Day trip: Stillwater
With its ample shopping and dining, the Main Street of Stillwater seems as busy as any major downtown this time of year. But the hustle and bustle nestled into the bluffs of the St. Croix River doesn’t feel harried. Updated Dec. 13, 2014
An occasional series in which we visit small towns and interesting neighborhoods within an hour's drive of the Twin Cities.
Behind the timber-and-stucco facade lies independent book store Micawber’s Books, in the walkable neighborhood of St. Anthony.
The St. Paul neighborhood of St. Anthony Park is like a small town in Minnesota. But better.
A pier welcomes those who cross the St. Croix River to Hudson, Wis. At right, from top: Store manager Brandon Stahnke worked on a bike at Art Doyle’s Spokes and Pedals; Historic Casanova Liquor still uses a hand-dug cave during its beer and wine fests; Not Justa Cafe in nearby Bayport, Minn., serves up a “mess” of hash and other traditional diner fare.
When you cross the Minnesota-Wisconsin border — zipping across the eight-lane highway above the St. Croix River — something happens. At least, locals in Hudson like to think so. “You come over that bridge and people say the blood pressure just drops,” said Ruth Misenko, a local gallery owner.
SAIL 8 Taking a cruise on the lake via Sail Pepin is the best way to experience the dramatic landscape around Lake Pepin.
You’ve probably driven the Great River Road (more mundanely known as Wisconsin Hwy. 35) to where the Mississippi River slows and widens into Lake Pepin. You’ve marveled at the limestone bluffs towering above the shimmering lake, the steep hills forested in firecracker red and sunburnt orange. Maybe you’ve stopped for a cookie at the bakery in Maiden Rock, even gone on to postcard-worthy Stockholm before turning back. This fall, keep going.
A horse-drawn trolley takes visitors through the Landing, an 88-acre living history museum near the Minnesota River in Shakopee.
With live jousting, horse racing, the Steel Venom and a corn maze shaped like a steam locomotive, Shakopee shouldn’t be faulted for resting on its eye-popping entertainment laurels. But visitors willing to forgo the adrenaline rush and keep driving will discover rich and varied options in the hilly and understated city, located along the Minnesota River southwest of Minneapolis.
Open since 1972, SS Billiards in Hopkins is the place to go for pinball machines. Above from upper left: Cyclists passed under Hwy. 169 in Hopkins; Hopkins Tavern has more than 30 beers on tap; “Look Closer,” a bronze and glass art piece by Nick Legeros, watched passersby on Mainstreet.
Suburbs get snubbed a lot — Pleasantvilles with no culture, no history, no nightlife. Not true in Hopkins. If there is a recipe for what’s trendy in big-city neighborhoods, Hopkins already has all the ingredients. To wit: bike paths, ethnic eateries, live theater, indie shops, a walkable downtown. Oh, and a new taproom. “A lot of communities have tried to emulate this,” said Hillary Feder, owner of Hillary’s, a personalized gift store on Mainstreet. “This is the original.” Indeed, Hopkins — first incorporated as the village of West Minneapolis in 1893 — was a proper town long before it got swallowed up by the sprawl. So exit Hwy. 169 at Excelsior Boulevard and follow the signs to downtown. Or arrive by bicycle. Four regional trails lead to Hopkins, where the Raspberry Festival is the big annual event, but there’s so much more to do.
Savannah Weiden visits with customers at her aunt's restaurant, Shar'els Caf√© in Oakdale, July 18, 2014. (Courtney Perry/Special to the Star Tribune)
It would seem to be difficult for a town with a 44-foot-tall stucco snowman to fly under the radar. But somehow, North St. Paul does it. With few exits off Hwy. 36, it’s often referred to as “the town the freeway forgot.” More accurately, it’s the town that time forgot — an erstwhile planned community with an old-style main street, the state’s oldest continuously operated bar and more historical museums (two) than stoplights (one). History matters here. Every new commercial façade has to be deemed historically suitable by a city commission. The result, according to shop owner Del Howard: “We get a lot of customers who say, ‘What a cute little town!’ ” And certainly one worth visiting.
Jordan is a small city in Scott County.
Day trip to Jordan is first in an occasional series about fun, spur-of-the-moment day trips.