Women shopping in downtown Park Rapids

10 Charming Minnesota Main Streets

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Find what you're looking for in the shops along Main Avenue in downtown Park Rapids / Micah Kvidt
Things to Do // Shopping // List

10 Charming Minnesota Main Streets

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

From tree-lined avenues with late Victorian charm to clusters of homey cafes and artsy boutiques, Minnesota boasts quite a few quaint main streets. Here are 10 that could be the cover of a Hallmark card or movie.

  1. Excelsior
    Downtown Excelsior

    Shops line the streets of downtown Excelsior / Lucy Hawthorne


    Check out Water Street and the lakefront in this upscale, hip community hugging Lake Minnetonka. Here you can paddleboard and reward yourself with familiar (cookie dough, mint chip, old-fashioned vanilla) or left-field (black licorice, cake batter fudge, a "Fat Elvis" fusion of banana, chocolate chips, and peanut butter) ice cream flavors at Licks Unlimited, a couple freshly pulled Excelsior Brewing Company pints, or a birria quesadilla at Lago Tacos complete with consommé for dipping. 

  2. Stillwater
    Downtown Stillwater holiday shopping

    Downtown Stillwater during the holidays  / Parker Photographics


    Nestled along the St. Croix River and facing Wisconsin, this beloved downtown offers riverfront dining, tour boats, and trolley rides. Leave plenty of time for shopping at boutiques filled with antiques, used books, home decor, and imported Christmas decorations along one of Minnesota's oldest main streets.

  3. Henderson
    Prince mural in downtown Henderson's historic district

    Downtown Henderson's historic district / Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway


    Tucked away along the Minnesota River Valley not far from Highway 169, this little hillside town feels like a step back in time, with a soda fountain in its Main Street drug store, an antique shop in an 1850s log cabin, and a mural and bench erected in memory of Minnesota's own Prince. The entire street is a nationally registered historic district, and the town hosts a Classic Car Roll-In every Tuesday in the summer.

  4. Red Wing
    Downtown Red Wing at night

    West 3rd Street in downtown Red Wing  / Tony Webster

    Red Wing

    Bountiful baskets of flowers flowing from lamp posts, the Mississippi River meandering in the background and the venerable St. James Hotel have helped Red Wing land on lists of the world’s top historic destinations. Don’t miss the Red Wing Shoe Store & Museum (home to the world’s largest boot), the Uffda Shop that reflects Minnesota’s Nordic heritage, and the historic depot that still welcomes train passengers and doubles as an art gallery.

  5. Grand Rapids
    Grand Rapids downtown shops

    Grand Rapids downtown shops / Lisa McClintick

    Grand Rapids

    Start the day with coffee or creative soups from Brewed Awakenings before following the Yellow Brick Road to the shops at historic Central School at Pokegama and Fifth Street. Learn about logging, hometown girl Judy Garland, and don’t forget to snap a photo with the Paul Bunyan-sized Adirondack chair.

  6. Ely
    Steger Mukluks display

    Pick up a pair of Minnesota-made Steger Mukluks from the flagship store in Ely / Lucy Hawthorne


    Few towns reflect Minnesota’s love of the outdoors quite like Ely. Canoe-topped cars are parked along Sheridan Street, where specialty shops such as Steger Mukluks, Piragis Northwoods Company and others are ready to outfit visitors for year-round wilderness adventures in the Boundary Waters. To enjoy an expert’s eye for northern beauty, browse the gallery of internationally known photographer Jim Brandenburg.

  7. Nisswa
    Nisswa turtle races

    Summer turtle races have been a northern Minnesota tradition since 1963


    If it’s a rainy summer day, expect this town to be hopping even more than usual with Brainerd Lakes area visitors who come for “up north” souvenirs at the Totem Pole, a breezy read from Turtle Town Books, and sweets galore at The Chocolate Ox. Don't miss the famous turtle races held throughout the summer.

  8. Little Falls
    The marquee at The Falls Theatre in Little Falls

    The marquee at The Falls Theatre  / Carol Kasper

    Little Falls

    About two hours north of the Twin Cities, this town along the Mississippi River inspired a young Charles Lindbergh. Today’s visitors can soak up the town’s proud history from its downtown murals along Broadway and First Street. A vintage marquee lights up each night at the Falls Cinema, live music drifts out of the Great River Arts building, and you can dine among local souvenirs at A.T. The Black and White. Listen for the river pounding over the dam and echoing whistles of trains chugging by.

  9. Fergus Falls
    Fergus Falls theatre marquee

    Fergus Falls theatre marquee / Lisa Meyers McClintick

    Fergus Falls

    Stroll down shady Lincoln Avenue, not far from the Otter Tail River, to find a good read and fun cards at the century-old Victor Lundeen Company. Then catch a concert at A Center for the Arts, savor a beef commercial sandwich at The Viking Cafe, find whimsical and sassy gifts at The Market, or keep the kids entertained at Otter Cove Children's Museum.

  10. Park Rapids
    Downtown main street Park Rapids

    Downtown main street Park Rapids / Lisa McClintick

    Park Rapids

    Main Avenue shops and restaurants are so popular in this northern Minnesota town, it’s super-sized in width to allow parking in the middle of the street as well as the sides. Try the wild rice casserole at The Good Life Cafe, browse craft and quilt stores, find patio chairs and cabin decor, and watch Aunt Belle’s Confectionary cook up a kettle of buttery caramel.

Lisa Meyers McClintick

Lisa Meyers McClintick is a prolific travel writer for outlets including USA Today, Midwest Living, the Star Tribune and her website lisamcclintick.com. A mom of three, she especially enjoys family travel, hands-on learning vacations, local food and farms, living history and outdoor adventures.