The Very Best of Minnesota

The Very Best of Minnesota

Minnesota – the land of 10,000+ lakes and more


I’ve called Minnesota home for 25 years, and here are a few must-see-and-do experiences from a local’s perspective. All destinations are appropriate for most ages except where noted, and all accessible by vehicles.

Mall of America offers more than shopping

MOA Escalators

If you‘re a first-timer, the Mall of America (or MOA as we locals call it) can be daunting and overwhelming as the 5.6 million-square-foot mall features more than 500 stores. Located in Bloomington, Minn., it’s only a few miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

Nickelodean Universe Dora Ferris Wheel


Then there’s this seven-acre amusement park in the center – Nickelodean Universe – the largest indoor theme park in the U.S. In all, the Mall of America features 27 rides and attractions, including the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium.

How to get there: It’s drivable and offers plenty of parking. Or you can take the blue line on the light rail from Minneapolis or the MSP Airport.


Go jump into one of the 10,000+ lakes

Lake Marion Geese


With 11,842 lakes, you’ll never be at a loss on water activities from fishing to boating to paddleboarding to tubing to swimming. Here are few popular lake destinations.

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park – Located right in Minneapolis; this park includes Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet, with trails connecting them.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area – Looking for a place to completely unplug? This is the place. Located in the northern part of Minnesota, this wilderness area covers more than one million acres and features 1,200 miles of canoe routes and 12 hiking trails. This is a fairly rugged area so probably not suitable for younger children.

Lake Minnetonka – At more than 14,000 square feet, this is the largest lake in the Twin Cities metropolitan area that boasts fun activities for the entire family.

Lake Mille Lacs – a popular family vacation destination, it’s one of the state’s largest lakes where you can enjoy activities year-round


Miles and miles of bike and hiking trails



Minnesota offers 4,000 miles of paved bike trails with many created from former railroad beds in scenic areas. Check this rails-to-trails site for locations, trail terrain, length and reviews. Hiking trails are also quite abundant with various degrees of difficulty – from paved paths to steep rocky climbs. Check this site for details on everything from easy daytrips to multi-day backpacking adventures. These resources are also good in determining age-appropriateness.


Stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Spoon and Cherry


The iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture is just one of the many works of arts you’ll find at the Minneapolis Sculpture GardenDownload the interactive self-guided tour experience.


Take a nature break at Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls


One of Minneapolis’ oldest parks features the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls waterfall right in the heart of the Twin Cities. And if visiting late spring to early fall, be sure to stop at the nearby Sea Salt Eatery, one of my favorite al fresco restaurants.


Take the scenic drive along the North Shore to Gooseberry Falls

Gooseberry Falls

If you love waterfalls, take a three-hour drive north of the cities along Lake Superior and visit the beautiful Gooseberry Falls. The whole family can enjoy an easy hike on a paved trail around the falls top to bottom.


Tour the historic Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse


Drive seven miles north of Gooseberry Falls to tour the beautiful and historical Split Rock Lighthouse that sits above Lake Superior in Two Harbors, Minn. If you don’t mind stairs (there’s a lot of them), you can check out the lighthouse from the shores of Lake Superior. Take caution especially with small children as it is very rocky and can become dangerous during inclement weather.


Lutsen Mountains offers year-round activities

Lutsen Gondola


Take a scenic road trip another 45 miles north on the North Shore and visit Lutsen Mountains. This area offers year-round activities including hiking trails, a gondola ride, alpine slide and skiing. The gondola ride is especially incredible during leaf-peeping season.


Duluth – the gateway to Lake Superior

Aerial Lift Bridge Night


I could write an entire blog series on all the great things to experience in Duluth, one of my favorite places in Minnesota. My son attends the University of Minnesota-Duluth (Go Bulldogs!) so we visit often (about a 2.5-hour drive from the Twin Cities – depending on weather and construction, of course).

Here’s an abbreviated list of things to do in Duluth.

