Road Trip: South Dakota

Home to stunning scenery, iconic monuments, and hours of outdoor fun, the Black Hills of South Dakota are truly one of the most family-friendly regions of America. From national parks to Wild West towns, to the largest reptile zoo in the world, there are many fun things to do in the Black Hills!

A vacation in the Black Hills is road trip Americana at its finest. Our Rushmore Shadows Resort is located on the road between Rapid City (Western South Dakota’s largest city) and Mt. Rushmore. We’re right past Reptile Gardens and located next to Old MacDonald’s Petting Farm. There’s endless hiking trails and a rails to trails biking/walking path that stretches 110 miles through the Black Hills. You’ll find opportunities to wine and dine, eat the best burger in South Dakota, or watch American Bison herds in their habitat. Don’t miss Custer State Park – or drive east to The Badlands National Park – a surprising landscape surrounded by prairie.

South Dakota tourism continues to increase, and you should consider booking early to ensure a camping spot or lodging. Still an affordable part of the country, you won’t regret visiting the Great Faces, Great Places in South Dakota!

Photo Credit: Sharlene Earnshaw

Maximize Storage in your RV

Planning a summer roadtrip? Looking to fit your family in a small space for a weekend, week, or longer? Our experiences in RV living for the past several decades have granted some perspective about how to make the most of your storage, your living space, and your sanity when you downsize.

Plan, plan, plan! Start planning your travel or vacation in advance of your travel date. Know what you intend to do on your trip. If you don’t ride your bicycles at home, you may not suddenly become a cyclist on a camping trip. Do you have a plan to store your canned goods. What about other non perishables? Will you have access to laundry services where you’ll stay? Think about rain patterns, weather, and warmth!

Only keep things that serve a purpose. In such a small space, there simply isn’t enough room for a lifetime of belongings! Keep what you need for daily life or the possessions that mean the most to you.

Keep it clean and clutter-free. A tidy home always seems bigger – even if it’s only 400 square feet! Smart storage solutions also can help you maximize your space.

Multipurpose. Look for furniture pieces that do double duty in your RV, such as ottomans with storage inside or a sleeper sofa! Modify existing fixtures with the help of a contractor who can help you maximize what storage you have and make even more.

Be prepared to be unprepared! Research the nearest grocery stores/big box stores/or Amazon delivery options at the RV park or resorts you’ll travel to. Know that some areas don’t have great cell signal or internet – and be prepared to make do with what you have for 24 hours at any given time.

Stay excited! Travel, even in a small space, even with your entire family, is exactly the sort of memory-making we suggest “‘MOR(e)” of! Midwest Outdoor Resorts is here to help you make the absolute most of your memories, your experiences, and your time with family in the outdoors!

Winter Weather – Camping Ready!

Camping outside with a projector TV on the side of a van

Camping is an adventure of unknowns. Even if you book a well-reviewed campground, with highly rated amenities and features, on a “normally nice weather” weekend – there are many variables that can affect the plans and final experience of your camping trip.

This weekend, parts of the United States that seldom see cold weather have dipped into single digits. Back home, where we write from, it’s been as cold as -20, with days of gray skies and biting wind. While cold weather doesn’t exactly make us want to go outside, it does provide us a great opportunity to prepare in advance for camping season, just around the corner.

During this cold stint, we’re doing the following:

  • Planning A Warmer Adventure
    • We’re making “x’s” on the map of locations we want to visit this summer. Planning a road trip, an extended camping stay, or a “staycation” close to home is a good opportunity to dream of sunshine and warmer weather!
  • Checking Our Supplies
    • Even though we can’t use them right now, it’s a great time to pull out the camping totes and do a pre-season check. Batteries in the lantern? Check! Enough dishes for the family? Check! Freshly laundered and folded linens for the RV? Check! 
  • Purchasing New Gear
    • Sometimes the offseason is the best time to find good deals on camping essentials. Come Memorial Weekend, everyone will be stocking up. Get the jump on the best deals from last season OR pre-season sales through local and online retailers. 
  • Pinteresting Some New Ideas

While camping season feels far in the future, it’ll be here before you know it. We hope you’re dreaming up new adventures, preparing for the unknown, and getting ready to make mor* memories with Midwest Outdoor Resorts and your friends and family!

