Here’s Why a Beach Trip Makes You Happier, According to Science


photo: Pixabay

School may be back in session, but you’ll want to make the most of those last warm summer rays with a weekend trip to the beach. According to studies, the ocean can actually have an effect on your mind and your mood.

What better way to combat the stress of the back-to-school hustle and bustle, than a calm relaxing day at the beach? As NBC News Better explains, there’s a good reason you feel so at peace after a day of splashing on the shore. Data analyzed in a study published in Health Place found that people who live near the ocean reported having better mental and physical health than those who didn’t.

As a recent Gallup poll survey of the happiest states in the country highlights, being in close proximity to the outdoors makes you happier, so it follows that living near the ocean would also be a great mood-booster. Not everyone can afford a beach house, however, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ocean’s calming effects. As Richard Shuster, PsyD, clinical psychologist, tells NBC News, practicing mindfulness while you’re on a short visit to the beach can make the effects last after you’ve left the sand behind.

“Focus on how your body feels warm from the rays of the sun, focus on what it feels like to have your feet in the sand, breathe deep and smell the ocean air.” Most importantly, you need to disconnect. Avoid Instagramming every sand castle and seashell and just be present.

Do you feel more relaxed after a day at the beach? Tell us in the comments below.



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How to Enjoy Burning Man with Kids


Exposing your kids to different experiences, cultures and art has always been a top priority. Feel the same? Then think outside the box for your next adventure. Burning Man—the annual gathering in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert happening August 27-September 4—is a great opportunity to expose your kids to nature, creativity, culture and self-expression.

Long-time Burner Mom Harley K. Dubois and Cory Mervis (Lady Merv) graciously gave us their advice and insights on life on the playa with kids. We’ve updated our list of 10 insider tips to make your Burning Man 2017 a fun-filled success with your Burner babes. And, if you need more visuals to what life is like on the Playa with kids, check out these beautiful photos of families enjoying Burning Man together.

1. The Family Experience
Bringing along the kids will lend an entirely different experience. This is the reality, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t have an amazing time! When deciding what mode of transportation to bring consider that the distances in the desert are great and can be too much for little legs to walk or pedal on their own. Get crafty and decorate your bike trailer but don’t forget to rig up plenty of shade for them to ride in style. When considering your outings, early mornings and late afternoons are best to beat the heat and the larger crowds. Nighttime noise can be an issue for light sleepers, so consider camping further back. The airport can also be a great base camp for kids. It’s quiet at night and can be a source of endless daytime entertainment for aviation loving kids.

photo: Siberfi via Flickr

2.  Repeat After Me: No Lost Children
Lights, sound, big art, so much to see! Adventurous ones may have a tendency to wander off so be sure to affix a wristband (the kind they can’t pull off) with your name, kids name, camp name, and location. Check out My Precious Kid for a good selection of inexpensive ID bracelets. Cell phone service is unreliable at best so if you do become separated, be sure to contact a Black Rock City Ranger immediately. Misplaced children are taken very seriously and once a child is reported misplaced all enforcement staff are put on alert until the child is located. For the older kids, identify an easy meeting spot in case you get separated. Choose somewhere central and well know so others can help your child locate it as well. Playa Info (6 o’clock and Center Camp) can be a great place to meet since they are trained to help in situations like these.

photo “Mini Man” in Kidsvile courtesy of Mickey Sattler (his daughter is in the heart-shaped tie-dyed shirt!) 

3.  So Much More Than Halloween
Just because it’s not Halloween doesn’t mean that you can’t dress up. Have a little fun and get them into the moop-free costume spirit, people will love it! Just remember that kids in costumes (whether you’re in the desert or not) are always a hit so people will want to photograph your sweetheart and give them treats – be prepared! Official media photographers can be identified by their laminates and if you are uncomfortable with anyone taking a picture of your child, be vocal.

