The course itself carries on that fun vibe, too. Winding through city streets and local parks, the 5K route is dotted with hydration stations that dole out hot chocolate. Holiday music, a giant Santa inflatable, and snow blowers help to set
The prairies southwest of St. Cloud are mostly known for corn and soybeans. But the growers at Hinterland Vineyards have turned those fertile fields into the incubators of award-winning wines, growing both white and red varietals to use in their house blends. Their Happy Creek Red was named Best Off-Dry Red at the 2013 Mid-American Wine Competition, and La Crescent, a semi-dry white, earned a Best of Class nod at the 2013 International Women's Wine Competition. At the on-site winery, guests can sample these and other vino varieties while nibbling appetizers or listening to live music on select nights of the week. Hinterland also serves microbrew beers for guests who prefer beverages made from browner, fizzier grapes instead.
Located just southwest of Green Lake, Big Kahuna Fun Park enchants guests with indoor and outdoor attractions including an outdoor miniature-golf course, where balls somersault down steep, faux-grass corridors packed with tricky breaks. Kids and adults can satisfy needs for speed at the go-kart track, and a slower-paced power-wheels course lets younger drivers prepare for the grown-up traffic jams looming in their futures. Guests can splash away the summer heat by ramming their inner tubes into other circular vessels at the bumper-tubes pool or take refuge from the sun in the park's indoor arcade, which also houses a Subway sandwich shop.
Tucked away in a grove of towering red and white pine trees, the Character Challenge Course pits teams of patrons against a series of obstacles, fostering confidence, teamwork, and communication skills. A collection of low-ropes activities challenges teams with trust falls, games, and role-playing exercises while remaining a short distance from the ground. High-ropes challenges, meanwhile, soar to heights of up to 35 feet, and include cloud-scraping ladders, wobbly bridges, and the Leap of Faith, in which patrons must scale a 25-foot pole and then leap to a trapeze bar five feet away before lowering themselves earthward. To further facilitate team unity, groups gather after completing each obstacle to discuss how the course's mental and physical trials can be applied to daily struggles in cooperating with others at work or while opening a pickle jar.
The seasoned anglers behind Red Lake Outdoors grew up fishing the same private, wild waters where they now take their clients. They've set out on small boats under the August sun, and navigated their way across ice-covered water in the middle of January. On a series of guided, hands-on fishing trips, they teach others how to do the same. The half- and full-day excursions explore every inch of the Red Lake region's 27 lakes and their miles of pristine, undeveloped shoreline—from hidden coves to calm, open waters, to that one spot where cousin Dan swore he saw a shark. In the winter, guides also demonstrate how to cut holes in the ice above prime fishing spots. Trips pit visitors against fish such as rainbow trout, bass, pike, and crappie, and include gear and lunch.
When woodcarver Kim Bredeson crafted a mantel for an employee of the Robert Mondavi Winery, he received a bottle of Opus One as thanks. For Kim and his wife, Tami, the bottle uncorked a five-year fascination with wine that culminated in the Bredeson's purchase of Carlos Creek Winery. On grounds surrounded by five lakes—Ida, L'Homme Dieux, Miltona, Darling and Carlos—the Bredeson's plant unorthodox grape varieties such as King of the North and Petite Pearl, all of which can withstand temperatures 30 degrees and below. Those grapes eventually yield Carlos Creek Winery's award-winning wines, including the riesling-like Wobegon White and the pinot noir-inspired Marquette, a triple gold medal winner at the sixth annual Mid-American Wine Competition.
As Kim leads tours of the vineyards and complementary tours through Carlos Creek Winery's indoor production area and wine cellar, the staff distributes samples and souvenir tasting glasses in the tasting room. Guests can tap their toes to year-round live music every weekend or explore the winery's expansive grounds, which include bike trails, a 3.5-acre maze, and a giant garden chess set, ideal for convincing Bobby Fischer he's shrinking. Every third weekend of September, Kim and Tami amp up the festivities with their Grape Stomp and Fall Festival, where visitors can stomp grapes, admire blown glass and chainsaw carvings, and laugh along to live comedy shows.