Stillwater, Minnesota was named one of the “Prettiest Towns in America” by Forbes Magazine. After paying one visit to this small town with a population of 18,225, you’ll know why it received this honor. Stillwater has natural beauty, historic architecture, charming boutiques and plenty of events and festivals to keep you entertained during your trip.
Stillwater is the county seat of Washington County, Minnesota. . It rests along the banks of the St. Croix River across from Wisconsin. The town is often called the birthplace of Minnesota because the territorial convention that made Minnesota a state in 1858 was held in Stillwater.
Stillwater is a popular day trip destination for Midwesterners, and it was named one of the Midwestern towns even a Southerner could love by Southern Living. Several well-known movies were filmed partially or entirely in Stillwater, including Fargo, Grumpy Old Men, and Beautiful Girls.
Here’s a rundown of some of this vibrant town’s main attractions.
You have lots of low to moderately priced restaurants to choose from when looking for
where to eat Stillwater Minnesota. Eat a seafood lunch or dinner at the Dock Café, and admire the St. Croix Bridge and River through a huge picture window. Joseph’s Family Diner offers hearty home-cooked meals with fresh pie for dessert. They even have homemade Canadian bacon. Joseph’s has been named one of the Top 10 Family Style restaurants in Minneapolis/St. Paul by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter offers schnitzels, Bavarian Smoked Ribs, Sauerbraten and other German specialties. The bar serves imported Munich beers, white and red wines. Annual events include Oktoberfest, Sunday Music in the Meadows in August, and Christkindlmarkt Outdoor Christmas Market.
Beer drinkers can enjoy their favorite beverage and gastropub fare at The Freight House Beer Garden, Restaurant, and Tap Room. There are 24 local brews on tap, craft burgers and a patio with a view of the river and the St. Croix Bridge. Take a trip back to the 1950s at Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop. Sample one of Leo’s Double Jumbo Burgers and choose from 40 different shake and malt flavors, including S’mores and Chocolate Wild Cherry.
Tin Bin’s Café has a wine bar, sandwiches, and free Wi-Fi access. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights, featuring folk, pop or country artists. Relive the Roaring 20s with a visit to The Velveteen Speakeasy. Enter through a secret door and enjoy cocktails, beer, and appetizers.
The Tilted Tiki on Main Street gives you a taste of the tropics with Mai Tais, Zombies, Daiquiris and original drinks like the Space Pilot (made with rum, lime, orange and tiki spices. There’s live music on the indoor stage and outdoor patio several nights a week.
From cozy bed and breakfasts to conveniently located hotels, you have many choices when deciding where to stay Stillwater Minnesota. The Water Street Inn, Stillwater’s only waterfront hotel, has 41 rooms just steps away from the St. Croix River. The inn is housed in the historic Lumber Exchange Building, which was constructed in 1890. All rooms and suites are tastefully decorated with four-poster beds and other elegant furniture. There’s an onsite restaurant/pub, and the inn offers wedding packages and a conference facility.
Book a bed and breakfast if you want more privacy and picturesque grounds. Cover Park Manor is close to a park and walking trails. All four rooms have a private porch, fireplace and whirlpool tub. The Ann Bean Mansion, a historic Victorian mansion near Main Street, has rooms with fireplaces, Wi-Fi, king beds and mini-fridges. Every room has a unique charm –one of the rooms has a copper soaking tub, and other has a solid marble rain shower.
Stillwater has a few reasonably-priced chain hotels if you prefer more contemporary lodgings, including a Comfort Inn, America’s Best Value Inn, and GrandStay Hotel and Suites.
Antiquing on Main Street
Fodor’s Travel Guide named Stillwater, Minnesota as one of the ten best towns in the U.S. for antiquing. Browse the town’s Main Street for vintage finds from decades past. American Gothic Antiques offers two stories of furniture, vintage signs, toys and other items from different sellers. Let There Be Light Antiques stocks over 500 lighting fixtures from the ‘50s, ‘60, ‘70s and other vintage items to light up your home.
Midtown Antiques, the most extensive antique mall in the region, has early American through Mid-Century collectibles. Visit the third floor to find the biggest selection of European and American vintage furniture in the Upper Midwest.
