Next time you’re looking for a fun, affordable day trip, think about somewhere besides the Twin Cities or the North Shore. There are so many lesser-known regions of Minnesota, and so many charming small towns to explore. Today, we focus on Pine City, a delightful little town that you can’t drive through without stopping.
Pine City is about 70 miles north of the Twin Cities along I-35. It's the perfect distance for a day trip or a lunch stop on your way north or south.
While the drive up the freeway may be quicker, consider taking Highway 61. Through the years, this road has become famous for the art and music named in its honor, like Bob Dylan's 1965 album
Highway 61 Revisited. It is now a scenic route through many towns that sprouted up along it back in its heyday. The road forms Pine City's Main Street.
But what can you do in Pine City? Lots. Along Main Street, several local dining options offer plenty to love. Nicoll's Cafe is great for breakfast, and Chubby's Sports Bar & Grill has
great Bloody Marys
. For a retro vibe, check out the rare A&W drive-in right in the center of town.
If you venture off of Main Street, you'll find a charming town square. In its center, Robinson Park is anchored by a pretty gazebo and park. Being an artsy community, the park hosts a live local music night every Friday in the summer. Other art events also occur throughout the year. And in warm weather, Robinson Park is home to a weekly farmer's market.
Robinson Park is a great stop for a picnic lunch. But if you forgot to pack one, there are restaurants nearby. Scotty's Parkside Cafe would be a good choice for breakfast or lunch. If pizza is more your speed,
is a great choice with a medieval castle theme.
In the mood to shop? Pine City's got you covered. Across the street from the park, Sauser's Hardware is a surprisingly fun place to browse. The historic store has been family-owned for over 100 years. That alone makes it worth a visit, but don't expect to walk away empty-handed. Sauser's is home to much more than nuts and bolts. Or if crafting is more your speed, the Pine City Scrapbooking Co. is huge - and within easy walking distance.
For secondhand treasures, Pine City has two great thrift stores. Both have reasonable prices and are worth browsing to find your next diamond in the rough. On Wednesdays in the summer, the Pine City Fairgrounds hosts a huge flea market that is definitely worth checking out if you love hunting antique and vintage items.
But there's more to Pine City than downtown. Just outside of town, the North West Company Fur Post is a great spot to learn some local history. The site teaches about the 1800s fur traders who once operated in the area. Costumed interpreters will guile you through the historic site, making it a great stop for a summer afternoon. In the fall, the annual Fall Gathering draws many visitors.
Looking to spend time in the great outdoors? You don't have to travel north for that. Pine City is home to Chengwatana State Forest. Over 20,000 acres of beauty await, including hiking and ski trails, camping, and fishing.
Speaking of fishing, there are plenty of opportunities to do that in Pine City, too. Cross Lake is a popular spot for anglers, but you definitely don't need to cast a line to enjoy it. The beautiful scenery is enough on its own.
There's also the Snake River, easily accessible from the boat landing across from the fairgrounds near downtown. It's a popular spot to get out on the water on a sunny afternoon.
And don't forget to pay a visit to the famous Voyageur statue, 30-foot-tall redwood monument to the area's historic fur traders. He's watched over the Snake River since 1991. Voyageur Park is right off of Main Street and close to downtown, so a quick stop is a must.
Have you ever been to Pine City? What’s your favorite thing to do there? If you’re looking for more great small towns, check out this list of
13 Small Towns In Minnesota To Visit in 2017.