Minnesota Destinations: Alexandria
Three hundred seventy five glacier-formed pristine lakes make up the Alexandria Lakes Area.
The phrase, "easy to get to - hard to leave," isn't just a Chamber of Commerce pitch line for the Alexandria lakes area. It's true. People are having a hard time leaving because they're having so much fun. Alexandria is conveniently located on Interstate 94 - 110 miles from Fargo, 68 miles from St. Cloud, 131 miles from Minneapolis and 142 miles from St. Paul.
Nestled in scenic rolling hills and trees where the prairie meets the forest, the Alexandria area is brimming with 375 glacier-formed, pristine lakes. That makes it the perfect playground for swimmers, boaters, anglers, golfers, bicyclists, hikers, bird watchers, ice skaters, skiers, snowmobilers and anyone who enjoys the great outdoors.
Even if you don't consider yourself an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman, there's still plenty of fun to enjoy while on vacation in the Alexandria lakes area:
--Browse for antiques.
--Take in an arts production.
--Shop historic downtown Alexandria or visit the Viking Plaza.
--Explore the area's fascinating - and controversial - history.
--See a movie - there's a nine-screen movie theater near the mall.
--Get a workout at the Alexandria Area YMCA.
--Tour a winery - the award winning Carlos Creek Winery is just three miles north of Alexandria.
--Catch an entertaining, college-level baseball or hockey game.
In addition, Alexandria lists several golf courses on its website (www.alexandriamn.org), an amusement park, go-cart racing, horseback riding, three museums, public swimming beaches, a water park, a winter ski hill, three marinas and much more, all in the Alexandria lakes area.
There is also a trail of antique, curio and specialty shops (many of them downtown) that collectors, browsers and shoppers love to follow, and Alexandria has a very active downtown restaurant and shopping area.
The Alexandria website lists numerous resorts, motels and many B&Bs. There are also campgrounds, RV parks and other lodging accommodations.
CENTRAL LAKES TRAIL
If you like biking, walking, in-line skating or snowmobiling, you'll love the Central Lakes Trail. The 14-foot-wide, 55-mile paved trail begins in Fergus Falls and crosses Douglas County to connect to the Lake Wobegon Trail in Osakis. Together, they make the longest paved trail in Minnesota. In Douglas County, the trail connects Alexandria with six other cities, many of which have trailside parking, restrooms and shelters. In Alexandria, the trail also connects to a paved trail that travels along the shore of Lake Agnes to Alexandria City Park. In the winter, the Central Lakes Trail is also a popular snowmobiling route.
EXPLORE HISTORIC DOWNTOWN
There's more to downtown Alexandria than storefronts. Visitors can discover enchanting shops and beautiful boutiques. They can stroll through timeless antique stores to find unexpected treasures and nostalgic memorabilia. They can take a break and try out one of the many cozy eateries.
For information on upcoming events, visit www.downtownalexandria.com.
The Viking Plaza in Alexandria has more than 30 stores for customers to shop in comfort.
Many updates and improvements have been completed and more are on the horizon. The Viking Plaza is often described as "tomorrow's mall" and management takes pride in offering customers a clean, relaxing and fun environment that makes the mall not just a place to shop but a destination to visit. It's the largest shopping mall in Douglas County.
Recent upgrades were made inside and out, including comfortable new furniture, a creative playscape for children, a new entrance off South Broadway, new signs and free Wi-Fi access for shoppers.
There are events happening all year round at the Viking Plaza. It's also a popular spot for walkers to get in some exercise, seven days a week.
MINNESOTA LAKES MARITIME MUSEUM
The Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum offers visitors a chance to experience the history of boating and resorts in the Alexandria lakes area and the entire state. The museum, located on 3rd Avenue West in Alexandria, houses an extensive classic boat collection as well as resorting, fishing, hunting and other maritime memorabilia.
An exciting new addition to the museum is also taking shape - Maritime Gardens. It will feature a grand design of gazebos, park benches, lush flower gardens, ornamental grasses, streams and waterfalls, and an event stage with seating.
The museum also provides educational programs in the summer, such as sailing lessons, water safety and youth boat operation. For more information, visit its website at www.mnlakesmaritime.org or call (320) 759-1114.
