Rediscovering Historic Stillwater, MN

Rediscovering Historic Stillwater, MN

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]

Postcards from Minnesota

Postcards from Minnesota

Steve and I are getting ready to head to north to Minnesota again this week. We’ve been going there several times a year to visit friends and family and for doctor’s visits at the Mayo Clinic where I’m being treated. It is about a 7-hour drive from our house in Crete, Neb., to Minneapolis and fortunately, there’s always plenty to see and do along the way.

As we prepare this week to return to the Mayo Clinic and then venture to the Twin Cities for the North American TBEX conference for travel bloggers and related industry professionals, we thought we’d share some of the postcards we’ve received from the great state of Minnesota.

The first postcard we received from Minnesota was from former colleagues of mine, Mary Pack and Walt Radcliffe. They sent us this beautiful postcard that features the Minnesota state bird, the Common Loon, and the state flower, the Lady Slipper. Walt and Mary were in Minnesota for an annual visit to the world renowned Mayo Clinic.

Like Mary and Walt, we’ve made several trips to the clinic. In fact, we wrote our very first blog post from the clinic and you can read it HERE.  Of course, we’ve sent ourselves a postcard or two from the Mayo Clinic like this one of a statue depicting founders Doctors William and Charles Mayo.

This statue is located in the Feith Family Statuary Park adjacent to the Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated nonprofit medical group practice in the world, employing more than 3,800 physicians and scientists and 50,900 health staff. They specialize in treating difficult cases (like mine) and spend more than $500 million a year on research. I have been so blessed by the care I’ve received and my experiences at the Mayo Clinic  [read more about that here] and am grateful we’re within a day’s drive of the clinic in Minnesota.

On a brighter note, the other postcards we’ve received from Minnesota are from our friends, the Bissons.

 

Last summer, they sent us postcards from the ever-popular Minnesota State Fair! Rick, Karen, Sawyer, and Cory drove to Minnesota last summer from their home in the Florida Keys. They loved the State Fair, including all of the fried food on a stick they could handle. We loved their postcards and their picks for the best fair food.

 

[well]Best of the best – Fried cheese curds

Best sweet – Martha’s pail of cookies and as much milk as you could drink for just $2.00

Best savory – Totchos (tots, taco meat, cheese, sour cream, bacon, green onion)

Weirdest food – Deep fried giant green olives stuffed with cream cheese on a stick and served with Ranch dip

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Adam Turman’s interpretation of the Great Minnesota Get-Together is the 12th in a series of original art created exclusively for the State Fair. Turman is a Twin Cities illustrator, muralist, fine artist and screen printer.

We’re really excited for our upcoming trip to Minnesota and look forward to meeting with the folks at Explore Minnesota at the TBEX conference. We can’t wait to lean more about tourism in Minnesota and explore places like The Mall of America (with some tax-free shopping), historic Stillwater, MN, and of course, a few of the incredible 10,000 lakes that make this state one-of-a-kind.

[well]When you’re traveling next, be sure to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333. We’d love to hear from you![/well]