A special thanks to Coyote and his fam for this photo (and the one at top)

4. Dust Storm Diligence
Ski or swim masks are the best and cheapest dust protection for the eyes. Consider “goggle training,” meaning get the kiddos used to the goggles by wearing them a few minutes each day. Bandannas make good air filters but the best place to be during a storm is inside. Carry the What, Where, When with you and if you find yourself stranded away from your camp during an extended one, find a kid-friendly activity (marked with the kids symbol) with a shade structure to hang out in until it passes.

photo of “Story time” courtesy of Mickey Sattler

5. Skip the Kiddie Pools
Kid pools are a mess! If you are prepared to drain and wash the pools daily you will be all set, but the first dust storm makes the mini pools brown and unappealing.  If you must, bring the kiddie pools out as treat and be mentally prepared to have it as a one time special moment.

6. Pack Familiar Toys and Bedding
Whether it’s a stuffed animal, special blanket, or sippy cup, be sure to pack a familiar object from home to make your kid more comfortable out in this unfamiliar territory. It gets cold in the high desert at night so you may want to pick up a cozy sleeping bag and let them get used to it in the weeks leading up to the event.

 

photo: Siberfi via Flickr

7. Combat the Dry Desert Sun and Heat
It’s the desert and with that comes plenty of sun, dust, sand, dry heat, and cracking skin galore. Little ones can be especially prone to playa foot so try and keep thin socks on their feet and be sure to clean off every night with Vinegar wash, which neutralizes the alkaline dust and restores Ph balance. (Bring a spray bottle for easy access and portability.) Pharmaceutical almond oil and Olive oil are great natural moisturizers. If your baby has super sensitive skin pack some Bag Balm for diaper rash – it’s the stuff bicycle riders use for long trips. Also a must are wide brimmed hats, sunglasses with a strap, plenty of bandanas (dust mask and cool rag), leggings, vented hat, and tons of sunscreen. Pint sized sun umbrellas can also be a fun way for little ones to keep cool and in the shade.

Other tips: Pack clear fragrance-free moisturizer and some q-tips. If your kid gets a nose bleed or the dreaded “playa-taters” (nose buggers), blow their noses in a moist fragrance-free towelette and then run the moisturizer inside the nostril before sleep.

8. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
This may be a no-brainer but be sure to keep you and your kids hydrated. Water is always good but the high altitude can also wreck havoc on the electrolyte balance of tiny systems. Consider mixing up the hydration routine with low sugar sports drinks or unflavored Pedialyte. The occasional salty snack or the favorite Burning Man staple, bacon (for the meat-eaters) can also help with salt loss. The first sign of dehydration is actually crankiness, so be aware and catch it early. Squirt guns and small hydration packs can be fun for older kids.

photo courtesy of The_WB via Creative Commons

9. Get Connected With Others
Black Rocks Kids (Kidsville), Burning Moms, Alternative Energy Zone, and the official Kids Survival Guide – there are lots of support groups and community resources out there to educate and support families on the playa. Kidsville also has it’s own early burn which lets the little ones have their own fun if you opt to skip the main event. Consider going with another like minded family. You will have in-camp entertainment for your kids as well as options for trading off night time duty so you can still get out and have some adult fun.

10. Enjoy the Moment
Your kiddos are going to get dirty, dusty, cranky, and everything in between – there’s no way around that so give up your “perfect picture” and try to enjoy the family experience. Harley comments, “I was much more stressed about my child being out there than she was. She did great! I had bags under my eyes. Just relax and enjoy the moment. You are creating an experience for your child that will validate their imagination, inspire creativity, and give them confidence.”

Jade and Cake at Burning Man, photo courtesy of playapixie

Here’s some more advice for Burner parents with older/school-aged kids from Burning Man veteran Dawn:

– Instill basic safety/well-being skills religiously. Our three biggest rules: never leave camp or us without checking in with parents first, never leave camp without your camelback with water, goggles, & dust mask, and never ever enter any enclosed space without an adult we know & trust. Obviously also teach them your camp address, landmarks to get home, and what Rangers look like.

– Have a secret code for checking out their level of comfort with strange situations. We used green/yellow/red (where green is “no problem at all,” yellow is “I’m uncomfortable or uncertain, but willing to see how it pans out; keep checking in,” and red is “get me out of here”). For example, ask your kiddo “what do you think of that yellow art car?” “What yellow art car? I only see a green one.” Having a code means you can check in on them in a group without having to potentially embarrass them, but following up with them after the fact is always a good idea too.