Located near the "Big Ole" Viking statue at the north end of Broadway, it's home to the controversial, world famous Kensington Runestone. It tells of early explorers to this area from Norway. Some people believe they discovered America long before Christopher Columbus. There are also Native American exhibits, exhibits on early immigrants and the history of Alexandria, a memorial/gun exhibit, a Minnesota wildlife exhibit, and a hands-on children's area.
The museum is located in Fort Alexandria, a nearly exact replica of the stockade constructed in 1862 by order of the governor of Minnesota. It's located at 206 Broadway.
CARLOS CREEK WINERY
No matter the season, there's always something happening at Carlos Creek Winery.
Founded in 1997, the winery officially opened in July of 1999. It's located on 160 acres with 13 acres devoted to vines and 15 dedicated to apples.
Visitors can sample a wide-range of the winery's award-winning wines. Grape varieties include Frontenac, Sabrevois, Valiant, King of the North, Brianna, Marquette, Petite Pearl and Edelweiss. Apple varieties include Cortland, Fireside, Haralson, McIntosh, Regent, and its largest planting, Honeycrisp, the state apple of Minnesota.
The winery is owned and operated by the Bredeson family.
Winter hours are from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Summer hours are from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Complimentary tours are offered daily, year-round at 1 and 3 p.m. plus 5 p.m. on Saturdays. (No reservations are needed for groups fewer than 20.)
Yearly events include the extremely popular "Grape Stomp" (September 13-15 this year); "Apple Fest" (October 19), featuring a pumpkin-throwing catapult; and "Awake the Grapes," which includes 1K, 5K and 10K runs through the vineyards (May 26).
The winery is also a favorite spot for destination weddings. It hosts more than 40 weddings each year, plus a number of corporate events. It was recently nominated a "top three non-metro venue" by Minnesota Meetings and Events and was given the "Bride's Choice Award" by Wedding Wire.
There is also a full venue of musical entertainment, mystery dinner theater and other fun activities. Go to www.carloscreekwinery.com for more information or call (320) 846-5443.
Big Splash is a wet, wild waterpark wonder. One of the biggest indoor waterparks in the nation is at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center, located about four miles north of Alexandria on Lake Darling.
The 38,000-square-foot water park offers a wide variety of water activities, including four-story waterslides, a "Lazy River" floating inner tube ride, a lily pad water walk and a tropical whirlpool spa and waterfall. There's also a children's play fort in a zero-inch-entry pool.
For more information, call (320) 762-1124 or visit the Big Splash website at www.arrowwoodresort.com.
VIKINGLAND BAND FESTIVAL
Every year, on the last Sunday in June, the streets of Alexandria come alive with the sound of music.
The 29th annual Vikingland Band Festival is set for June 30, featuring the Midwest's finest high school marching bands in a fun but intense competition. Summer parade bands are at their peak in June and pull out all the stops as they perform on the city's extra-wide main street.
The Vikingland Band Festival parade begins early afternoon Sunday and proceeds along Broadway from 4th Avenue to 15th Avenue.
For more information about the band festival, visit the website www.marching.com/events/vbf.
FOURTH OF JULY - WATCH FOR A STORM!
Although there are several fireworks displays around the area on the Fourth of July, one of the most spectacular is Star Storm.
Those who go to Lake Darling near Alexandria on July 4 will enjoy a spectacular 20-minute fireworks display set to music. The annual display, which is designed to be enjoyed either from land or from the lake, is organized by Arrowwood Resort. Folks can watch the show from the front lawn of Arrowwood, which overlooks the lake, or they can boat over to see the display. Watchers are encouraged to tune into KXRA-FM, 92.3, for the show.
ALEXANDRIA AREA ARTS ASSOCIATION
The Alexandria Area Arts Association (AAAA) was founded more than 30 years ago as a way to bring theater to the community. The theater offers music performances, shows and events. The "Quad-A" theater is located at 618 Broadway in downtown Alexandria.
For information about the latest productions, go to the webtite www.alexandriaareaarts.org or call the box office at (320) 762-8300.
THEATRE L'HOMME DIEU
Theatre L'Homme Dieu has been offering professional summer-stock theater to the Alexandria area since 1961. This year, the theater is partnering with Minnesota's professional theaters to offer five high-caliber, family-friendly, often-comic musicals.
