The ABCs of Summer Fun
An A to Z list of the region’s hottest summer attractions and destinations
(page 4 of 4)
Summer Fun in Southern Minnesota >
Tired of the daily grind? Rather than head to popular “Up North” hot spots this summer, head to the sunny southern side of the state.
Southern Minnesota is a calm respite for those who enjoy antiquing; hiking, biking or skating along serene state trails; taking part in unique local festivals and celebrations; visiting historic river towns; and staying in cozy bed and breakfasts. You’ll find interesting museums and historic sites, beautiful golf courses, Minnesota’s only Amish community (Harmony), a National Eagle Center (Wabasha), the largest outdoor gear store in the Midwest (Cabela’s in Owatonna), unique shopping, the natural beauty of the Mighty Mississippi River, and so much more.
Start your southern adventure with a trip down Highway 61 to Treasure Island Resort and Casino, located in the small town of Welch. The only casino in southern Minnesota, this Caribbean-themed entertainment mecca features 2,500 state-of-the-art slot machines, 44 blackjack tables, video poker, video keno, and bingo, in addition to entertainment and great food. Headliners in the Indigo Bay Showroom range from stand-up comedy to country, pop, R&B, and classic rock bands. The Parlay Lounge is the perfect place to enjoy a tropical drink with friends, and the Emerald Bay Lounge boasts a lively locale where guests can gather, play slots, and enjoy free weekend entertainment. Guests can relax in Treasure Island’s luxurious 250-room hotel. Additional guests amenities include a 137-slip marina, 95-site RV park, and a 120 passenger cruise yacht. www.treasureislandcasino.com
A little further down Highway 61 is Red Wing, the kind of pretty little river town that inspires poets and dreamers. Bring your skates, bike, or athletic shoes and head out on the Cannon Valley Trail. The trail parallels the Cannon River, offering dramatic glimpses of the lush river valley.
If fishing, boating, rock climbing, or canoeing is more your speed, the Mississippi River winds through Red Wing, offering plenty of recreational opportunities. When you’re ready to explore the area, wineries, golf courses, and scenic picnic grounds are conveniently located nearby. And if your idea of burning calories involves shopping, Red Wing is home to a variety of unique shops, specialty stores such as Red Wing Pottery, Red Wing Stoneware, and Red Wing Shoes, antique dealers, and restaurants. Be sure to check out The Uffda Shop for a great assortment of Scandinavian-themed gifts; Moments on Main for fabulous gifts for yourself, your home, or someone special; a Cut Above Home for candles, gifts, furniture, gourmet foods, pictures, and home decor; and Inspired Home & Flower Studio for home accents, fresh flowers, and interior design.
Visit downtown Red Wing June 22 from 5 to 9 p.m. for the very fun Second Annual Pajama Party. Girls of all ages will be strolling around downtown in their pajamas, where one lucky shopper will be crowned the “Queen of Shopping,” a noble reward for spending the most money during the event. There will be promotions, specials, drawings, music, vendors, henna tattoos, and much more.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Throughout the summer, Red Wing is celebrating its 150th Sesquicentennial birthday with multiple activities. “The Guess Who” will be performing under the big top at Bay Point Park June 16 (presented by Treasure Island Resort and Casino). The weekend of June 29-July 1 is also packed with celebrations, including a DJ Teen Party, old-fashioned parade, Civil War reenactment camp, horseshoe tournament, Kids Fest, and Pearl of the Lake Boat Cruises. The cruises will feature a presentation, live music, or guided tour. www.red-wing.org
One of the best places to stay in Red Wing is the St. James Hotel, established in 1875. The historic ambiance and Victorian charm of the hotel exudes romance; each guestroom is decorated with antiques and antique reproductions. Romance and B&B packages include meals in the hotel’s restaurants, drinks and entertainment at Jimmy’s Pub, champagne, and his-and-hers massages. Many of the rooms offer river views. www.st-james-hotel.com
Also located off Highway 61 is the “historic island city” of Winona. Founded in 1851 by a steamboat captain, the lumber industry helped the city grow, and grow, and grow. By 1900, Winona had more millionaires per capita than any place in the country. Winona’s history lives on in over 100 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with one of the state’s largest collections of Victorian commercial architecture on the Mississippi River. There are state parks with spectacular bluff-top views of the Mississippi River Valley, enclosed deer parks and campground on Prairie Island, open air concerts at Lake Park, and arts and culture such as the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and six weeks of critically-acclaimed theater during the Great River Shakespeare Festival from June 29-August 5, held at the Performing Arts Center at Winona State University. www.grsf.org
Located at the foot of the bluffs, The Village House in Winona, located in University Village, offers easy access to hiking, biking, state parks, and the Mississippi River.
“We at the Village House officially call ourselves a guest house, although the arrangement is like a bed and breakfast, except we don’t live on the premise,” explains Colleen Petters, president of Collegeville Communities.
There are four individually decorated rooms (the main floor bedroom is handicap accessible), a common living and dining room shared by guests, and a pergola and patio for enjoying summer weather.
An underpass below Highway 14 connects the Village House to the walking trails and woods at Saint Mary’s campus, for those who like to walk or bike. The Village House appeals to families with its location on a private street, with green space that allows children to play safely outside. A small kitchen with a microwave gives parents the option of heating baby bottles or baby food, or serving their children a light meal if necessary. www.villagehousewinona.com
Another southern town waiting to be explored is the city of Faribault, within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities off Interstate 35E. In addition to more than 40 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there is more than ten lakes within ten miles, an outdoor aquatic center, miles of bike trails (the Sakatah State Trail takes you on a 45-mile adventure), beautiful parks, and the kind of lodging and restaurants you’d expect from a friendly small town. Visit in June for the annual Heritage Fest, the Rice County Fair July 17-22, or the Tree Frog Music Festival and Faribault Airfest and Balloon Rally in September. www.visitfaribault.com
Visitors will find a variety of lodging accommodations, restaurants, shops and attractions of interest in Worthington, located in the southwest corner of the state. The Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, scheduled this year June 8-10, is a great time to head down to Worthington’s Lake Okabena, Sailboard Beach (on the east side of the lake). Worthington has the geographic good fortune of being located between two of the largest wind generator fields in the world, and the city is taking advantage of it. The weekend will include a regatta, beginning instruction, advanced clinics, a swap meet, and live music. If you like to windsurf or jam, this is the place to be! www.worthingtonmnchamber.com
North of Worthington is the town of Marshall, recently named a “Best Small Town in America.” If you’ve never been to this charming city, a three-hour tour from the Twin Cities, you should definitely pencil in a trip. Plan a camping trip at Camden State Park, hike along the wooded river valley, climb the Dakota Valley Trail, and admire the summer scenery while canoeing in Brawner Lake (where you can fish for bass or bluegill). Also nearby is the 700-acre Garvin Park (13 miles south on Highway 59), an excellent bird habitat for woodland species, and Lake Shetek (33 miles south near the city of Currie). Lake Shetek, the largest lake in southwest Minnesota, offers great fishing and pelican watching, and Loon Island, a 45-acre bird sanctuary, is accessible on foot. With an increasing number of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, public facilities, and city parks, Marshall is the perfect stop for a summertime getaway. www.marshall-mn.com