Near-by locations offer small town charm

Trolley rides, gardens, outdoor adventures, beautiful scenery, and quaint coffee shops create cities with distinct personalities guaranteed to please.


Kendel Malcolm

Excelsior provides beautiful scenery along Lake Minnetonka.

Bordering the St. Croix River and located 40 minutes from Minneapolis, Stillwater makes for the perfect fall getaway. With a walk through the small city, visitors can explore unique boutiques and antique shops where they can find both statement fashion trends and interesting treasures. Several restaurants such as Dock Cafe, The Freight House, and Mallard’s line the St. Croix River, providing customers with a beautiful view right on the shore. After a delicious lunch, vacationers can make their way to one of the old-time candy shops. Tremblay’s Sweet Shop concocts homemade chocolates and fudge, and specializes in providing old fashioned candy to its many customers. With the opportunity to cruise along the St. Croix, hike endless nature trails, and enjoy the unique city, Stillwater surely creates memorable experiences. (sofie madden)

St. Anthony:
Located along the Mississippi River is St. Anthony where theaters, restaurants, shops, and biking await for a day of activity and adventure. One can visit the famous St. Anthony Falls or take a trolley ride or a ride a horse drawn carriage throughout the town while gazing at the large skyline of Downtown Minneapolis across the water. With numerous parks within the city and along the historic waterfront, one can take a leisurely stroll through town, go to the Guthrie Theatre to see a show, or go to the Mill City Museum and Mill City Ruins to learn about the historic flour mill in Minneapolis. St. Anthony gives a beautiful scenic experience of a small town along the river, but the city is also conveniently situated close to downtown, so people have the ability to visit the city without taking a long trip. (kate sprenger)

Between outdoor activities and the locally owned restaurants and shops, Lanesboro offers endless experiences in the midst of Southeastern Minnesota. Filled with natural attractions, Lanesboro allows people to relax while taking in the scenic city, such as the national scenic road and state parks. One of America’s Top Twelve Art Places, Lanesboro successfully integrates art, locally owned businesses, and a simple lifestyle. One can visit the Lanesboro Art center then visit the locally owned Pedal Pushers Cafe for lunch while also being able to go for a stroll through the town to shop or hike through the Root River & Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail System. With no stoplights or franchises and many outdoor activities, Lanesboro gives the perfect combination of once-in-a-lifetime adventures and a relaxing getaway. (kathe sprenger)

Situated on Lake Minnetonka and embellished with community gardens, Excelsior exudes a charming personality. Perfect for enjoying nature, Excelsior also has a 15.5 acre park that includes ponds, lakes, and a vast amount of beautiful vegetation and a recreational park focusing on a sense of community with their beaches, tennis courts, and playgrounds. Not only is nature a significant part of the city, but the various delicious locations to eat draw people from all over the metro. Specifically Adele’s and Licks satisfy those craving a gourmet custard or ice cream, while The 318 Cafe entertains their guests with music performers nightly. Whether one desires an Adele’s classic custard, wants to enjoy enchanting gardens, or simply spend a night out in a quaint town, Excelsior fulfills. (margaux brink)

Taylor’s Falls:
Seventy miles north on the Mississippi tributary St. Croix River, Taylor’s Falls is a short 60 minute drive from the Twin Cities. Minutes away from Wild Mountain Ski Resort and home to a popular canoe launch, Taylor’s Falls provides a quaint environment to unwind from a scenic outdoor adventure year round. In the summer, an 18 mile canoe trip to William O’Brien State Park, can be done at a leisurely or strenuous pace, with the breathtaking landscape of water-carved canyons and indigenous foliage. In the wintertime, lodging for an extended stay at Wild Mountain can be found within the city limits. When in town, stop by the Drive-In for a burger and fries, or Schoony’s Soda Shop and Pizzeria for a slice of pizza and a shake. (jack johnston)

Red Wing:
In Southeastern Minnesota, on the banks of the Mississippi River, Red Wing is nestled cozily and comfortably. Made famous as the birthplace of water-skiing, Red Wing presents itself as a Northern Appalachian town against the hilly landscape of Southeast Minnesota, but is only a ninety minute drive from the Metro. Whether it’s a day trip or a stop on the way to camping in Frontenac State Park (on Lake Pepin and 18 minutes past Red Wing), Red Wing creates a delightfully different small-town experience. Stop by Hanisch Bakery & Coffee Shop for a bite to eat, and for a slice of local history visit the Red Wing Shoe Store and Museum to see a Minnesota institution at work. (jack johnston)