Chilkoot Café & Cyclery

The next stop on the #mnbucketlist is a savory little place tucked away in a residential neighborhood in Stillwater.  Off Churchill Street is the Chilkoot Café & Cyclery, an eatery and full-service bike shop. Yep, both. Come for the house roasted coffee and Biker Burrito (or Brioche Benedict, if you’re like me), after shopping for a new bike! The perfect place to study, grab coffee with friends, stop to rest your legs while your bike is serviced or even spend some time with your dog on the sidewalk patio. I, for one, went straight for the breakfast options, clearly. Located in a beautiful historical building that was once Kearney’s Korner [Grocery] Store, and has since been a pizza parlour, secondhand store, and salon. It still keeps its bygone charm with its warm wood floors, exposed brick and natural light. I do warn that they get awfully busy, but are worth the wait.


The Spot Cafe 

If you spend much time traveling through central Minnesota, you may have passed by the next #mnbucketlist stop.

With two convenient locations, off Highway 10 in Motley and Staples, the Spot Cafe is the quinessential roadside eatery. As soon as you walk in, you’ll feel right at home, as a small town diner ought to make you feel.

As for the food, you can expect nonegotiable diner favorites like country fried steak, biscuits and gravy, patty melts, burgers, sandwiches, and best-loved breakfast staples like cinnamon rolls, omelettes, and french toast – with colossal portions.

My recommendations? Get the sour cream and onion fries (pictured) and for the daring, step up to the infamous Brunch Burger that comes complete with a quarter pound of beef, topped with an egg, hashbrowns and smothered in Hollandaise sauce (also pictured). What is your go-to rest stop restaurant?

Gull Dam Brewing 

Up next on the #mnbucketlist is Gull Dam Brewing off Smiley Road in Nisswa. It is important to mention that the taproom is in back because you may miss it on the way in. Whether you stop in to grab a growler on your way to the cabin or stay a while and take in the communal, laidback atmosphere; Gull Dam is the perfect place for groups, as they are equipped to entertain the potentially inebriated masses! A large projection screen to cheer on your favorite team, giant Jenga, bag toss/corn hole, dice, cribbage, cards and other board games, and even a giant beer pong table. That’s not all – Gull Dam has a huge, open garage door with a big stage for live music, outdoor patio and a bonfire pit. Gull Dam is family and dog friendly, too! And as for food, they often have food trucks, but you could just bypass the lines and order pizza from Raffertys instead.

Rush City Bakery 

Established in 1903, Rush City Bakery has been a regional staple for more than a hundred years. You name it, they have it. Biscuits, dinner rolls, breadsticks, donuts, pastries, cakes, cookies, bars, and so, so much more!  When it comes to sweets, they have nearly any flavor you could think of. For cupcakes and cakes, imagine Lady Baltimore,  strawberry bliss, turtle, neapolitan, tuxedo, and even lemon supreme. As for pies, they have the tried-and-true favorites like apple, blueberry, cherry, strawberry rhubarb, pecan, pumpkin, banana cream, and French silk. For the cheesy, creamy cheesecakes, they have turtle, raspberry swirl, salted caramel chocolate chip, key lime, Baileys, and pumpkin. They even do custom  wedding cakes, made from scratch! And if sweet isn’t your thing, they have you covered with savory. With it’s success, RCB added a sister company, New Generation Bakery, in  June of 2016. You can’t go wrong with their sesame, blueberry, onion, sprouted wheat, apple cinnamon, cinnamon raisin, jalapeno or asiago bagels. They also produce a full line of breads for the Minnesota Bread Company,  with loaves coming in all kinds of tastes like cranberry walnut, jalapeño cheddar wild rice, roasted garlic asiago, marble rye, San Francisco sourdough, chunky cinnamon, and onion dill.  There are too many options to list! Often lines out the doors with over a century of business, it’s not hard to see why Rush City Bakery is worth a stop.

Outdoorsman Cafe 

If you’ve ever spent much time in Walker, I’m fairly certain that you’ve passed by (or even been a patron of) the Outdoorsman Cafe. A landmark most known for their hashbrowns, the cafe is exactly what you would expect from an old-fashioned, small-town albeit greasy spoon diner. I have the utmost respect and love for traditions, especially those that include breakfast and complimentary coffee. Eggs Benedict, blueberry pancakes, biscuits and gravy, don’t even get me started on the caramel rolls.  If you are planning on stopping by, make sure you come hungry. I should warn, they get very busy so  expect a wait – but it’ll be worth it.

