Looking to explore one of Minnesota’s best small towns? We’ve got you covered with the best things to do in Stillwater, Minnesota.
Stillwater, Minnesota is a small town that has a lot to offer. It is a year-round destination and its attractions include trails, orchards, food tours, gondola rides, and vineyards.
Downtown Stillwater is located only a 30-40 minutes drive from the cities of Minneapolis and St.Paul, the MSP airport, and the Mall of America.
Best Things to Do in Stillwater, Minnesota
1. Best Thing to do in Downtown Stillwater: Historic Stillwater Lift Bridge
Walking on the lift bridge is a must-do when you are visiting Stillwater. It takes State Highway 36 between Houlton and Stillwater.
This historic bridge was constructed in 1931 and is an ideal example of a vertical lift bridge construction of the Waddell and Harrington type. There are a total of six bridges of this type that were constructed before the Second World War.
This renovated historic lift bridge and the concourse are located in the Stillwater Cultural Landscape District. The ten-span bridge consists of six steel Parker through truss spans, one movable span, and three slab approach spans.
It remains one of the top Stillwater tourist attractions and is right near the heart of Stillwater’s historic main street.
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2. Brown’s Creek Trail
One of the best things to do in Stillwater, Minnesota is to visit Brown’s Creek Trail. It is a recreational gem of the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Thousands of visitors head to the trail every year, making it one of the most popular places in Stillwater. This trail was the rail bed of Soo Line in the past and it has now been paved.
Brown’s Creek Trail runs for eighteen miles starting from Stillwater’s Pine Point Park to the city of St.Paul. It is a multi-use trail that offers skiing, running, walking, horseback riding, biking, and rollerblading to the users of the trail throughout the year. It remains one of the popular activities in Stillwater.
3. Warden’s House Museum
The Warden’s House was constructed in 1853 and it was initially used as the home of the warden of the Minnesota Territorial Prison. The museum is located just a short walk north on the main street.
Over the years, a total of thirteen wardens resided in the house until 1914, when the prison was shifted to a different location. The house was sold in the year 1941 and it was converted into a museum in the same year.
There are many rooms in the museum that have exhibits showing different parts of the history of the County including the Civil War, Old Stillwater Prison, as well as the lumber industry. Other rooms reflect those commonly seen in traditional middle-class houses.
4. Teddy Bear Park
Teddy Bear Park is a famous attraction for kids in Stillwater. This park is pretty small but is an amazing place to spend quality time with kids of all ages. Teddy Bear Park is conveniently located at a distance of about a block from Main Street.
There are many shops and restaurants that Stillwater is famous for. They are at a small distance from the park. The park has a massive tree structure, one sandpit, picnic benches, train slides, a rock cliff, and several teddy bears.
When you enter the park, you will be greeted by a teddy bear ten feet tall. It is one of the must things to do in Stillwater with kids.
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5. St. Croix Crossing Loop Trail
The 4.7-mile loop trail is a must-visit in Stillwater. It connects the Minnesota and Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River. St. Croix Crossing Loop Trail is open to pedestrians and bicycles and crosses both the new St. Croix Crossing Bridge and the historic Lift Bridge.
You will find amazing views and detailed information at the different lookout points. To access the St. Croix Crossing Loop trail, simply park in the lot off Highway 36 downtown and then walk south on the new St. Croix Crossing Bridge to Wisconsin and back.
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6. Aamodt’s Apple Orchard
Aamodt’s Apple Orchard was started by Lucille Aamodt and Thor. It is their unique version of the American Dream. The orchard is more than six decades old and it still retains the same charm that once served as an inspiration years ago. It is one of the fun things to do in Stillwater.
You can reach for an apple on the tree and imagine that you have gone back to the good, old days. You will see many historic structures on the farm from the 18th century. There is an apple store, a bakery, and a winery. A day out at the orchard will be fun, delicious, and educational.
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7. Gondola Romantica
Enjoy a Venetian-like experience in Stillwater at the Gondola Romantica. You can take a relaxing cruise along the St. Croix River from the downtown area of Stillwater on an authentic gondola, similar to the one you would find in Venice.
