For me, Stillwater is one of those places that will always take me back to my childhood and ignite fond memories. Every day I spent there as a child was filled with fun and relaxation. We’d fish off the back deck of my grandparent’s houseboat, slowly boat over to a nearby beach where we’d build sand castles, roast hot dogs, and swim for hours, or simply cruise up and down the incredible St. Croix River while enjoying the scenery.

Steve as a child on his grandparents’ houseboat on the St. Croix River near Stillwater, MN.

Our days were filled not just with fun and sun but with the soda-pop and sweetened cereal that came with a visit to Grandma’s. It was a comfortable place, a place where time slowed, and everyone was happy.

Some 30-or-so-years later, today, I arrived in Stillwater on a tour bus full of travel bloggers. For most, it was their first time in this beautiful little town. For me, stepping off the bus from Minneapolis into the cottonwood fluff-filled air was a step back in time and a pleasant reminder of my summers here as a child. The Stillwater Trolley Company hosted us on a complimentary tour of the town.

The Stillwater Trolley Company provided a great tour of the city with lots of history about everything from log jams and river rats to a sneak peek at the home where Hollywood actress Jessica Lange once lived.

The Stillwater Trolley Company provided a great tour of the city with lots of history about everything from log jams and river rats to a sneak peek at the home where Hollywood actress Jessica Lange once lived.

I learned history I’d not known, and saw beautiful houses and mansions that harkened back the early days of Stillwater and the logging industry that made the town thrive and, literally, built the Midwest. We oohed and ahhed at the Victorian homes, surrounded by covered, wrap-around porches where you easily imagine sipping tea or lemonade on a humid summer’s eve.

When the tour ended, we stopped for a delicious Sunday brunch at the Water Street Inn, courtesy of the Stillwater Convention and Visitors Bureau. We sat out on the patio, chatting with the other travel enthusiasts while we ate danishes, cheesy potatoes, smoked salmon, and made-to-order omelettes. We learned on our Trolley Tour that a building near here once housed the offices of many of the city’s lumber barons. It was said that at the height of the lumber boom, there was more money in the barons’ personal safes in their offices, than in all of the banks in Stillwater.

Later, Northern Vineyards Winery hosted us for a wine tasting (they offer many varieties of wines made from grapes grown in this area) on their beautiful rooftop terrace.

We sampled area favorites such as Lady Slipper (semi-sweet blush made from Frontenac Gris grapes grown in Minnesota) and Main Street Red (another semi-sweet wine blend of naked St. Croix and unbaked Frontenac grapes).

At both places I was able to watch the river flow past, see the boats and remember my own good times out there on the water.

After lunch, we had some free time, so I headed toward the marina where my grandparents kept their boat. Along the way I heard the whistle on the bridge blow, so I paused to watch the span go up and see the boats glide underneath.

I thought back to those days when I was on my grandparents’ boat, and realized just how lucky I was to have my so many memories of the river and town.

When I got to the marina, I found that much has changed–there is a bar in front of it now, the parking lot has been paved, and none of the docks are where they used to be. Still, there were ghosts from the past all around, drifting through my mind and that was especially fun for me.

While today was a short visit, I know Ann and I will be back. This quaint, little town has so much to offer visitors — stories and relics of the lumber boom and the lift bridge, restaurants, wineries, shops and boutiques. But most importantly, for me, it has the memories of summer days on the St. Croix River with family — and for that, it will always be worth coming back.

[well]Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by organizations and businesses mentioned in this post as well as Explore Minnesota. All opinions are our own.[/well]

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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