Women shopping in downtown Park Rapids

10 of the Most Charming Main Streets in Minnesota

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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 of the Most Charming Main Streets in Minnesota

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
    A cone with Door County Cherry ice cream at Licks Unlimited

    A Door County Cherry ice cream cone at Licks Unlimited 


    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
    Minnesota Made's new Stillwater store

    Minnesota Made


    Nestled along the St. Croix River and facing Wisconsin, this beloved downtown offers riverfront dining, tour boats, and trolley rides. Find a place to dine with our restaurant guide or the top things to do in town. 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.

    Some can’t miss spots include Minnesota Made, American Gothic Antiques, Black Letter Books, Blue Sun Soda Shop, Carpe Noctem Candle Co., and more.

  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
    The historic library at the St. James Hotel in Rochester

    The historic library at the St. James Hotel

    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 a sweet treat at Hanisch Bakery or brunch at Bev’s Cafe. Shop for boots, and snap a photo with the world’s largest boot at the Red Wing Shoe Store & Museum or eat delicious pizza and beer at Red Wing Brewery. Visit 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
    Judy Garland Museum Emerald City carriage

    Emerald City memorabilia at the Judy Garland Museum / 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. Pick up a pair of Minnesota-made Steger Mukluks from its flagship store, then look out for all the canoe-topped cars parked along Sheridan Street. That's where specialty shops like Wintergreen Northern Wear, Ely Surplus & Outdoor, Portage North and Piragis Northwoods Company 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. Get coffee, tea, fresh baked goods, and delicious soups and sandwiches at Northern Grounds or enjoy one of its varieties of tap beers or 40 wines by the glass. Dine at Insula Restaurant, Boathouse Brewpub & Restaurant, Gator’s Grilled Cheese Emporium, and more. 

  7. Nisswa
    Big Axe Brewing patio in Nisswa

    Big Axe Brewing  / Andrew Parks


    This charming spot can be one of the busiest spots in the Brainerd Lakes area who come for “up north.” Shop for souvenirs at the Totem Pole or Anchored In, a breezy read from Turtle Town Books, vintage finds at Angry Minnow, and sweets galore at The Chocolate Ox. Enjoy a meal at Rafferty’s Pizza, one of the top pizza places in greater Minnesota, Main Street Ale House, Big Axe Brewing, and more.

    Find more things to do in the Brainerd Lakes Area

  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
    A Center For the Arts' summer concert series

    A Center For the Arts' summer concert series

    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, eat Nordic-inspired dishes at Töast, find whimsical and sassy gifts at The Market, or keep the kids entertained at Otter Cove Children's Museum.

    Find more things to do in Otter Tail County.  

  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.