Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

For most of us, this sunny Memorial Day weekend is a chance to unwind, relax and kick off the summer.

I had a different post planned for today. I’m still going to tell you about some of my favorite ways to spend the holiday weekend, but first I have to say something that’s been on my mind since Eli and I went to the Doing Our Part: Clay County in WWII exhibit at the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County yesterday afternoon.

The exhibit made me realize how much this particular war touched everyone back at home. It affected how they shopped for groceries, limited their ability to drive, changed what they wore, where they worked and even made them cut down on their morning coffee. It was a community effort of sacrifice and support.

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These days, active duty military members and their families shoulder so much of that burden alone and the rest of us truly have no idea what they’re going through or how to help.

So before we head off on our weekend adventures, take a second to reach out to the veterans you know. Thank them for their service. Bring some cookies to the mom whose partner is deployed and ask how else you can help her out.  Or send a letter to a solider or wounded veteran through Operation Gratitude.

Because no matter how we spend it, Memorial Day weekend is really about our soldiers, past and present — their service, their sacrifices and the ones who didn’t make it home.

So in their honor, here are some time-tested ways to embrace the simple joys of summer.

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Relax at the Lake:
I’m a Minnesota girl by birth, so lake culture is in my blood. Whether you like the boat in the water or your feet in the sand, spending time at the lake is a summer rite of passage. Here are some of my favorite fresh water spots.

Best People Watching: Lake Calhoun
Located just steps from the shops and restaurants of Uptown, Lake Calhoun is a buzzy, busy spot for walking, biking, swimming, tanning and checking out both the people and the views of downtown Minneapolis.

Best Fishing: Lake of the Woods
Enter near Warroad, Minnesota or stay at one of the many resorts dotted around the beautiful lake’s 65,000 feet of shoreline. Lake of the Woods is so big (70 miles wide and long) that you can fish in Minnesota, Manitoba and Ontario.

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Best Scenery: Lake Ashtabula
This North Dakota lake is technically a dammed-up river, which means the rugged scenery is a strangely beautiful combination of typical lake views (kids splashing on the beach, wooded campsites) and rural, riverside life — grazing cows, anyone? Enter at Eggerts Landing near Valley City.

Best Small-Town Vibe: Detroit Lakes
The city of Detroit Lakes is a classic western Minnesota lake town, with lots of kid-friendly beaches, family-style entertainment (think flea markets and dances in the pavilion) and boat-up/swim-up/walk-up bars and restaurants. It’s a great introduction to lake culture.

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Find Some Old-Fashioned Family Fun: There’s something inherently nostalgic about long holiday weekends, so don’t fight the urge to re-visit the past — embrace it.

Catch a Ball Game: 
Nothing says summer like outdoor baseball. Even if you don’t care about the sport, the food, people-watching and festive atmosphere are always a good time.

My hometown team, the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks has their home opener on Memorial Day and the Milwaukee Brewers and Saint Paul Saints also play at home this weekend.

Go Cruising:
I love piling everybody into the car and going on an ice cream run. The Moorhead Dairy Queen is a classic — they’ve been serving up treats on 8th Street since 1949. Or try Old Skool Malt Shop in Lake Park, Minnesota for old-fashioned ice cream treats, classic cars and a healthy dose of nostalgia.

Need to be a little more active? Park the car and bike or stroll the East Grand Forks Riverfront. Then grab a board game and a spot on the patio (and maybe a beer) while you wait for your pizza at Mike’s Pizza and Pub.

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Fly A Kite:
There’s something strangely soothing about watching kites darting in the wind. If you’re in Western North Dakota, check out the Sky Fest Over Fort Stevenson in Garrison, a kite-flying festival for all ages. You can even build your own.

Re-Live History:
For a truly old-fashioned time, check out the Cannon River Fur Trade Rendezvous in Cannon Falls, Minnesota or the Wild West Shoot-Out in Jamestown, North Dakota. Both offer historical re-enactments to transport you back into history.

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Go Treasure Hunting: I welcome any opportunity to go searching for cool vintage finds — garage sales, flea markets, swap meets — and this weekend marks the official start to the season.

The Old Depot Junktion (yep, I spelled that right) in Brainerd, Minnesota and Vick’s Corner World in Spirit Lake, Iowa look like a ton of fun. If you make it to either of them, let me know if they’re worth the trip!

In other news, The Shady Hollow Flea Market in Detroit Lakes is open tomorrow (yessssss!) and they’ll be open every Saturday this summer. Sorry, this is my home-away-from-home flea market — you can see some photos from my last visit here — and this is a seriously dangerous development for me.

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What are you doing this Memorial Day Weekend? Show us what you’re up to!

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