We want to hear from you Burner parents! What are your experiences bringing your kids out on the Playa and are there any insider tips that we’ve missed?

—Erin Lem and Drea Lester



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“Wonder Woman” Is Getting Her Own Rollercoaster and It Looks Incredible


photo: USA Today

2017 is clearly the year of Wonder Woman and now there’s a new wonder-filled adventure for fans to look forward to. Six Flags has just unveiled plans for a brand new Wonder Woman-themed rollercoaster, and just like the movie it’s breaking new grounds.

As USA Today reports, Six Flags has announced the new Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster will be opening at the Fiesta Texas park in San Antonio next spring. What makes this new ride so remarkable is that it will be the very first single rail IBox track coaster. Unlike the typical two-rail tracks, and previous iterations of single tracks, this new coaster will provide an ultra smooth ride that will make you feel like you’re gliding through the air. In addition to the single track, the train itself will also be narrower and feature single seats, so there will be no one riding on either side of you.

Jeff Seibert, president of Six Flags Fiesta Texas, told USA Today that the entire coaster structure will be visually stunning. As the narrow track means less steel beams and supports that are typically needed to hold it structurally, it will be a very close resemblance to Wonder Woman’s golden weapon looping in the air. The ride will also feature a 100-foot drop and a top speed of 52 miles per hour.

Would your little thrill-seekers like to ride on this new coaster? Tell us in the comments below.



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We Planned Your Labor Day Weekend So You Don’t Have To


Breakfast
Start your weekend off with some no-stress eats. We’ve got 15 kid-friendly options from toad in a hole to peanut butter toast with apples and honey that will start your day off right and keep the kitchen mess to a minimum.

Your Morning Activity
Looking for some feel-good fun? Kick off the weekend by teaching a lesson in kindness with one of these good deeds or random acts of kindness. These simple acts show kids how a small gesture can truly brighten someone else’s day. Bonus: you’ll feel pretty good in the end as well!

Lunch
Make use of all your local farmer’s market produce by busting out the blender for some drool-worth summer popsicles like coconut mixed berry or strawberry lemonade. Then, celebrate the end of the work and school week with one of these mocktails, perfect for a kid-friendly holiday celebration. Cheers!

Your Afternoon Fun
Go green! Step out into your backyard or neighborhood park and see what’s growing. While you’re there, see how many creepy crawly critters you can find with this printable bug scavenger hunt. You can even try out your green thumb with one of these gardening projects like the oh-so-cute LEGO mini planter boxes.

Dinner
Friday nights are the perfect time to track down your favorite local food trucks. These gatherings of gastronomic goods are great for kids as they offer loads of options from fried chicken to sushi to Thai tacos. Some even include music and games to keep the kids entertained while you enjoy your lobster roll under the fading summer sun.

photo: Carol Norquist, NGC Chair



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The World’s Longest Suspension Bridge Just Opened & the View Is Incredible


photo: CNN.com

The best way to get a bird’s eye of view is to go where only birds usually fly. The Swiss Alps offer a majestic panorama of green mountains in the summer and now you can get a unique glimpse of the view hanging in the air from a record-breaking suspension bridge.

As the video from ABC News shows, the newly opened Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, which hangs across a valley between the cities of Zermatt and Grächen is 1,640 feet long, making it officially the longest in the world. As you make your way across the narrow hanging bridge you’re treated to some of the best views of the famous Matterhorn, Weisshorn and Bernese Alps.

At its highest point, the bridge puts you nearly 300 feet above the ground. While it does feature a system that prevents it from swinging, it might not be the best option for those who have a fear of heights. If your family is ready and willing to be adventurous though, the quick trek across the bridge only takes about ten minutes, but offers memories that are sure to last a lifetime.

Would you cross this bridge? Tell us in the comments below.



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The NEW LEGO House Is Coming Soon


The LEGO House is coming! The LEGO House is coming! If you aren’t already in the loop, allow us to introduce you: the grand opening of the LEGO House will be September 28 in Billund, Denmark (aka the global headquarters of LEGO). We’ve got the scoop on this amazing new and oh-so-chic immersive LEGO experience that should officially go on your bucket list now. Read on for the details.

