Mar/Apr
2018

Raising Rochester

Written by Renee Berg
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Spring break options that won’t bust the bank.

NO SPRING BREAK TRAVEL PLANS? NO WORRIES, THERE ARE PLENTY OF REGIONAL OPTIONS. HERE ARE SOME CLOSE-TO-HOME IDEAS.

FINDING BIG FUN IN NATURE

Pack some snacks and hit the road. No need to go far to find big fun in the outdoors.

Head to Whitewater State Park in neighboring St. Charles, urges interpretive naturalist Sara Holger, and check out the flowers coming up. Grab a flower ID sheet at the visitor center and hit the park on your very own treasure hunt, finding a variety of flowers as you go.

Hiking is another big hit at Whitewater in the spring, as is trout fishing and morel mushroom hunting. You can even help plant trees at Whitewater sometime in April. Check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website (dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/whitewater).

Even closer to home is Chester Woods Park near Eyota. “It’s a good time to get out and look at waterfowl if you’re into birds,” says Celeste Lewis, staff naturalist at Chester Woods. The lake is 112 acres and the park itself is 1,330 acres, so there is plenty to discover here–and much of it often goes unseen. “Most people only see about 200 acres of the park. But if you cross the iron bridge, there is another thousand acres that is basically all preserved.”

Bird feeding is another option at Chester Woods ,but it’s wise to reserve a spot ahead of time. If you want to camp, it’s also a good idea to reserve now. Call the park at 507-287-2624 or go on-line. (co.olmsted.mn.us/pw/parks/chesterwoods).

GET JUMPING IN LA CROSSE

Go a little farther to La Crosse, Wisconsin and visit Jump Start Adventure Park, a brand-new trampoline park that was converted from a large warehouse. There are trampolines, a ninja course and free fall jumps. Parents, please note: You can jump too, so wear your workout clothes and squeeze in some cardio with your kids!

Or head to the Children’s Museum of La Crosse where a brand-new climbing structure has been unveiled. It’s the state’s first ever unique climbing gym that’s also a work of art. Ever climbed on eyeballs before? No? Well, now you can.

GET HISTORICAL IN NORTHFIELD

Northfield is another day trip option with plenty of history. Learn about the downfall of Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang at the Northfield Historical Society, where you can tour the original bank. If the weather is nice, head to Carleton College to walk around the school’s Japanese garden, which has been recognized as one of the best such displays outside of Japan. 

Try breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Tavern located in the Archer House. A fun lunch spot known for hoagies is Hogan Brothers. If you’re on the go, grab a cup of joe at Goodbye Blue Monday Coffee House or the James Gang Coffeehouse in this quaint college town.

GET BIKING IN LANESBORO

Another option is a day trip to famed Lanesboro, Minnesota. Rent bikes and head out on the Root River State Bike Trail or take an Amish Backroads Tour. Have your kiddos ever heard of, or seen, a telephone booth? Check that out at the Lanesboro History Museum.

Enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up at the Granary, which serves ice cream, coffee, wine and beer. Home Sweet Home Cafe and Cakery, a brand new cafe, offers home-style lunches, pies, cookies and brownie and cakes by owner and pastry chef, Liz Mason.

Near Lanesboro is the National Trout Center in Preston and the International Owl Center in Houston. Niagara Cave in Harmony offers underground tours.

STAYCATIONS ARE NICE TOO

If staying in town is more your game, head to the Kahler Apache, where the water park is “obviously a great option for families,” says marketing Manager Matt Elliott. More indoor ideas include Rochester’s two climbing gyms, Prairie Walls and Roca. There is also a lot of buzz about Air Insanity, an indoor trampoline park set to open in 2018. Stay tuned for more information about that.

With our own History Center of Olmsted County, family-friendly public library, Minnesota Children’s Museum, Quarry Hill Nature Center, and countless city parks to discover, who needs complicated and expensive spring break travel plans? Enjoy our local treasures.

Renee Berg is a local freelancer who loves taking day trips to surrounding communities with her two teens.