Van Life? Real Life.

If you spend any time on social media sites like Pinterest or Instagram, you know the photo: A couple of craft beers in artistic cans and a few hand picked wildflowers sit on the adorable fold-down table inside a Scandinavian inspired vehicle. The curtains and pillows are earthy and subtle, accented by a gorgeous wood interior – and just blurred out of view are unwearably fashionable hats, a vintage camera, artwork, and rope for climbing. The surfboard is always a mint condition singlefin and there’s always an acoustic guitar.

Van life, or, as we should say #vanlife, has hit its stride as a 2020 trend – while many people tired of staying home, the allure of an open road and a safe little luxury home to travel in was at a peak. The reality of living in small spaces with a partner or a family is slightly different than the pinterest-shots – but we believe that you can absolutely make your best memories while in an RV or van. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Pack for Real Life:

You’ll need more than two outfits, more than 2 perfectly matched plates, and plenty of storage that’s functional, not just beautiful. Remember that your vacation, trip, or life are really lived – not just photographed. Ensure you pack functionally, with intention.

Expect the Unexpected:

You may lock yourself out, find yourself in two weeks of rain, run out of gas on the side of the road, have a mattress choice go horribly wrong, or a host of other less-pinnable problems. The truth about any adventure is that the unexpected makes the stories worth telling. Our friends at LOST Travel have an entire podcast about travel gone wrong (link here:

Document the Memories:

Even if everything goes wrong, or if the paper plates aren’t as picture-perfect as you imagined, take the photos and keep a journal. Some of your most meaningful conversations, funniest anecdotes, and memorable sights may take place while you live a real life in a van or RV for a weekend, a week, or more.

Encourage Others:

Part of exploring a campground, National Park, open road, or new place is staying open to meeting others. And when you do, stay positive! Encourage those you meet to try out their own adventure. While RV or van life may not be for everyone – the lessons of staying flexible, making do with less, and finding joy in the journey translate no matter the situation!

If you haven’t joined Midwest Outdoor Resorts for a camping or cabin adventure, we encourage you to check us out. We have vintage trailers, tiny homes, and RV spots in midwest states with beautiful views and awesome communities.

New Cold Weather Camping Gear

We’re getting close to turning the corner into spring. The beginning of February is when we start getting restless to get outside, and this year is no exception. Cold-weather camping isn’t always for the faint of heart, but we’re here to prepare you. Below you’ll find some of the newest wintry camping gear, sorted by price for your convenience. If you’re well equipped, camping can be a delightful adventure any time of year!

$ – $10 – $50

$$ – $50 – $125

$$$ – $125 – $200

$$$$ – $200+

GSI Outdoors Microlite 500


Looking to keep your drinks really hot for a long period of time? This vacuum bottle kept 500ml of boiling water 100 degrees after 9 hours in a -5 degree freezer. You can hike all day, and still have actual hot chocolate as you wind down at night.

Primus Winter Gas


 Most canister stoves can’t be used in freezing temperatures. This Primus Winter Gas canister has a VaporMesh lining in the can that absorbs the liquid gas inside and spreads it out. Basically, it’s a canister that can be used in cold temps.

DryGuy Warm N’ Charge


This rechargeable hand warmer provides up to 5 hours of warmth per use. It will also charge your phone twice. These are a necessity for a cold overnight trip.

$$ –

Exped Down Booty WB


So, these are a little more expensive than your average boot insulator, but they work wonders. The problem with down booties is that they usually wet out and are unusable. In a test, the Exped Down Booty didn’t wet out while in the snow for 45 minutes.

Julbo Vermont Classic Glasses


These retro mountaineer glasses will remind you of Edmund Hillary climbing Everest in 1953. Although they’ve adorned the faces of climbers for 125 years, they can transition into today’s urban world as well.