This year's line-up includes When a Man Loves a Diva (June 25-30); Lombardi (July 9-14); Legacy - A Tribute to the King of Pop (July 16-21); Sisters (July 23-28); Sunset Boulevard (August 6-11); and Almost Maine (August 13-18).
Theatre L'Homme Dieu' is located at 1875 County Road 120 NE. For more information, call (320) 846-3150 or visit the website www.tlhd.org.
ICE SKATING AT NOONAN PARK
Noonan Park in Alexandria is the site of the city's outdoor public skating rink. The rink is regularly maintained, has a warming house, and is well lit for night skating. The park is generally open for skating around December 20, or whenever there is eight inches of ice.
Hours for the rink and warming house are Monday through Friday from 3 to 9:30 p.m. and weekends and vacation days from 1 to 9:30 p.m. The rink is closed daily from 5 to 6 p.m. During school vacations the rink opens at 1 p.m. There is no charge to skate at the park. The rink is located on the east side of Alexandria off of Nokomis Street and between 9th and 10th avenues.
Minnesota has more than 20,000 miles of snowmobile trails that criss-cross its forests, prairies, hills and lakes. Here in Douglas County, it's just as wonderful for snowmobilers. There are breathtaking scenes on 400 miles of trails that wind throughout the county, connecting every community in the area.
Snowmobile trails also connect with the 55-mile Central Lakes Trail, a four-season recreational trail that spans the county.
A free trail map and additional trail information are available at the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce at 206 Broadway.
ICE FISHING CHALLENGE
The annual Ice Fishing Challenge brings several thousand anglers to the area each winter to compete for prizes.
Featuring more than $60,000 worth of prizes, the Ice Fishing Challenge is held each February. For more information, visit www.icefishingchallenge.org or call (320) 808-5096.
ANDES TOWER HILLS
Think you have to go to the mountains to have winter fun? If so, you haven't been to Andes Tower Hills.
Located just 15 miles west of Alexandria, Andes Tower Hills has 16 downhill ski runs ranging from beginner to expert, as well as facilities for tubing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Ski and snowboard lessons, a racing program, lodging, a restaurant, equipment rentals and a pro shop are also available. The facility recently expanded and improvements were added including new expert terrain, new lighting and new banquet rooms. For more information call 1-877-542-6337 (1-87-ski-andes), or visit www.andestowerhills.com.
Alexandria City Park - north end of town, one block west of County Road 42 (North Nokomis). Playground, picnic area, tennis courts, swimming beach, fishing pier. The point between Lakes Agnes and Henry offers a great view of the two lakes and city skyline.
Big Ole Central Park - north end of Broadway in Alexandria, next to Lake Agnes. Gazebo, parking area for the Central Lakes Trail.
Dean Melton Fillmore Park - Fillmore Street and 15th Avenue West in Alexandria. Includes skateboarding with ramps and rails.
Fred Foslien Park - Victoria Heights, two blocks south of Highway 27 off Knut Street in Alexandria.
Geneva Crest Park - west side of Lake Geneva in Alexandria (take Highway 27 East to Birch Avenue, then go east on Basswood two blocks and east on Geneva Drive).
Goose Park - three blocks west of Broadway on 5th Avenue West, Alexandria.
Lake Agnes Park - south shore of Lake Agnes along County Road 37, Alexandria.
Lake Connie Park - 7th Avenue East between Roosevelt and Spruce streets, Alexandria.
Lakeview Park - Highway 27 East and Birch Avenue in Alexandria (take Highway 27 East to Birch Avenue, turn west on Runestone Place and then west on Lake Park Avenue).
Legion Park - Broadway and 8th Avenue West, Alexandria.
Manor Hills Park - Take Highway 29 North to Manor Drive and go two blocks to the right on Springdale in Alexandria.
Martin's Hope Park - 2nd Avenue, across the street from Big Ole Central Park in Alexandria
Noonan Park - this city park is located at Nokomis Street and 10th Avenue in Alexandria. Be sure to pack your picnic lunch and include some bread for the ducks! From the playground to scenic pond, this park is a favorite all year round. The frozen pond, hockey rink and warming house are a great place to spend a winter's day.
