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Minnesotans are already accustomed to supersized attractions — and travel ties to Nordic heritage. So an invasion of towering trolls should fit right in with this summer's lineup of road-trip enticements.

Vacationers this year can also steam themselves in a sauna floating on a lake, hop a new train to Chicago, plunge down the new tallest water slide in America, and find more places to stay and play from Duluth to the Brainerd Lakes.

Here's a look at what's up in the summer of 2024.

Troll takeover of Detroit Lakes

Danish artist Thomas Dambo is building six giant trolls out of wood and recycled pallets in the parks and woods around Detroit Lakes, Minn. They will add to Dambo's global installation of more than 120 trolls, which can be found in 18 states. They sit cross-legged at the Philadelphia Zoo, peek around trees in Washington state, and even lounge on a beach in Singapore, each with its own personality and narrative.

Thomas Dambo's trolls are coming to Detroit Lakes. Shown is Bruun Idun at Lincoln Park in Seattle.
Thomas Dambo's trolls are coming to Detroit Lakes. Shown is Bruun Idun at Lincoln Park in Seattle.

Thomas Dambo, Project 412

"In the old stories, trolls are the creatures that live in the forest, and they represent nature," said Dambo, who considers himself a recycling artist and activist. "They are the unspoken voice of the plants and animals."

He keeps his work family-friendly with a whimsical feel and imaginative touches, but also with a message about reducing waste. The Minnesota installation — his largest in the U.S. — will also include his tallest troll yet, at 36 feet.

With the help of more than 250 volunteers, the trolls are expected to be finished by mid-June, when people can visit downtown Detroit Lakes to get the first clues for an interactive experience. Locations will stretch between Fargo and Perham, Minn., as the story leads to additional trolls that can be purposely tricky to find.

"It's a big, free, outdoor, recycled fairy tale to go out and explore," Dambo said. Updates will be available through the nonprofit Project 412 (

The Lincoln Park Craft District in Duluth.
The Lincoln Park Craft District in Duluth.

David Joles

New lodging and fun in Duluth's Lincoln Park

Fans of Duluth – especially those looking for good food and local drink — will have more places to spend the night in the city's increasingly popular Lincoln Park Craft District.

The Duluth Press Building, originally financed by "Buffalo Bill" Cody for his sister to run a printing press in 1894, has been renovated by the owners of Duluth Grill into eight one- and two-bedroom suites that are pet-friendly and have full kitchens (

Most guests will be tempted, though, by the dozens of eateries popping up along the Superior Street corridor, including OMC Smokehouse, Corktown Deli & Brews, and Burger Paradox.

Zenith Basecamp, described as "indoor glamping" or hostel-style lodging, also is expected to open by late summer. It will feature private dog-friendly rooms, a communal lounge, cocktail bar and easy access to guided activities through Zenith Adventure (

The new accommodations join newish ventures blending residential apartments with vacation rentals: Lincoln Park Boutique Hotel, which opened in 2022, and Enger Lofts Hotel and Marketplace, which rents 15 rooms in a renovated warehouse.

Also new this summer: Visitors can buy a Duluth Passport to get three attractions — Great Lakes Aquarium, North Shore Scenic Railroad and the William A. Irvin lake freighter — for the price of two (

Amtrak’s Borealis daily service to Chicago from St. Paul’s Union Depot began May 21.
Amtrak’s Borealis daily service to Chicago from St. Paul’s Union Depot began May 21.

Richard Tsong-Taatarii

A new train to new Chicago attractions (and the Dells)

Amtrak service between St. Paul and Chicago is not new. But there are three advantages to the new Borealis train over the long-running Empire Builder on the same track: fare, speed and reliability.

We're seeing one-way fares as low as $41-$50 or $98-$108 for business-class seats, although private rooms are not available on the new train. At seven hours and 24 minutes from St. Paul's Union Depot to Chicago's Union Station, Borealis shaves about 30 minutes off the Empire Builder's travel time. And since Borealis isn't coming all the way from Seattle or Portland, passengers can count on fewer delays (

It's a good time for a long weekend in Chicago. At the Field Museum, the "Unseen Oceans" exhibit lets you "pilot" a submersible in a lifelike underwater environment, while the rare Chicago Archaeopteryx fossil reveals the link between dinosaurs and birds. The Navy Pier's new Flyover experience virtually thrills riders with a view of the city from above. And at the Chicago History Museum, "City on Fire: Chicago 1871″ immerses visitors (not literally, we hope) in the historic blaze. (Reserved tickets for all are a must.)

You say Chicago is too far? Amtrak also stops in Red Wing and Winona, Minn., plus La Crosse, Wis., Milwaukee and Wisconsin Dells, where the new tallest water slide in America, the 145-foot Rise of Icarus, is now open at Mount Olympus theme park.

An elevated glamping tent at North Shore Camping Co. in Beaver Bay.
An elevated glamping tent at North Shore Camping Co. in Beaver Bay.

North Shore Camping Company, Star Tribune

Glamp sites double on North Shore

North Shore Camping Co. has doubled its number of platform tents to 30, following their popularity after opening in 2023 near Beaver Bay, Minn.

Tucked into the hillside across Hwy. 61 from Cove Point Lodge, the glamping tents include beds, potbelly stoves and basics for campfire cooking, plus a shared shower and bathroom building, campfire programs, naturalist activities and barrel saunas.

Bonus: Glamping guests may use the pool at Cove Point Lodge and access the Lake Superior shoreline there. Bikes can be rented for the nearby Split Rock Wilds mountain bike trails or to ride the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail to Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls state parks (

Sisu + Löyly's floating sauna for six people is docked at Skyport Lodge, on Devil Track Lake near Grand Marais.
Sisu + Löyly's floating sauna for six people is docked at Skyport Lodge, on Devil Track Lake near Grand Marais.

Saunas are floating now

If the thought of jumping into Lake Superior makes your teeth chatter, the key is to warm up first. Cedar + Stone Nordic Sauna opened in late 2023 on a barge docked at Duluth's Pier B. Up to 10 guests can get hot and steamy before taking the cold plunge into the Great Lake (

Sisu + Löyly, which has saunas in Grand Marais and Lutsen, also claims the country's first public floating sauna, a trend that originated in Norway. Reserve its sauna for up to six people floating at the dock of Skyport Lodge on Grand Marais' Devil Track Lake, through summer and early fall (

Quarterdeck Resort on Gull Lake has a new makeover.
Quarterdeck Resort on Gull Lake has a new makeover.

Brainerd area ups its resort and golf game

Quarterdeck Resort, a Gull Lake resort that opened in 1957, has completed a major makeover and expansion. It modernized its 18-room lodge and restaurant with a new exterior and contemporary menus, renovated six five-bedroom lake houses, and added the QD Social, a central recreational and entertainment area. The new gathering place includes a year-round heated outdoor pool, a 20-person sauna, outdoor fire tables, an indoor fireplace, large-screen TVs and games.

For larger get-togethers, the resort also built six lake lofts with five to six bedrooms each. Sixteen new woodsmoke cabins have two- to three-bedroom units (

Meanwhile, Minnesota golf legend Tom Lehman has helped Cragun's Resort with its $15 million renovation and expansion of its Legacy courses, adding to the Brainerd Lakes Area's wealth of golf courses.

In addition to the Dutch 18, a 7,000-yard par-70 course with white sand bunkers, the Lehman 18 leads golfers through a 1,000-acre sanctuary that winds around Stephens Lake and natural wetlands and features stacked-sod bunkers. By next year, another nine holes will be added to the Dutch 18 course (

Star Tribune travel editor Simon Peter Groebner contributed to this story.