A collab between LEGO and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, the entire building will be an interactive place where you can build and play all day. There will be a LEGO museum, a hands-on play area, a LEGO store and a display area for fans to show off their own creations. The House itself looks like 21 giant white bricks, stacked on each other as if it were being built of bricks. When it is done, it will look like this:

And this is drone footage of the work in progress…

Upon entering the LEGO House a sea of LEGO bricks will greet the kids. Amazing features, including a life-sized LEGO tree, will enhance the vibe. There will be multiple experience zones, organized by color. The zones are divided by color and each is themed with differently. For example, the Red Zone is all about creativity and motion. Kids can don a lab coat and enter the lab where a teacher will help you build the LEGO creation of your dreams. The Yellow Zone is set up for kids to play with emotions, with fun projects aimed at teaching kids to express, understand and regulate emotions. Create sea creatures, critters and their environments, and “plant” a LEGO flower garden. The Blue Zone focuses on logic, showing kids how to solve complex problems, find solutions and learn new things through Robo Lab, City Architect and gravity-defying vehicles in Test Driver. The Green Zone teaches kids to become great communicators and work on social skill building and awareness through LEGO fun like Character Creator, World Explorer and the Story Lab! The Masterpiece Gallery showcases the creativity of the LEGO community. Build your masterpiece, whether it’s a famous person or place or outstanding work of brick, this gallery of human invention will be jaw-dropping (and your piece might be showcased too!)

In addition to the experience areas, the roof will also have an interactive play area (that will be free). There will be three on-site restaurants. Check out the footage below of the Family Restaurant’s LEGO robots!!!

Currently, the ticketed areas are listed with admission of about $32 USD per person. To learn more about the LEGO House and pre-book tickets, visit the website and watch our site for more info as it becomes available!

Online: legohouse.com

Are you excited about this new LEGO destination? Will you make the trek?

—Amber Guetebier



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A Parent’s Survival Guide to the Mall of America


Think you’ve been to the mall before? The Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, is not your average shopping center: with 8 acres, 28 rides and attractions including a Ferris wheel, multiple roller coasters and an aquarium, we can promise you have never done the mall like this. But with all those acres and shops (there are over 520 stores in the mall alone) you need a survival guide, especially with the kids in tow. Read on for yours.

photo: Amber Guetebier

Fun fact: nine Yankee Stadiums could fit inside the mall, also 347 Statues of Liberty. That’s big. Lucky for you, most of what you want to see and do with the kids is located in or near the east wing of the Mall of America, including our recommended accommodations, the rides, and the food court wooot!) so you can focus on the fun. Here’s what not to miss. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

Creative and active types alike will find adventure here at this Crayola mecca where kids can paint, color, dance, animate and even become a coloring page character. Melt down crayons to make a souvenir to take home, use your tokens (included with admission) to name a crayon anything you want and watch a short movie and demo about how crayons are made. Admission is $19.99 at the door, but you can get $3 off admission if you purchase online.

Online: crayolaexperience.com 
Allow:
1-2 hours.

photo: NVJ via Flickr

Nickelodeon Universe

The center of the Mall is Nickelodeon Universe, a seven-acre amusement park (the largest indoor theme park in the US) that includes 28 rides and attractions. There are four roller coasters from wild to mild, a splashy log ride, Ferris wheel, carousel, bumper cars and more. You’ll find plenty of amusements for the younger set alongside thrills for your older crew. We suggest getting an unlimited ride wristband ($35.99, or two-consecutive days for $49.99). They are good for the entire day and any of the rides, which means you can explore other attractions in the Mall, grab some lunch, and do it all again. If you want to include the zipline or Moose Mountain Mini-Golf, the wristband is $40.99. 

Tip: Save $5 if you buy a wristband in advance online.

