Discover River Town Romance

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

bed_&_breakfasts_and_inns-fullsize.jpgThere’s little that rekindles romance like a cozy B&B room with a fireplace at the end of a crisp winter’s day exploring the sights together. The river towns of southeast Minnesota are ideal for that sort of getaway.

The region offers several easy river-town escapes, perfect for a weekend packed with activities, or an easy-does-it unwinding together.

Red Wing

Only 60 miles from the Twin Cities, the town of Red Wing, tucked between bluffs and river, can feel a world away from the urban hustle-bustle. Whether for an anniversary or special occasion, Red Wing’s many historic bed-and-breakfasts offer everything from Victorian elegance to a farmhouse that bakes souvenir breads.

You can also book a room at the state’s oldest hotel, the elegant St. James, dating to the 1880s. The hotel is also popular for elegant dining overlooking the Mississippi River. The St. James sits a short stroll from the still-functioning Amtrak Depot, built in 1904, that is also an art gallery and visitor center.

Entertainment options include a show at the restored Sheldon TheatreTreasure Island Resort and Casino, or the Anderson Center for the Arts. Don’t miss a trip to museums dedicated to the town’s best-known products: Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing Pottery.

Craving a more active getaway? Cross-country ski along the 20-mile Cannon Valley Trail, or ski or snowshoe at Memorial Park, overlooking the river. Refresh yourselves afterward with a Work Boot Red beer at Red Wing Brewery.

Winona

This lovely river town is becoming known as an arts and cultural center. The riverside Minnesota Marine Art Museum, recently expanded to more than 10,000 square feet and three major galleries, surprises and impresses visitors with hundreds of fine art pieces, including works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet, depicting lakes, oceans and rivers.

Enjoy a stroll around Lake Winona, or rent snowshoes at the Lake Lodge Recreation Center. The Garvin Heights overlook features panoramic views of the town and Mississippi River Valley, and the Signature Restaurant offers fine dining with scenic views. Sample other local flavors at the Garvin Heights Vineyards. Some of the stately old homes in Winona are now B&Bs for overnight stays.

Northfield & Faribault

Northfield winter Christmas shoppingAlong the Cannon River, Northfield is proud home to two distinguished liberal arts colleges, St. Olaf and Carleton. The colleges infuse the area with youthful spirit and rich cultural offerings.

December is especially popular with the world-famous St. Olaf Choir concerts and holiday shopping at artsy, funky boutiques such as Swag and The Measuring Cup. The 1877 Archer House anchors the historic downtown with lodging, dining and a coffee shop.

For anyone looking to freshen up their home and garden, nearby Faribault features eclectic antique shopping, two lauded flower and vegetable nurseries, historic neighborhoods and a Queen Anne Victorian B&B to inspire ideas. Other bonuses: local cave-aged cheeses to jazz up kitchen cooking and the Faribault Woolen Mills to pick up a cozy new blanket or scarf.

Mankato

The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway southwest of the Twin Cities winds through charming Henderson with a rare pre-Victoria-era B&B from the 1870s, St. Peter with spacious boutique rooms at the Konsbruck Hotel, and weekly musicians and pizza at nearby Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery.

The Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail has 39 miles of cross-country skiing, and Minneopa State Park hosts several guided snowshoe hikes over the winter.

New Ulm

Take Judson Bottom Road out of Mankato or follow the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway for a pretty drive to New Ulm. Old World German heritage reverberates through unique architecture, restaurants and shops selling German imports, from chocolates to cuckoo clocks. A traditional Glockenspiel features figures from the town’s history; you can also take a narrated history tour downtown.

Schells brewery tourOn a scenic estate tucked back into the woods is Schell’s, the country’s second-oldest family-run brewery, offering tours and samples. Celebrate the release of Schell’s seasonal bock beer at the annual Bock Fest on Feb. 6, the same day New Ulm celebrates Fasching, a sort of German Mardi Gras.

The town also offers a few B&Bs, Flandrau State Park and Morgan Creek Winery, one of the state’s best-established vineyards. Weekend visitors can enjoy live music and pizzas at the countryside winery weekends through December, or at The Grand Kabaret weekends throughout the winter.

Find more romantic travel ideas throughout the state.