A honeymoon can whisk newlyweds to exotic places across the globe. But with Minnesota’s sparkling lakes and tumbling rivers, hilltops covered in a blaze of fall color, whispering pine forests and snowy landscapes, couples quickly realize they need not look beyond the state’s borders to find a romantic escape.
End of the Trail: Gunflint Trail & the Boundary Waters
The Gunflint Trail carries couples to seclusion and serenity in nature. The daring can undertake a canoe or backpacking trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, 1,703 square miles of wilderness and glassy lakes, wildlife such as foxes and moose, and sometimes the Northern lights against a star-speckled sky. Seagull Canoe Outfitters or Way of the Wilderness Canoe Outfitters equips adventurers for their journey.
Those who prefer to curl up in a cozy cabin will find no view more breathtaking than from the porch of Gunflint Lodge, which overlooks Gunflint Lake and the Canadian border. “Gunflint Lodge has been hosting guests for 88 years now,” says desk manager Dave Schudy. “Cabins are top-notch, there’s great food, lots of wildlife and one of the nicest views of the Arrowhead region.” The lodge offers four- to seven-night honeymoon packages in suites featuring fireplaces and hot tubs. It also has enough activities to keep newlyweds on the move for days: horseback riding, boating, canoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, dog sledding. After all that exertion, they can return and choose from extensive menus in the wood-paneled dining room and bar.
The North Shore: Lutsen & Grand Marais
The North Shore spans nearly 150 miles, and Lake Superior’s shimmering waters, edged by wildflowers in the summer, crashing waves in the winter, define enchantment.
At Bluefin Bay, “the views and proximity to Lake Superior are in and of themselves romantic. The backdrop can’t be beat for the perfect North Shore honeymoon,” says marketing director Lori Schaefer. The lakeside resort’s customized honeymoon packages feature a stay in a luxury suite, and couples can enjoy side-by-side massages at Waves of Superior Spa, dine at the sophisticated Bluefin Grille or have a private picnic with a keepsake basket.
Set one mile back from the shore, Caribou Highlands Lodge is nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains. In winter months the snowcapped ridges become a playground for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and gondola rides.
Grand Marais perches on the harbor just a half-hour north. While away a delightful afternoon with an organic fresh-catch meal at Angry Trout Cafe, followed by browsing work by local artists, enjoying a sweet treat from World’s Best Doughnuts, and a signature cocktail and live music on the rooftop of Gun Flint Tavern.
Portside Pastimes: Duluth
Just three hours from the Twin Cities, Duluth boasts a distinct vibe, with a charming downtown and ships passing under the Aerial Lift Bridge. The rotating JJ Astor Restaurant atop the Radisson offers 360-degree views. Canal Park is filled with other waterfront dining options, like Pickwick Restaurant & Pub, known since 1914 for its char-grilled steaks and old-fashioned cocktails. Craft beer tastings are just up the street at Canal Park Brewing Co., where couples can embark on the Duluth Beer Trail to sample the best microbrews in the area.
Honeymooners can glimpse into the past at Firelight Inn on Oregon Creek bed & breakfast, a 1910 mansion not far from the historic Glensheen estate. The inn’s honeymoon package includes embroidered keepsake bathrobes, champagne and a gift certificate to a local restaurant. “Our claim to fame is our full gourmet breakfast that’s delivered to your suite each morning,” says co-owner Joy Fischer.
More romantic lodging lies just half an hour north at Larsmont Cottages, a lakeside resort that celebrates Minnesota heritage, inspired by traditional Scandinavian fishing villages.
Land of Lakes: Central Minnesota
Minnesota is dubbed the land of 10,000 lakes for a reason, and much of the water-related action takes place in the state’s central region. Honeymooners can take off on JetSkis, water skis, pontoons or kayaks at one of many resorts. The attractions continue on land too, with golf courses, themed miniature golf and tennis.
Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria features Atikwa Golf Course and the Big Splash Waterpark. Couples can sip vino at the nearby Carlos Creek Winery, which has 20 acres of vineyards and a Grape Stomp Festival in September.
In Brainerd, the majestic Grand View Lodge lies on the sandy beaches of Gull Lake. “Grand View Lodge offers the perfect setting to celebrate,” says marketing director Frank Soukup. “From our luxury lakeview accommodations to our casual-to-elegant dining venues to our recreational offerings, we provide a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation experience for guests.”
A unique bed and breakfast is the Whistle Stop B&B in New York Mills. The owners captured the romance of turn-of-the century train travel by converting Victorian-era train cars into suites.
Urban Exploration: The Twin Cities
The Twin Cities bring diversity and sophistication, and couples can stay in the heart of the action at one of many luxury hotels in downtown Minneapolis. The chic Loews Minneapolis Hotel grants easy access to vibrant Hennepin Avenue. “The hotel is located at the heart of the entertainment and theater district of the city,” says director of sales and marketing David Griffin. Meanwhile, the landmark W Minneapolis – The Foshay, home to the swanky Prohibition Bar, mixes art deco elegance with modern chic.
Stepping just outside of downtown Minneapolis, newlyweds can stroll along Nicollet Mall, take in a play at the Guthrie or a summertime movie at Loring Park, wander through the sculpture gardens at the Walker Art Center, or explore cuisine from around the world on Eat Street. Across the Mississippi River, Nicollet Island Inn offers a postcard view of the skyline, as well as horse-drawn carriage rides around the 1800s-era St. Anthony Main area.
