the van story and a patch on a shirt.

However, I don’t know if this list is good enough. What places have you visited that you would add to a must-see for your kids list? What about it made them worthwhile and what was memorable about them for you? Did you dread these sorts of trips as a kid or did you look forward to them? What made them exciting or boring? How many of these places have you visited? Are any of them on your must do list? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Old Market Deli: Cannon Falls, MN

On Friday we made our new annual trek down to Hampton Hills Tree Farm to cut down a tree for the holiday season. While we took MN-3 through Northfield to get there last year, we went down US-52 this year instead. After picking out a tree ($4 more than last year; inflation, boo) and loading it into the car, we made the ~10 mile trek over to Cannon Falls for lunch. We had two places on our agenda, one was Dudley’s Pizza, recommended in the past by reader Chad, and the other was The Old Market Deli. After looking through the menus of both and noticing the Old Market Deli chose to include prices, The Wife decided on the deli over pizza.

We arrived at around noon on Friday to a fairly empty restaurant which quickly filled up within 15 minutes of our arrival. Later, the woman behind the counter noted that the morning was very slow but had obviously picked up for the lunch rush. The Wife went up and placed an order for a cheese quesadilla with fresh fruit for The Rooster, the Pot Roast Dip with chips ($10.95) for her, and the Bison Burger with sweet potato fries ($9.95) for me. While they offer Spring Grove sodas and beer, among other drinks, The Wife brought back two cans of soda and a bill for $34.52 while we waited for our orders to arrive.

It took a little bit, considering how busy they were, but the food arrived and it was beautiful. The cheese quesadilla wasn’t anything special to look at aside from the red quesadilla and the cheese inside was a little overdone but the tortillas were crispy and the cheese not your standard bagged cheddar. The Rooster loved the fresh fruit and ate nearly all of the quesadilla, a ringing endorsement from him.

The Wife’s Pot Roast Dip was a large sandwich and came with what appeared to be homemade potato chips. The chips were crunchy, thick, and quite tasty. The pot roast was super tender and full of flavor and I kept stealing little bits and pieces of it when The Wife wasn’t paying attention (heh). Sandy will be happy to hear that they note that it’s served with a “Red Wine Jus”. It comes with caramelized red onions and a horseradish cream as well. While I loved the beef, the horseradish cream didn’t taste much like horseradish to me and I honestly didn’t care for the sauce at all. I wouldn’t order this one myself based on what I had and The Wife noted that while she thought it was ok, she’d order something else in the future.

The Bison Burger is a 1/3lb patty, cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions, and a honey BBQ sauce on a Mill City Bakery bun for $9.95. The burger is an absolutely beautiful beast. While we’re not talking Nookie Supreme beast, we’re still talking a sandwich which required me to smash it to fit it in my mouth.

At first I was worried about the honey BBQ sauce overpowering the burger like so many BBQ-based burgers seem to do; however, this sauce did nothing of the sort. The soft and gooey melted cheddar really contrasted well against the crunch of the onions and the soft and chewy bun put a literal top on this sandwich. However great the accoutrements were, their collective being was no match for the eye-opening wonder of the bison patty itself. It was overcooked (I asked for medium-rare and it came out medium) but still juicy, tender, and full of flavor. I not only recommend this one, I believe it’s well worth the drive to have it and I may be coming back again soon to try.

When we do return, and we will, if I don’t get the bison burger I’ll be trying the Double Royale with Cheese ($10.95) which is a 1/2lb of Thousand Hills, cheddar, bacon, fried onions, and special sauce. I don’t care so much about anything other than the Pulp Fiction reference and the excellent experience I had with the Bison Burger. Nice touch and yum.

Overall I definitely recommend The Old Market Deli if only for the Bison Burger itself but also for the ice cream (I had something similar to an Almond Joy bar) and the locally sourced (when available) ingredients. The place is tidy, the menu is great, and the prices are right on target for what they’re offering. I’ll be making the drive again soon and I suggest you do too.

Have you ever eaten at The Old Market Deli in Cannon Falls? If so what did you think? What did you order and what would you order in the future (check out their menu on Facebook)? Do you think it’s worth the drive? What about Dudley’s across the street? Should we have chosen that restaurant instead? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Old Market Deli
331 Mill Street West
Cannon Falls, MN 55009


The Old Market Deli on Urbanspoon

See all the pictures from The Old Market Deli in Cannon Falls on Flickr here.

Willow River State Park

Guest article written by: Alissa
Author of Chaos to Clarity

Several weeks ago the hubby and I ran over to Willow River for a day hike. We liked it so much that we decided to go back there to camp a month later. Located a few miles east of Hudson on I94, the park is only a 30-minute drive for us from Minneapolis; so about 50 minutes from the south suburbs. At some point maybe the number of different landscapes available within a short drive of the cities will stop being amazing to me (but hopefully not)!

Like most state parks, Wisconsin parks require a vehicle pass. It is $10 per day for out-of-state plates, and we were there for three days, so we decided on the annual pass for $35 (WI plates cost $7/day or $25/year). The campsite fee for everyone is $15/night.

There are four campgrounds in the park: 100, 200, 300, and group camps. My advice is, unless you like baking in the sun and being fully visible to all campers, hikers, and passing cars (in the style of prairie dogs), avoid the 100 and 200 campgrounds. They are on the prairie and have zero shade or privacy:

However, the sites in the 300 campground are wooded and private. Our site was pretty typical of the 300:

The other advantages of the 300 camp are that it has easy access to the all of the trails, and it is where the showers are. The showers are quite clean and unscary, but be warned: the only water temp available is cold (maybe unless you also get up at 5:30 AM to beat everyone else there, which I, for one, do not do!).

