Set along the St. Croix River, which borders Minnesota and Wisconsin, Stillwater is a special place. And that’s not just my opinion—in 2011 Forbes named it one of America’s Prettiest Towns due to its “small town beauty that offers plenty of year-round options.” Only a half-hour drive from the Twin Cities, a trip here still feels like a getaway with the historic architecture and peaceful, small town atmosphere.
Like Forbes said, there’s no bad time to visit. However, this time of year, when the foliage is turning to shades of deep reds and purples and vibrant oranges and yellows, it’s about as close to ideal as it gets. That might be why Stillwater was just named to Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s Best Towns for Fall Colors, taking the No. 3 spot only falling behind Lake Placid, N.Y. and Oakland, Md.
All days are fair game to visit, with Victorian B&B’s and inns, antique stores, wine bars, and great restaurants along Main Street, river views and cruises, and green space all contributing to a wonderful stay. What might be even better, though, is pairing those with one of these events:
Fall Food & Wine Festival (Sept. 13 & 14): Taking place at Dancing Dragonfly Winery, you can participate in a grape stomp, shop from more than 25 artisan and food product booths, hear live music, get a tarot card reading, and enjoy food ranging from lobster rolls and BBQ to artisan pizza and Japanese yakitori.
Brews Cruise on the St. Croix (Sept. 19): St. Croix Boat & Packet Co. offers daily cruises, but on this one you’ll get to pair five Lift Bridge Brewing Co. beers with Wisconsin’s best artisan cheeses.
Fall Colors Fine Art & Music Festival (Oct. 4 & 5): This juried event will feature handcrafted works from more than 70 artists from the Upper Midwest. Food vendors and live music will be around, too.
Harvest Fest & Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off (Oct. 11 & 12): There’s plenty to do here: Giant pumpkins, pumpkin carving, pumpkin drop and pumpkin regatta, chili cook-off, bake-offs, pie eating contest, food vendors, microbrew tasting, bluegrass music, costume parade, pedal tractor pull, and more.
After one visit you’ll too understand what makes Stillwater such a special place.