  • Lake Superior Lakewalk and Boardwalk – a paved 7.5-mile trail where you can enjoy lake views, shopping and restaurants; and can walk up to the harbor lighthouse during the summer
  • Aerial lift bridge – Duluth’s most famous landmark – stay long enough to watch it rise to let boats and even ships through (here’s a ship schedule)
  • Glensheen Mansion tour – this historic two-acre estate overlooks Lake Superior and features gardens, bridges, and a 39-room mansion
  • Great Lakes Aquarium – features animals and habitats found within the Great Lakes Basin as well as animals from other freshwater ecosystems such as the Amazon River
  • Scenic drives – Duluth offers several beautiful drives in the area
  • Brewery tours (21+) – if you’re a fan of craft beer, check out one or more of their local brewery tours
  • Bentleyville Tour of Lights – America’s largest free walk-through lighting display during the winter holiday season


Take a family day at the Science Museum of Minnesota

Science Museum Girls


The Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul is one of our favorite places to visit especially when my two young nieces visit (elementary school), but we adults also love it.


Minnesota Zoo – from tigers to exotic fish to butterflies

Butterfly Garden


Open 365 days a year, the Minnesota Zoo is a fun family destination. And while the zoo features many animals, birds and sealife from around the world, my favorite is the Butterfly Garden. Another endearing exhibit is Farm Babies, open March 22 through April 30 – so much cuteness! The Minnesota Zoo is also a great way to eliminate cabin fever during the winter months.
These are just a few of my favorite things to experience in Minnesota, and is not an exhaustive list. For more amazing destinations, refer to Explore Minnesota – a great resource to discover Minnesota.




Bio: Karen Mellott-Foshier (aka kmf)


A former hockey mom midway through my third year as an emptynester, I recently resigned from corporate life after 25+ years as a journalist, corporate communications manager, writer, and editor. I’m excited to focus my energy on two of my passions – writing and traveling – and sharing travel tips and destination inspirations for emptynester, family, solo, and girlfriend getaways.

Would love to connect with you on social. Here’s where you can find me


Karen Minnesota looks BEAUTIFUL! I would love to visit when the leaves are changing! Thank you for sharing with us!

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The Very Best of Maine

A Trip to Maine Vacationland

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Image: Sebago Lake, Maine

I was born and raised in Maine. Though I have had the pleasure to visit other states over my life time, Maine will always feel like home to me. Maine is nicknamed vacationland because it offers such a variety of options when planning a vacation.
Maine is a beautiful state made up of 16 counties each offering something special. They don’t call it Maine Vacationland for nothing. With such a variety of offerings there is always something for everyone. There are a variety of scenic options including beautiful spots for activities in all seasons. Water to swim or boat in in the summer, Mountains to climb, trails to hike and snowshoe or Ski slopes and snow mobile trails for the winter.

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Image: Bethel, Main

When you look at the already existing lists on the internet there are several places that are repeatedly mentioned in every list. The top places mentioned are Portland, Kennebunkport, Rockland, Camden, Acadia National  Baxter State Park, Mt Desert Island, Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, OldPark, Orchard Beach, Castine and Ogunquit.

The Best way to take in the bulk of these top towns is by traveling on the Eastern part of the state along the coast on U.S. Route 1. Starting in the Southern part of the state If you like window shopping check out Kittery Trading Post and the Kittery shopping outlets. Heading over to Kennebunkport take in the view at Walkers Point and Ocean Avenue or Saint Anne’s Church. Then stop for a bite at The Clam Shack or go on the Rugosa Lobster Tours. If you want to stay a few days than Kennebunk has plenty of inns or even opt to stay in nature at Sandy Pines Campground.
Continue your travel along to the Nubble Lighthouse in York. Be sure to take the kids to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom. Continuing along the coastal beach tour stop in to explore Ogunquit. Along the coast there are so many beautiful ocean beaches to explore. Stop in at Wells, Kennebunk or Old Orchard Beach.

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Photo @ Wells Beach Maine

Old Orchard Beach is very family friendly. When visiting Old Orchard Beach parking can be difficult and we have had the experience of seagulls stealing our food.