SOG Reactor Multi-tool


This knife and multi-tool has ten different components, including a stainless-steel blade (of course), bottle opener (always needed) and screwdrivers.  The versatility of this tool will come in handy all year.

$$$ –

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX


This inflatable mat has synthetic insulation plus heat-reflective material, which keeps you warm down to 15 degrees F. The mat has separate holes for inflation and deflation.

$$$$ –

Summit Alpine 50L Backpack


This lightweight (2 lbs., 9 oz. empty) pack uses FuseForm construction, where the fabric is folded and fused rather than stitched. The pack is rated to carry 50 lbs.

Patagonia Men’s Grade VII Down Parka


OK, so this isn’t cheap. At $899, it’s not for the novice cold-weather camper. As North Face says, it’s for “thriving, not surviving,” cold temperatures. If you’re going to be outside in the frost, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a safer, warmer parka.

LED Lenser XEO 19R Headlamp


2,000 lumens is a lot. With two LED cannons, this headlamp will help you navigate the dark on the blackest winter night. Both lights can be adjusted and focused separately, and they also adjust automatically to the surrounding brightness. It’s not cheap at $330, but you won’t find a better device for lighting up a campground.

As technology advances, cold-weather camping becomes easier and more fun. While not many of us can afford some of these extravagant devices, you’ll find that you don’t need to spend the entire winter indoors. As always, we’d love to see your cold-weather camping experiences in the comments!

2017 Hot New Snowmobile Trends

As I write, there’s a large shakeup taking place in the snowmobile industry. Minnesota- based Arctic Cat, an industry leader, has been sold to the Rhode Island company Textron, which makes all sorts of specialized personal and commercial vehicles. Textron is known for E-Z-GO golf carts, Cushman vehicles and aviation brands like Bell Helicopter, Cessna and Beechcraft.

While the full impact of the $247 million-dollar sale will not be known for awhile, it is probably a good thing for Arctic Cat. The company recently reported that it had suffered a sharp decline in sales, and being backed by a financially stable company like Textron will allow them to innovate and compete with some of the other original equipment manufacturers. Chances are, Arctic Cat will bounce back better than ever with different sales tactics and innovative trends.

2017 is an intriguing year for snowmobile product. The four big companies (Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha) are introducing more product this year than in any year since 2003. It may surprise you to learn just how big of an economic impact of snowmobiling has, generating $26 billion annually in the U.S. alone. Between manufacturing, dealerships and tourism, snowmobiling generates over 100,000 full-time jobs in North America. Large-scale competitive events like the X Games (Aspen, CO, Jan. 26-29) have brought a worldwide spotlight to the sport as well.

If you’re new to snowmobiling, a great place to start is They will give you all sorts of tips and tricks to get started, whether you like to ride across the open plains or into the mountains. They have great resources on where to rent sleds (snowmobiles) as well, so you can dip your toes in the water before diving in headfirst. You may also want to consider joining a snowmobile club, where you can meet people who share your interest (there are over 3,000 snowmobile clubs in the U.S.). Some places will require you to take safety classes as well, so be sure to check with your local snowmobile association for more information (safety classes are a good idea regardless of age or previous experience).

The Soo Line Trail near Lake Mille Lacs in Central Minnesota is a fantastic place to start your snowmobiling adventure. Offering hundreds of miles of groomed trails that weave through forests, farmlands and wetlands, the Soo Line Trail is a fantastic route for rookie and veteran riders alike. You can ride in seclusion, or rent snowmobiles for the whole family and make a weekend of it.
There are all sorts of snowmobiling events in winter 2017. January 21 – 29, for example, is International Snowmobile Safety Week. February 11 – 20 is the Take a Friend Snowmobiling Campaign. There are various competitions, conferences and symposiums throughout the year as well. Snowmobiling is a fun way to get outdoors in the winter, and is a great way to interact with nature, friends and family. It will give you a lifetime of winter recreation, and you’ll find that snowmobiling is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. Happy sledding!

