Tag Archives: Minnesota

Rocky’s Pizza House, Park Rapids, MN

Rocky’s Pizza House, Park Rapids, MN

South of Itasca State Park is the little town of Park Rapids.  There are quite a few places to eat in this town.  Some even require reservations.  Rocky’s Pizza House is this long log cabin like building with pizza.  It was delicious pizza, and not that thick crust that you get in the cities.

This is the kind of pizza that you and a friend order together.  You go over to the vending machine, and choose one of the glass bottle drinks that you won’t find at most places.

Varied drinks at Rocky’s Pizza House

You sit at one of the booths or tables.  Generally families head upstairs, so expect noise if you join them.  The upstairs booths are decorated with license plates and other items and the downstairs booths have a clearly different feel.

Booth upstairs at Rocky’s Pizza House
Booth downstairs at Rocky’s Pizza House

Your pizza arrives and the two of you devour the entire thing, because, yum.  It is cheesy just like a remember pizza as a kid.  The sauce is tasty.  The crust is thin enough that you can have more than a piece or two, but not crispy like a cracker which some thin crust pizza’s become.  It is the perfect pizza.

The pizza at Rocky’s Pizza House; look at that cheese

The upstairs looked like a great environment for the kids, so if you have a family they will enjoy it.  The downstairs is perfect for adults that don’t want to deal with all of that excitement.  I would highly recommend putting this on your list if you are just north visiting Lake Itasca, or anywhere in the neighborhood of Park Rapids, MN.

Lutsen Resort on the Superior, Lutsen, MN

Lutsen Resort on the Superior, Lutsen, MN

We didn’t stay at the Lutsen Resort on our trek near Lake Superior, but we did stop in one evening for a meal.  I believe the resort has changed ownership since then so I do not know what has changed.

The view was great, the service was very good, but the food was odd.  The prices are on the higher side, but not extreme.  I ordered fish because we were on Lake Superior and that seemed appropriate.  I don’t know why, but Minnesotans have some sort of inability to properly cook a fish, so that it tastes good.  It is not just this restaurant.  I have had exactly one good fish the entire time I have lived in Minnesota.  I know it isn’t the fish because we used to vacation in Minnesota when I was a kid, and the fish were delicious.  Jon ordered the Swedish meatballs, again, very odd.  A lot of the other items on the menu look really good.  We may have just made the worst choices on the menu.  The flavors were just odd.

View of the Lounge at Lutsen Resort
Front door of Lutsen Resort
Dinning Hall at Lutsen Resort

After dinner we walked around the resort a bit and took in a sunset.  The views at this resort are amazing.  The placement of the resort is perfect for exploring the north shore.

View of peer on Lutsen Resort

The resort has a great beach right in front of it.  You can take your family down and put your foot into Lake Superior.  I am sure you can sun bathe on the beach during the day.

Beach in front of Lutsen Resort dining hall

Overall, I would say, if you have some money to spend, and want an extremely nice resort, on Lake Superior, that reminds you of days gone by, this is the place.  It feels like it is straight out of the fifties or earlier, when families went on a long vacation, and dressed up to go to dinner.  You play hard all day, and return to your room to get cleaned up, before heading downstairs to an elegant meal.  It really is a great atmosphere and an amazing location and view.

Grand Marais Lighthouse, MN

Grand Marais Lighthouse, MN

On Lake Superior at Grand Marais there are actually two lighthouses.  We walked out to one of them.  Viewing the marina is pretty cool with all of the boats and the view of the lake and the city.

June 2016 254 lake superior grand marais

June 2016 255 lake superior grand marais

To get to the lighthouse you park at the harbor and walk behind the U.S. Coastguard building and along a concrete barrier all the way out to the lighthouse.

June 2016 207 lake superior grand marais

The path is wide enough for two people to pass fairly comfortably.  I saw a group of younger children taking the path less traveled along the rocks past the barrier.  They looked like they were having fun.  One was pretending to climb one of the rocks.  It was pretty funny.

June 2016 218 lake superior grand marais

From this tree you can see both lighthouses at the same time.  The one we were walking to is in the middle and way in the back on the left you can barely see the second one.

June 2016 215 lake superior grand marais

As far as lighthouses go neither one of these lighthouses is very impressive.  They are pretty plan structures, but they get the job done.

