Two reactions commonly associated with a visit to Winona: either a delightful sensation of uncovering a well-kept secret, or the pleasure of returning to a familiar place filled with a wide range of delights. A treasure in southeastern Minnesota, Winona is cradled by towering limestone bluffs and the shimmering Mississippi River. The small city’s world-class greatness in culture, art, festivals, and pristine outdoor recreation make it a perfect summertime destination in the Twin Cities’ backyard.
The case for Winona’s status as a can’t-miss cultural hub is made on several fronts, including July’s prestigious Minnesota Beethoven Festival. Over the course of three weeks, the festival fills the city with the emotional swells and sublime landscapes of the great composer, in the 13th year of an event that brings thousands of music lovers and hundreds of the globe’s best classical musicians to venues throughout Winona. This year, the festival features 11 performances with musicians including: world-wide sensation Joshua Bell; Olivier Latry, the celebrated organist at Paris’ Cathedral of Notre Dame; the powerhouse Venice Baroque Orchestra, and the dynamic and acclaimed Minnesota Orchestra. Equally accessible for classical aficionados as well as newcomers thrilled by the prospect of immersion in musical greatness, the Festival opens its doors to all.
Theater lovers throughout the state of Minnesota are buzzing about this summer’s season of the Great River Shakespeare Festival, the annual event that brings great actors and theater artists to Winona from around the country for an annual state of classics as well as new works. Running all summer through August 4, the Festival runs a strong slate of compelling shows throughout the week, in both matinee and evening performances. Expect to be on the edge of your seat for two Shakespeare classics: the little-performed, yearning Cymbeline and the bloody, epic sweep of Macbeth. And while the classics have earned their status by standing the test of time, this season also features intriguing new works including White Rabbit Red Rabbit, an international sensation that’s different every time it’s performed, and has created a buzz among audiences from coast to coast. And just in case we’re in danger of taking ourselves too seriously, those looking for a madcap, zany comedy will find the perfect remedy in a new production of A Servant of Two Masters.
Fine art fans and newcomers alike are always stunned by the collection at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. It lives up to its theme of “great art inspired by water,” with its riverside location and aquatic works by art titans from around the world including Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and many others. Surrounded by native prairie plantings and frequented by bald eagles, the museum’s location is as impressive as what it contains—a sentiment echoed by visitors from around the world.
If you feel a little spoiled by all the world-class culture available in Winona this summer, go ahead and treat yourself some more by getting outside. The city is surrounded by what can only be described as a pristine playground of the natural world, with hiking and biking trails and paths, rock climbing on the bluffs, and peaceful paddling routes through the Mississippi backwaters. By the time you’ve enjoyed all Winona has to offer, you might well find yourself eyeing next summer’s calendar to eagerly figure out the soonest that you can return.