Embracing the Cold & Catching the Big One: Ice Fishing on Lake Mille Lacs

The 132,500-acre Lake Mille Lacs is the second largest inland lake in Minnesota (which is saying a lot). About 100 miles north of the Twin Cities, it offers a fantastic winter destination for the whole family (see here). Containing the smallest National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. (two small islands in the middle of the Lake), Mille Lacs is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, some bear, quail, grouse and pheasant.


Mille Lacs is also known to archaeologists as one of the earliest sites of human settlement in Minnesota, as copper tools thought to be over 5,000 years old have been found around the lake. Various tribal groups lived around Mille Lacs throughout history, most notably the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe, who settled in the area between 1745 and 1750.

In the late 1870s, the timber industry boomed around the area, and began Lake Mille Lacs’ transformation into the “sportsman’s paradise” that it’s known as today. Well-known for camping, resorts (see here), beaches, hunting, golf and of course…fishing. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) guide to Minnesota says “Walleye and northern pike abound, as do perch, whitefish, bass, and crappies.” Fishing tourism has long been the most critical aspect of the area’s economy, and the Lake does not disappoint.

During the winter, thousands of ice-fishing houses sprawl throughout Mille Lacs. Luckily, the Lake is so large there is plenty of room to set up camp. During especially cold Novembers, the Lake is frozen by Thanksgiving, but normally ice fishing starts in the first week of December near the shore. By late winter, Mille Lacs is frozen all the way across, with ice sometimes three feet thick. Lake roads are plowed for easy access. The melting season usually begins in March.

If you’re travelling to Mille Lacs, or don’t have your own fish house, there are plenty of rental options. Guides are available year-round as well, enhancing your experience by putting you smack-dab in the middle of the hottest spots on the Lake. The Minnesota DNR also allows darkhouse spearing of northern pike, tullibee and rough fish. Darkhouses are painted black inside, reducing light and allowing the spearer to see all the way to the lake floor. While you may not get as many fish, spearing does allow you to be more selective, and is a tradition passed from Native Americans to European settlers.


Many anglers on Mille Lacs are interested in walleye fishing. While nothing beats talking to the locals at the bait shop on the best strategies, here are a few quick tips to get the most out of your experience:

  1. Walleye are generally most active during the changing light conditions of sunup and sundown. Chances are, you’ll catch more walleye during dawn and dusk than any other time.


  1. Walleye are generally found a few feet from the bottom of the lake (luckily, Mille Lacs is shallow, with a 42-foot max depth). They will likely hang close to lake structures like points, rock piles and humps. They want fast access to deep water, so steep breaks are great spots as well. Trying drilling multiple holes in multiple depths for the best opportunities.


  1. Jigging (raising your rod about a foot and dropping) is imperative to catching walleye. Jigging attracts the fish, but they often won’t bite until the lure stops. Try raising and dropping the tip, then waiting a few seconds before doing so again (

Finally, be sure to check the local fishing regulations here. Walleye currently has a limit of one over 28”, due to significant changes in the aquatic system. The Minnesota DNR is working to increase the walleye population as quickly as possible, so hopefully regulations will be eased soon. Northern pike and bass fishing is available, but has limits as well.

Please let us know about any experiences you have in the Lake Mille Lacs area. If you’re into fishing (or many other activities) you won’t regret a trip to Lake Mille Lacs this winter!

Our Top 6 Things To Do In Northern Minnesota This Winter

Let’s face it, when you’re thinking of a winter vacation, your first thought probably isn’t on Northern Minnesota. Most of us would like to take a long break in a tropical paradise, but it’s often not feasible. Luckily, there are plenty of fun options in the Upper Midwest, even if you’re not necessarily escaping the frost. Minnesota is a winter haven for outdoor activities, and offers plenty of indoor destinations if you’re not the winter sports type. Take a gander at the list below, and let us know in the comments if you have experienced any of these adventures yourself. Hopefully this will give you an idea of just how enjoyable a Minnesota winter can be!

