Road trip suggestions

Everyone on PDD seems to give great suggestions/ideas, so what are the best “little” towns to visit in either Minnesota or Wisconsin? A few friends and I are planning a road trip, but are completely okay with not hitting up the Twin Cities and Madison/Milwaukee. Love big cities, but we’ve been to them so much that we’d prefer something different. Any cool roadside attractions?



about 14 years ago

My family took a tour to Door County when I was younger.  What I really remember of it was the Von Stiehl Winery in Algoma, WI.

I've had a few friends lately take the Leinenkugel's tour in Chippewa Falls, WI and from the pictures it looks like they enjoyed it.

You can also check out


about 14 years ago

We were also just over in the Porcupine Mountains in MI, and Houghton / Hancock are awesome little towns, and a drive up to Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keewenaw Peninsula is lovely.
The rest area just West of Ashland on the way over there is pretty cool too.

Or here's one of those controversial advertising agency-type suggestions:
The Scenic Scenic route to Grand Marais is a lovely, interesting trip.


about 14 years ago

The "coolest" small town in America is Ely, as voted by Budget Travel mag.  It's a really fun place to visit, whatever the season.  Kinda has something for everyone.  You could do a circle tour, too, and go up the shore through Two Harbors, and then go north on hwy 1.  Return trip through either Tower (Beirut!) or Aurora (too bad the Whistling Bird isn't open any longer) or even Hibbing, depending on what you wanted to see.  Have fun, I love road trips!

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

Bayfield and Madeline Island are obvious options.

No Good Bum

about 14 years ago

I heard House on the Rock in Wisconsin is pretty cool. I believe it's close to Wisconsin Dells or Madison area. Wisconsin Dells, though touristy at this time of year, is quite a trip to visit as well.  
I also second the Door County area.


about 14 years ago

Don't tell anyone, but if I had a yard to pitch my tent, I'd spend a weekend in Finland. Again, don't tell anyone, they don't want to become an Ely or something. You could test it out on your way to Ely. Otherwise, I've heard St. Cloud is lovely this time of year. (Heh.)

Dr. Ronald Chevalier

about 14 years ago

Drive through Door County, Wisconsin for a view of goats herding on grass rooftops.


about 14 years ago

I love the driftless region of MN/WI. Vernon County Wisconsin has got to be one of the prettiest areas to drive through. Lack of glaciation during the last ice age has left this area looking completely different than the rest of the upper midwest. Also it is an epicenter of the local foods/small farm movement. The biggest city in the region is La Crosee, but if you're looking for small towns with arts and culture, there is a lot to be found. Viroqa in particular is a great little town. As is Lanesboro.


about 14 years ago

You could try the Iron Range. There are several small towns right in a row for like 90 miles... but they're not your typical Anywhere, USA towns. There cool architecture, like in Duluth,  and lots of nifty main streets. The best part though is all of the open-pit mine overlooks.


about 14 years ago

My friend owns a brewery in Amherst, wi.  Central Waters Brewery.  Scrumptious stuff.


about 14 years ago

I'd think you'd love taking a drive up the Keewenaw Penninsula of Michigan.  It is absolutely beautiful, remote and rugged.  There are some good roadside attractions along the way too.  Go all the way to the end at Copper Harbor, but don't forget a side trip into the once grand but largely abandoned town of Calumet, with some really cool architecture.  Another highlight is the town of Gay, which isn't really much of a town, but has the aptly named "Gay Bar" as its mainstay.  Go in, order a white russian and put some Elton John on the jukebox.  The locals will love you.  Finally, the beach and stunning coast by Bette de Gris is a nice place to cool off in the lake or get some sun.  Just my 2 cents worth...

M Clinton

about 14 years ago

I would check out what small town festivals are going on nearby.  Some of these little tiny knock about places have the coolest people and greatest community spirit and pride, but one would not ordinarily see that just driving through.  However, the one summer festival weekend becomes like a "home coming" of sorts and ALL of the characters come out of the woodwork.  They can be a real blast! (especially if you hit a good beer garden!)

Bad Cat!

about 14 years ago

I like Stillwater & Ashland.


about 14 years ago

Grand Marais, Minnesota and Bayfield, Wisconsin are classics.


about 14 years ago

Go west on Hwy 2 to Grand Rapids, (stop at the Forest History Center on the Mississippi) then north on Scenic Highway 38 to Marcel and Bigfork and Effie then east on Highway 1 and wind your way back through the range.  The Effie Bar is a must stop and the hike through the old growth pines in Scenic State Park (near Bigfork) is just amazing. While there check out the Antler Lodge and sit at the table under the moose to have a burger. If you really want to get wild check out the Lost 40, an area that was not mapped and therefore never got logged.  Then you will have really had a wilderness experience. There are 1007 lakes in Itasca County so take your kayak.


about 14 years ago

The Marais, definitely.

