2nd Hand Decorating and Design

The very first place I went after I got to the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener was 2nd Hand Decorating and Design. I saw it on the side of the road as I set out looking for a bakery or a candy store.. Let’s face it, most of the travels are guided by my pursuit of these two things. You won’t find this place online though, like a fair amount of my other favorite spots. 2nd Hand is owned by Connie Huspek who, by the way, is incredibly helpful. She is the one who told me I HAD to check out Molly’s Mess (previous post) and the McGregor Baking Co (previous post), whom 2nd Hand used to be located next to. Connie’s also very sweet, if you look closely, you can see her greeting me at the door! They offer vintage, handmade and one-of-a-kind ‘stuff’; up north meets new charm when it comes to all the refurbished items she carries. Because they are just getting set up from a recent move, are slowly filling their walls with furnishing, fixtures, accessories and decor. All great things to decorate the cabin! If you’re coming through, tell Connie I sent you.

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Mark’s Bar and Grill (Off Liquor)

As soon as I found out that the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener was going to be in McGregor, I knew I had to go to Mark’s Bar. A town staple that serves as a favorite watering hole for locals, vacationers, townies, “just passin’ through”s and overnight-ers; ask anyone in McGregor and they’ll know Mark’s. A tradition to everyone I talked to, Mark’s Bar and Grill and Off Sale Liquor is a one stop shop. People rave about their Bloody Mary’s but they are also known for their burgers, ribs, cheesy pizza and layered, sky-high nachos. The nachos I can attest to, and those pictured are actually the ‘small’. I will warn that the staff is a little tough on you, and they aren’t afraid to give you a hard time. If you don’t go with it, it’ll rub you the wrong way – especially you out-of-towners. Don’t worry, they’ll only slightly hold it against you, lol. They have a pretty impressive beer selection and even have an old bottle and can collection littered on the walls between old photos of the area. Whether you’re coming through on a snowmobile on your way to Eelpout, heading to your cabin off Big Sandy, grabbing ice at Off Sale or just looking to get out of the house, head over to Mark’s Bar – let me know what you think!

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Molly’s Antiques and More

I know. I. KNOW. I made that face, too. And yes, it’s far more magnificent in person. In case this pseudo residential roadside attraction hasn’t been introduced to you yet, allow me. Molly’s Antiques and More in McGregor was on my must-see list during the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener this past weekend. A cross between a hoarders paradise and a collectible hodgepodge, it is also know as “Molly’s Mess”, and don’t worry – she doesn’t mind you calling it that. She’s even got a sign, proclaiming it to any passersby. Molly is the greatest, I even spritzed my perfume on her! Long story. Ahem, back to the organized chaos. Ok seriously, what don’t they sell? From the shelves of license plates, old cameras, rotary phones, signs, teacups, beer cans, one of the most impressive vinyl record collection that fills a whole wall and the largest, creepiest collection of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls I have ever had the pleasure of trying to forget. The whole place has pockets and little treasure coves with assemblages of nearly anything you can think of. While I’ll admit that it shook my I’ve-seen-this-scary-movie-before nerve, it also made for one of my favorite personal stories on the #mnbucketlist. If you have some time and aren’t afraid of a little adventure in curio unearthing, you really ought to stop in.

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Minnestalgia Food Shop and Winery

One of the stops on the Tour of McGregor during the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener was the totally Minnesotan, totally delicious, Minnestalgia Food Shop and Winery. Yes, two things. The Food Shop came first, and has been around for more than 20 years. Specializing in fudge, and carrying 43 other Minnesota produced food items like local berry jams, syrups, wild rice, pancake mixes, soup, honey and maple syrup. That’s not all. With a bit of a north woods artist collective approach, they showcase some of the best goods and crafts ‘up north’ has to offer. Owned by Jay and Lori Erckenbrack, Lori takes care of the Shop and can tell you anything and everything including recipes for Aitkin County‘s very own Wild Rice. Seriously, she’s adorable. When it comes to taste however, Jay’s passion is all about the wine. Cultivated via their berry buying programs in several Native American communities around the state, they offer honey wines like blackberry, black currant, blueberry, raspberry, wild grape, wild plum and chokecherry. Open year round for tours and tastings, it’s no wonder why this doubleheader made the list!

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Savanna Portage State Park

One of the perks of being at the Governor’s Annual Fishing Opener (69th this year!) is being in close proximity to wildlife and natural resource experts. You get this rare chance to understand an area that others merely pass through and I took full advantage. Savanna Portage State Park is only a few short miles from downtown McGregor and is absolutely beautiful; rich with history, places to camp, hike, swim, fish and has 32 miles of snowmobile trails. The Savanna Portage Trail, a historic trail traveled by fur traders, Dakota and Ojibwe Indians, and explorers for more than 200 years, includes a six mile portage across marsh, swamp, and forest which took an average of five days to reach the West Savanna River. It is remarkably unique in the way that the Continental Divide runs through the park; water to the west flows into the Mississippi River; water to the east runs into Lake Superior. Cool, right? Known for its fishing, you can expect to catch panfish, trout and bass. If you’re like me and fishing isn’t your thing, come for the north woods. Chock-full of birch, aspen, maple and tamarack peat bogs, you are bound to get an amazing picture or two. Have you been here, do you have a favorite state park?

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McGregor Baking Co.

When it comes to road trips, I always seek out anywhere that serves up coffee and carbs. And when I was on my way up to the 2016 Governor’s Fishing Opener in McGregor this past weekend, I found exactly what I was looking for. Opened in 2006 by Mark and Stacy Bohn, the McGregor Baking Co and Cafe has the freshest baked goods I’ve ever come across, and I’m not just saying that. While they have tons of healthy options, I stand behind them as my choice for the best place for cinnamon rolls on the #mnbucketlist. This place is so good I actually came by two times in one weekend! I won’t even pretend I wasn’t daydreaming about those soft, heavily iced helixes while I was on the water… If you’re coming through, or staying in the area, go, your tastebuds will thank you!

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ZorbazIn the interest of taking a break, and finding food that doesn’t come from a cabin fridge, I give you Zorbaz on the bucket list. Zorbaz is a Minnesota lakeside staple. They are in Detroit Lakes, Little Pine Lake, Pelican Lake, Ottertail Lake, Cross Lake, Gull Lake, Pokegama Lake, Big Sandy, Green Lake, Alexandria and my favorite, Park Rapids. If you love a backwoods on the lake bar filled with live music, pizza and Mexican food, you’ll be right at home at Zhateau Zorbaz. They are great because they are open late when nowhere else in the area is. Side note: I have a soft spot for their sauerkraut and green olive pizza, judge me all you want.