5 Small Midwest Towns You'll Love | Midwest Living

5 Small Midwest Towns You'll Love

Slow down and enjoy small towns such as Zoar, Ohio; Stockholm, Wisconsin; Lanesboro, Minnesota; Nappanee, Indiana; and Louisiana, Missouri.
  • Zoar, Ohio

    Settled in 1817 by German religious separatists who believed hard work led to salvation, Zoar (population: 193) has evolved into a tranquil Middle America town with busy residents and a strong historical character.

    Visitors to Zoar (75 miles south of Cleveland) can spend the day browsing 100-year-old photographs and artifacts in the Town Hall, strolling among quality antiques shops and historical homes (left) or taking a guided tour of the village. When nightfall comes, classic-style B&Bs promise simple, comfortable places to slumber.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Zoar.

  • Zoar trip guide

    Zoar Community Association
    (330) 874-2646; zca.org The website has a clickable map of the historic town's 24 remaining buildings.

    Antiques in the Wash House
    An original Zoar washhouse behind The Keeping Room B&B houses high-quality antiques. (330) 874-3181
    The Cider Mill Located in a restored cider mill, the newest business in town sells country-style home accessories. (330) 316-9739; cidermillofzoar.com
    Zoar Community Association Walking Tours Costumed guides (left) lead groups seasonally from the Zoar Store, a general store (330) 874-2646; www.ohiohistory.org/places/zoar
    Zoar Town Hall and Canal Museum This museum is full of photographs and artifacts--plus a shop with Ohio-made products. (330) 874-2646

    Firehouse Grille
    Tasty standouts are chunky chicken nachos and the fist-thick club sandwich. (330) 874-2726; thefirehousegrilleandpub.com/zoar/

    Cobbler Shop Bed and Breakfast
    A beautifully restored home has a huge screen porch overlooking the gardens. (800) 287-1547; cobblershop.com


  • Stockholm, Wisconsin

    You'll still find plenty of Petersons, Andersons and Ericksons in this Swedish-founded town (they originally made their living by fishing and harvesting ice on Lake Pepin). But modern Stockholm (population: 97, located 60 miles southeast of Saint Paul) got its start in the 1970s, when artists began discovering the beauty along Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River.

    Travelers eager to explore this stretch of the Great River Road (left) eventually followed, curious about what they'd find along the way (wigreatriverroad.org). Explore art galleries and shops, sample Scandinavian foods and stay for one of the area's festivals that combine old-world heritage with new creative expression.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Stockholm.

  • Stockholm trip guide

    Stockholm Merchants Association
    (715) 442-2266; stockholmwisconsin.com

    Abode Store and Gallery
    This shop sells a variety of art reflecting river themes. (715) 442-2266; abodegallery.com
    Stockholm General Wisconsin Foods, Cheese, Wines and Mercantile Everything in this gourmet food store is from Wisconsin. (715) 442-9077; stockholmgeneral.com
    Ingebretsen's Handcrafted Scandinavian imports, books and foods fill this tiny storefront. (715) 442-2220; ingebretsens.com
    Stockholm Pottery and Mercantile You'll find locally made stoneware, wood engravings, watercolors and jewelry. (715) 442-9012; stockholmpottery.com
    Festivals These include the Midsommer Swedish Festival with Scandinavian foods, maypole dancing and an evening bonfire (stockholmwisconsin.com), and Stockholm Art Fair with more than 100 juried exhibitors (stockholmartfair.org).

    The Stockholm Pie Company
    This popular little eatery serves all kinds of pies, from cream to savory. (715) 442-5505; thestockholmpiecompany.com


  • Lanesboro, Minnesota

    Three words best describe this Root River Valley town of 750: outdoors, agriculture and arts.

    Mostly, visitors come for the trail system. Lanesboro (120 miles southeast of the Twin Cities) stands at the heart of the area's paved multi-use trails, including the 42-mile Root River Valley Trail and the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Trail. Many travelers bring their own bikes, but you also can rent them at the Little River General Store (lrgeneralstore.net). Be sure to get a trail map before heading out (rootrivertrail.org).

    Art galleries, a seasonal farmers market and a professional theater round out a weekend trip here.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Lanesboro.