Oak Knoll Park - northeast side of Alexandria near McKay Avenue. Take Highway 29 North, turn right on McKay Ave. and left on Oak Knoll Dr.
Osagi Park - Lake Street in Osakis. Picnic tables and shelter, restrooms, playground and lakeshore (no swimming area).
Pooch Playland - a new dog park with a fenced-in area. Located at the south end of Victor Street on the east side of Alexandria.
Runestone Park - about one mile east of Broadway in Alexandria on 6th Avenue East.
The charming town of Osakis is located along I-94 in central Minnesota, just two hours west of the Twin Cities.
Osakis is located on the southern shores of Lake Osakis - one of the state's premier walleye fishing lakes. The sparkling waters of the 6,700 acre lake also offer the perfect setting for soaking in relaxing summer afternoons and taking a spin on your watercraft. For waterfowl hunters, public hunting areas are nearby. During the winter, the lake makes for great snowmobiling and ice fishing.
Any time of year, be sure to check out the family resorts, campgrounds and motels inviting you to stay for your next vacation.
Those looking for off-the-water options should definitely check out downtown Osakis featuring several antique and specialty shops and cozy dining options. If you're planning a getaway with the young ones, venture over to the local parks and stop by the local petting zoo. And be sure to bring your bikes - Osakis is at the heart of the Central Lakes Trail and Lake Wobegon Trail.
Please check out the website at www.visitosakis.com. You will find a detailed list of lodging and accommodations, shopping and entertainment options, as well as a calendar of events.
Erickson's Petting Zoo
From spring Easter egg hunts to fall corn mazes and pumpkin patches, families will enjoy an afternoon at Erickson's Petting Zoo, located at 11890 Hope Road near Osakis. It's open weekends from Easter until Memorial Day and open daily from Memorial Weekend through Halloween. The pumpkin patch/corn maze is open weekends, beginning Friday, September 21, along with Fall Family Fun from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays through Halloween.
The zoo features a playground, plus wholesome family fun on an old fashioned farm. Animals include pygmy goats and their kids, sheep, miniature horses, llama, potbelly pigs, rabbits, bunnies, many varieties and colors of chickens, ducks, geese, pheasants, peacocks, pigeons, doves and more. For more information, call (320) 762-0184.
Quilts Along the Trail
This is an annual event the first Saturday after Labor Day in Osakis, featuring quilts of all styles and sizes for public viewing along a two block area of the Central Lakes Trail in downtown Osakis. Also features musical entertainment and food vendors.
The fourth weekend in June the park comes alive with activities for all ages during the Osakis Festival. A four day celebration, it's complete with kids' events, flea markets and crafts, antique tractors, street dance and grand parade.
Roddin' Round the Lakes
If you want to experience a blast from the past and check out an array of impeccably restored classic cars, make plans to attend the 2013 Roddin' Round the Lake event in Osakis on Saturday, July 13. Hundreds of cars line the streets of downtown Osakis and the proud classic car owners love to show off their prized possessions and chat with the crowd. The Central Lakes Cruzers organizes the popular, family-friendly event.
Park your vehicle and make the Osakis Trailhead your launching point for a biking adventure this summer. Osakis connects two extensive trail systems in West Central Minnesota. Look for the large, four-sided clock that stands at the entrance to the trailhead parking lot in downtown Osakis.
VISIT SAUK CENTRE
If you're in the Alexandria area, take a half-hour drive on Interstate 94 to the historic town of Sauk Centre and its original "Main Street."
It's the home of Nobel Prize winner and author Sinclair Lewis.
Some suggestions: Visit Lewis' Interpretive Museum and boyhood home; hike/bike Lake Wobegon Trail; visit quaint shops and restaurants, including a ghost tour; enjoy Sauk Lake with fishing and canoe trips; go on garden tours; visit a winery, zoo, distillery and farmers' markets.
The Glacial Lakes Trail is also nearby.
For more visitors' information, call 855-444-SAUK (7285) or go to the website, www.visitsaukcentre.com.
For more great ideas on vacations and daytrips in Minnesota, see our entire magazine at www.MNDestinations.com.