If you want to throw a bit of money toward a trip, and have some time to kill, I'd suggest checking out Rock Harbor or Windigo on Isle Royale. You'd take the Voyageur ferry out of Grand Portage for a two hour trip (to Windigo) or an 8 hour trip (to Rock Harbor). It's worth a weekend camp if you're into that sort of thing (tent, shelter, or the Lodge @ Rock Harbor).

It's pretty rugged if you backpack it. It's a National Park, and they do have quite a few regulations that are intended to preserve the character and integrity of the island.

Trust me, it's well worth the investment.


about 14 years ago

The UP is amazing.  We are sitting out a trip there this week with a group due to just having a baby but it has lots of fun little towns to explore all along it.

Wes Scott

about 14 years ago

The Keeweenaw is the new North shore! 
All the way to Copper Harbor on M-26.


about 14 years ago

I second Stillwater, Bayfield and Madeline Island!  St Cloud too, it falls more in the "big city" catagory, but I love it there!


about 14 years ago

Like others, I love Bayfield, Door County, and the UP.

If you go to Keweenaw, you could extend the trip by going to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising.

I also like SE Minnesota -- Red Wing and Lake City.


about 14 years ago

I am a relocated Yooper and my husband, kids and I rented a small cottage near the Porcupine Mtns for a couple days. It was right on Lake Superior and about a 15-20 minute drive from PM. If you are into hiking there are tons of trails and some are very long. 

Houghton/Hancock and the Keeweenaw are worth a trip as well.  In Houghton there is a local brewery, Keeweenaw Brewing Company

I recommend the Pick Axe Blonde Ale. 

Cool restaurant in Calumet 
Michigan House Cafe and Brew Pub

As a new Minnesotan I am looking forward to doing some of the MN road trips people have recommended.


about 14 years ago

Going to have to agree with a lot of the comments and say the U.P. definitely. I make it a point to visit at least once a year. Well worth it, for sure.


about 14 years ago

I have to agree with Jude about the Antler Lodge. I've never seen more awe-inspiring taxidermy.


about 14 years ago

I also recommend Trempealeau, Wisconsin. It's tiny, but there's a cool old historic hotel there right on the river, and the views of the river bluffs are beautiful. There's a nice state park there, and the nearby road biking is just fantastic.

Displaced Wisconsinite

about 14 years ago

OK, I live here so of course I'm going to sound jilted.  Bayfield is swarmed with tourists and way overated.  Unless you're into going in and out of tourist traps/shoppes I don't know what people do here.  I will admit that the deck at the Bayfield Inn is the BEST spot to have a cocktail and watch the boats go in and out.  I was on the Island this past weekend and again, shoppes or drinking are the main activities.  Unless you bring or rent bikes and get all aerobic riding around the island.  

Now a drinking trip around the horn can be fun.  You can hit all of the little bars on your way (with a designated driver of course!).  Heading over from Duluth take the Highway 13 exit off of 2 and head through Port Wing, Herbster, Corny and then go south on C into Washburn.  Check out the most fabulous bakery in the world, Coco's and keep heading north into Bayfield.  Kind of a wagon trail right now through Red Cliff due to road construction but you can try your luck at the casino and then loop back to Corny.  Fabulous whitefish sliders at the Village Inn but be sure to sit in the bar and not the other side.  That's an annual for me.  

I also vote for the UP.  I love tooling around up there.  Did the Porkies over the July 4th weekend and was eaten alive by flies but love that place.  Go check out Iron Mountain and the fabulous Italian food there.  There are so many Forest Service campgrounds tucked into little lakes that you can't lose.


about 14 years ago

The North Shore of Lake Superior.  The Train Museum in Duluth, Lake County Historical Society,Two Harbors Lighthouse, the Edna G (tugboat) in Two Harbors, take your picture with the rooster as you enter town,  Up the shore - Gosseberry Falls- spectacular - most visited State Park - you'll see why!, further north a few miles- Split Rock Lighthouse- one of the most visited lighthouse in the country- excellent short film of when it was built - travel north - Silver Bay Marina, on to Tettagouche State Park -excellent hiking and vistas, then Grand Marais -great shore town -visit Ole and Lena's for their pizza-   Grand Portage and the fort and if you have your passport go on to Fort William in Thunder Bay.  Before crossing the border stop at Mt. Josephine lookout and see the Sleeping Giant in Lake Superior ( Sibley Provincial Park 40 miles north of Thunder Bay) If you go north of Thunder Bay take in Kakabeka Falls - the Niagra Falls of the Midwest.  There are countless other sights along the way.  If you do it I'll be jealous - never tire of the beauty of the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Dave Sorensen

about 14 years ago

* I second the Porcupine Mountains. My favorite spot there is the Escarpment Trail at Lake of the Clouds.
* I also agree that the driftless region is charming. 
* And I agree the House on the Rock is "something to see"- a bizarre, hallucinatory counterpoint to whatever else you're doing on your trip. Half museum, half spook-house.


about 14 years ago

Head on over Darwin, MN to gaze upon the splendor that is The World's Biggest Twine Ball!

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