“Fairytale” Drive with Attractions and Stops Begins in St. Cloud
In the wintertime I generally start thinking and planning for when it's not winter. This is one of those things that you can plan for Spring, Summer and/or Fall. But winter may be a bit challenging for some of these attractions.
There is a very scenic drive that you can take through Minnesota that takes you to some "fairytale" like places throughout Central to Southeastern Minnesota. This trip begins in St. Cloud. Quarry Park is the first stop, or beginning point, so actually it begins in Waite Park. From there you will drive to Munsinger/Clemens Gardens. These are both places that seem pretty magical. Fairytale-like. Great places to take pictures. I've seen so many people take their graduation, engagement, wedding, family, etc pictures in both of these spots. Or, if you just want some really picturesque scenes to frame - both of these places have those opportunities.
Next up, according to Only in Your State, you will make the drive to the Twin Cities area. There you can make the stop at the magical place Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Bird Sanctuary. They stay open through October 15th and weekends only through the end of October. There is a shelter that has limited hours beginning in April and running through the summer.
The garden is home to more than 600 plant species and 130 bird species, and receives 40,000-60,000 visitors each year.
From there you will drive to the Normandale Japanese Garden. That just looks super cool, and something unexpected in Minnesota. This is located on the Normandale Community College campus.
Then head to the Cannon River in Welch. Welch is also where Treasure Island Casino is located, so after taking in the scenic area by the river, you could try your luck at the Casino. You should really book this trip out for a weekend to allow for time to do extra things.
Next stop is Lake Pepin in Lake City. This is the largest lake on the Mississippi and is a great place to hang out for the day and kayak, or some other water activity. Or... just hang out on the beach.
After that, head to Winona to the Great River Bluffs state park. And it is just as the name suggests. Great trail walking, hiking, and photo opportunities.
And finally end up at Mystery Cave in Preston, Minnesota. This is the only reason I have heard of Preston is because of this cave. I love going through these caves throughout the United States. This one is cool because it's interesting, and you don't have to drive too far to see it. At least you are still in the state of Minnesota... you will be on the border of Iowa, but still in MN.