  • Lanesboro trip guide

    Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce
    (800) 944-2670; lanesboro.com

    The Commonweal Theatre
    While the professional theater offers comedies, family shows and musicals, it has built a reputation on its annual Henrik Ibsen Festival, honoring the “father of modern drama.” (800) 657-7025; commonwealtheatre.org
    Lanesboro Art Center A classy collection of local art includes mosaics, fountains, silks and more. (507) 467-2446; lanesboroarts.org
    Lanesboro Farmers Market Held seasonally at Sylvan Park, the market has dozens of vendors representing the region's 1,500 farms. (800) 944-2670; lanesboro.com

    Old Village Hall Restaurant
    This seasonal mainstay with a view of the Root River Valley Trail offers special-occasion dining with seasonally inspired snazzy entrees that start at $20 and include New Zealand lamb. (507) 467-2962; oldvillagehall.com
    Pedal Pusher's Cafe and Coffee Bar Burgers, flaxseed pancakes and anything made with farm eggs rule here. Special Saturday dinners showcase ingredients that are grown locally. (507) 467-1050; pedalpusherscafe.com

    Habberstad House
    (pictured) Expect hearty breakfasts at this quiet neighborhood spot, an easy stroll to the downtown. (507) 467-3560; habberstadhouse.com


  • Nappanee, Indiana

    Settled on the edge of north-central Indiana's Amish Country, Nappanee (population: 7,070) has a philosophy centered on the phrase "Embrace the Pace." The town has cultivated that spirit by supporting small businesses and an RV industry, and Amish and “English” neighbors live out the slogan in their daily interaction. Horse-drawn wagons (left) are a common sight here.

    Nappanee's downtown has shops and restaurants housed in historic buildings, and family-owned shops pepper the countryside. More than 30 of these are featured on Nappanee's Shingle Shoppes Tour (amishcountry.org). Another big draw: the free Quilt Gardens Tour (quiltgardenstour.com), showcasing colorful gardens and murals along a self-guided tour.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Nappanee.

  • Nappanee trip guide

    Elkhart County Visitor Center
    (800) 250-4827; amishcountry.org

    Amish Acres
    Nappanee's historic farmstead is designed to preserve and give insight into Amish heritage. In addition to the farmstead, there's a restaurant, lodging, musical theater and shopping. (800) 800-4942; amishacres.com
    Self-guided driving tours Free maps and CDs for the Heritage Trail Audio Tour, a 90-mile tour of Nappanee and her neighbors, are available at the visitors center and also are downloadable online at amishcountry.org. The visitors center also can help with maps for the Shingle Shoppes Tour and the Quilt Gardens Tour. (800) 250-4827; amishcountry.org

    Main Street Coffee House Staffers roast the coffee on-site, including flavors from around the world and signature blends. Try their moist and delicious cinnamon coffee cake. (574) 773-5333; mainstreetroasters.com

    The Homespun Country Inn Bed and Breakfast
    Five flowery, comfortable rooms have their own private baths. The hosts, who enjoy chatting with their guests, will arrange in-home dinners with Amish for guests who are interested. From $79. (800) 311-2996; homespuninn.com

  • Louisiana, Missouri

    Perhaps it's the Mississippi River that gives such an aura of permanence to Louisiana, Missouri (100 miles northwest of St. Louis). Its thoroughfares (left) have been called some of the most intact Victorian streetscapes in the state, and its antebellum-style Georgia Street Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Spending time in Louisiana might mean fishing or boating on the river, strolling the streets to see the 20 murals around town, cruising the 50 Miles of Art corridor, or visiting the ASL Pewter Foundry, which gained acclaim for the 500-plus authentic pewter articles it produced for the HBO biopic John Adams. The Great River Road scenic byway links Louisiana (population: 3,863) to Clarksville and Hannibal, which hold a biannual studio and gallery crawl. All three of these towns have seen artists' communities flourish during the past five years.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Louisiana.

  • Louisiana trip guide

    Louisiana Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. (
    888) 642-3800; louisiana-mo.com

    ASL Pewter Foundry
    Tucked inside the 1881 Grand Central Hotel, the foundry's showroom gleams with heirloom-quality tableware (left). The foundry uses molds that date as far back as 1650; the pewtersmiths make original designs, too. (573) 754-3435; aslpewter.com
    50 Miles of Art Studio and gallery tours are in March and November, though artists welcome visitors year-round and display work in galleries. 50milesofart.com
    St. Louis University's Henry Lay Sculpture Park Sculptures dot 20 wooded acres. The 2-mile gravel walking trail is lovely. Free. (573) 754-4726; slu.edu/events/layctr.html
    Stark Brothers Nurseries and Orchards Co. This nearly 200-year-old nursery is known for patented fruit trees. (800) 325-4180; starkbros.com


    Daybreak Donuts and Diner The sweet perfume of apple fritters hangs outside. (573) 754-6060; daybreakdonutsanddiner.com
    The Eagle's Nest Bistro Try the Eagle Sandwich for lunch (smoked turkey breast, bacon, baby Swiss and basil mayo on foccacia) and spice-crusted salmon for dinner. (573) 754-9888; theeaglesnest-louisiana.com

    Eagle's Nest Inn
    Rooms in this 1859 bank are tastefully modest and pleasant; rates include a hot breakfast. From $95. (573) 754-9888; theeaglesnest-louisiana.com

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