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Chicago City Slickers’ Guide to Surviving ‘Up North’ in Minnesota
Chicago City Slickers’ Guide to Surviving ‘Up North’ in Minnesota

Surviving Your Minnesota Vacation

For more than 75 years, Cragun’s Resort has been a beloved Minnesota vacation destination for friends, couples and families all over the Midwest—especially folks from Chicago.

Chicagoans find their way to the Brainerd Lakes Area each year to experience what “Up North”—or as we like to say, “Up Nort”—really feels like in Minnesota. But those hailing from the Windy City are often met with unexpected customs and experiences. And in that spirit, we’ve created the ultimate survival guide for when you Chicago city slickers arrive for your Minnesota vacation.

Here it goes:

1. Don’t eat the walleye. The walleye is Minnesota’s state fish and once you try it, you’ll never want to eat anything else. It’s likely you can find a willing fishing guide in the lakes area of Minnesota. Let them show you where the walleye are and catch your own. There’s nothing like fresh caught walleye out of a Minnesota lake. You may even find yourself able to partake of a “shore lunch” – fried walleye, potatoes and beans over an open fire – a sublime dining experience!

2. Brace yourself for abnormally nice people. We aren’t called “Minnesota nice” for nothing. Whether you’re shopping, boating, fishing, hiking or just relaxing on the deck, you will encounter friendly smiles. If you should find yourself needing a little help with anything, a true Minnesotan will jump in before you can even ask. And, of course, being extremely modest (as all Minnesotans are) they will shrug off any effort you make to thank them.

3. Never say the legend of Paul Bunyan is just another tall tale. To Minnesotans, the giant isn’t part of a fable. He’s a real legend and Brainerd’s 26-foot-tall animated and talking Paul Bunyan statue along with his sidekicks, Babe the Blue Ox and Sport the Reversible Dog prove their existence. A longstanding symbol of strength and vitality, Paul Bunyan is said to be responsible for Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and other natural wonders.

4. Brush up on local speak. When you leave Chicago, you’re going to have to give up the “Chicago-ese” in favor of the “Minnesota-speak.” For example, the plural of you in Chicago is “use”, i.e. “Where’s use going?” In Minnesota, the plural of you is “youse”, i.e. “Where’s youse going?” The dialect of Minnesota’s North Country is one that can confuse foreigners at times. Some top terms to know are:

Minnesotan Slang to know on your next Minnesota vacation

5. Be careful when you breathe in while outside. All that fresh air may give you a nasty cough. Big trees, 10,000 lakes, lots of open land and healthy minded individuals all lead to clear, clean air that is a delight to breathe. No worries about car emissions or industrial fumes here, although you may find the scent of a bonfire on a cool, crisp night wafting your way.

6. Don’t look at the landscape too long. All that beauty may make your head explode. Minnesota’s largest metro area is about one-third the size of the Chicago metro area. Once you have left the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, you have left metro areas for good. Plan on open fields (We’re farmers donchaknow), lots and lots of lakes, rivers and streams, and forests of trees. From the hills of Duluth to the cliffs of Winona, to the majesty of Lake Superior, you will find scenes that will take your breath away.

7. Be prepared for tough decisions on water recreation. Minnesota is home to more than 10,000 lakes—and that can be overwhelming when you only have little Lake Michigan and a few streams. In fact, the Brainerd Lakes Area is home to more than 400 lakes and streams—including Gull Lake. With over 9,400 acres, Gull Lake is perfect for a day-long adventure. Fishing, swimming, boating, paddleboarding or just floating the day away under the sunny blue skies, Gull Lake has it all.

8. Don’t be scared by the calm winds. The wind in these parts is usually gentle and soothing, which can really throw Chicagoans. You can enjoy cool lake breezes in northern Minnesota and not get blown off that comfortable lawn chair. Imagine a picnic where everything does not have to be held down by heavy rocks or a leisurely canoe ride where paddling doesn’t require herculean effort.

9. Bring your fun pants. If you follow none of the other tips in this guide, make sure you follow this one. With so many unbearably fun things to do in Minnesota’s North Country, you’ll certainly need to wear your best party pants.

If you’re planning a Minnesota vacation, we truly hope you choose Cragun’s Resort to rest your head. If not, we completely understand. But if that’s the case, no need to worry about packing your fun pants. Your unhappy pants will do just fine.

Contact us today to start planning your Minnesota vacation.