In a stretch of Middle America ranging from rolling prairie to sparkling lakes, the small town of Alexandria, "Alex" to those familiar with the place, sits roughly half-way up the state's western side, a diversionary overnight stop en route to the surrounding lakes. Hailed by some as the "birthplace of America"( a logo displayed prominently on the fiberglass shield of town mascot, Big Ole), after the discovery of the Kensington Runestone (long since established by relevant authorities as an entertaining fraud), this region has a recent, and better documented, history of Scandinavian settlement.
Learn more about early construction efforts at Fort Alexandria after making a stop to see the controversial carved stone on display at the Runestone Museum. Spend an afternoon sampling locally made wines at the winery just out of town before launching a day's expedition along some trail in Lake Carlos State Park or a long peddle over parts of the Central Lakes Trail (linking Fergus Falls and Avon).
It's the lakes that bring the largest number to Alex; as temperatures recover from frigid winter freezes the 247 bodies of water nearby become the playground of savvy outdoors enthusiasts. In this landscape carved long ago by receding glaciers, hikers won't have to look hard in Glacial Lakes State Park to find some trail meandering through rolling hills, while canoers, swimmers and miscellaneous boaters can take to the wet stuff for a refreshing cool-down. Join locals at favorite swimming spots and public beaches on Lake Minnewaska.
Anyone who studied American Literature in school should enjoy a side-trip to the one-time home of Sinclair Lewis in nearby Sauk Centre, an unprepossessing town that served as inspiration for his novel, Main Street. That was 1920, so expect to find modernizing changes ? though there are a number of sights to see here related to Lewis's life.
Alexandria is 68 miles from St. Cloud and 131 from Minneapolis.