Walleye Capital of the World 

If you’ve ever driven through Garrison, you have a most certainly passed by the giant Walleye sculpture sitting in Garrison Concourse Wayside Park. It is located on the southeast edge of town, off the shore of Lake Mille Lacs, waving passersby with a warm “Welcome to Garrison!”

The Minnesota state legislature designated the Walleye as the Official State Fish in 1965. Since Mille Lacs is the largest lake in central Minnesota and the most popular spot to catch a Walleye, Garrison erected the 15-ft. long fiberglass Walleye Pike in 1980 and declared itself “Walleye Capital of the World.” Legend has it this walleye was caught by Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox after three-day struggle. Paul finally wrapped his line around Babe’s horns and Babe pulled the fish out of Lake Mille Lacs and up onto Garrison Beach.

The fiberglass statue, covered in reflective automotive paint, is a product of the F.A.S.T. Corporation and makes for a great photo op.

Fun fact: Garrison shares a name with a town in North Dakota that also has the same fish statue.

Lake Cafe 

Up next is one of the most mom-and-pop places that I’ve ever been to, the Lake Cafe in Big Lake. Owned by Tim and Tammy Cox, Tim’s family purchased the restaurant in 1968. Unfortunately, six months after, his father, Ronald passed away. For the next 34 years, it was run by his mom, Ethel. Tim and Tammy purchased the restaurant when Ethel died in 2002.

I have been coming to the Lake Cafe for as long as I can remember. It was a family favorite, a tradition, and a go-to for “fancy” diner food. It was eggs Benedict, and pancakes for Sunday breakfast and where kids could indulge in burgers for good grades while the adults chatted over coffee cups and homemade chili. Lake Cafe is one of those spots that you can’t help but remember, and reminisce simply by closing your eyes. A place that smelled like your Grandmas’s kitchen – for all the right reasons.

Mazda / The Hotel Landing 

Recently, I got the chance to take the All-New 2017 Mazda CX-5 for a spin. With it’s deeply vivid, Soul Red Crystal Metallic color complementing every curve and angle creating a sense of motion, even at a standstill, I chose to go to “The Gateway to Lake Minnetonka,” Wayzata, Minnesota to see a place that equaled the CX with state-of-the-art technology and all the comfort, style and luxuries a single experience could have, the Hotel Landing. Just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, Wayzata’s first hotel in 53 years opened June 2017. Hotel Landing has 92 rooms, 31 condos, has Ninetwentyfive – a two-story restaurant, and a serene Nordic-inspired spa, Läka Spa, inspired by Minnesota’s Nordic Heritage. It combines elements of modern and classical European architecture for an airy, coastal infusion. Located on Lake Street, this luxurious boutique hotel will be a favorite for wedding ceremonies and receptions. It was the perfect backdrop and accompaniment to Mazda’s CX-5. A big thanks to Mazda for their incredible hospitality!

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Minnesota Zip Lines and Adventures: Brainerd Zip Line Tour

Looking for an outdoor adventure? Not afraid of heights? I have just the thing.

Zipling with the Brainerd Zip Line Tour! And what better place to do it than Mount Ski-Gull, which already offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.

As part of the Minnesota Zip Lines and Adventures that also includes the Kerfoot Canopy Tour, you’ll be able to see the area in a whole new way, from above, as you soar over the treetops. Experience the breathtaking views of Gull Lake and the wildlife that inhabit the area as you push off a ledge and rush through the air. I know, right? I panicked a little. And don’t worry, there’s always two professionally trained guides who will add lots of humor and patience to the day.

All in all, it takes about 2 hours. Drive up to Mount Ski Gull, get on the ground training where you learn how to brake and respond to different signals, do each one of the 7 Zip Lines, cross the 65-foot Indiana Jones-esque suspension bridge that will make your knees quake, and finally, freefall from the 50ft “jump” at end. It was a blast!

Still too nervous? Let me just say, when I was there, a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother did it. All seven. If they can do it, you can, too!