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Published July 13, 2013, 11:40 PM

Road trip: Make a day of visiting unique & quirky shops within easy drive of F-M

FARGO – Whether you love to shop or just want to visit some interesting locally owned stores, there are plenty of unique boutiques within a couple hours’ drive of Fargo. Along the way, make a pitstop for a tasty bite to eat and to blow off some steam. We’ve collected some ideas to get you started.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

FARGO – Whether you love to shop or just want to visit some interesting locally owned stores, there are plenty of unique boutiques within a couple hours’ drive of Fargo.

Along the way, make a pitstop for a tasty bite to eat and to blow off some steam. We’ve collected some ideas to get you started.


Where to shop

There are so many interesting places to visit in Park Rapids, Minn., you could easily plan more than just a day trip.

One that caught some Forum staffers’ attention was Toys for Boys. The shop, located at 409 1st St. W., is about 85 miles from Fargo.

Despite its name and coin-operated kiddie rides out front, Toys for Boys is not a children’s toy store. It’s part retail store, part curiosity shop, filled with items like Betty Boop memorabilia, old metal signs, bumper stickers, juke boxes, die-cast cars and pedal cars.

It’s the kind of place a man might go to decorate his garage or man-cave, said Nancy Rutherford, who owns the store with her husband, Dick.

They opened the business in 1997. Hours can vary, so if you’re making a special trip to visit the store, call ahead at (218)732-5668.

Where to eat

One place you’ll want to make sure to check out while in Park Rapids is The Minnesoda Fountain, located at 205 Main Ave S. (218-732-3240), a restaurant and ice cream parlor that online reviewers claim has the best milkshakes around.

The restaurant offers 30 flavors of ice cream, fresh sandwiches loaded with meat, soup, burgers, hot dogs and pulled pork.

It’s been around since 1922, and Beth Belfiori, who owns the business with her husband, Jim, said, “It’s a very charming and a very cute place.”

It’s a destination restaurant that has regulars from out-of-state who make sure to stop by when they visit Park Rapids, Belfiori said.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

What to do

Whether you want to visit Itasca State Park for a Lake Itasca Tour, take in a show at Jasper’s Theater, or go go-carting, mini golfing, or play laser tag at Evergreen Fun Park, there are plenty of things to do while visiting Park Rapids.

But one attraction that stands out is the Character Challenge Course, a recreational ropes course.

This is the third summer Travis Guida and his wife, Sarah, have operated the business at 13218 County Road 40 in Park Rapids.

It offers an obstacle course with a 370-foot zip line, a leap of faith jump from a 22-foot telephone pole and an intense swing that involves a 20-plus foot free-fall.

“Our purpose and our mission at our course is for people to have their character be changed, whether it’s overcoming a fear or setting a goal or working together with their friends and family and learning to communicate better,” Guida said. “It’s been amazing the way it’s taking off.”

Guida recommends the activities for ages 8 and up and says you don’t have to be physically fit, but should be able to climb a ladder comfortably in order to participate. There’s also a weight limit of 250 pounds on the swing and 275 pounds on the challenge course.

Reservations only, so call ahead at (218) 760-8442 or sign up online at www.characterchallengecourse.com.

North Dakota

Where to shop and eat

Hodenattes On Main in Lisbon, N.D., is both a shop and restaurant worth visiting.

The name is a made-up word that stands for home, garden, and lattes.

And like the name implies, the business, located at 414 Main Street, about 75 miles from Fargo, offers everything from home and garden décor to gourmet lattes.

The retail side boasts a variety of specialty and gift items like purses, candles, scarves and clothing, even ice-cream toppings and candies.

“People are surprised by what we carry,” said Linda Toyne, Hodenattes general manager. “It’s pretty unique.”

The restaurant serves homemade sandwiches, quiche, soups and desserts. It’s has a full espresso bar, and since it also serves wine, it’s a fun place for friends to meet, Toyne said.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

What to do

While in Lisbon, make sure to check out the Lisbon Opera House, built in the late 1800s.

The first floor has housed businesses while the second and third floors served as a community center where events like plays, conventions, high school graduations, and movies were held.

The building was largely unused from about 1929 when JC Penney closed its store there until 1994, when the building was donated to the Lisbon Opera House Foundation, according to the Opera House’s webpage.

Tours are available by appointment.

The No Name Players put on plays in the spring and fall. There are also events like Sheyenne Fine Arts Concerts held occasionally.

Visit www.lisbonoperahouse.org for dates and ticket information.

South Dakota

Where to shop

If you’re looking for a gown and don’t have a fairy godmother to conjure one up, make sure to check out Jean’s Bridal in Wilmot, S.D.

Located at 611 Main St. in Wilmot, Jean’s Bridal sells designer gowns at a quarter below list prices and stocks more than 700 bridal gowns and 600 bridesmaids’ dresses.

You can also find prom dresses, pageant gowns, flower-girl dresses and gowns for the mother-of-the-bride in addition to tuxedo rentals and accessories.

The full-service bridal shop also offers alterations, shoe dying, pressing and wedding gown preservation.

Jean’s Bridal is 115 miles from Fargo.

Cora Jones owns the business with her husband, Bill, and has been part of the business for nearly 30 years.

Because of its selection, pricing, and customer service, Jean’s Bridal draws customers from throughout the region, she said.

“A lot of people tell us they come because they know they can have everything done right here and we are experienced,” Jones said. “We have everything but the groom.”

Where to eat

The Rendezvous Point, located a block and a half from Jean’s Bridal at 702 2nd St. in Wilmot, is a restaurant and art gallery that opened last August.

Owner Cheryl Rondeau added a winery, Whetstone Creek Winery, in April.

“I have made wine for years, and I thought it would be a really good venture,” Rondeau said. “It brings people into the community so it’s economic development for a small town.”

The business offers fine dining, sandwiches and wraps, and features special desserts each Wednesday.

The Rendezvous Point displays and sells local artwork and has events like live musicians, book signings, art classes and visiting chefs.

Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with a Sunday buffet from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Events are listed on The Rendezvous Point’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ThePointinWilmot.

What to do

Visit the Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton, N.D., on your way to or home from Wilmot.

The zoo, located at 1004 R.J. Hughes Drive, has more than 200 animals on display, representing 70 species and six continents.

In 2011, it became the first North Dakota zoo to exhibit a great ape species by opening the Orangtuan Habitat Exhibit.

Other animals to visit include spider monkeys, lemurs, snow leopards, Bengal tigers, grizzly bears and kangaroo.

The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. now through August.

If you time your trip right, you can watch zookeepers interact with some of the animals. A list of training times is available on the zoo’s website, www.chahinkapazoo.org.