Get Ready, Get Wet, Go!
Summertime Family Vacations in the St. Croix Valley
Summer fun for the whole family is just 45 minutes from the Twin Cities. With adventures for all ages around every corner, it is hard to know where to start. This list will help you pack your vacation itinerary with non-stop excitement, relaxing restfulness or a little of both. Don’t forget to bring your swimwear!
Wild Mountain Water Park, Taylors Falls, MN
Before you even walk in to Wild Mountain Water Park, you will notice the sounds. You may hear laughter ringing out in space, echoing on the water and carrying on the breeze. You will probably hear voices in the whir of indecipherable conversations, occasionally interrupted by clearly audible teenage banter or a chiding parent. But always, you will hear the water. Every sound water can make. There’s the rushing sound as the waterslides empty into the pool basin at the bottom, the low babble and gurgle of the lazy river, the light, shallow splashes of the wading pool, the sprinkler-like pitter-patter on the water playground, the deep rush of the tipping bucket…The anticipation builds like an itch with every step and the only cure is to get in and get soaked!
In the heyday of mini golf in America, the country accommodated 25,00 mini golf courses. Today, that number is down to about 5,000 nationwide, but two exist right in the St. Croix River Valley.
Adventure Falls, Taylors Falls, MN
The 18 holes at Adventure Falls feature challenging and inconsistent green surfaces complete with waterfalls, streams, ponds and faux sand traps. Almost as if to commemorate a time when mini golf was in its prime, a 50s-style drive-in restaurant sits adjacent to the course where customers get an authentic throwback experience with homemade rootbeer, burger patties shaped by hand and carhops in 1950s garb.
St. Croix Mini Golf & Go Carts, St. Croix Falls, WI
A fun, easy, 18-hole challenge for all ages. There’s even a hole that allows you to hit the ball into the water and still get a hole-in-one. Located on Highway 8 in St. Croix Falls, on the same premises as a go-kart track (see below).
A Day at the Races
If your family has a need for speed, the St. Croix Valley can get you on the fast track for fun.
St. Croix Mini Golf & Go Carts, St. Croix Falls, WI
A safety-first mentality and a decent price are among the accolades of the 0.2-mile track at St. Croix Mini Golf & Go Carts. And for those in the family that prefer to slow it down, the onsite mini golf course is the perfect solution (see above).
Wild Mountain Go-kart Tracks, Taylors Falls, MN
Zoom along on one of Wild Mountain’s two go-kart tracks. The adult track features faster cars and children over 54 inches can drive one on their own. Kids over 36 inches can drive their own on the slower kiddie track or ride with an adult on the adult track. Newly upgraded go-karts are faster, safer and more comfortable. While at Wild Mountain, take some time to check out the other adrenaline-filled activities that won’t get you wet, like the Alpine Slides (2 dry rides stretching 1700 feet from the top to the bottom of the mountain), and and Freefall XP (jump from heights of 18 or 27 feet – and land safely!).
The sun, the sand and the water! The St. Croix Valley is speckled with lakes and their beaches, and the environmentally conscious attitude of the area keeps them in pristine condition. Here are two beaches with clean water and sand and playgrounds for the kids.
Beach Park on South Lindstrom Lake, Lindstrom, MN
Located in the quaint town of Lindstrom, known for its Swedish heritage, Beach Park lies just a couple blocks off Highway 8. On the way in, you’ll note the Barn Quilt Trail along Highway 8 that spans from Taylors Falls to Chisago City. You’ll be getting close when wooden dala horses start appearing and you’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the kaffe pot water tower, just blocks from your destination.
Big Marine Park Reserve Beach, Marine on the St. Croix, MN
The protected areas of the Big Marine Park Reserve make for some pretty natural conditions, including clean water and air, keeping your day at the beach a healthy and safe one. The gradual slope of the lake makes it easy for swimmers of all ages to find their perfect depth and the large beach boasts plenty of spots for your family to set up shop. Other park features include hiking trails, natural wildlife habitats, picnic area and picnic shelter, boat launch, fishing pier, and playground.
Reach for the Sky
Soar to new heights of family recreation in the St. Croix Valley and view this beautiful countryside from above.
A giant, floating playground full of swaying bridges, tightropes, beams, cargo nets and platforms dares you out of your comfort zone and tests your balance and strength. Warm up and get acclimated to the world-class safety equipment on the 12-foot high practice course, then work your way up the tiers, each more challenging than the last, to the 30-foot high pinnacle.
Feel like you are flying as you zip line over the Trollhaugen grounds. The aerial tour—spanning 3,000 feet of line with elevations up to 50 feet high— will have you gliding at treetop level for a birds-eye view of the rolling hills and woodlands below.
The St. Croix Valley is loaded with trails. In fact, the city of St. Croix Falls, WI has been dubbed the City of Trails. From this hub, the trails fan out like a spider web across the valley on both sides of the river. You’ll find dirt wilderness trails with boulders and tree roots to navigate, crushed limestone rail-trails, asphalt walking, running or cycling paths, and perhaps the most scenic and interesting water trails in the country to paddle.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Holiday Inn Express, St. Croix Falls, WI
All the modern features of a contemporary hotel located right in the heart of the quaint, historic, wilderness town of St. Croix Falls. Features include wi-fi, swimming pool, exercise facility, complementary hot breakfast and adjoining rooms.
Dalles House Motel, St. Croix Falls, WI
A charming cross-breed of bed-and-breakfast and modern hotel, the Dalles House offers wi-fi, swimming pool, continental breakfast, 24-hour coffee in the lobby and 90 miles of trails that can be accessed directly from the property. Perhaps the biggest draw is the Dalles House Restaurant and Lounge, which mingles a modern and period supper club experience in both atmosphere and food.
Yummies for Your Tummy
The Drive-In Restaurant and Dalles House Restaurant and Lounge (mentioned earlier) are certainly two staples of the St. Croix Valley experience. Here are two more must-trys that will get your mouth watering when your tummy’s rumbling.
Village Pizzeria, Dresser, WI
The extensive menu incorporates more than just pizza, giving it the variety required to satisfy a family with differing palates. Hand-made and specialty pizzas, Italian pastas, burgers, sandwiches, soup, salads, steak and chicken entrees and local specials kick off the list of meals to try. The spacious, Italian-American-themed restaurant emits a casual, family-friendly vibe and can accommodate groups large and small.
Valley Sweets, St. Croix Falls, WI
If you have a sweet tooth, Valley Sweets is a dream come true! Over 16 flavors of ice cream, homemade waffle cones made daily, more than 30 flavors of saltwater taffy, and almost every kind of candy that ever existed, all rolled into a colorful, vintage shop on the St. Croix waterfront.
The article "Summertime Family Adventures in the St. Croix Valley" was produced by Linda Shober Marketing + Design, and written by Karen Lawrence. Linda Shober Marketing + Design is located in the St. Croix Valley and specializes in providing content, strategy, management, design, and creative for digital and traditional marketing projects.
Top photo: Wild Mountain is fun for all! Photo courtesy of Wild Mountain Recreation.