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Though that was quite entertaining for us not everyone will think so. It is very much worth the stop in our opinion. Continuing a beach tour stop in to visit the beaches in Saco, or if you prefer an amusement or water park check out Fun Town Splash Town.

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Then when you get back on the road travel to Scarborough, South Portland and Portland there are endless sights to see in the Portland area. Depending on your interests check out Peaks Island, Portland Museum of Art, Victoria Mansion, Portland headlight. Allagash Brewery, the Old Port. If you are looking for a kid friendly stop check out the Children’s Museum. Along the lines of historic places visit the home of poet and author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
There is also Casco Bay and Casco Bay Islands. I explored the Fort Allen Park one winter day in 2015. It was beautiful and worth a stop if you are in the area.

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Fort Allen Park, Portland Maine

When in Portland Bam Bam Bakery is a must stop if you have a family member with a food allergy. Continuing up the coast there are more spots to mention than I have time for in one blog post.
I want to tell you about our Favorite spot in the state. My husband and I like to head to the Northwestern section of Maine. We often stay in Greenville on the Moosehead lake area. I had my first trip up there as a teenager in the early 80’s. My oldest daughter has made this an almost annual trip with her children. We used to routinely camp at Casey’s Spencer Bay Camps and were saddened when they stopped operating. Lily Bay State Park, is a place I have visited and is a great family friendly campground. Seboomac Wilderness Campground is another great option. We stayed there for the first-time last year. They have many family friendly events and the campground was a relaxing and fun place to visit.

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Photo Moosehead Lake @ Seboomac Wilderness Campground

Ironically in looking back through memories we discovered that this campground was the first one I ever camped at though it was under different ownership in the 80s. This will be our new favorite campground on our annual camping vacation.

This is just a sampling of our state. To find more information check out these sites…

26 of Maine’s most beautiful places (to see before you die)

About the author:
Laurie Harmon. Laurie is a stay at home mom and Grammy of many. Blogger at I love to share posts about simplifying life, saving money, spending more time with family.
You can find me at:


Laurie thank you for sharing Maine with us! It looks like a beautiful state!


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The Very Best of South Carolina Part 2 of 2

If you’re looking for a state with southern charm, beaches, and fun, then you will love South Carolina. I moved to the state when I was in elementary school, and I haven’t looked back since. Considering I grew up near the beach, all of my recommendations are of coastal cities to visit. When you’re looking for a seaside getaway, here are my favorite coastal towns to visit in SC:

Myrtle Beach

Resize_Body_12_Myrtle_Beach_650x450_0f2e25e5-5955-4248-8b92-985d8832d189Picture from

Did you think I would make a list without including my hometown? Myrtle Beach is a major tourist town, and people come from all over the U.S. to visit. The city is famous for its beaches and golf courses, so it’s a staple tourist location for many East Coasters. When you’re heading to Myrtle Beach, the first thing I recommend to do is to visit the beach.

Depending on where you’re staying, it’s best to park your car where you see a public beach parking lot. Myrtle Beach used to offer free parking near the beach, but now beachfront access parking lots feature meters that cost around $2/hr for parking. Once you purchase your parking, head to the ocean and take in the sun.

After the beach, walk down the boardwalk to view a variety of tourist shops. You can tell Myrtle Beach is a beachside tourist town, but it’s fun to explore if you’ve never been. Afterwards, make sure to go to the Sky Wheel. The Sky Wheel is a giant ferris wheel facing the beach that has panoramic views of the ocean. This is a great family friendly attraction to see. Tickets are $14 for adults and $9 for children.

Murrells Inlet


Photo featured on Murrells Inlet’s website.

Next on the list is Murrells Inlet, which is about 30 to 40 minutes outside of Myrtle Beach. The town is known for its marshes and seafood. The first thing I recommend doing in Murrells Inlet is walking down the Marsh Walk. There are many restaurants along the Marsh Walk, so you can easily find parking nearby for free. Once you’ve parked, take in the views of the walk, and maybe even stop by a waterfront dining restaurant for some freshly caught seafood.