It is one of the most romantic experiences you can have in Stillwater. There are many packages for you to choose from. You can enjoy a range of experiences on the Gondola.
There are both, moonlit evening cruises and daytime cruises for you to choose from. It is undoubtedly a unique experience, making it a very popular place to propose. The Gondola ride is also a great way to take in the charm of the town.
8. Nelson’s Ice Cream
Founded in the year 1923, Nelson’s Ice Cream is a historic treasure of Stillwater. It is a beloved ice cream place among all types of people, local residents, and visitors alike.
There is much more than just an ice cream shop in the place. It offers memorable experiences that are shared with family, friends, and the community.
Nelson’s Ice Cream has the most generous scoops of any ice cream shop within the five-state area. It has received many awards and recognitions over the years from the state and international levels.
It is undoubtedly one of the fun things to do in Stillwater Minnesota.
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9. Lift Bridge Brewing Company
Located in the historic town of Stillwater, The Lift Bridge Brewing Company is a craft brewery that is based in Minnesota. The company has one of the state’s oldest operating taprooms and is the seventh-largest craft brewery in Minnesota.
It is known for several flagship beers which include the Farm Girl Saison and the Hop Dish IPA. The company was established in 2008 by many homebrewers.
They initially brewed beer only for their families and friends but soon started brewing larger batches of beer and sold the first beer keg in September in 2008.
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10. Foodies on Foot
A premier food and tourist destination of the city, downtown Stillwater offers the most exciting and memorable food in the state. At Foodies on Foot, you will be taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the best shops in the town.
Local chefs in the area are proud of the quality of ingredients used and they are committed to using fresh, local ingredients. It remains one of the best things to do in Stillwater.
This tour lasts for about three hours and offers a unique walking tour with exceptional food. The culinary walking tour is one of the best ways of exploring the culture of Stillwater.
You can enjoy the history of the town and fill your appetite with your favorite dishes. The tour is well-planned and organized in a very logical manner. It will give you the finest food offerings and will also give you an opportunity to meet the chefs and owners known for their impressive culinary innovations.
Plan your tour well in advance and make the most of your time in Stillwater. Take a tour at the beginning of your stay in Stillwater to enjoy the best of food and beverages at Stillwater restaurants.
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11. Lady Chateau
A premier charter yacht, the Lady Chateau cruises on the stunning St. Croix River. At this yacht, you will see the exceptional luxury of leather furnishings, stunning art, and warm, wood interiors from the minute you step in. The 1.5 million dollar yacht will take you to a different world altogether.
The vessel can accommodate up to seventy passengers but a typical size for groups abroad the cruise is around twenty to thirty guests at a time. The main salon of the ship includes a bar area, and a buffet while the top deck has comfortable seating.
It is one of the romantic things to do in Stillwater. It is a three-hour cruise that will leave you with memories of a lifetime. On the yacht, you will notice etched glass by a Florida artisan that highlights the entrance to the area and offers the perfect place to relax or party.
The top deck has a comfortable seating area in the sun and the forward portion of the flybridge can be enclosed as per request. There is an intimate salon and two bathrooms below the deck. Whatever the occasion, a trip to Lady Chateau is nothing but a special and memorable experience on the St. Croix River.
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12. Stillwater Library
Built-in 1901, the Stillwater Library is a stunning example of Renaissance Revival architecture and it gives exceptional views of the St. Croix River Valley. You can easily spend a few hours at the library.
The building still retains the old-world charm and unique architecture of the 1900s and is one of the best things to do in Stillwater.
The terrace at the library is a very popular wedding venue. It gives a breathtaking view of the beautiful surroundings from the top.
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13. Stillwater Trolley Company
You can enjoy 45-minute tours daily with the Stillwater Trolley Company. The trolley tour of Stillwater is properly narrated and it takes passengers back in time. You will go back to a time of transformation of the town from a lumber town into one the most beautiful small towns in the country.
Most of the tour will take place in the hills of Stillwater and you will be able to see the old mansions that were built between 1850 and 1915 by the barons. They also offer kayak tours. If this is your first time in Stillwater, this tour is a must.
It will give you detailed insights into the development of Stillwater and will make it easier for you to explore the destination.
