Vacation Time!

Vacation Time!

Another reason to live here: proximity to so many great places to enjoy.

Ah, June, the first month of summer—and the first of three months in which we pack in as much vacation time as possible with family, friends or just ourselves.

Whether you’re from this part of the world or not, you no doubt realize by now just how woven into Minnesotans’ DNA are our experiences of vacationing in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. And for good reason: The Twin Cities is within a day’s drive of a greater variety of breathtaking vacation destinations than most urban centers of its size, or larger.

To the southeast along the Mississippi, we have the historic river towns of Red Wing, Wabasha and Winona, and the bluffs and tree-filled hills that roll southwest toward Rochester. In the northeast we have the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), where it’s so quiet at night the ringing in your ears turns deafening, and if you break a leg, you’re really on your own (it’s one of the few places where cell phones don’t work). Across the state we have the best lakes in the country for fishing. And there’s the North Shore and quaint Grand Marais, the breathtaking expanse of the Iron Range, and summer cabin getaways such as the Brainerd Lakes area and Detroit Lakes.

To the west we have South Dakota, where the Midwest meets the Old West as you cross the Missouri River in Chamberlain heading west on I-90. The monotony of driving six hours from Minneapolis before finally crossing over this divide makes the rest of the trip all the more worthwhile, as big-sky country offers a quick turnoff to the Corn Palace in Mitchell before spreading on to the Badlands, Wall Drug, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, camping or hiking at Custer State Park, and more.

To the east we have kids’ heaven Wisconsin Dells; Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival alongside Lake Michigan in Milwaukee; surprisingly delicious fish boils in Door County; sailing in the Apostle Islands off the shores of Bayfield; and the region’s best combination of lake country mixed with small-town personality: Minocqua.

There’s so much to choose from it can be hard to decide where to vacation. And of course, that’s where tourism ads help by providing a smattering of images highlighting a state’s best attractions, and an appropriate and catchy phrase to remember.

Quick—what do you think of when you hear, “Great faces, great places?”

It was South Dakota’s pitch line for eight or nine years, and it’s stuck in my head as much as the old “I’d like to teach the world to sing” Coca-Cola jingle, or “Anticipation” for Heinz ketchup. 

An effective tourism ad campaign is priceless, and for that reason (and because I liked “Great Faces” so much), I can’t believe South Dakota’s tourism board decided to de-emphasize its pitch line this year and instead play up the vague “Your American Journey.” Wisconsin’s catch phrase for 2012 is “Fun!” And then there’s ours: “There’s More to Explore in Minnesota.” Hmmm. 

As someone who has vacationed in the locations mentioned above, I look forward to each year’s tourism ads to see how well they capture a state’s essence for fun, adventure, relaxation, and enjoyment. This year’s crop of ads isn’t as good as in years past, but they still help make us proud of the great areas in which we live—and play.

This month’s cover story (page 36) takes a closer look at this subject, examining how much each state spends on tourism marketing, and how well it does measuring return on those marketing investments. 

Beyond the creativity of various marketing campaigns is the significant impact tourism has on each state’s economy. More than $25 million is spent on attracting tourists to Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, and for good reason. Tourism brings in some $25 billion in gross sales/economic impact and supports more than 550,000 jobs in these three states. In Minnesota alone, the industry provides $11 billion in sales activity, $732 million in related state and local taxes, and $4 billion in payroll for 235,000 people.

That’s a lot of money from people just out to have fun.

Another significant part of our economy heating up this summer is agriculture, or rather, a fast-growing sub-segment that involves production and marketing fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. It’s now a $35 million-a-year industry that comprises more than 4,000 primarily tiny-farm growers serving 148 farmers’ markets across the state, as well as local grocery stores and restaurants. 

This updated version of truck farming is the result of a 30-years-in-the-making convergence of family farming with urbanization, demand for healthier foods, and desire for greater sustainability. It’s also helping some area migrant families to provide a better future for their children. Our story on page 42 takes a closer look at this phenomenon, and the people and businesses behind it.

Enjoy the summer.

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