Located at the confluence of the Cannon and Straight rivers, Faribault is named after Alexander Faribault, an entrepreneur who established a fur trading post in the area in 1826, before Minnesota became a territory. Faribault founded the town in 1852, and it's considered one of the state's more historic communities; more than 40 buildings are listed on the National Historic Register of Places. The Sakatah Singing Hills Trail runs 40 miles from Faribault to Mankato, and passes through Sakatah State Park (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/sakatah/index.html).
From Minneapolis, it's about 50 miles to Faribault via Interstate 35. To get downtown, take Hwy. 21 toward Faribault. Turn left on Hwy. 60/4th Street NW. until you reach Central Avenue.
Visitors who want to stay downtown have two options. At the Historic Hutchinson House Bed and Breakfast (305 NW. 2nd St.; 1-507-384-3291; www.historichutch house.com), a Queen Anne Victorian home built in 1892, owners Tami and Doug Schluter pride themselves on making guests comfortable. Breakfasts often feature Tami's prize-winning scones.
Another option is the Vintage Ballroom and Suites (129 Central Av. N.; 1-507-334-7476; www.vintage ballroom.com), in the former Elks building. Owners Janna and Bernie Viscomi transformed the second level of the three-story building into four suites, which feature full kitchens and accommodate up to eight people. The renovated historic ballroom on the third floor is used for wedding receptions and parties, and the first floor houses Bernie's Grill.
Bernie's Grill (1-507-334-7476; www.vintageballroom.com) serves breakfast and lunch six days a week (it's closed Mondays). The homey diner is known for its blueberry cheese pancakes and homemade soups like chicken and dumpling.
The Depot Bar and Grill (311 Heritage Place; 1-507-332-2825) is on the river in the historic Rock Island train depot. Since Chef Jeff LaBeau reopened the restaurant last spring, diners are flocking back for steaks, seafood, sandwiches, burgers and salads. Soups, dressings and sauces are all homemade.
The Gran Plaza Mexican Grill (520 Central Av. N.; 1-507-333-1344; www.granplazagrill.com) is a family-run Mexican restaurant that features a variety of shrimp, chicken and beef dishes, like the Gran Plaza Special: bacon-wrapped shrimp and slices of charcoal-broiled steak served with rice, beans, avocado slices and tortillas.
Visit www.visitfaribault.com or call 1-800-658-2354.