Downtown St. Paul is defined by romance, with the historic Landmark Center at the north end of charming Rice Park, which dazzles with thousands of holiday lights in the winter. Skate away an afternoon at the park’s ice rink, then enjoy some authentic Italian dishes at Pazzaluna, followed by a drive down Summit Avenue to see the boyhood home of F. Scott Fitzgerald and majestic mansions. The Saint Paul Hotel, built in 1910, sits at the heart of downtown, radiating European elegance and offering honeymoon packages complete with champagne and roses in luxurious suites overlooking the square.
Quaint Retreats: Eastern and Southern Minnesota
Classic American river towns make for picturesque escapes, with brick storefronts, streets lined with lampposts and stately Victorian houses.
Lanesboro is known as the bed & breakfast capital of Minnesota, and has miles of bike trails nestled in bluff country. Northfield, on the Cannon River, features dining and live music on waterfront patios. The Defeat of Jesse James Days in September is known for its colorful re-enactment of the bank raid by the notorious outlaws.
Red Wing sits on the elbow of the Mississippi River, where orchards and wineries showcase their goods and paddleboat rides offer a new view of autumn colors. The historic St. James Hotel was built in 1875, and rooms offer river views and 19th century charm.
Stillwater’s Main Street is on the National Historic Register and has dozens of boutiques and restaurants. Luna Rossa Trattoria offers a romantic Italian dinner, complemented by a wine caves tour and tasting. Newlyweds can also keep their heads in the clouds—quite literally—with Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides over the St. Croix River Valley.
The 1927 Lowell Inn is just off Main Street Stillwater and encapsulates the city’s sense of tradition. “Visitors walk through our doors because their parents or grandparents were married here or they stayed here for their honeymoon,” says Leigha Bauer, hotel assistant manager and event planner. “Many continue to celebrate anniversaries with us. It’s a place where you can build traditions.”
An Evening Out
For a night on the town that feels like a honeymoon getaway, visit one the Twin Cities’ most romantic restaurants.
The boho-chic bistro in Uptown features a colorfully eclectic interior and twinkling lights hung over sidewalk seating. French cuisine of pomme frites, buckwheat crêpes and eggs benedict is locally sourced and paired with a wide assortment of wines.
This eatery, on the edge of Loring Park, is adorned with crystal chandeliers complementing original art on walls for a total foodie experience in the New American food movement. Fresh seasonal ingredients go into a chef-driven menu that includes ahi and basil spring rolls, sweet corn risotto with blue prawns, and dark chocolate profiteroles.
Tables are tucked into small nooks and corners throughout this three-story Victorian mansion where, legend has it, the ghost of a 19th-century maid who loved the home’s original master still roams the halls. Diners can enjoy fireplace or patio seating over gazpacho salad, beef Wellington or Punjabi potato samosas.
Nicollet Island Inn
A charming dining room, a piano bar or a sun-speckled patio set the scene for romantic dinners and a five-course Sunday brunch. After a gourmet meal with a skyline view, diners can stroll through scenic Nicollet Island Park or take a horse-drawn carriage ride along the brick lanes of St. Anthony Main.
This urban Italian restaurant specializes in authentic regional food, from bruschetta and pizza hot out of the wood-burning oven to traditional pastas. The chic ambience, mural-covered walls and wide selection of Italian wines make it easy to linger.
W.A. Frost & Co.
The restaurant, in a turn-of-the-century building with large arched doorways and a lush, sprawling patio, sets the standard for Old World charm. Sustainable and locally sourced American dishes include everything from crispy glazed pork belly to torchio pasta in walnut pesto.
Top sites, activities and restaurants across Minnesota.
End of the Trail
Gunflint Trail & the Boundary Waters
Honeymoon Bluff Trail, Magnetic Rock Trail, Kekekabic Trail, Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center
Gunflint Lodge, Trail Center Lodge, Trail’s End Cafe
The North Shore
Lutsen & Grand Marais
Carlton Peak, Temperance River, Oberg Mountain, White Sky Rock, Cascade River Hikes, Devil’s Kettle Trail
Bluefin Grille, Lutsen Lodge, Cascade Lodge, Naniboujou Lodge, Angry Trout Café, Gun Flint Tavern, Papa Charlie’s, Rustic Inn
Aerial Lift Bridge, Glensheen Historic Estate, Canal Park, North Shore Scenic Drive, Lake Superior Railroad Museum, S.S. William A. Irvin Boat Museum, helicopter air tours
Bike tours, kayaking and canoeing, sailing cruises, paddle boarding, hiking along creeks and Lake Superior, skiing and snowshoeing, Spirit Mountain
Land of Lakes
Paul Bunyan Land and State Trail, Brainerd International Raceway, Grand Casino Mille Lacs, Northland Arboretum
JetSkiing, water skiing, boating, fishing, golf, mini-golf, tennis
The Twin Cities
Guthrie Theater, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Nicollet Island, Stone Arch Bridge, Minnehaha Falls, Loring Park, Lake Harriet & Lake Calhoun, Target Field, ice skating at the Depot, Minneapolis Farmers’ Market, Segway tours, Pedal Pub
St. Paul attractions
Rice Park, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, Science Museum of Minnesota, James J. Hill House, Grand Avenue, Xcel Energy Center, Fort Snelling, Minnesota State Capitol
Eastern and Southern Minnesota
Walking tours in Stillwater, BierCycle Adventures, Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides, Defeat of Jesse James Days, river ride in paddle boats from New Orleans dock, Root River & Harmony-Preston Valley state trail system for biking and inline skating
Dining & Drinking
Foodies on Foot Tour in Stillwater, caves & wine tour at Luna Rossa Trattoria, Ole Store Restaurant, the Port Restaurant at St. James Hotel, Riverside on the Root Restaurant, Schell’s Brewery