As the air gets cooler and the snow begins to fall, southern Minnesota’s charming towns, idyllic scenery and entertainment venues get ready to welcome winter travelers looking for something out of the ordinary. This winter, take the time to shop local, indulge in something delicious, and catch a show in southern Minnesota.
SHOP SMALL, SHOP LOCAL
The many quintessential downtowns of southern Minnesota offer holiday shoppers the “shop small, shop local” option. Find something for everyone on your list in some of these classic downtowns.
Nestled in the bluffs along the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota, Red Wing’s downtown is filled with shopping, dining, museums and more. Peruse the Uffda Shop for signature Scandinavian gifts, stop in the Red Wing Shoe Co. Museum to see the world’s largest boot, and pick up some unique goods at Pottery Place before a pint at Red Wing Brewery.
Stroll the streets of Northfield during the annual Winter Walk for holiday fun and shopping in December. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays with horse-drawn carriage rides up and down Main Street as you shop the local, quirky and artsy shops such as Rare Pair, Northfield Olive Oils & Vinegars, Eclectic Goat, The Measuring Cup, and many more clothing boutiques and antique shops.
Celebrate German heritage while shopping at the boutiques and specialty shops in historic downtown New Ulm. Be sure to stop into Domeier’s German Store or the Guten Tag Haus for imported German gifts including clocks, steins and ornaments. Looking for a gift for the quilter in your life? New Ulm has three unique quilt shops, one of which was named a “Top 10 Quilt Shop” by Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler Magazine.
TREAT YOUR TASTE BUDS
Plan an entire trip around where you want to eat and drink in southern Minnesota. Theseculinary destinations offer more than just food, like a warm fire on a cool afternoon or a place to sip wine while doing some shopping.
Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery, which sits along the Chankaska Creek in Kasota, near Mankato, offers fantastic food and wine all in one place. Chankaska’s wines are handcrafted and made from grapes grown on-site—featuring both reds and whites. The winery has a tasting room where you can order your favorite varieties and pair them with wood-fired pizzas or antipasto, sip wine on the tasting deck or snuggle up by a warm fire on the patio.
An unpretentious stop in the town of Sherburn is the Cup N’ Saucer Cafe, a restaurant known for its locally sourced ingredients, delicious breakfasts and lunch menu. But the Cup N’ Saucer has so much more to offer. The husband-and-wife team host a six-course tasting menu one evening every month featuring fresh local and sustainable ingredients prepared by Seth and served by Elizabeth. “Unbelievably good! Worth the drive wherever you're coming from. Top notch food, low key, casual environment,” wrote one recent reviewer on TripAdvisor.
A culinary tour of southern Minnesota should include a meal at Blooming Grounds Coffee House in the scenic river town of Winona. Customers come to this Winona cafe to eat breakfasts, lunches and dinners of fresh-made sandwiches, soups, salads, pizzas and baked goods.. Breads are baked fresh daily on the premises along with delicious coffees, frappe's, and smoothies. Enjoy musical entertainment on Wednesday and Friday evenings, with the evening menu offering gourmet pizza's, local beer and wine selections, and other small plates.
CATCH A SHOW
The Commonweal Theatre Company is one of the artistic gems in southern Minnesota, and one of the best theaters to visit during the winter. The focus at the Commonweal is on plays that highlight actor-based storytelling. Shows run the gamut from classics by icons like Tennessee Williams to productions by emerging playwrights. Many old Victorian homes have been turned into places to stay for a weekend of taking in the arts, making Lanesboro one of the top bed-and-breakfast destinations in the country.
Other notable performance venues in southern Minnesota include the Fairmont Opera House, built in 1902 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This theater wows audiences with its well-preserved architecture, stage room, and of course what happens on stage. Upcoming shows this winter include “Rhythmic Circus: Holiday Shuffle,” “Harmonious Wail” and “Ordinarious.”
In the small southwest town of Dawson, the Dawson-Boyd Arts Association showcases live performances and entertainment. The list of groups that have taken the stage in Dawson is impressive, including the Children’s Theatre from New York and the Minnesota Orchestra. The theater season kicks off each fall and runs through the winter and spring. Don’t miss this year’s production of “An Andy & Bing Christmas,” a musical culmination of Christmas classics of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby.
Another venue to consider this winter is the Pipestone Performing Arts Center, which has been hosting performances for 20 years in the heart of historic Pipestone. With seating for 300 people, the center is located in an 1897 Sioux quartzite building, giving it an authentic feel for traditional plays like the Calumet Players’ “Making God Laugh.” For a more festive show, consider something like Al Opland Singers’ “Winter Wonderland” during the holiday season.
Southern Minnesota has plenty of other fun indoor attractions, tons of upcoming festivals and events, and countless places to dine. And if you’re looking to stay overnight, there are plenty of affordable lodging options. Plan your southern Minnesota winter escape today.
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