I was pretty impressed with the group campsites, and would definitely consider them for camping excursions with friends (especially because alcohol is legal at WI State Parks, as opposed to MN. Which is good for me because I require a New Glarus Belgian Red any time I’m in Wisconsin!). They are nice and big, but are also situated so that sub-groups within a group can have a little privacy, too. This is group site D (I also particularly liked C, but A & B are fine, too):

There are presently only about 13 miles of trails in the park, but that number can be deceptive. Since most of the trails kind of lead into each other, we hiked 5-8 miles/day without getting bored. The trails are well-groomed, and are pretty easy, with only some gentle hills. Like other WI State Parks we’ve visited (Kinnickinnic and Copper Falls), we found that it would pay to bring a compass as well as the trail map on hikes. There seems to be a penchant for forks in the trail that aren’t on the map, combined with confusing trail markings, in Wisconsin parks. I got a little lost on a solo hike on Friday night and had to make my own trail down to the road before I could figure out where the heck I was!

The trails cover all sorts of landscapes including hardwood and evergreen forests, prairie, and rocky river bluffs:

Of course, the crown jewels of the park are the falls:

There is a parking lot for the falls; but it should be noted that accessibility from the lot is not easy; the trail down to the falls is paved, but it is not tiered, so it is extremely steep. For those with bad knees/hips it might actually be easier to hike in on the Willow Falls (blue) Trail than to walk in from the lot.

From the falls you can hike up to the top of the river bluff (lots of stairs!) on the Burkhardt (pink) trail and catch some pretty sweet views:

Willow River’s other big attraction is the large and pristine beach/picnic area:

There are no pets allowed in the beach/picnic area or on the nearby nature trail, and we had our dog with us, so we didn’t spend much time there, but it seemed really nice!

All in all we had a great experience at Willow River: beautiful scenery, nice campground and good facilities. Maybe best of all, the drive home was only half an hour! If you live in the Twin Cities Metro (or even if you don’t!), this place is worth checking out.

Have you ever been to Willow River State Park? If so what is your favorite part of the park? What about other local State Parks? Which are your favorites? What are you favorite local parks that may not be state parks? What do you enjoy most about our local parks? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Great Sunday Drives: Wisconsin Great River Road

After reading two fairly recent posts on The Heavy Table (Twin Cities Pie Tasting where SPC ran away with the win and a great post about being in Stockholm and what to do) about Stockholm, WI’s Stockholm Pie Company, I decided to surprise The Wife with a nice Sunday drive through Miesville and Red Wing and then down part of Wisconsin’s Great River Road to get some pie. After finally breaking the surprise to The Wife, she provided a slew of information which we could use on our drive to further explore and enjoy it. While I originally had no intention of writing up the pie place as it’s been done many times before, the overall trip was one that is definitely worth your time, regardless of season, and one we both highly recommend you try.

The drive itself is scenic and beautiful. It begins on US-52 and heads through Miesville and into Red Wing before crossing the Mississippi into Wisconsin. The drive through the rolling farm fields of Miesville turns into a bob and dodge through the river bluffs of Red Wing. Crossing the bridge into Wisconsin is wonderful, as is the availability of beer on the forbidden day. Once you’re on the Wisconsin Great River Road, you’re driving through twisting curves with steep and wooded river bluffs on one side and gorgeous Lake Pepin on the other. The vista views available from numerous overlooks and wayside rests may be unparalleled anywhere nearby. A previous trip at sunrise along the road several years ago brought with it a sunrise I will never forget.

The area along highway 35 is steeped in history and a wonderfully done audiobook tour of that history is freely available for you to enjoy while you take the drive. While the trip to Stockholm seemed to roll quickly by even though we were driving the speed limit and making numerous stops to enjoy the sights, without the audiobook the return trip seemed to stretch on forever.

Once we arrived in the tiny town of Stockholm, home to a very large arts festival which draws nearly 9,000 people, we were surprised at just how tiny it was. Home to less than 100 residents, the downtown took up maybe 1/4 of a city block total. There were several restaurants, many kitsch shops, an Inn and even an Amish furniture store. The town appears very dog friendly with several water dishes out and one store having a sign which told you when the resident canine was in. While we enjoyed wandering the shops, the main reason for our visit was to eat the treats available at the Stockholm Pie Company.

Offering 15 or so different pies at a very reasonable $3.50 a slice ($1 more for a single scoop of ice cream), we chose French Silk with ice cream and Coconut Cream along with two sodas and a 6″ cherry pie ($6.80) to take home. We sat at a small counter with red leather stools and spun around a few times before digging in. The coconut cream pie was heavenly. The whipped cream on top was nearly like ice cream itself, not light and fluffy but heavy and tasty. While I am not generally into crusts, this one was flavorful and tasty and I didn’t leave a single little crumb on the plate. The Wife’s French Silk was like none I’ve ever had before. Not light and smooth, this was heavy and dense–almost like fudge. The Wife ate far more of it than I did but gave me the last bite noting that it was just too filling for her to take any more.

On our way home we stopped for some Spotted Cow at a gas station, taking the last six-pack, and headed back through Miesville to stop for lunch at King’s Place. Always a treat, we ordered some fried green beans and two burgers (Miesville Burger for The Wife and some burger with coleslaw, a hot dog, swiss cheese and sweet chili for me). While The Nook still has my vote for best burger in the state, Miesville is definitely worth a visit if you’ve never been and it was certainly a great way to top off a nice Sunday drive.

Have you ever been to Stockholm or any of the other cities along 35 in WI? What do you like best about the Great River Road? Where do you like to eat or shop? What wayside rests or other scenic overlooks do you frequent? Even if you haven’t been there, what other areas do you like to take day trips to? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.