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]

  • A chic, swanky boutique hotel, located in a renovated Middle School, @hotelgrinnell offers guests comfortable accommodations as well as great food and drink options. With a full auditorium, and a ballroom in the former gym, this hotel is perfect for anything from a weekend getaway to a major event. We had the opportunity to stay in the hotel on a hosted visit, and wrote a blog post about our stay. See the link in our bio.
  • On the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, there is a point where you round a bend and see this view, with the Atlantic Ocean on the left, and the Caribbean Sea on the right. ⁣
⁣
Ann took this photo several years ago when we visited St. Kitts for a day while on a cruise in the Caribbean. ⁣
⁣
We met our friend, Mikey Tross, on the island and with the help of a local driver and guide, we toured the entire island in a day. ⁣
⁣
We climbed to the top of Brimstone Hills, saw the beaches, at at Fredo's (a local restaurant) and toured Caribelle  Batik at Romney Manor. ⁣
⁣
St. Kitts is a beautiful island and the people there are incredibly generous. If you haven't already been there, add St. Kitts to your bucket list.
  • The Grinnell, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce offices are located in a former bank designed by famed architect, Louis Sullivan. The architect built a series of "Jewel Box" banks, called that because they resemble jewel boxes.⁣
⁣
These buildings are intricate in detail and rich in their finishes. The next time you pass near Grinnell, it is definitely worth the stop to step into American architectural history.
  • In downtown Kearney, Nebraska, you'll find @mccuesnebraskataproom, home to all sorts of Nebraska libations. When you visit, you can choose from a large selection of beers, wines, and even liquors all made in Nebraska. It's a fun environment where regulars welcome visitors, and fun is had by all. We look forward to going back one day and know that a visit to McCue's will be a part of our visits to Kearney in the future. ⁣
⁣
@visitnebraska @visitkearney
  • A rite of passage...⁣
⁣
The Swinging Bridge in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has thrilled residents and visitors alike for decades. When it was originally built in 1929, it was the only way to cross from one side of Bird Creek to the other. Today, there are other bridges, but the beloved swinging bridge still spans the creek and dares folks to cross.⁣
⁣
Long-time residents will tell stories of rieding their bikes across it when they were kids--and it should be noted that back then it didn't have the chain link side guards.⁣
⁣
No visit to Pawhuska is complete until you've tried The Pioneer Woman's chicken fried steak AND crossed the swinging bridge. Go ahead and try...we dare you!⁣
⁣
@TravelOK @VisitTheOsage
  • While looking for a coffee shop in @visitkearney, we stumbled into a really cool store. @elevate.people is a locally owned business specializing in both leather goods and in helping people around the world build better lives for themselves. ⁣
⁣
All of the leather goods for sale here are handmade by people in third world countries. Elevate, it turns out, is a non-profit that gives local artisans small, low interest loans to get started in the leather making business. When loans are repaid, the money is loaned out to another craftsperson so they can get started. Meanwhile, Elevate provides access to a market to sell the goods produced so the worker continues to be supported. They also have an online store.⁣
⁣
We have purchased several items from Elevate, and have loved all of them.⁣
⁣
@visitnebraska
  • After a day of tests and appointments at the Mayo Clinic, this was a perfect place to relax and unwind.⁣
⁣
We were treated to a complimentary stay at the brand new Hilton in downtown @minnesotas_rochester. Located near the Mayo Clinic, it's an incredibly beautiful hotel with nothing but the best amenities and top-notch service. One of our favorite places in the hotel is the hot tub in the pool area. How can it not be? Look at this place. And yes, it's as relaxing as it looks, especially at sunset. ⁣
⁣
The room in this new luxury hotel are just as nice. We enjoyed it so much that we changed our travel plans and booked a second night on our own dime. It's our new go-to hotel in Rochester, Minnesota.⁣
⁣
@minnesotas_rochester @exploreminnesota @hiltonhotels
  • Our hosted food tour in @visitkansascityks began with a bar-b-que spread from several local restaurants. Needless to say, we had to sample a little bit of everything because it was for science. We enjoyed ribs, smoked sausage, brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, burnt ends, rice, beans, and even warm potato casserole. ⁣
⁣
If you love bar-b-que, head to KCK. Trust us, you'll love it. Just wear your stretchy pants.

Second most popular blog in Pawhuska