Sunday, September 20, 2009

Minnesota: As a Tourist Destination, it Could be Worse

Explore Minnesota

"Explore Minnesota Tourism welcomes you to - your destination for Minnesota travel information. Minnesota tourism offers a wide variety of places to stay, and things to do. Visit Minnesota once - and we know you'll want to travel Minnesota again!"

I've used Explore Minnesota as a resource now and again over the last several years. It's a pretty good introduction to Minnesota as a tourist destination. On the other hand, it's by no means an exhaustive index of what's available for visitors to this state.

Still, like I say, it's pretty good.

I live in central Minnesota: one of the "Geographic Regions" you can sample from a drop-down menu at the top of the home page (and elsewhere).

"In the heart of Minnesota, you will find a scene of crystal lakes, and wooded hills. Minnesota's Central Region is home to a variety of towns and cities - like Alexandria, Brainerd and St. Cloud - that provide the visitor with a blend of activities for the whole family...."

If you're planning a vacation here in Minnesota, this is a pretty good description - as far as it goes. But there's more to central Minnesota than what Explore Minnesota shows.

Sauk Centre, where I live, is about two thirds of the way from St. Cloud to Alexandria. It's home to about 4,000 people, and sits on the transition zone from lake country to the north-northeast and prairies to the south-southwest.

The prairies are mostly farmland now: a settled, practical country with its own sort of charm. Apart from stopping for a rest and a look at features like the Belgrade Crow, though, it's difficult to imagine spending a vacation there.

The lake country, on the other hand, is something special. I'll admit that I'm biased. I grew up in the Red River Valley of the North, fine farmland and some of the flattest landscape on the planet: and remember trips over into a wooded land of hills, swamp, ponds and lakes.

For quite a few years, folks living north of here have extend the tourist season into those months in which Minnesota's water is a mineral.

"Snow Activities" is what Explore Minnesota calls skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowmobiling. I forgot something. Right: and snowmobiling.
"It could be worse?" People have noticed Minnesotans saying that, when asked for an evaluation of some situation.

I think it was more common in northern Minnesota - probably, as others have speculated, a leftover of Norwegian culture and ways of thought. I'm half-Norwegian myself, and recognize a tendency to see worst-case scenarios. In the old country, where you could fall off your hayfield, and had glaciers for neighbors, that wasn't being pessimistic: it was how you stayed alive until the next summer.

Come to think of it, conditions in northern Minnesota are generally harsher than much of Norway.

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