7 Reasons You'll Love Stillwater, Minnesota | Midwest Living

7 Reasons You'll Love Stillwater, Minnesota

As a quiet neighbor to Saint Paul, historic Stillwater lures Twin Cities locals and vacationers to the scenic banks of the St. Croix River. Boutiques, bell towers and wooded bluffs make a day trip fun, but the Venetian gondola may sway you to stay the night.

That’s amore

“Rumor has it, if you kiss under the bridge in Stillwater, it’s true love forever,” says gondolier John Kerschbaum. The former Boundary Waters guide traded canoe paddling for gondola cruising in 2000 (after shipping an authentic vessel from Venice to Minnesota). He’s been crooning to lovers on the St. Croix ever since. Book via Gondola Romantica (gondolaromantica.com), May–October, and BYOB  (or engagement ring).

Gondolier John Kerschbaum

Gondolier John Kerschbaum.

Browse antiques and new boutiques 

Stillwater earned a reputation as the state’s birthplace after hosting the first territorial convention in 1848. The Main Street where settlers met has become one of the state’s most popular stretches for vintage wares and collectibles. Explore 50-plus shops like Reincarnations (reincarnationshomefurnishings.com) in an old sawmill and Cooks of Crocus Hill (cooksofcrocushill.com) (for new kitchen goods and cooking classes).

Downtown Stillwater

Downtown Stillwater

Eat your way around the world

LoLo American Kitchen and Craft Bar (loloamericankitchen.com) has won over regulars from Saint Paul with inventive fare like banh mi crostini. Marx Fusion Bistro (marxwbg.com) combines Caribbean, Italian-American and Asian eats with a wine bar.

LoLo American Kitchen and Craft Bar

Lolo American Kitchen and Craft Bar

Picnic with wine

The promise of outdoor recreation and relaxation lures visitors to Stillwater’s outskirts (4 miles from the river): Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides, Aamodt’s Apple Farm (aamodtsballoons.com) (open August–December) and Saint Croix Vineyards (scvwines.com). Try  a wine tasting for $6, or buy a bottle of the beloved Raspberry Infusion dessert wine to complete a picnic beside the vines.

Aamodt's Hot Air Balloon Rides

Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides

Pedal from the state Capital

You can skip the car ride and pedal 25 miles from Saint Paul into town. Creek-side overlooks and patches of shady forest along Gateway-Brown’s Creek State Trails (gatewaybrownscreektrail.org) draw cyclists (and even Segway tours). The Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter (gasthausbavarianhunter.com) restaurant,  with a new cedar deck, makes an ideal hydration stop 4 miles west of town. In 2018  a 5-mile loop trail will open, sending cyclists to Wisconsin and back, across a new bridge and the historic lift bridge (closing to motorized vehicles next year).

Biking downtown Stillwater

Biking downtown

Climb the stairs

This city built on hills holds five long, iconic staircases with San Francisco-like inclines. A 3-mile urban hike challenges visitors to scale all 500-some steps in a day.

Spend the night

Stillwater has several independent bed-and-breakfasts, including the Ann Bean Mansion (annbeanmansion.com), once the estate of a lumber baron. One of its five rooms has an oversize copper soaking tub; another has a ladder leading to a tower with scenic views (from $169).

Ready to go? Learn more at discoverstillwater.com.

Add Your Comment