It’s the oldest town in Minnesota, nestled between majestic bluffs with a river running along it. Once home to 19th Century lumber barons (and until recently, Oscar-winner Jessica Lange), this historic town less than 40 minutes from downtown Minneapolis makes for a perfect long weekend. Here’s how to best enjoy your weekend in Stillwater.
Where to stay:
Located at the north end of Main Street, this new hotel offers bright, well-appointed rooms decked in rustic barn wood with exposed brick. Add in a lovely restaurant and cocktail bar, a rooftop pool, and spa services, and you may never want to leave.
Another new hotel in the heart of downtown, the Lora boasts modern, posh accommodations between original brick walls. Great coffee shop, restaurant and bar onsite, as well as complimentary bikes to use on the extensive trails nearby the hotel. Pet-friendly, too!
Looking for something more historic? Maybe a little romantic? Book your stay at the Rivertown Inn. This 130-year-old mansion boasts stained glass windows, fourteen working fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, and intricate parquet floors—all within walking distance of downtown. In addition to luxe en suite rooms, guests enjoy gourmet breakfasts and nightly cocktail hour.
Where to eat:
The Oasis Cafe
The River O offers classic, mid-Century greasy spoon, complete with mismatched coffee mugs, curt waitresses and cheapie breakfasts. Nestle into a turquoise booth and dig into one of their haystacks—hashbrowns loaded with goodies like ham, cheese, veggies and whatever else you’re into.
Housed in a log cabin once frequented by John Dillinger, that cool, old school energy still lingers. Expect thoughtful riffs on supper club classics, but with a Greek twist. The taste of Greece sampler platter, with items like sliced gyro, spanakopita, saffron orzo, Mediterranean pork chop and pita, is a hit; as well as the 10-ounce Tara steak.
Stillwater locals Brad Nordeen and Joe Ehlenz run two of the most exciting restaurants in town—both located on Main Street. Lolo, features globally inspired fare, with items like ahi poke; Korean bbq tacos; bacon-wrapped hot dogs; punchy salads and more. At Lolito Cantina, you’ll find more of a Mexican flair, with tortas, tacos and quesadillas. Both places serve up inventive craft cocktails, like the So Tell Me What You Want… What You Really Really Want (rum with banana, angostura, lime pineapple, grenadine and mint); and the Aunt Becky, with grapefruit crema, tequila, lemon and bubbles.
Known for their burgers, cheese curds, carpeted walls, and tacky but awesome décor, Meister’s is the quintessential Minnesota neighborhood bar. It’s perched on the South hill, not downtown Stillwater, just far enough away from the tourist hub to make it a locals-only spot.
You’ll have to venture out of historic downtown Stillwater to visit the area’s best brewery. What the area lacks in scenic beauty, it makes up for with great beer. Lift Bridge is known for their Belgian-stlye Farm Girl pilsner, is refreshing and clean; as well as their Hop Dish, a hoppy, floral IPA.
Where to score an awesome picnic:
With a plethora of beautiful parks and scenic overlooks, you might just want to pick up lunch at a deli and dine al fresco. The River Valley Co-op does great sandwiches and salads to-go, as does Brine’s Meat Market (get a big deli container of the tuna noodle salad!)—located up the hill on Washington Ave.
Where to shop:
From antique shops to boutiques, you’ll find over 50 unique independent owner-operated stores in Stillwater.
Books, Books and more Books!
I love a good bookstore, and Stillwater is home to some great ones. For new books, visit Valley Bookseller. This small shop is expertly curated, with the kind of personal experience you’ll never, ever find on Amazon. Black Letter Books specializes in used and rare books, from first editions to gently used paperback classics, we provide readers and collectors alike with good, classic, used books in all subjects. And since we’re talking books, check out the Stillwater Public Library. Funded by Andrew Carnegie in 1902, the Beaux Arts building is the oldest library in the state.
Bring back a little something local for your closet. Each item is designed and screen printed in Minnesota, and the best part? Every shirt has a hidden quote made to empower and inspire. Now that’s Minnesota nice!
Antiques for all
If you love antique and vintage goods, Stillwater is your town. There’s more there than in just about any other city in the Midwest. Two of note: Midtown Antiques Mall, which is so big, you may get lost! Rose Mille has a distinct Anthropolgie vibe, with vintage craft items (think buttons and ribbon) and curated pieces that’ll make you swoon.
Where to Get outside:
Teddy Bear Park
Teddy Bear Park is a dream for both kids and adults. This expansive park (with cool teddy bear sculptures… hence the name) boasts multiple play areas for kids of all ages, and only a few designated sand areas—meaning you won’t constantly be dumping grit from your kids’ shoes. They also offer a lovely sitting area for parents. Bring your coffee, sit back and try to relax.
Rent a pontoon
The St. Croix River is fun to look at, but even more fun to float on. Book a pontoon for a few hours from Stillwater Boat Club & Rentals. It’s right next to PD Pappy’s, the riverside biker bar worth visiting for a beer and a bit of people watching.
An expansive bike trail system brings cyclers to Minnesota’s birthplace. Bike the St. Croix Crossing bridge over Wisconsin; or take the Browns Creek Trail out to the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter for authentic German food in the middle of the woods (about 4 miles from downtown).
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View the St. Croix Valley from the sky with Stillwater Balloons. In business since 1976, these guys have an impeccable safety record, which counts when you’re soaring 1,200 feet above the ground. Operating year-round (yes, even in the winter!), seeing the river valley from this vantage point is an unforgettable experience.
Love cultural and historic insight with a little physical activity? Sign up for Stillwater Trolley’s kayak tours. During this 90-minute tour, you’ll visit a cave once used by a lumber cam, an old logging boomsite, a heron rookery and more.
If you’d rather someone else do that transporting, hop aboard the Stillwater Trolley for tour of town, complete with historical commentary. On weekends, you can book a special storytime tour, featuring a local children’s author who reads on the trolley.
Have you been to Stillwater, Minnesota? What are your favorite places? Share in the comments!
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Photos courtesy DiscoverStillwater.com unless otherwise noted.