As comfortable as life can be in the Twin Cities, we all occasionally need a getaway, a place that feels like a real escape from urban life but is close enough that we can get back for chores or work the next day. Interstate State Park, just outside of Taylors Falls, makes a spectacular day trip to a postcard-pretty basalt gorge along the St. Croix River, and it's just an hour from Minneapolis and St. Paul. The park is among the oldest in the state, established in 1895 (it has a sister park across the river in Wisconsin, hence the name). The area has a fascinating history: The basalt rocks were formed from immense lava flows a billion years ago, the land was covered by a shallow sea a half-million years ago, and the St. Croix River gorge itself was carved from the torrential runoff of melting glaciers 10,000 years ago. Giant, sand-laden whirlpools from those running waters scoured the signature potholes that dot the area. You can read all about it at the visitor's center, or you can just play. The Minnesota park has nearly 300 acres and more than five miles of trails that wander among towering white pines, through eerie rock formations like the Devil's Parlor and Bake Oven Pothole, or along the blufftops, offering truly stunning views of the river below. If you want to see the gorge from water level, take a boat tour or rent a canoe or kayak. In one day you can get exercise, education, and scenic beauty and still be back in plenty of time for dinner.