The woods and waters of north central Wisconsin offer some of the best vacation opportunities in the Midwest.
Stretching from Hayward in the west to Minocqua in the east, you will find fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and Friday fish fries.
There's also a little bar at nearly every intersection sometimes, two.
For more than a century, the woods and waters of northern Wisconsin meant nothing but hard work for European settlers, who eked out a living there by trapping and logging.
It was only after the turn of the 20th century that folks in the south decided they could have a lot of fun up in the woods. So they left their offices and factories and headed north by the thousands.
Thus began the transformation from harvest to tourism.
Of all the fun things a person can do, riding a horse is not one of the cheapest. Unless youre part of the country-club set, its an expensive hobby kind of like golf.
But theres one place where you can go on a trail ride and golf and stay overnight for less than $100 per person.
My friend Debra knew about a Minnesota River Valley stables that offers scenic three-hour trail rides for $60. I knew about a guesthouse right on the golf course in Fort Ridgely State Park where five of us could sleep on the floor for $15 apiece.
Played all the usual suspects around the Brainerd Lakes? Throw your clubs in the car and drive a little farther north, west and east, where you'll find half a dozen more great golf courses.
Minnesota National Golf Course is brand-spanking new and determined to be taken seriously.
north of McGregor, halfway between the northern edge of the Brainerd Lakes and Duluth, the course stretches a
breathtaking 7,200 yards from the back tees, making it one of the longest
in the state.
Its hard to tell where it started, this love affair we tundra dwellers have with the game of golf. Maybe we just love being surrounded by acres of perfect green grass, since much of the year the ground is white or brown.
When the big golf tournaments come to town, a TV announcer always says, You know that Minnesota leads the nation in active golfers per capita, and the response always is Huh!
Golf and golf-related travel spending in Minnesota exceeds a billion dollars a year, making it one of the states largest industries and yet the season is on the short side of six months.
The days when the Brainerd area was best known for lakes are long gone.
Today, it has more golf holes than fishing holes and there are 465 lakes within 25 miles of Brainerd, a railroad town that lends its name to a swath of north-central Minnesota that includes the lakeside villages of Nisswa, Breezy Point, Crosslake and Deerwood.
Golf Digest has ranked the Brainerd Lakes one of the Top 50 golf destinations in the world, which is pretty good for real estate that spends most of the year under snow.