Online: nickelodeonuniverse.com
Allow: 1-4 hours (per day) depending on how many times you go back for more!

photo courtesy Mall of America

Sealife Minnesota Aquarium

An aquarium in a mall? Yep, and it’s not small either: there are 10,000 sea creatures here! In addition to touch tanks upon entry (while you wait!) you’ll soon find yourself in for some major aquatic enchantment. Once you’ve been mesmerized by the Ray Tank, you’ll find yourself among a sea of seahorses. There’s also a 300-foot ocean walk-through tunnel that allows you to be one with the sharks and sea turtles. General admission tickets start at $14.99 (you can save by purchasing in advance) but you can upgrade to get behind-the-scenes tours and feed the rays!

Online: visitsealife.com/minnesota 
Allow:
1 hour

Looking for More? Check out FlyOver America a way-cool flight ride that doesn’t just show you what it’s like to soar like an eagle: it takes you on an aerial tour of the United States. Xscape is a video and interactive gaming center: there are two in the mall, one “central” and one on the east side. There’s also the Amazing Mirror Maze on the north end.

Where to Stay

There’s no better option for families than the Raddison Blu Mall of America. It is chic yet family-friendly (please spend some time lounging in the “pod” chairs in the lobby) and you can take the skyway, right off the second floor mezzanine directly to the Mall. Not only that, but you end up right near the food court and Nickelodeon World (and the American Girl store). There’s a world-class spa and—parents rejoice—a package pickup service. Guests of the hotel can shop until they drop and then simply call the hotel. They send a staff member within minutes to take your bags directly back to your room for you, which frees you up to ride the rollercoaster, without worrying about your purchases. The hotel also keeps bees on their roof. Watch for bee demos and delicious honey-infused treats on the menu of the on-site restaurant FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar (also available through room service—just sayin’). The hotel sports a gorgeous, salt-water, indoor pool stocked with pool noodles, water guns and more. When booking, check out their family packages including: An American Girl package which includes a doll-sized travel bed to keep, a welcome letter and access to American Girl book library; the Nickelodeon Universe package which includes wristbands; the Crayola Experience package which includes tickets to the Crayola attraction, a backpack buddy and a 10” Crayola plush toy; the Family Fun upgrade which includes tickets to the Aquarium or wristbands for the rides and a kid’s tent to keep; and the splurge-worthy American Dream package which hooks you up with tickets to almost everything in Nickelodeon Universe plus shopping coupons and more. Rooms start at $143.65.

No trip to the Mall of America would be complete without a little shopping. It is, after all, a mall! But with 520 stores, we’re betting you’d like to narrow it down a bit. For kids, there are a few spots you won’t want to miss. And lucky for you, these ones are all fairly close to one another and near the Nickelodeon Universe.

The LEGO Store

Not only does this store sell LEGO bricks, sets and swag, it is home to some of the most epic LEGO sculptures we’ve seen. There’s a 34-foot tall LEGO robot; a helicopter, knights and a dragon. There’s a cool screen that animates the scene from any scanned box of LEGO sets, bringing the characters and builds to life. Plus, there’s a large area just to sit and build with bricks. Climb up to the second floor of the mall to get an even better view of the LEGO sculptures! 

Insider tip: Fans of LEGO will want to check out Brickmania on the Level 3, a small store that sells a huge array of unusual minifigs, weapons and a few hard-to-find and collector sets. Kits are made from genuine LEGO brand parts.

American Girl

If you’ve got a fan in your house, odds are you won’t be allowed to leave the mall without visiting this store. Check out all the historical and contemporary Girl of the Year dolls, find your own doll to personalize (and animate it online!) and get lost in the swag: books, outfits, accessories and more. Hungry after all that browsing? Grab a bite at the American Girl Bistro!

photo: My Lil’ Rotten via Flickr 

JM Cremp’s Adventure Store
This retail space is like a mini-adventure in itself. From pretend-play costumes and gear to tents, fishing, ziplining and more, this kid-focused store will encourage your creative, adventurous kids.

