Summer bucket list: 7 road trip ideas within an hour of Rochester
[Editor's note: This guide was first published in August 2017.]
Labor Day weekend is coming faster than any of us would like. And as we reflect on our summers, I'm sure many of you are like me — wondering where the last couple months went.
So with temperatures dropping and September in our sights, it's time to start drafting those end-of-summer bucket lists.
It may be too late to plan that family getaway to the Dells or excursion through the Boundary Waters, but don't throw in the towel on summer just yet. There are still a number of opportunities for adventure within an hour drive of Rochester.
Travel along the bluffs of the Mississippi River and you will stumble across a series of charming river communities, from Wabasha up to Lake City to Red Wing. With an array of good dining and outdoor recreation options, it's worth spending time exploring each town.
Minnesota Marine Art Museum
It may be hard to believe, but one of the finest art collections in the Midwest is located in nearby Winona, population 27,139. Situated in an industrial zone along the banks of the Mississippi, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum is home to masterpieces by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and others. Among the most notable works on display is Emanuel Leutze's iconic "Washington Crossing the Delaware" — just one of two originals still in existence.
Whitewater State Park
Home to more than 50 mammal species and 250 kinds of birds, Whitewater State Park offers an outdoor experience unlike any other in southeast Minnesota. The 2,700 acre park is filled with opportunities for camping, hiking and sightseeing. For the angler in the family, its waters are known to be some of the best around for trout fishing. During the winter months, the park remains open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Just 45 minutes southeast of Rochester, Lanesboro is an eclectic small town that makes for a great weekend getaway — especially for couples. Not only is it the Bed & Breakfast Capital of Minnesota, but there's also a thriving art and theater scene downtown. Get outdoors and explore the Root River by canoe, tube or bicycle (trail).
Venture just outside of Lansesboro and you will come across Minnesota's largest Amish settlement. More than 100 Older Order Amish families dot the countryside near neighboring Harmony. Tours are available for visitors wanting to step back in time and learn more about Amish culture and history.
While you're down there, I'm told you should also check out Niagra Cave. The geological attraction features a 60-foot waterfall and fossils that date back 450 million years.
A number of orchards in the area are beginning to welcome visitors to join them for apple picking season. Many of these farms also offer activities like corn mazes and wagon rides. Be sure to check with each business for dates and times before heading over.
Squash Blossom Farm
Right outside city limits, to the northwest, lies a farmstead known as much for veggies and eggs as art and music. Every Sunday afternoon through September, the folks at Squash Blossom invite the public to bring down their lawn chairs and join them on the farm for live music and wood-fired sourdough pizzas. Why you're hanging with the farm critters, make sure to check out their on-site store offering up baked goods, jams and other farm products.
Cover photo: The Wabasha–Nelson Bridge connects Minnesota and Wisconsin over the Mississippi River / Charli Lopez
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