While Afton might be more known for its skiing (think Afton Alps and, on the flat land, Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins), it’s really more of a year-round day-trip destination. Check out some of our favorite things to do—if you want to do everything, you might just have to stay the week!
1. Take a walk in the park.
Afton State Park provides some of the best views of the St. Croix River bluffs along its 20 miles of trails for hikers (some trails are also open to bicycles and horses). Even when you’re not by the river, decades-old oaks and prairie flowers create picturesque views across the up and down landscape of the park. Keep a close eye out for hawks, waterfowl, and songbirds, and see if you can spot the camouflaged woodland mammals in the underbrush.
If you only have time for a quick walk, try the three-quarter-mile trail that loops starting at the visitor center; the self-guided tour will teach you about the restored prairie. In the summer, cool off at the beach, go fishing, or paddle down the St. Croix to the one canoe-in campsite the park has. Not taking the water way in? Check out four camper cabins, two yurts, and more than 20 campsites.
2. Afton Apple Orchard
Afton Apple Orchard is known for its apples, pumpkins, petting zoo, giant playground, and corn maze, but it’s also great during berry season. Strawberries grow until mid-July; raspberries ripen in August.
3. Find shop treasures.
In many ways, Afton is one of the quintessential small towns that make Minnesota shine. One sign? The storefronts and boutiques. Go shopping at stores like Dwell Furniture & Home Décor, which has more than 20 local vendors making up its collections; Lakeland Antiques & Collectibles and its 30-plus dealers; and Baglio’s of Afton, a fashion and accessory boutique that even does its own store fashion shows.
Right on Main Street is also an 1870s historic home that has opened its doors to visitors. The Squire House Gardens, Gift Shop, and Nursery is all of the things its title promises, but it can also operate as an event space, landscaping service, and perhaps most importantly for the discerning visitor, a beautiful photo-op space. Its garden space is always open during store hours, and its paths meander by wooden pergolas, irises, tulips, coneflowers, a lily pad pond, and more.
4. Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour
There’s no excuse to visit Afton during the golden days of summer and not visit the oldest ice cream shop in Minnesota. Really, there isn’t one–they also offer specialty cafe drinks and candy.
5. Go on a Self-Guided Walking Tour.
The Afton Historical Museum has put together a self-guided walking tour that will take you to most of the historic spots in this town, such as Emil Asp blacksmith shop and the Congregational Church Parsonage. Before or after your trek, make sure to stop by this volunteer-run museum to dive deeper into the town’s history.
6. Historic Afton House Inn
Since opening in 1867, the Historic Afton House Inn has been the spot of fine dining, elegant but homey hotel rooms, and the Swirl Wine Bar, which combines wine sipping, dining, special events, wine education, and an outdoor patio.
7. Go for a joy ride.
Afton is located along the 123-mile St. Croix Scenic Byway, which begins at Taylors Falls. This trek is perfect if you want to feel like you’re away from it all without, well, actually getting away from it all. (We still recommend you turn off your work phone and email.) While it has been named one of Minnesota’s most scenic fall drives multiple times, a summer time is just as rewarding with some refreshing greenery.
For another view of the St. Croix area, go above the bluffs with a hot air balloon ride. Check out neighboring hot air balloon businesses like Minnesota Ballooning and Aamodt’s Balloons and Stillwater Hot Air Balloon.