Tucked in the cool shadows of old, forest oak trees, St. Croix Valley Golf Course's nine-hole layout invites golfers to swing across 133 acres of rolling topography. Originally sculpted into the woods in 1925, the 3,060-yard course eschews sand traps and favors natural obstacles including ponds, trees, elevation changes, and indigenous photographers who snap their shutters during players' backswings. The golf experts that preside over the pro shop can sharpen swings with lessons, ensure trustworthy equipment with club regripping services, and offer rental clubs so players don't have to hit with the oversized gavel normally used to settle remote control disputes at home.
Course at a Glance:
Gander Mountain Academy updates its lessons in gun safety, handling, and marksmanship with virtual shooting technology that was once only available to military and law-enforcement agencies. The ladies-only basic fundamentals class gives women a foundation in the mechanics of handguns and how to use them safely. Students start by winnowing down the right type of gun for their needs, be they self-defense, hunting, or reclaiming the garage from infestations of gremlins. Next, instructors with callused trigger fingers explain the safety rules of handguns, compare ammunition options, and demonstrate proper grip, stance, and trigger control.
The Dead End Hayride rumbles into the dark, eerie expanses of Pinehaven Farm on a trail that seems to lead nowhere. In the middle of the woods, guests are evicted from the wagon and must rely on their own feet, wits, and ouija compasses to make it back safely. Wandering the Departed Oaks Trail, which outcast creatures and spirits call home, hikers confront the Site 66 cornfield, where a 28-foot tower casts an ominous shadow over the surrounding expanse. Screams and explosions set the stage as lost souls fight their way through the winding paths and fend off creatures more terrifying than a killer whale jumping out of a hall closet. DJs and bonfires await survivors each night.
At dawn, just as the sun breaks the horizon and a layer of dew reveals a path of fresh footprints, fairways open up through the morning fog to reveal a challenging circuit of golf holes. Chisago Lakes Golf Course's relatively open, par 72 layout features forgiving tree-lines and multiple ponds, which come into play on 12 holes to supply the bulk of the course's difficulty and relief for caddies with dry-mouth. Runaway swings gain traction at the club's driving range, which features a grass hitting area that measures 40 yards by 60 yards to ensure a natural lie for each swing rehearsal.
At the pro shop, golfers stock their Scottish quivers with new equipment and accessories from Titleist, Cobra, Cleveland, and other top brands. Chisago Lakes also encompasses The Gallery Bar & Grill, which serves up an eclectic menu that includes classic burgers, steaks, and seafood.
Course at a Glance:
For two to three hours at a time, the bustle of the city recedes into memory as bird song replaces the abrasive honking of car horns, and pine trees—those ancient predecessors to skyscrapers—cast their shadows over the banks of the St. Croix River. Riverwood Canoe’s owners spread their enthusiasm for the great outdoors with visitors, who come from all over to experience the beauty of St. Croix National Scenic Riverway as it snakes through the wilderness. After arriving at the Osceola landing, participants take a shuttle up to the heart of the park and hop into a canoe that can fit up to three passengers, depending on weight. Thanks to the river’s gentle flow, participants can expect a smooth ride suitable to all levels of experience.
In the early 20th century, trains chugged along the St. Croix Valley Railway, rolling over scenic bridges and past rolling waterfront vistas lined with trees. Today, an old-fashioned locomotive still runs from Osceola, Wisconsin to Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota—a 10-mile route that transports passengers across state lines and into the past. Inside the period-accurate passenger cars, Minnesota Transportation Museum staff relay facts about area history and refute the wildly inaccurate science in The Little Engine That Could. Regular round-trip rides run twice every Saturday and Sunday from May to October, but special-event trains and rides with dining service often round out the schedule.