Now that the kids are back in school, you start thinking about taking a little “me time.” You decide to put rush hour in the rearview mirror for a few days. It’s time for a kick-back-and-have-fun girlfriend weekend.

A great place for a girlfriend weekend getaway is Mille Lacs Lake. It has outdoor fun, food, and lots of room to breathe. It’s just 45 minutes north of the last Twin Cities stoplight or a short jaunt from anywhere in central Minnesota, so everyone can get there easily. Call the girls—tell them to pack up, toss the bikes on the racks, and hit the road.

When you get out of your cars, the fresh lake air fills your lungs. You’ve already booked cozy accommodations—choosing from cabins, motels, and even lakehome rentals—so check-in is a breeze.

So after settling in, delighted to see the huge lake right outside your windows, what will you do first? It’s Friday night and you don’t have to cook, so in your quest for food and fun, you discover the meat raffle at Muggs. It’s like the up-north equivalent of dinner theater—great food and entertainment all at the same time. Who doesn’t want to win prizes? That night, after a bonfire on the Mille Lacs Lake beach, s’mores, and a hot toddy—your winning meats chilling in the fridge—you sleep deeply, knowing the fun continues tomorrow.

On Saturday morning, you and your girlfriends have a leisurely breakfast that you didn’t have to cook and plan your fun. You’ve signed up for the sweetgrass basket workshop at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum to bring out your inner craftswomen. After that you get in a little shopping for local Native American handiwork at the Trading Post and hit a couple of other eclectic spots.

Your next girls vacation adventure is a tour of DeCorsa Vineyard and Farm Winery. The fresh air and beauty of the winery amid colorful fall leaves are just what you needed to settle into weekend mode. (Your other choice for the afternoon was a tour and horseback ride at Rolling Hills Arabians & Farm Tours. After talking it over, you decide to save the horseback ride until you return in the spring.)

With lots of memories of your girlfriend weekend so far, dinner and drinks satisfy your bodies and minds. You laugh, you eat, you share bites of decadent chocolate desserts, and you wonder why it took so long to make time for each other. At another bonfire on the beach, you also swear to never wait this long again.

You’re reluctant to leave your girls vacation, so you check the local map for the best fall colors. You hit the trails on your bikes and enjoy the crunch of leaves like drifts of cornflakes under your tires. Climbing Mille Lacs Kathio State Park’s 100-foot observation tower first leaves you breathless from the exercise, then speechless from the amazing view.

Finally, you admit it’s time. You reluctantly load up your bikes, check out of your cabins, and head home.

You know you’ll be back.