The Disney Store

Not only will you find all your favorite characters and movie swag, the store hosts events throughout the year including trivia-thons, arts and crafts and storytimes.

photo: john via flickr 

 

The Mall of America has it all. We love the food court for its view of the rides and overview of the center court of the mall. There’s everything from fast-food burgers and fries to deep-dish pizza to sushi to falafel wraps. For sit down, you’ll also find your favorites like the Hard Rock Cafe, the Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp. Local favorite Cowboy Jacks is a hit with the kids, and for something sit-down, and a little less “chain” feeling, try the Twin City Grill for a 1940’s supper club vibe; Radisson Blu’s FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar or Crave—an award-winning American grill and sushi bar.

photo courtesy Mall of America


If you’ve got kids that sometimes still need a stroller or that conk out before their older siblings, rent one at
Guest Services (there’s one right by the Nickelodeon Universe) for just $7 for a single or $9 for a double. Mall of America is big, even if you just stick to the areas mentioned above!

Get the app! It will help you plan your itinerary based on interest, offers a detailed map and will text you updates about current events happening in the mall that day!

Going just for the day? Park n the East lot if possible.

If you are staying at the Raddison Blu, you can park for free in any of the lots but you must register your vehicle each time you move it. We recommend doing valet at any of the hotels, as it is not that expensive and comes with in-and-out privileges if you decide to go on any nearby excursions. If you do self-park, make sure you have your vehicle make, license plate number, etc. 

Flying in? Take a bus or lightrail from the  MSP airport. A taxi there from MSP should be about $15. Note you will be dropped off near North entrance with bus or lightrail.

Mall of America 
60 E Broadway
Bloomington, Mn 55425
Online: mallofamerica.com 

Have you visited Mall of America with the kids? What was your favorite part? 



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5 Marvelous Midwest Road Trips You Have to Take


Adventures Ashore
This Lake Superior-side tour will take you from marvelous metro to one of pristine shoreline, all in a little over 100 miles. Start your trip in Duluth, Minnesota (about two hours north of Minneapolis/St. Paul). Before you get your motors running, take some time to explore this port town, especially Downtown and Canal Park. Canal Park’s crown jewel is the famous Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge and it’s also where large ships come through to load at the docks. It’s home to the Lake Superior Maritime Museum and the mission!). Just across the grass from the museum you’ll find an archway indicating the Duluth Lakewalk, an 7.5 mile long walking, biking and strolling path that you can stomp along any time of the day. For a bite to eat hit up Lake Avenue located inside the Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace—also home to local’s favorite for sandwiches, Northern Waters Smokehaus which you can take for the road. The iconic Grandma’s Saloon is also nearby, a great bet for kids with plenty to look at, games to play and an extensive upscale-diner menu. Before you leave Duluth don’t miss the Duluth Depot, the former center for train travel in the area that is now a major hub for arts including the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which features massive engines (many of which kids can climb in); train tables; a hobo-sign scavenger hunt; replica turn-of-the-century buildings and even a replica movie theater. As you head north, stop Glensheen an epic mansion on 12-acres of gorgeous waterfront property that offers public tours and breathtaking views of Lake Superior. If you’re looking for overnight accommodations in Duluth, check out the Edgewater Hotel & Waterpark or the Radisson Hotel Duluth Harborview.
 

Up North
About 27 miles north of Duluth, you’ll find Two Harbors. Snag a photo with the giant rooster and grab a souvenir at Weldon’s Gifts before heading up the road toward Gooseberry Falls State Park (one of the state’s best waterfalls) and the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center. A little farther up 61, you’ll also find Split Rock Lighthouse, an iconic lighthouse and history museum, and one of the most photographed on Lake Superior. Hop back on scenic 61 and keep climbing north. Consider an overnight stay at Lutsen Resort . Just miles shy of Grand Marais, the 1885 built Scandinavian log lodge is big on charm and great for families of all sizes. While you’re there head across the road and up Lutsen Mountains for a sightseeing excursion in the enclosed gondola. Between Lutsen and Grand Marais, you’ll find several state parks and hiking trails to explore, many with rushing waterfalls and breathtaking views. Grand Marais is a charming town, right on Lake Superior. It offers plenty of lodging, and is known for its artists—so keep your eyes and ears open for art around every corner. Other highlights include a walk to the lighthouse, browsing in Drury Lane Books, pizza at Sven & Ole’s, and a visit to the Grand Marais Art Colony. Click here to check out their workshops before you go. Nearby, the North House Folk School serves up classes for the older kids including blacksmithing!


photo: kkmarais via flickr



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