Sure, the Twin Cities get a lot of attention. There’s something to do around every corner, whether it’s soaking in live music, sampling beers, or eating at the hottest new restaurant. There’s so much activity that it’s easy to forget about the rest of our state. But that’s a mistake. Greater Minnesota has plenty to do, see, and eat – even out in the boonies. In fact, here are nine of the most incredible places that are definitely worth the drive.
1. Archibald Mill, Dundas
Archibald Mill was founded in 1857 along the Cannon River in Dundas. It has been rebuilt several times, but much of the original mill is still intact. If you love old ruins, this would be a cool spot to check off your bucket list. Dundas is about 40 miles south of Minneapolis.
2. Marine General Store, Marine on St. Croix
Marine on St. Croix is another old mill town with an interesting attraction. The Marine General Store is the oldest in Minnesota. Go there for unique gifts, tasty food, or just to eavesdrop on local happenings. Bonus: the owners also operate the ice cream shop next door!
3. End O Line Railroad Park and Museum, Currie
Currie is a tiny town in southwestern Minnesota with a population of just over 200 people. But what it lacks in population it makes up for in awesome. This place has a one room schoolhouse, a large model train display, and a general store. But the real draw is several old trains, including a locomotive from 1875. Visitors can ride on the original manually operated turntable that was used in Currie's railway past.
4. Zumbrota Covered Bridge, Zumbrota
This bridge in tiny Zumbrota, Minnesota, was originally covered a few years after it was built in 1869. With a span of about 120 feet, it is one of the oldest covered bridges left in the state. Find it at Covered Bridge Park in Zumbrota.
5. Audubon Center of the North Woods, Sandstone
Established in 1968, Audubon Center of the North Woods has been educating people about the environment for decades. The Center takes advantage of its location in a beautiful part of Minnesota by offering programming like canoeing on nearby Grindstone Lake, a climbing wall, and a zip line course. Bonus: nearby Banning State Park is a must-see for nature lovers.
6. Toody's Sweet Treats, Henderson
Henderson is a small town with a population of 886 people. But Toody's Sweet Treats drums up enough business to make Main Street the place to be. Why? Toody's lives up to its name by serving up some of the tastiest desserts around. The icing on the cake is that this shop is an old-fashioned soda fountain. Stop in for a malt to feed your nostalgia.
7. Long Drive-In Theatre, Long Prairie
This old-school drive-in theatre in Long Prairie will take you back to 1956. It's one of just a handful of surviving drive-ins left in Minnesota, and it was voted best in the state by WCCO viewers. Pay the drive-in a visit for affordable snacks, a new release, and a nostalgic experience.
8. Stone Mill Hotel & Suites, Lanesboro
This small-town Minnesota hotel has a lot of history. The building was rebuilt in 1885 after a fire and has been used for a variety of purposes over the years. Each room is decorated in a specific theme to highlight the history of the building and the area. The room pictured above is the Grain Room, where corn, soybeans, and oats were once stored.
9. Winnewissa Falls, Pipestone
In the southwestern corner of Minnesota, near Pipestone National Monument, you'll find Winniwissa Falls. These falls flow over stunning quartzite cliffs to create a spectacular view. This small-town treasure is not to be missed.
With charming soda fountains, historical sites, and 1950s nostalgia – not to mention the beautiful landscapes Minnesota is known for – it’s probably time to start planning your next weekend trip. Do you have any small-town destinations to share? Please let us know!