I am going to Minneapolis for a wedding in the middle of June. I would like to spend a few extra days in Minnesota (or maybe Wisconsin) on the way, but I'm not sure if I can afford it. I'm looking for help in planning this trip, to figure out where I will go if I do go and how much it's gonna cost. I am looking for nature -- light hiking, birdwatching, and photography opportunities -- and any big cat facilities I might be able to get to. I'm not interested in city things or regular tourist traps. If I go, I will visit some of the parks on the North Shore for sure, but I have no other definite plans. If you have a favorite park or preserve that is not overrun with people but not too hard to get to, tell me about it.
I'm quite sure I can find things to do that will make me happy for a lot longer than I can spend in the area. What I really need help with to make this happen is help finding places to stay that can keep my costs low, or at the very least, well-known in advance. The perfect thing would be if I knew someone up in northern Minnesota who could let me stay for a while, but I don't think that's in the cards. Failing that, if anyone knows of reasonably priced motels or maybe B&Bs, the kind of place you have to be told about because they don't advertise. I really need to know how much a room for the night would cost, and either have some assurance that I can just drive up and find a place, or advice on where to make reservations.
If you yourself don't regularly travel up that way, but someone you know does, I'd be much obliged if you could ask them for their advice.