List

Encounter Eagles, Apples and Grumpy Old Men on the Great River Road

Scroll to Read
Image Caption
Follow the Mississippi River's 600-plus-mile journey across Minnesota on the Great River Road / Visit Winona

Encounter Eagles, Apples and Grumpy Old Men on the Great River Road

By Amy Barrett

September is Drive the Great River Road Month, a great time of year to go leaf peeping along the Mississippi. This Trip on a Tankful itinerary focuses on the 90-mile segment of the Great River Road that goes from St. Paul to the Wabasha/Kellogg area on Minnesota's South Shore.

For a small town, Wabasha (population 2,559) has a pretty big lineup of special events throughout the year, including a Grumpy Old Men Festival in February and Riverboat Days in July, but when you visit between Sept. 8 and Oct. 22, 2022, you can enjoy the town’s fabulous annual SeptOberfest, when artist-decorated pumpkins will be on display throughout the charming downtown, which may remind Gilmore Girls fans of Stars Hollow. 
 

  1. Stop for coffee at Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop
    Maple Bacon Cake Donut at Hanisch Bakery Bill Hanisch

    Maple Bacon Cake Donut / Bill Hanisch

    Stop for coffee at Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop

    Stopping for “coffee” doesn’t have to mean just coffee. Especially at Hanisch’s, voted best bakery in Minnesota, where the donut display alone will astound you. Other temptations include homemade breads, quiche and pastries.

    While you’re in Red Wing, be sure to see the world’s largest boot at the free Red Wing Shoe Company Museum, then stretch your legs on an art walk around town to see artist-decorated boots as well as new sculptures added in 2022

  2. Find fresh-picked apples at The Pepin Heights Store
    Pepin Heights Orchard, Lake City

    Pepin Heights Orchard, Lake City / @thepepinheightsstore

    Find fresh-picked apples at The Pepin Heights Store

    A strong contender for the title of cutest store on the river, this seasonal shop in Lake City opened Aug. 20) is a great place to load up on apples (Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Pazazz and many more) along with gifts and crafts.

     

  3. Hit the deck for lunch at Reads Landing Brewing Co.
    Reads Landing Brewing Company Patio

    Reads Landing Brewing Company Patio / @uappelba

    Hit the deck for lunch at Reads Landing Brewing Co.

    From beet salad and Margherita flatbread to mahi-mahi fish tacos and risotto Milanese, the menu at Reads is not what you might expect. That’s because the chef trained at LeCordon Bleu before returning to her roots in southeastern Minnesota. Get a table outside and enjoy your meal with a mid-day Lake Pepin Sunset (a raspberry wheat ale) or one of the other craft beers brewed on-site.

     

  4. Ride a dragon at LARK Toys in Kellogg
    colorful carved wooden dragon on a carousel

    The carousel at LARK Toys features exquisitely hand-carved animals. 

    Ride a dragon at LARK Toys in Kellogg

    Named it one of the Top 10 Best Toy Stores in the World by USA Today, LARK Toys has a wonderful variety of handmade toys and – the highlight – a carousel with exquisitely hand-carved animals that you have to see to believe. Climb aboard the goldfish, the giraffe or the dragon for an #OnlyinMN ride.

     

  5. Browse Wabasha’s boutiques
    Vases at Pride of Nations Vases, Wabasha

    Vases at Pride of Nations Vases, Wabasha / Vision Design Group of Winona, MN

    Browse Wabasha’s boutiques

    Numerous boutiques line Wabasha’s Main Street, each one as enticing as the next. Pride of the Nations displays and sells the pottery, jewelry and other arts and crafts created by more than 400 Native American families. The "What's Brewing" Quilt Shop has a fabulous selection of fabric and sewing supplies, and the coffee is always brewing. Find music, pottery and jewelry at Local World Gallery; purchase one-of-a-kind kimonos at Wind Whisper West; and indulge in gourmet chocolate, coffee and ice cream at The Chocolate Escape.

  6. Dine Hollywood-style at Slippery’s
    Slippery's, Wabasha

    Slippery's, Wabasha / @pumpkin_ashby

    Dine Hollywood-style at Slippery’s

    Enjoy soup, salad, a sandwich or the Famous Slippery Burger with a view of the Mississippi River at this popular spot in Wabasha, made famous when it appeared in the 1993 Warner Brothers movie Grumpy Old Men, which starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. 

  7. Stay overnight at Turning Waters
    Historic home painted red with Turning Waters sign in front yard grass

    Turning Waters is Minnesota's first bed, breakfast and brewery.

    Stay overnight at Turning Waters

    Built in 1902, this historic home in downtown Wabasha became Minnesota’s first bed, breakfast and brewery. An overnight stay in one of its elegantly furnished rooms comes with a five-course breakfast featuring locally and ethically sourced ingredients such as organic vegetables grown in the backyard, bacon and sausage from grass-fed pigs and eggs from free-range chickens raised on the same grain used in the brewery. Guests also can enjoy a complimentary drink at Hoppy Girl Brewing each night of their stay.

     

  8. Visit the world-class National Eagle Center
    National Eagle Center eagle feeding Wabasha

    National Eagle Center / Jackie Scherer

    Visit the world-class National Eagle Center

    Wabasha’s renowned and recently renovated National Eagle Center offers daily programs featuring live eagles. Two floors of exhibits tell the success story of how the bald eagle population has recovered after being placed on the Endangered Species List in the 1960s. Additional opportunities to learn about eagles include naturalist-led tours and river cruises.
     

  9. Stretch your legs
    aerial view of fall color along the Mississippi River on a sunny day

    Frontenac State Park / Minnesota State Parks and Trails

    Stretch your legs

    Stop at Frontenac State Park between Lake City and Red Wing for a hike and a picnic with a beautiful backdrop of fall color or, if you’re still full from that five-course breakfast, continue on to Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings, where there are several trails with scenic overlooks along the river and where the St. Croix River Valley Apple Festival takes place Oct. 8 and 9, 2022.

  10. Study the 32-flavor menu at Schoolhouse Scoop
    Cup with five large scoops of ice cream topped with one small scoop

    "The Graduate" at Schoolhouse Scoop

    Study the 32-flavor menu at Schoolhouse Scoop

    Get a scoop ("The Elementary”) or two (“The Junior High”) or even five (“The Graduate,” new in 2022) at this first-class ice cream shop in the former Hastings High School. You can also get “extra credit” by topping one flavor with a smaller scoop of another flavor.

     

Amy Barrett

Amy Barrett is the communications manager at Explore Minnesota. She previously worked as a staff editor at MPLS.ST.PAUL Magazine and spent 10 years working in communications for the Parks and Trails Division at the Minnesota DNR. She enjoys camping, hiking, biking and paddling and has visited all of Minnesota’s state parks with her husband and three sons.