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Make it a date: 3 Squares, Laredo's, and Lola's Lakehouse

With gas prices this high, it seems extravagant to drive to the western suburbs just dine. But adding a second stop can help justify the trip.

1. 3 Squares: Go shopping in Maple Grove Poised to overtake the Mall of America in terms of retail square footage--nearly 6 million square feet--Maple Grove is a big box and chain shoppers' paradise.

Make it a date: 3 Squares, Laredo's, and Lola's Lakehouse

2. Laredo's: Make a splash at the St. Louis Park Aquatic Center All inhibitions about feeling too old for a water park will wash away as soon as you and your friends pile on a 3-person innertube and race down the four-story waterslides at the Aquatic Center.

3. Lola's Lakehouse: Visit the MN Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen With more than 1,000 acres of gardens, landscapes, and natural areas, plus 12.5 miles of paths, there's no shortage of grand greenery at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Irises and peonies are now in full bloom (call the "bloom line" at 952-443-1400 Ext. 5010 for more info). The arboretum also offers classes--J.D. Fratzke, chef of the Strip Club, teaches this Thursday evening (call 952-443-1422 to register). Admission is free on Thursday nights after 4:30 p.m.

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