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Fall in Love with Stillwater, Minnesota

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:

Hotel Crosby

Hotel Crosby - Stillwater, MN

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.

Lora Hotel

Photo courtesy Hotel Lora

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!

Rivertown Inn

Photo via Rivertown Inn - Stillwater, MN

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: 

 Phil’s Tara Hideaway

Photo via Phil's Tara Hideaway

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.

Lolo and Lolito Cantina

Photo courtesy Lolito Cantina

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.

Lift Bridge Brewing

Photo courtesy Lift Bridge Brewing

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-style 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.

Minnesota Made

Made in MN - Stillwater

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.

Rent a bike

Photo courtesy Lora Hotel

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).

Up, up and away!


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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.

Dose of History

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 boom site, a heron rookery, and more.

If you’d rather someone else do that transporting, hop aboard the Stillwater Trolley for a tour of the 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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It’s the oldest town in Minnesota, nestled between majestic bluffs with a river running through 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.

Photos courtesy unless otherwise noted.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Been there with the “X”.. The Lutefisk was outstanding.. And I can get their micro brew even here in MESA, AZ. Red Devil liq’s special in micro brewery’s

    1. The st croix runs right along the city of Stillwater. Potato, potahto. Seems a bit nit picky Jean. Don’t forget the freight house, dock cafe, water street inn, Main Street cafe, Marx fusion bar, brick and bourbon , Osaka , nacho mamas, lions tap, whiteys, portside etc etc. love this town.

    2. The article does not say that the river runs through Stillwater, in fact it clearly states, right at the beginning “nestled between majestic bluffs with a river running along it.”

    3. Actually the river does run thru stillwater as the border is in the river and stillwater also owns property across the river

    4. To the writer who posted that the St. Croix River does not run through Stillwater, MN -this is semantics only. Okay it runs alongside of Stillwater and it is sometimes referred to as Lake St. Croix because it widens around Stillwater, but it is most certainly the St Croix. Stillwater is a beautiful river town well worth the visit!

  2. You found the best Stillwater spots, but missed the primo restaurant, Marx. And don’t miss the Velveteen Speakeasy for a nightcap. You’ll find new cocktails and old favorites. I know this; I’m a local! ????

  3. You hit some of the best places, but truly should have highlighted the St Croix crossing bridge. It’s a GORGEOUS bridge with bike and walk ways, a stunning view of the river and Stillwater, awesome photo ops. Romantic at night, perfect for a wedding proposal. Can’t believe you didn’t include a pic, but okay, I get it, there’s just too much awesome in Stillwater, you’re gonna miss something! Other notables: chilkoot Cafe, Kitty corner from Meister’s, good coffee, great food, awesome decor and atmosphere. Another great neighborhood spot. Darn Knit Anyway, a fun downtown yarn shop for those so inclined to love fiber crafts. For outdoor dining right on the river: the Dock Cafe. A long time Stillwater staple, great drinks, live music. Lots of other patios downtown, rooftop patios,. Best margaritas at Nacho Mama’s, incredible Mexican food with HUGE portions (you will not go hungry I promise you!) And a nice patio. The indoor space sports a half of a Volkswagon bug mounted on the wall and lots of other fun stuff to look at, really fun vibe. Then to top it off, THE BEST ice cream shop with a million flavors and scoops as big as your head, Nelson’s up the hill West of Stillwater in the Greeley street neighborhood. Plan to stand in line for awhile if it’s a nice day! Okay, that’s it from a townie who grew up in Stillwater, the best little town in the Midwest!

  4. One of our favorite things about Stillwater is the beautiful collection of Victorian homes. Once belonging to logging barons and socialites, today many have been converted to B&Bs. It’s a great way to see what life – at least for the well-heeled – looked like during Stillwater’s boom days. The trolley tour will take you past several gorgeous examples in the hills above town. Gosh, now we want to go back!

  5. Great article on Stillwater! I am surprised that the Lowell Inn and the Matterhorn Room was not included…

  6. And the fun VRbo’s!! There are a lot of them available that offer inside views of some great homes. Our favorite is the Scenic Overlook Cottage 🙂. It offers first class accommodations close to downtown and the loop walk and great views of the bridge.

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