Next on the list is South Carolina’s Huntington Beach State Park located in Murrells Inlet. The park is a great family activity. I suggest parking at the park, and then walking around to explore the outdoors. Admission is only $5 for adults and $3 for children, so it’s very affordable. While you’re at the park, there are many activities to take part in such as walking and hiking trails, swimming at the beach, fishing, and bird watching.

Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park in SCPhoto of Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park taken from

However, one of the best features of the park is Atalaya Castle. Atalaya features the ruins of Archer M. Huntington and his wife’s winter home that had over 30 rooms. Even though none of the rooms are furnished or decorated, the ruins are still so it’s worth checking out if you plan on visiting the park, especially since admission into the castle is only $2!

Pawleys Island


Photo from

A little bit outside of Murrells Inlet is the beautiful town of Pawleys Island. Even though I’m from Myrtle Beach, I actually prefer Pawleys Island because it has beautiful mossy trees and less crowded beaches. As you’re driving down SC’s coast, stop make sure to stop by Pawley’s Hammock Shop Village. The Village has a bunch of one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants to scope out, including Pawley’s original Hammock Shop, which was opened in the 1800s.




About an hour and a half away is Charleston, SC. I may be a little biased, but Charleston is hands down my favorite city in the state, maybe even in the entire U.S. I went to College of Charleston, which is in the middle of historic downtown, and it’s consistently ranked among the most beautiful colleges in the U.S. If you love mossy trees, southern food, and history, then Charleston is the city for you. When visiting the city, here is my go-to list of places to check out:

South of Broad and The Battery


The Battery in Charleston, SC, photo by Willie Harper

When you think of Charleston, images of historic homes from the 1700 and 1800’s probably come to mind. If this is the type of Charleston you want to explore, then you need to start your trip South of Broad and head to the Battery. You can easily drive through the area, however I suggest parking your car for free near the Battery. Part of the experience of being in Charleston is walking down the cobblestone roads while taking in the views of the water and historic mansions.


Rainbow Row photo by Presley Leopard

As you walk through the Battery, make sure to stop by Charleston’s Rainbow Row. Rainbow Row is on East Bay Street and is comprised of 13 brightly colored homes that were first built in 1740. It wasn’t until 1931 that all of the homes were purchased and painted the assortment of colors that you see today. You can’t tour the insides of any of the homes, but they’re the perfect setting for a photo.

After checking out Rainbow Row, you should head toward Tradd Street. Tradd Street features a variety of historic homes, which makes it ideal for a walking tour. It’s hard to have a favorite when each home is unique. Tradd Street has that quintessential southern charm, and it was even featured in scenes from the movie “The Patriot.”


French Quarter and the Market

Charleston City Market, picture from Traveler of Charleston

Once you’ve taken in the South of Broad area, you should make your way to Charleston’s French Quarter and Market. You can access the area by car, but I suggest walking again. Charleston is a very walking friendly city, and it’s often difficult to find parking for free, so if you don’t mind, explore the area by foot. The French Quarter is where you may have the most trouble walking through the cobblestone streets, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. (Side note: If you trip, don’t worry, we’ve all been there before!) As you walk through the French Quarter, make sure you’re heading north to Market Street.

IMG_1445Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits, photo from Basil and Bubbly

Once you’re at Market Street, go into Charleston’s City Market. The Market is typically open from 9:30am-6pm everyday and features a variety of local vendors. If you’re looking to take home a handcrafted souvenir like a sweetgrass basket, then this is the place to find it. Charleston’s City Market has been around since the 1790’s, so it’s a well known part of the city. The Market also features Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, which is a Charlestonian favorite. Even if you’re not hungry, make sure to grab a box for later. I recommend ordering Callie’s 3 biscuit box with a blackberry, cinnamon, and cheese and chive biscuit.

Nearby Charleston Beaches

IMG_8348Photo of Folly Beach, SC taken from Charleston Magazine.

Charleston is also nearby many incredible beaches. It’s hard to pick one to recommend since each one is special in its own way. If you want a more laid back, bohemian beach vibe, then I suggest going to Folly Beach. Folly is a popular place for surfers and locals because it’s more casual compared to the other beaches.


