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LAKE CITY

To get there

From Rochester, take U.S. 63 north about 35 miles.

Summer events

Saturday: Tour de Pepin, a bicycle tour of the lakeshore

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June 21-22: Muddy Waters Regatta, featuring catamaran sailing, at Hok-Si-La Park

June 27-29: Water Ski Days, celebrating Lake City as the birthplace of water skiing

LANESBORO

To get there

Take U.S. 52 south to Fountain, turn left on Main Street, and left on County Road 8. Go about nine miles to Parkway Avenue.

Summer events

Saturday: Rhubarb Festival in Sylvan Park. Sample rhubarb specialties — from chutneys to leathers to pies — between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and then vote for best of show.

By D.A. Loeser Small

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greenspace@postbulletin.com

Ah, gasoline. Smells kinda’ toxic. When I was a child, I used to like to stand near the pump and inhale. There were no warning signs about cancer and fumes. The digits moved much slower back then when a tank was being filled. You could casually count, "one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi" while staring at the rotating dial.

Now numbers flash in a blur and our country’s dependence on gasoline is pushing us into victim mode. But it’s clear the party needed to be crashed, even if pollution was the only reason. Lesson learned: The world is finite.

We are in transition, but that can mean opportunity for those who choose to see it. This summer there are plenty of ways to enjoy a vacation on less than a tank of gas. GreenSpace recommends Lanesboro and Lake City — a storybook hamlet and an ideal lakeside town — to let the good times roll.

There’s no compromise required on excitement, activities and even glamour.

Lake City

So maybe you’ve been to Italy’s Lake Garda or boarded a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir. But even if you’ve haven’t traveled much beyond Rochester’s Silver Lake, you need not go far to experience world-class beauty. Ringed by high, lush wooded bluffs, Lake Pepin is the only natural lake occurring on the Mississippi River, with 2.5 miles of parkland and walkway through Lake City.

A sailboating destination and an angler’s choice, the lake holds a multitude of recreational options and has not been overrun by tourism and development.

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"People, when they get here, feel like they had to fly here to get here," says Susan Draves, a Lake City retailer and resident.

Lake City is the nexus for Lake Pepin activity. Summer events here include the inaugural Tour de Pepin on Saturday, a bicycle tour of the lake, and Water Ski Days, which shines a spotlight on Lake City as the birthplace of water skiing.

Dining in Lake City covers the bases — from steaks and burgers and a lake view at Skyline on Pepin to chicken salad in the dainty tearoom of Chickadee Cottage Cafe. Connoisseurs flock to Nosh, with a daily changing menu that features Mediterranean-influenced American cuisine, much of which is procured from local farms, and more stunning views. In relaxed surroundings, Rhythm & Brew serves mostly organic and/or locally raised light fare, including all-day breakfast specialties and sandwiches made with on-site baked bread.

For those who can think of little that’s more perfect than attending a poetry slam while being served fair trade coffee, a visit to Hope’s Harvest Natural Foods and Deli is a must. Susan Draves’ hip spot, at 220 E. Chestnut St., focuses on locally and organically grown products and is transitioning into a bigger location at 130 S. Washington St. by the end of this month.

For a distinctive sailing experience, head to the Lake City marina, climb aboard Jay and Lori Luck’s SV Quintessant and request Lori’s raw food feast— an organic unheated meal using primarily locally grown ingredients.

In addition to camping or sleeping afloat, Lake City lodging options include the Red Gables Inn Bed & Breakfast, where proprietor Mary DeRoos offers an impressive daily-changing buffet breakfast (apple pannekuchen, anyone?) and evening hors d’oeuvres with wine.

Lanesboro

The awards have rolled in for Lanesboro. In 2004, Outside Magazine listed Lanesboro among its 20 Best Dream Towns in America. Ten years ago, the hamlet received the Great American Main Street Award. In 2005 Lanesboro was designated a "Governor’s Fit City" for promoting physical activity.

What makes Lanesboro such a kudo magnet?

Some point to the scenic Root River State Trail, a 42-mile multiple-use trail that is popular with bike riders. Curving around limestone bluffs of the Root River Valley, the trail features historical buildings and hamlets, plus plentiful opportunities for wildlife sightings. Others brag about the fishing, birding and canoeing.

A little more than five miles north of town is Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, now in its 30th year, which annually offers some 22,000 people — mostly students — the opportunity to experience nature up close in a rustic setting with overnight facilities.

But while outdoor sports and nature draw plenty of enthusiasts, many others come for performing and fine arts, shopping, dining, bed and breakfast retreats, and old-fashioned charm. One need only glance downhill at Lanesboro’s idyllic valley setting to be awestruck. Most of the town’s main thoroughfare of vintage wood, stone and brick buildings is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On the northern section of Parkway, the main street, the Commonweal Theatre is reason alone to visit. Housed in an intimate, state-of-the-art venue, with an artfully inspired lobby, the professional theater offers a rotation of two plays, "Harvey" and "Man of La Mancha" this summer, along with a live radio show, "Over the Back Fence," on Sunday nights through Labor Day.

Next door is the St. Mane Theater, the Commonweal’s former stage and still a performing arts house, with live music, theater and video events, including Livingston Taylor on July 12. Anchoring the south end of Parkway’s retail businesses, Cornucopia Art Center is a focal point for art education and regional art.

Along with arts, Lanesboro has flourished in recent years as a mini gourmet haven. Root beer lovers head to Das Wurst Haus German Village and Deli for its homemade brew, and Scenic Valley Winery features hard-to-find fruit and vegetable wines like apple, rhubarb and elderberry.

For fine dining, The Vintage, next to the Commonweal, is in the running as one of the best restaurants in Minnesota outside the metro Twin Cities. Around the corner is Old Village Hall, another great choice. The town’s top chefs rely heavily on locally grown or raised ingredients.

Berwood Hill Inn, a B & B a few miles outside of Lanesboro, has received national recognition for

its Scandinavian-influenced accommodations and fine food. The Cady Hayes House and

the Scandinavian Inn are both

B & Bs that follow a green philosophy of hospitality,

with linens hung outside to

dry and a focus on locally grown ingredients for breakfast.

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