Midwest Destinations: Lanesboro

Tucked deep in bluff country lies the perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts

Bikers on the Root River State Bike Trail in Lanesboro, Minnesota.
Root River State Bike Trail

photo by Explore Minnesota Tourism

Nestled in the bluffs of the Root River Valley, two hours southeast of the Twin Cities, is the hidden gem of Lanesboro. It’s no wonder so many of the establishments along the charming main drag here have bikes, canoes, and kayaks for rent. The town’s greatest appeal, arguably, is the Root River State Bike Trail, rated one of the best trails in the Midwest.

The trail runs along the old Milwaukee Railroad bed that was paved over in the 1980s and winds some 60 miles through towering 300-foot limestone bluffs, forestlands, river beds, and rolling fields. In warmer months, visitors can rent a kayak from Root River Outfitters and take a leisurely float down the river, pluck a rental bike from the rafters of Little River General Store and pedal into the countryside, toss in a fishing line, or just enjoy one of the many serene picnic spots flanking the river banks. During the winter, this vast network becomes fertile stomping ground for snowshoes and cross-country skiing.

Head into the historic downtown and unwind in the parlor of one of the many bed and breakfasts that have earned this town with a population of just 800 the title, “B&B Capital of Minnesota.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of the brick and stone buildings in downtown Lanesboro have changed very little since they were built more than a century ago.

The shops of downtown Lanesboro, Minnesota.
Downtown Lanesboro

photo by Thomas Strand

For good eats, don’t miss Pedal Pushers Cafe, a throwback in décor but forward-thinking in food with a locally sourced menu. Grab a stool at Spud Boy Diner for pancakes and omelets or get a lick of Minnesota-made ice cream at Another Time Ice Cream Parlor.

Take in a spirited comedy or stirring drama at the Commonweal Theatre—a state-of-the-art theater known as the “rural Guthrie,” a nod to not only the furnishings that made their way from the downtown Minneapolis establishment to their current home in Lanesboro, but also to the incredible performances on its stage at any time of the year.

Small town charm with all of the big city amenities await in Lanesboro. Get going.