With over 1 million acres (yes, you read that correctly) to explore and 1,200 miles of canoe routes to paddle through, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (www.bwcaw.org) in northeastern Minnesota on the U.S.-Canada border might well be the ultimate getaway destination. You can't just show up, though; a permit to enter the preserve must be obtained for a nominal fee (day rates are $10 per adult and $5 for kids and senior citizens; season passes are $40 for adults and $20 for kids and senior citizens) by calling tel. 877/550-6777. On the North Shore Scenic Drive along a 154-mile stretch of Lake Superior on one side and lush pine forest on the other, you can stop off at your choice of six state parks along the way, check out the Split Rock Lighthouse, and end up in Minnesota's self-proclaimed "Little San Francisco," the charming port city of Duluth.
If you prefer to limit your activities to the great indoors, the Mall of America (www.mallofamerica.com) located just outside the Twin Cities in Bloomington is exactly what you'd imagine: the biggest mall in the U.S. with over 500 retail stores, as well as the Nickelodeon-branded indoor amusement park with 30 rides, including a roller coaster, Lego-land, American Girl shop, Moose Mountain mini-golf, NASCAR Silicon Speedway (where you can have a real-as-it-gets simulation of 195mph racing speeds), and a pretty good aquarium. To expand your mind and not your wardrobe, take the kids for a fun afternoon at St. Paul's Science Museum of Minnesota, 120 W. Kellogg Blvd. (tel. 651/221-9444; www.smm.org), for interactive exhibits. For something in between outdoorsy and indoorsy, try the Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley (tel. 800/366-7811; www. mnzoo.com), where you can meander around the 500 acres with 2,300 animals from around the world (and native to Minnesota), as well as check out the IMAX theater and ride the monorail between animal trails. Even better, check out the new and improved Guthrie Theater at 818 South 2nd St. in Minneapolis (tel. 612/377-2224) for a performance of Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde, all the better with which to see and hear it in the new 285,000 square foot, triple theater, $125 million new digs.