Picture of Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island from the blog Magnolia & Main.

Another great nearby beach is Sullivan’s Island. Sullivan’s is perfect for paddleboarding, and if you’re an Edgar Allan Poe fan, then you must dine at Poe’s Tavern on the island. The restaurant has themed burgers based on Poe’s popular stories, such as the Raven, Tell-Tale Heart, Pit and the Pendulum, and Annabel Lee.


The Angel Oak Tree on John’s Island, as featured on the Angel Oak website.

When you’re looking for an island with gorgeous scenic mossy tree views, I suggest heading to Wadmalaw or John’s Island. John’s Island is the home of the Angel Oak Tree. According to the Angel Oak website, the tree is over “400-500 years old, stands 66.5 ft tall, measures 28 ft in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet.” It’s a must see for nature lovers.


Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, as seen on Thrillist.

Wadmalaw Island is perfect for individuals that want to tour a SC plantation. The island offers tours of its Charleston Tea Plantation, which produces Bigelow Tea. I recommend the trolley tour because it takes you all over the plantation and only it takes about 40 minutes. During the spring and summer, this is the best option because Charleston can get very hot. The tours are $14 for adults and $6 for kids.

After you’ve visited the plantation, drive over to Deep Water Vineyard and Firefly Distillery to try some of SC’s homegrown wine and spirits. At Deep Water, self-guided tours are $7 and come with a complimentary wine tasting and wine glass. You can’t go wrong taking in the sunshine while sipping on a drink!

Hilton Head Island


Picture from The Crazy Crab of Harbour Town Marina and Lighthouse

Farther down the SC coast is Hilton Head Island, home to the Harbour Town Lighthouse in Sea Pines Resort’s Harbour Town Marina. When you head to Hilton Head, I suggest parking by the Marina, then walking around the area so you can take in the shops and restaurants. Next, go to the Harbour Town Lighthouse and walk to the top. There are over 100 steps to the top, but along the way you can view pictures of the lighthouse’s history. For only $4.50, the views of Hilton Head from the top of the lighthouse are well worth it.

Daufuskie Island

IMG_6926Daufuskie Island picture by Michael Harding

Once you’re finished touring Hilton Head Island, head over to Daufuskie Island. At the foot of the Hilton Head bridge is Buckingham Landing where the ferry to Daufuskie leaves. Tickets are $17.50 each way. While visiting Daufuskie, you’ll need to rent some form of land transportation such as a bike or golf cart. The island doesn’t have sidewalks, so it’s not walking friendly, but you can easily find rentals on the island through the Daufuskie Island Ferry website. You may be concerned since no cars are on the island, however it actually makes your trip more peaceful and quiet. Also, when you’re on the island, make sure you tour the historic lighthouse, peruse the unique shops, and swim at the beach. Daufuskie is a beautiful island you won’t want to miss!

After reading this list, I hope you’ll be inspired to visit SC’s coastal towns. Whether you’re looking to travel solo, with a family, or on a girls trip, SC has something to offer everybody. It’s a great state, and I have no doubt that you will be overwhelmed by the southern hospitality and beautiful beaches! If you have any questions about any of the information I included, or about traveling in SC, feel free to contact me via the links below. I look forward to seeing what you all think of SC’s attractions in the comments 🙂









Bio: Presley is a lifestyle blogger for the website Adulting Queen, which is focused on empowering women all over the world as they struggle with the pressures of adulthood. She currently resides in Myrtle Beach, SC with her family and two cats.


Presley I think I have fallen in love with South Carolina! Oh my gosh, the beautiful tree’s and beaches! What more could you ask for!

Funny story about tree’s when my husband and I first started dating we were on our way to our son’s baseball game and I noticed a really pretty tree and was like HEY LOOK we should come back here and take some photo’s by this pretty tree. So we sit down and started watching the baseball game and then my husband said something about how the clouds looked puffy and good for photo’s so we always joke that he is the cloud finder and I am the tree finder.

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