Here is a picture of the one you can see from the one we walked to.  I assume you could walk to that one too, but the walk cannot be nearly as fun.

June 2016 227 lake superior grand marais

Here is the one that we walked to.  You can climb up the stairs, but I do not think you can go inside or anything.

June 2016 243 lake superior grand marais

Honestly the best part about the walk out to the lighthouse is the view of everything else.  The rocks along the walk are pretty cool and of course the boats.

June 2016 194 lake superior grand marais

If you find yourself in Grand Marais you owe it to yourself to take the walk out to the lighthouse and just take in the lake and the city.  While we were out there a fog rolled through the city.  It was pretty cool to watch.

Mystery Cave, Forestville State Park, Preston, MN

Mystery Cave, Forestville State Park, 21071 Co Hwy 118, Preston, MN 55965

Once you have explored the rest of Forestville State Park or perhaps before make sure you visit Mystery Cave.  Take a tour.

Mystery Cave 17

Grab your jacket because the cave is always about 48 degrees, or something like that.  It is also wet so be prepared for that.  I was dripped upon several times.  You can bring your children, but make sure they are well behaved.  You wouldn’t want to lose one.

Mystery Cave 13

History, a trip through the caves is a trip throw history.  The layers of the cave are made up of sediment from when the oceans used to cover Minnesota.  Let me repeat myself here, the ocean used to cover Minnesota, but not just one time.  You see the ocean recedes for a while and then comes back again over the over again, layer after layer.  We are currently in one of those receding periods.

Mystery Cave 8

There are little bats in the cave, but nothing to worry about.  In fact we are more of a threat to them than they are to us.  Apparently there is some sort of bat disease that is killing the bats.  This is rather unfortunate as these bats eat half their body weight in mosquitoes each night.  Bats are cool.

This cave has stalagmites and stalactites.  Water seeps into the cave and as it drips it creates these formations.  The stalactites are at the top and the stalagmites are on the bottom.

Mystery Cave 11

As the water makes its way down through the cave floor it slowly becomes ground water.  Unfortunately there are so many chemicals on the ground these days that the water isn’t drinkable anymore.  Wrap your head around that for a moment.  We are slowly poisoning our own drinking supplies.

Mystery Cave 14

Now for those with a bit more adventure in them there are crawling tours.  It is just down that corridor.

Mystery Cave 15

I prefer the path more traveled and well lit myself.

Mystery Cave 7

There is a little treat if you want to call it that.  At one point in the tour they turn off all of the lights and you get a sense of what it is like to be unable to see at all.  It isn’t a darkness you have ever known on the surface, not even on the darkest night.

The cave is great.  Plenty of interesting things to see.  You might even get a look at one of those tiny bats.  Pay attention to the tour guide.  The history lesson is worth the time even if your are as much of a scaredy-cat as I am.

Forestville Mystery Cave State Park, Preston, MN

Forestville Mystery Cave State Park, 21071 Co Hwy 118, Preston, MN 55965

Forestville has it all camping, hiking, horseback riding (bring your own, I think), and even a cave.

The park is in two sections.  One section has the main part of the park where you will find the majority of the trails, the fishing area, the old Meighen Store, and fishing.  This is a great place to catch a trout apparently.

Forestville State Park 40

The Meighen store is across the bridge that is out, pedestrians only these days.  Plenty of people try their had at fishing along the stream that runs under that bridge.  Take a look around.

Forestville State Park 51

There is a pretty good trail just across the bridge.  It will get your heart racing if you take it very far, but the view from the lookout is nice.  Most of the trails seem to be both hiking and horses so watch your step.

Forestville State Park 16

You can rent a cabin and stay in the park.  Take a few days and enjoy as much of the park as you can.  It is a rather large park.  We explored a good portion of two days.

Forestville State Park 64

When you have your fill of the main area of the park you can head over to the gem of the park Mystery Cave.  Yes, the cave has bats, but they are cute little bats that eat the mosquitoes in the area which is great.

Mystery Cave 7

I highly suggest checking out Mystery Cave.  Take a tour.  Reserve your spot.  Enjoy the dark and most importantly the trip through time.

Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan, MN

Lebanon Hill Regional Park, 860 Cliff Road, Eagan, MN 55123

I have found 3 entrances to this park.  The first is straight down (south) Lexington Avenue, you can’t miss it.  Literally, it is the end the Lexington Avenue.  The next is along Pilot Knob just south of Cliff road.  The 3rd is along Cliff road past Lexington Avenue.

