The Twin Cities: Insider's Guide

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Written by Cindy Mennenga

Pssst! Wanna rock the Twin Cities like a local? There are a multitude of unique and awesome things to do in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. There are hidden gems, places the locals enjoy, but protect, much like a fisherman never reveals the exact location where he’s reeling in the keepers.

I lived in the Twin Cities for 25 years and have some insights to share, so you can truly expand your horizons as you visit the Twin Cities for a day trip or a weekend getaway. There are oodles of things to do, and these suggestions are in no way all-encompassing.

What you do, of course, depends on your interests and how you like to spend your time. Here is just the tip of the iceberg of ideas for exploring and enjoying your visit to the Twin Cities. 



International Travel – Independently or with a Group

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Written by Cindy Mennenga

International travel is a great way to open your mind and learn about other cultures and the history of the region you are visiting. Traveling internationally can be a bit overwhelming. In addition to being disoriented upon landing at an international airport and making your way through customs, there can be jet lag, language barriers, transportation challenges and currency confusion. 

You can travel internationally on your own or with friends, family or your significant other. Independent travel allows you to really explore a region and truly immerse yourself in the culture. You can decide which hotel you want to stay at, which attractions to visit and where to dine. You are completely in charge of your travel experience. 

If independent travel is not your style, group travel is a great option. Group travel is desirable for many people because the logistical details are handled by the tour director traveling with you, who is familiar with the region. Plus, you have travel companions that add to the ambiance of the tour.  


If you're looking for entertainment this summer, why not explore some of the eclectic small towns around Rochester? There are too many to mention in just one article, so take a day trip or weekend away, and let us know what you find! 

Due North

Zumbrota stands out as a fantastic small town only a half-hour drive north of Rochester. Zumbrota is notable not only for being the home of Minnesota's last authentic covered bridge, but also for the quaint downtown area, numerous historic buildings and wide array of great independently-owned shopping opportunities. 

In the background of the many art festivals, fashion shows and other exciting annual events that Zumbrota hosts is a stronghold of locally-owned shops. A trip to Zumbrota promises no end of tempting handcrafted,
heirloom-quality goods, from the gorgeous shoes and handbags at Luya Shoes and Other Fine Things, to the handmade jewelry, paintings and other artisan goods at Crossings at Carnegie. While you're visiting, check out the historic State Theatre and the History Center or book a night for camping in the Covered Bridge Park. 



Rollin' on the River: Passion Test Helps Women Find Purpose

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Written by LuAnn Buechler Photo by Samantha Boos, Queen of the Castle Magazine

Water ski days are just one of the summer of water activities an hour east of Rochester on the wide spot of the Mississippi River known as Lake Pepin. Float on a boat (rafts not recommended) to feel as free as Huckleberry Finn on the mighty Mississippi River. 

There are floating and flying options galore around Lake Pepin. The Pearl of the Lake paddleboat out of Lake City is great for groups or a romantic sunset cruise. Brand new to the area is exhilarating Eagle Hang Gliding where you and an instructor take to the thermals to glide above the water. Sailing is a long-time favorite, and both WIMNSail and Sail Pepin will take you sailing out of the Pepin, Wisconsin marina. 

Further down the River, in Alma, Wisconsin, docks Fun ‘N The Sun houseboats. You can rent the houseboat and spend a few days or a week on the water exploring and relaxing. This is one of a numerous ways to explore the river without having to own a boat.



Getaway to Chicago: The Paris of the Prairie

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Written by Cindy Mennenga

With the release of his poem “Chicago” in 1916, Carl Sandburg put Chicago squarely on the map. The poem celebrates the proud working class residents of Chicago and the impact the city had on the growth of this country. The poem also vaulted Sandburg to celebrity status in Chicago.

Chicago is commonly known as the “Windy City,” and most folks assume the nickname refers to the epic winds that blow off Lake Michigan and whistle through the cavernous skyscraper-lined city streets. But, in fact, the moniker was a result of the many brash and long-winded politicians of yesteryear. Chicago is also lesser-known as the “Paris of the Prairie,” as city planners, a century ago, had great plans to design the city similar to Paris. However, when the Great Depression hit, much of the plan was abandoned.   

Chicago itself is a study in contrasts—a metropolitan oasis nestled between the aquamarine beauty of Lake Michigan and the corn fields of the Midwestern plains. Chicago is an amazing city, truly a world unto itself. 


If you enjoy traveling and you are age 55 or older, you may be delighted to know that Home Federal Savings Bank recently created its own travel club and whisked members away on its first regional adventure last fall. The travel club is very popular already, and they’ve only just begun.

Home Federal’s Jubilee Travel Club offers members a variety of travel options: day trips, regional trips and extended trips. Many members go on several trips each year because they love the diversity of trips offered. Home Federal’s travel club attracts a variety of travelers: singles making new friends on the trip, girlfriends enjoying a vacation together and couples enjoying time with each other. One thing all of the travelers have in common is their eagerness to have a great time and make amazing memories.   


Did you know that you can fly nonstop from Rochester to Atlanta? Atlanta is like another world, nestled within the deep south. It’s the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement and the land of peaches, pecans and peanuts. 


The great thing about flying is that it can transport you to another world in a matter of a few hours. In this case, you can be in Atlanta after a short two and a half hour flight. Delta offers daily flights from Rochester, Minnesota (RST) to Atlanta, Georgia (ATL), and upon arrival in “A-town” or “Hotlanta,” as the locals call it, you will find yourself immersed in a vast metropolitan area. 

Because you can catch a direct flight to Atlanta from Rochester, you may want to consider a quick  get away with family, friends or your special someone. there is a wide variety of things to do in Atlanta, depending on your interests, budget and time.


March, whether it comes in like a lion or a lamb, is a great month to grab some friends or your family and travel east of Rochester to Mississippi River and Lake Pepin. Businesses that have been closed all winter fling open the doors and let the sunshine—and customers—back in.  Even those that are open year-round often have a new feel to them as the shopkeepers are gearing up for the busy summer season ahead.


 If you are looking for a bit of the tropics right here in Minnesota, check out The Lagoon Water Park and Wave Spa at Treasure Island Resort & Casino. Just upriver from Red Wing, the casino’s new offerings are sure to be fun for the whole family. The Lagoon even includes hot tubs and a swim-up bar for the adults. The Wave Spa offers a variety of services, and you can reserve it for private parties.



Stewartville's Own Little Known Historic District

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Written by Debi Neville

Did you know Stewartville has an historic “Silk Stocking Road?” Neither do many Stewartville residents, according to Pat Johnson, librarian and history buff.

“You mention that term and many look surprised, but it was called that in the early 1900s. It’s an area along Lake Street, just off Main Street,” she says. “People named it that because if you could afford silk stockings, you could afford to live there. It was a very desirable area.” At the turn of the century, the new homes were built by doctors, lawyers and prominent citizens of Stewartville. 


If you love to travel and you are age 55 or older, you may be interested to know that there’s a new group travel option in Rochester. Home Federal Savings Bank recently started its own travel club and had its first trip in September. The travel club has been a raging success already, and they’ve just gotten started.

Home Federal’s Jubilee travel club offers members day trips, regional trips and extended trips. Many members choose to take several trips each year and love the variety of trips offered. The travel club attracts a variety of travelers: Some are traveling alone and enjoy making new friends on the trip; others are girlfriends getting together to enjoy a day together; while still others are couples enjoying an outing within a group setting. One thing all of the travelers have in common is their readiness to enjoy themselves and make some fantastic memories.    


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