Ice Fishing –

It’s no secret that Minnesota has lakes. 11,842 of them in fact. Many of those lakes offer some of the best ice fishing in the world (seriously). You can even rent an ice house if needed, bare-bones or stocked with heaters, stoves, bunks and your very own bathroom. Lake Mille Lacs, in Onamia, is home to mighty walleye and northern pike, and has plenty of open area for you to stake your claim. You can even spearfish northern pike on one of the largest lakes in the entire state. If you need a place to stay check out, our blog on Soo Line ( )

Duluth –

Duluth is spectacular in the winter. Yes, the weather can be harsh, but a visit to Canal Park or skiing the many slopes around the area will make you rethink winter fun. Lake Superior offers an unmatched charm, and the restaurants will melt the chill with comfort food. Shopping is sensational throughout the area as well.

Snowmobiling –

There’s a reason the open road is so appealing. It gives us a chance to clear our minds, leaving behind the traffic and monotony of daily life. Snowmobiling through a secluded forest on the Soo Line Trail is the epitome of a mind-clearing getaway The trails are open December 1 – April 1, are well groomed and take you through miles of open wetlands, farmlands and woodlands. Even if you’re not into snowmobiling, it’s a trip you don’t want to miss.

Highway 61 Revisited –

Take a cruise up Lake Superior’s North Shore to experience a scenic drive that changes every year. The charming small towns along the way only add to the ambiance, and you’ll find a distinct beauty driving it in the winter. You’ll find treasures you never knew existed.

Hiking/Snowshoeing –

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the scenery! Minnesota has miles of well-kept trails that will give you a reprieve from the treadmill. Check out Sibley State Park in west-central Minnesota, where Mount Tom presides. There are a variety of landscapes to enjoy, including lakes (of course), farmland, forests and prairie knolls. You can also rent snowshoes (only 6$ per day) and get some truly fresh air in the open countryside.

Festivals –

The Twin Cities are chock-full of winter festivals, but Northern Minnesota has the most fun. Where else can you partake in a toilet seat toss? Icebox Days in International Falls (Jan. 19-23), the International Eelpout Festival (an ugly, bottom-dwelling fish, Feb. 23-26) and the Grumpy Old Men Festival (Feb. 25, conflicting) all have ice-fishing contests, polar plunges and much more debauchery. Simply put, Minnesotans know how to have fun, and will be happy to have you join in the revelry.

Of course, there is also skiing, skating and camping to be done. Hopefully this list is a jumping-off point for you. Minnesota is an incredible state to explore, even in the cold heart of winter. Enjoy!

This Weekend, Try Soo Line Trail Campground!

Winter is what we make of it. It’s often difficult to escape the drab monotony of never-ending snow, small windows of daylight and clenched fists on icy roads. If we let it, winter can really get to us mentally, physically and emotionally.


Maybe we don’t have the money to get away and take the family on a two-week vacation to the Bahamas. We might not have the time for a road trip to California. If so, we need to embrace winter rather than escape it. If we can leave the day-to-day toils of home-life behind, even for a weekend, it can give us the rejuvenation we need to make it to spring.


It may be time to check out Midwest Outdoor Resort’s (MOR) Soo Line Trail Campground. This is the only MOR getaway that is open on weekends in the winter. Located in Onamia, MN (about 90 miles Northwest of the Twin Cities), minutes from Lake Mille Lacs, the Soo Line Trail Campground has plenty to offer, even during Jack Frost.


Lake Mille Lacs –


Lake Mille Lacs offers fantastic fishing (especially Walleye, Northern Pike, and Bass), no matter the season. Rent an ice fishing house if needed, or explore one of the many charming towns around the lake. Onamia is the gateway to Lake Mille Lacs, and offers the jumping-off point to great snowmobiling on the Soo Line Trail. There is plenty of hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and even kiteboarding in the area as well.


Grand Casino Mille Lacs –


Grand Casino Mille Lacs is dubbed “Minnesota’s Most Liked Casino,” and for good reason. Offering plenty of entertainment year-round, Grand Casino Mille Lacs offers entertainment from boxing to concerts to comedy. Of course there is gaming and excellent dining throughout the casino as well.


