With few options for summer travels in 2020 (thanks, COVID) I did have a lot of fun exploring the quaint gems within my own state during the weekends. While Minnesota isn’t the most exciting of the 50 states, it has a lot to offer in the summer months in terms of outdoor exploration, camping, and other fun activities.
I only went camping once this summer, and it was in Frontenac State Park, about an hour and a half outside the Twin Cities. It’s super convenient for a quick weekend getaway, and by some miracle, the mosquitos weren’t even bad!
Here are the highlights from the weekend in a place I’d highly recommend for either a day trip or camping during the summer!
Camping & Hiking in Frontenac State Park
Frontenac State Park is a gorgeous spot for either a day trip or a weekend of camping and hiking. The campsites are well-maintained with showers and bathrooms, and there’s a decent amount of space between sites so you don’t feel like you’re right next to other groups. There are trails right by the main campsites, as well as many other hiking opportunities nearby like Zumbro Bottoms State Forest, which we also visited during the weekend.
Airbnb in Lake City
Ok, so we didn’t camp the WHOLE weekend. We spent a few nights in an Airbnb in Lake City – this super cute guesthouse on a farm. It was perfect – there was total privacy and a full kitchen for cooking some meals so we didn’t have to go out to eat constantly. Cooking unique meals or things you don’t normally cook during the week is a great way to add some extra enjoyment into a vacation weekend. We made a Cajun-style shrimp boil for dinner one night and it was delicious.
This spot is right in town in Lake City and has both indoor and outdoor seating. The staff is friendly and the menu is huge, there’s something for pretty much any craving here. I had the buffalo chicken salad, which was delicious and a large, filling portion. Mark had a burger, served on toast which was a nice spin.
Red Wing Confectionary
Our first day camping was met with some light rain showers, so instead of trudging around outside, we opted to check out Red Wing a little bit and satisfy a sweet tooth that came up after dinner. The Red Wing Confectionary is a cute candy store right in downtown Red Wing, a town I hadn’t thought about much but was glad we stopped in. It’s super cute and has an idyllic Main Street, with a variety of shops to check out. Definitely try the taffy, my favorite flavor was grape.
Mexican Food at Fiesta Jalisco
Another gem of a restaurant, this place had a great lunch special and a lot of menu choices for fulfilling that craving for Mexican-American (TexMex?) food. And it’s hard to argue with free chips and salsa. This area of Lake City was unfortunately under a lot of construction, which seemed to create almost a ghost-town atmosphere when combined with the COVID pandemic.
Kayaking on Lake Pepin
Lake Pepin is really just a part of the Mississippi River. I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life and heard of Lake Pepin and never knew that until this summer. It’s also known as the “birthplace of waterskiing.” It’s great for swimming, kayaking, or just relaxing on a sandy beach. We entered the water at Beach Park in Wabasha, here there is a picnic shelter with electric plug ins, which made inflating the kayak a whole lot easier. There are also public restrooms and showers and a nice sandy beach.
The Olde Triangle Pub
After kayaking and swimming upstream in hot and humid weather, for some reason I was craving pub food? We found the Olde Triangle Pub right in Wabasha, not far from where we had been kayaking. The service was friendly and they had a bunch of classic Irish pub favorites, great after a day of physical activity. The air conditioning inside was also a nice touch and made eating heavy, hot food delightful.
Frontenac State Park and this area of southeast Minnesota is lovely, and there are so many other places I’d love to visit in this region on a future visit. From wineries to breweries, loads of restaurants and hiking trails, there is a ton to do here in the summertime.