Over 50 independently owned and operated boutiques line Main Street and downtown side streets. Art N Soul features offbeat jewelry, artwork, custom beadwork and precious/ semi-precious stones. Take a beading class if you’re the artistic type and you’re in town long enough.
Downtown Divas stocks makeup, scarves, purses, clothes and accessories for women of all ages, and you can find a variety of glamorous or casual styles at Feel Good and Katydid’s Boutique. Choose warm winter or sports gear at 45 Degrees, or rent kayaks, snowshoes or paddleboards to experience the local waters and terrain first-hand.
Check out over 10,000 used books at Black Letter Books or attend a reading by a local author at Valley Bookseller.
Many people say Stillwater Minnesota prettiest towns in America year-round, but especially in the winter. After you’ve rented snowshoes, take a snowshoe class at a St. Croix County Park or attend the Stillwater Snowmobile Club’s vintage snowmobile event.
Downtown Stillwater’s Pedestrian Plaza sponsors events throughout the year. Around the holidays, BierCycle Caroling Tours. Peddle and sing for 30 minutes with other singers on a multi-person pedal bike.
The Ice Castles Winter Wonderland in downtown Stillwater features a display of ice-carved tunnels, slides for kids, fountains, and twinkling lights. You must buy tickets for a specific time
Walking Tours and Historical Attractions
Stillwater, Minnesota was built on hills, like San Francisco, and you can climb five sets of historic steps for fun or exercise. This Steps Route map shows you how to see Stillwater and get fit while you’re sightseeing.
Visit the pre-Civil War milling community of Arcola Mills. Located six miles north of Stillwater, Arcola Mills is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tour the residence and learn about the Mower and Van Meier families, the property’s owners. Explore trails on the land surrounding the house and view the old lumber mill.
Take the River City Sculpture Tour to learn more about the sculptures in Stillwater’s public spaces or the Stillwater Ghost Walk to learn about the urban legends and ghost sightings of downtown Stillwater. Walks are offered from May to November.
The Historic Downtown Walking Tour covers points of interest, including Lowell Park, the National Guard Armory, and the Territorial Convention Site. The Historic South Hills Homes Walking Tour gives you a look at some of the best architecture in Stillwater. Learn about the city’s most notorious murder and the Hersey-Atwood house and its “pretentious gymnasium.”
Wineries and Breweries
The Stillwater area is home to several well-regarded breweries, wine bars, and wineries. Stillwater is ranked as one of the best Beer Cities in America by Livability.com.
The Lift Bridge Brewery offers tours, live music, board game nights and other events throughout the year. Drink Crosscut Pale Ale, Warden’s Milk Stout and other craft brews in the earthy taproom.
Maple Island Brewing, in the historic Maple Island Hardware Building, offers creative beers with offbeat names like Cup of Joe Freakshow and Burlesque Kolsch. Drink beer in their taproom while listening to live music or joining in trivia nights.
Savor a semi-sweet Vignole or cherry-infused Marechal Foch Port in the century-old barn/tasting room at Saint Croix Vineyards. Saint Croix produces several award-winning wines and features live music, art shows, and other events. The Northern Vineyards Winery on Main Street features wine tastings all year. The river view deck is open from May to October, and you can schedule a private tasting.
Stillwater has six public golf courses and two private ones, all located in the town limits. There’s even a FootGolf club, which combines the sports of soccer and golf.
Get a bird’s eye view of Stillwater and the St. Croix Valley with Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides. Choose from a private flight (pilot and two passengers) or a small group flight (up to eight passengers), conducted by an FAA-certified pilot. You can enjoy a piece of fresh apple pie from Aamodt’s Apple Farm bakery in-season or sample some wine from the local winery.
The Stillwater Minnesota St. Croix River bluffs are one of the region’s most visited natural attractions. Visit St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, a 579-acre park on the St. Croix River with 3,800 feet of shoreline. You can hike or ski year-round and go boating in the summer. There are even a basketball court and a play area for the kids.
Drive, walk or bike across the St. Croix Crossing Bridge. You can even take a one-hour Segway tour of the bridge. This mile-long crossing bridge opened in August 2017. It spans the St. Croix River and connects Oak Park Heights with St. Joseph, Wisconsin.