Mille Lacs Indian Museum –


If you’re looking to shop, the Mille Lacs Indian Museum Trading Post “interprets the contribution of the Ojibwe people to the culture, history and contemporary society of Minnesota and the nation.” While the museum is unfortunately closed until April 1st, the Trading Post is open from 11am-4pm Wednesdays through Saturdays and offers large exhibits, as well as jewelry, books, music and even wild rice. The Trading Post also has its own interesting history.


Or you could just stay in…


There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to relax. The Soo Line Trail Campground offers a unique blend of amenities that allow for a fantastic getaway without breaking the bank (or giving you frostbite). With comfy overnight suites with free Wifi, a large clubhouse including a convenience store, game room and library, you don’t necessarily need to leave the resort to leave the stresses of winter life at home. A weekend getaway with your family or significant other might be just the fuel you need to make it all the way to spring.
As always, happy exploring!


New Year’s Resolutions: Travel More

One thing is for certain: no one who entered 2016 will depart it the same way. It was a tumultuous year, with unprecedented political turmoil, beloved celebrity deaths, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history and the Zika scare. There were also positives: the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, the U.S. high school graduation rate reached a record high,  unemployment went down to 4.6% and the National Park Service turned 100.

There’s no doubt 2016 will be looked on as a historic year. As we take another trip around the sun, many of us will promise at the outset to get healthier, happier and wiser. Most of us will also fall flat on our promises. Instead of making a bunch of impossible resolutions, why not narrow them down to one so we can get the benefits of all three?

We’ve written about the differences between material and experiential gifts before ( and why experiences make people happier long-term. New Year’s resolutions are about giving a gift to yourself, and there’s no better gift than adventure. Let’s resolve that 2017 will be the year we travel, broaden our horizons and leave the burden of work and home-life behind, if only for a little while. If time and/or cost is a concern, there are certainly ways to budget and plan your travel. Contact us at Midwest Outdoor Resorts for more details.

Leave No Vacation Days Behind –

According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2015 55% of Americans didn’t use all of their allotted vacation days, leaving 658 million said days unused. While much of this is due to fear of getting behind on work, not being promoted, etc., if we allocate our time and plan accordingly, there’s no reason we can’t use them to travel. Look for slower periods and/or plan in advance so you can delegate some responsibility ahead of time. Work-life balance is essential to your well-being, and time off plays a large role. Use it.

Make Your Own Itinerary –

A big fear of travel, especially when going with friends or family, is that you won’t be able to experience the things YOU want to do.  Maybe you’re not a fan of art museums, or you don’t really care to see a certain landmark. So what? If your idea of having fun is sitting by the lake, let it be. Of course, if you’re traveling with others, you may need to make some compromises. Just be sure to carve out some time for yourself.

Leave Expectations at Home –

So you’ve planned perfectly. You’ve arranged every last minute of your week-long trip.. What happens if it’s pouring rain on your hiking day? Or the museum you want to see is closed for renovation? While we certainly want to have time set aside for things we want to do, it’s important to be open to the fluke circumstances travel inevitably brings. The more authentic and participatory our vacations are the better they will be. This means talking to others, unplugging from work and being up for anything that comes our way. Getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing destinations for all that they are is what makes travel worthwhile.

Go Solo –

Even if it’s just for a long weekend, try taking a trip by yourself. We’re not trying to cause any rifts here, and depending on where you go you’ll want to take extra precautions, but traveling alone is a great way to recharge. When you’re by yourself, you’ll have an opportunity to interact with your destination and its people in ways you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. If you must travel with a significant other or friend, give yourselves one day or at least a few hours to be alone. You won’t regret it.

In 2017, let’s resolve to go on that short weekend road trip we’d usually skip. Let’s resolve to see a few of America’s National Parks. Let’s resolve to plan at least one long vacation to somewhere we’ve never been, and let’s resolve to leave work life behind for awhile and gain some perspective. There’s no better gift we can give ourselves.