Lebenon Hills visitor center

I like the 3rd entrance.  It is near the visitor center which is nice.  The roof is interesting.  I have seen people swimming in the lake near the visitor center.  I do not think there is a life guard, but have a great time.

Lebenon Hills 1Lebenon 05.29.2016 015

In the city of Eagan Lebanon Hills is the best park for trail walking or riding.  You can hike.  You can ride bikes.  You can ride horses.  There are even winter activities is you are that sort.

Lebenon Hills 7

It can get a bit muddy at times, but overall these trails are pretty nice.  You might find a friendly frog along the way.  There is plenty of water to view..  You might stop at one of the picnic tables along the trail.  These trails are also the best marked trails in Minnesota as far as I can tell.

Lebenon April 2015 12

If you need to get in a couple of miles or even longer this is the park for you.  The is plenty to do next to edges as well.  I often see people fishing, both ice fishing and regular fishing.  Personally I just like to watch the ducks.

Lebanon Hills 2014 (10)

Alexis Bailly Vineyard

Alexis Bailly Vineyard – 18200 Kirby Ave So., Hastings, MN 55033

Alexis Bailly Vineyard, it was the best of atmospheres, it was the worst of wines.

grapevines outside of Alexis Bailly

The Alexis Bailly Vineyard will draw you in between the vines being right there, close enough to touch, to the tasting area, and the outdoor area where you can sit and drink.  I wanted to bring a basket of crackers and cheeses and make a picnic and enjoy wine at this vineyard.  Of all of the Minnesota vineyards this one feels like a real vineyard and winery.

wine equipment Alexis Bailly

Unfortunately I cannot say the same about the wine.  I will put in a disclaimer that the winery had just passed to the daughter and she did not seem to care about the wine as much as would be expected.  It is possible that she simply was a bit overwhelmed.  I did not taste a single wine during my visit that I wanted to drink more of or purchase.  That being said I am not sure if the wine has improved since then.  Sometimes people have a bad year and it takes time to figure out exactly what you are doing.

wine casks and portrait at Alexis Bailly

The wines feature a Frontenac grape which was developed by the U of M to withstand Minnesota winters.  Hardier does not always translate to a great tasting grape and part of my issue was probably this particular grape in their wine.

It looks like they may have won an award with one of their wines back in 2014 which had the Frontenac grape in it so somebody must like it.

rock chair at Alexis Bailly

If you want to enjoy a beautiful winery, see the grapes, sample some wines, and maybe sit back and take in the vineyard I would suggest going to this winery once.  Maybe the wine will not disappoint you.  It just was not for my pallet.

Silver Bell Diner

Silver Bell Diner – 1981 Silver Bell Rd, Eagan, MN 55122

When I think of a diner Silver Bell Diner is the exact style of restaurant that comes to mind.  Checkered floor, jukebox in the middle, and those chairs and booths.  Don’t forget the stools up front for those single diners or the kid that just wants a malt or shake.

Jukebox, records on the wall, checkered floor, and a blue chair.

I love the old advertisements on the wall and the records.

Strawberry Malt with a wafer and cherry on top.

I general go to this place shortly before close which is early to me, but normal for Minnesotans.  It is never packed at this time.  I hope this means that they do more business at breakfast and lunch time.  Their breakfast menu looks super tasty and is served all day.

They offer an assortment of burgers.  The meat is pretty good and the toppings make sense.  They offer a burger of the month.

Hamburger and fries on a plate

I have eaten my way through a good portion of their dinner menu and everything tasted just right.  I think they may have traded cooks since their open because they changed their menu and the food is a little bit better than when they started.  They offer daily specials.

I am kind of stuck on their tuna melt and cheese curds as my preferred menu item.  I had never tried a tuna melt before, but they are pretty darn good.

Tuna melt, cheese curds, and 2 pickle chips on a plate.

If you have room when you finish your meal they have homemade pies.  I have taken a slice home on occasion and their desserts are amazing.

You can find their menu on their Facebook page.  I would put their prices exactly right for what you are getting and overall not expensive.   They are priced at a level that you could probably eat at pretty often.

If you are looking for normal, American, feel good food or if you just want a shake or slice of pie I highly suggest this little gem of a diner on Silver Bell.  Go to the new mall and then stop in here for lunch.