Narrowly escaping the clutches of a White Bear.

In the Midwest, road tripping and the season of Fall just seem to be a natural fit. Not exactly sure why, as the need to discover has always been a huge part of my personal and professional DNA year-round. Nonetheless, I find myself longing for adventures this time of year, most of the time within an afternoons drive, all in an effort to invigorate my creative spirit and connect me with newly discovered puzzle pieces that complete my soul. Well, my friends another puzzle piece just found a fit. And I found it in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Located 25 miles northeast of Minneapolis, the charming downtown district features some of the most unexpected, creative and welcoming experiences that will break even the most severe case of a Covid induced comatose state. Travel restrictions, mask-mandates and safety protocols aside, Americans love to travel. And these days, the road trip might just be the best way to feed that adventurous spirit…even if it’s only for a couple of days. From crafted cocktails to curated creations from local shops, this Main Street USA experience was one of the best I’ve seen in quite a while.

Nestled a stones throw from spring-fed White Bear Lake, one of the largest lakes in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area, the variety of unique shops and casual-current establishments have something for everyone. While many downtown districts across the country have been infiltrated by the homogenization caused by national chains, White Bear Lake is as local a gift as it gets. Life in a Northern town…they’ve got it down.


Having arrived in White Bear Lake in the early afternoon, before heading downtown we settled in at The Best Western Plus White Bear Country Inn. Styled in an understated current-cabin theme, the Lobby and Halls were teeming historic photos of the White Bear Lake. As an avid history-buff I loved the way they seamlessly decorated with them throughout the hotel. From the cleanliness of the room, to the friendly nature of the staff, and the proximity to the downtown…it had everything we needed. In addition, although we didn’t have the opportunity to get up there, apparently Rudy’s Rooftop residing atop the hotel is the perfect place for a meal and cocktail with a view.

After a quick drive down the shoreline of White Bear Lake to calibrate us, we arrived in the heart of the shopping district. Our first shop set the bar high featuring apparel celebrating what it means to be a Minnesotan. Nostalgic, current and candid, the hockey themed shop called The Minnesotan, instantly had me hooked. Harboring a particular affinity for brands that know who they are, and are visually unapologetic about showing it, this was the perfect introduction to the passion and pragmatism that permeate the local Minnesota mindset. Even if you’re not a hockey fan…you’ll leave thinking you should be.

Our next stop was one of White Bear Lake’s newly expanded shops whose owner has been featured several times on Twin Cities Live. Danielle Jacobsen Rode’s stylish and affordable brain-child, Upsy Daisy, features an incredible blend of both new and upcycled home décor, as well as other amazing lifestyle offerings that make this place a true gem. And with a social media presence that showcases an ever-changing inventory on a weekly basis, you’ll certainly want to feature this fantastic shop in your feed. With a truly original product mix and purpose-driven mission, Danielle and Upsy-Daisy have captured the true essence of the concept of home.

117235426_2859796227584095_3059278437677083859_oAfter closing the shop with Danielle, she suggested we head to a local bar/apothecary featuring crafted cocktails just a few blocks her store. Named The Alchemist, the quality of the interior design and decoration was something I’ve only experienced in places like New York, New Orleans, Chicago or even Disneyland. The industrial, steam-punk styling of this dual-purpose bar and event space was absolutely top shelf. From the tables crafted out of iron industrial gears, to details in the lighting and even the bathrooms…the only experience that exceed the interesting nature of the décor, was the attention to detail found in the chemistry of their signature cocktails. Simply. Incredible. Justin, our server and cocktail concierge, was both knowledgeable and accommodating…even to the point of hand crafting a drink for Danielle and my wife Julie that was not on the menu. And to make the visit more special, we were treated to a personal tour of the event space Kellerman’s by the owner Terry, who mentioned that he completed much of the work on the interior himself.

At the end of our day we landed at an establishment called The Brickhouse that boasts classic comfort food that is anything but boring. Housed in an incredible structure dating back to 1886, the menu and the décor embody a passionate expression for an experience that is as modern as it is Midwestern. After starting with a new twist on wings, and a plate of battered “sunnies” a Minnesotan staple, the rest of our meal was exactly as advertised. Upscale yet unpretentious, Executive Chef Peter Christenson and his staff served up culinary innovation that was anything but intimidating and utterly delicious. Familiar and unexpected is a difficult thing to pull-off. Make sure you reserve a spot at The Brickhouse.

So there you have it. Another entry from my “Small towns with big ideas” road trip file. And if others can tell tall tales about the fish they may or may not have caught on lakes of the Upper-Midwest…I will have zero guilt about sharing the story of how I narrowly escaped the clutches of a White Bear just outside Minneapolis – St. Paul. Be back soon.

Special thanks to Julie Sassano & Danielle Jacobsen Rode! Further proof that true friendships not only transcend the boundaries of states…but also time.

Oh almost forgot!! We’re always looking to support the small towns with big ideas! If you’d like your town or business to be featured in the Design Coach: Road Trip Series, tell us where and why at