A hundred years ago, city folk traveled by train to Jordan to picnic and relax amid the beauty of the Minnesota River Valley. Today, trains still travel through Jordan, adding to its charm, but most cars zip right past the small town of 5,500 along Hwy. 169. Although you'll probably notice the pastoral landscape and apple orchards that Jordan is known for, unless you turn off the thoroughfare, you'll miss this gem of a town.

Jordan is a popular destination for antiquing and shopping and, as it was 100 years ago, is still an ideal destination for picnics on a summer day.

A relaxing walk

Start your day trip with a self-guided walking tour (download map at www.startribune.com/a474). Meander through town and see 20 historic sites, including the tiny Ambrose Freedman Log Cabin, which will be open for tours during the Jordan Art Festival June 25-26 (www.jordanartfestival.com), and the former Jordan Brewery, built in the mid-1800s. Most of the shops are housed in historic buildings and, typical of a small town, hours of operation vary. One, Pekarna Meat Market (119 Water St.; 952-492-6101), has been in the same historic building and owned by the Pekarna family for 118 years. It's known for its ring bologna, ribs and fresh meats.

Antiques abound

A multi-dealer shop, Water Street Antiques (204 Water St.; 952-492-6918) sprawls through three storefronts. You can find just about anything there, including glassware, pocket watches and tools such as wood planers. A few doors down at 220 Water St. is LB Antiques, specializing in rock 'n' roll records and vintage advertising.

New to town is Treasure Chest Antiques (115 1st St. E.; 952-492-5005; www.treasurechest-antiques.com), which carries collectibles, glassware and treasures like tubes for old radios. The Hub of Jordan (231 Broadway St. S.; 952-492-5553) has antiques, a thrift store, a monthly occasional sale and Carasim Coffee Shop, known for yummy baked goodies. For a treat, order a "chocolate shot," created by local cakemaker and chocolatier Themed Elegance (612-803-9501; www.themedelegance.com).

Specialty shops

Specialty stores complement the antiques shops. The Vinery Floral and Gifts (214 Water St.; 952-492-5222; www.thevinery floral.net) is a favorite for fresh and silk florals, garden-themed decor and more.

A destination for fabulous purses, clothing, home decor and Themed Elegance chocolates is Iris Valley General Store (110 Eldorado Dr.; 952-492-3360; www.irisvalleygeneralstore.com) located near Hwy. 169.

On the banks of Sand Creek is Maureen Carlson's Center for Creative Arts (102 Water St.; 952-492-3260; www.maureencarlson.com). Known worldwide for her mastery of polymer clay, Carlson offers day classes and overnight retreats. The center, with Carlson's studio and gallery, has whimsical characters in every nook and cranny and is a treat to visit. Open Fridays and by whim or appointment.

An afternoon picnic

Whether you've shopped away the morning or decided to drive in for the afternoon, Jordan offers many lovely spots for a picnic. With the natural backdrop of Sand Creek, Sand Creek Falls and Mill Pond, Lagoon Park (300 Park Dr.) is a gem for a picnic, swimming, fishing, playing or simply relaxing on a sunny afternoon.

Adjacent to Lagoon Park is another jewel, this one a diamond, the baseball diamond and grandstand at Baseball Park. Also known as "The Mini-Met," Baseball Park is one of the state's finest amateur baseball fields and hosts games almost every summer evening.

Interested in a romantic setting for your picnic? Drive through the countryside to Crofut Family Winery & Vineyard (21646 Langford Av. S.; 952-492-3227; www.crofutwinery.com) and enjoy a bottle of wine as you gaze over the vineyard from the deck. Tastings feature Crofut's award-winning wines made from Minnesota grapes. Open weekends, Crofut's hosts special events throughout the season.

Planning ahead

In autumn, Jordan is the place for fall color, apple picking and Heimatfest, the town's German heritage festival, on Sept. 10.

Three orchards offer pick-your-own and ready-to-buy apples, fall produce, cider and fresh-baked pies. Visit one or all three: Wagner Brothers Orchard (17365 Johnson Memorial Dr.; 612-270-2660), Jim's Apple Farm (20430 Johnson Memorial Dr.) and Minnesota Harvest (8251 Old Hwy. 169 Blvd.; 952-210-2593; www. minnesotaharvest.net).

Myrna CG Mibus is a freelance writer based in Webster, Minn.