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14. Washington County Historic Courthouse
The Washington County Historic Courthouse was constructed in 1870 and it served as a judicial and administrative center of the country for more than a hundred years. Later, in the year 1971, the Courthouse was on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest standing courthouse in Minnesota.
There are free guided public tours offered from Monday to Saturday and these take you around the courtroom, the old county jail, and the exhibit rooms. It is an architectural gem that should be on your list of must-sees when in Stillwater.
During the tour, the guide will take you through historic events in Washington County history when touring the different rooms. Apart from public tours, they also offer private tours, community events, and large group tours. If you are traveling in a large group, you can book a tour in advance.
Beyond just the history and amazing architecture of the building, you’ll also get amazing views of the St. Croix River Valley and the rest of main street Stillwater.
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15. Visit the Washington County Historical Society
If you are a history buff, this will be one of the best things to do in Stillwater for you. The Washington County Historical Society collects some of the most important pieces of Minnesota history.
The society’s collection encompasses more than 150 years of history, and it has been continuously expanding since its inception in 1934. Some of the information you can learn about and research about the historic town of Stillwater include:
- Copies of registers for Fairview Cemetery, Stillwater, through the year 1906, and other cemetery indexes.
- City directories for Stillwater, Bayport, and Hudson, Wisconsin
- File folders on county subjects, communities, individuals, and families
- Printed histories from around the county and other historic books
- Prison records
- Stillwater telephone books
- More than 15,000 photographs of the area, including the original John Runk historical photograph collection of 435 images and photographs from the Stillwater Gazette, Country Messenger & Woodbury Bulletin newspapers.
Stop by to learn more about the importance of Stillwater for the entire state of Minnesota.
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16. Saint Croix Vineyards
Saint Croix Vineyards is one of the most fun things to do in Stillwater. If you are looking for a great winery in Minnesota, this is one of your best chances to visit a hidden gem in the area. Saint Croix Vineyards is a winery located in Stillwater, Minnesota that was established in 1992.
Stop by, try their wines, and explore the picturesque vineyards with owners Paul Quast, Peter Hemstad, and Chris Aamodt. Their rustic wine-tasting room is located in a historic barn west of beautiful Stillwater.
There is no food or restaurant served on site so grab some to-go food from one of your favorite Stillwater restaurants and bring it in to go with your wine tasting.
What is Stillwater, Minnesota Known For?
When in Stillwater, you can experience the breathtaking architecture, food, and the St.Croix River. It is possible to experience the best of this destination on foot or by bike.
Stillwater is also known as the birthplace of Minnesota. It is the site that led to the statehood of Minnesota in 1858 and features the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge that connects both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the St. Croix River together.
A century later, Stillwater is recognized as one of the most picturesque towns in America by Forbes. It is often described as a small town that offers everything you’d want in a destination such as historic architecture, historic streets, and plenty of year-round activities such as the many walking trails and the Stillwater river boats located right in the main downtown.
It is famous for its wide collection of art galleries, restaurants, interesting shops, and old inns. You’ll be sure to find an amazing Minnesota gift at one of the many boutiques.
Stillwater has something to do with every traveler’s personality. Include these things to do in Stillwater when you head to Minnesota next. Irrespective of your age and preference, you will not get bored here.
There are plenty of things to see and do throughout the year. This is the reason Stillwater is considered a year-round destination and is loved by everyone.
What is there to do in Stillwater, Minnesota today?
There is a lot to do in Stillwater, one thing you can do year-round is head to the St. Croix Crossing Loop Trail, visit Warden’s House Museum, or the historical courthouse offering views of the St. Croix River Valley.
How can I spend a day in Stillwater, Minnesota?
For those who want to plan a day of things to do in Stillwater, Minnesota, we recommend starting your exploration by driving along the St. Croix Scenic Byway to enter the town.
Then, visit the Old Courthouse Museum and Warden’s House Museum, before walking along the St. Croix river and visiting the famous Lift Bridge.
From there, you can tour some of the most iconic architecture in Minnesota such as the Water Street Inn. Consider taking the trolley tour to keep your visit efficient. Finish the day by visiting one of the many boutiques or with live music at one of Stillwater’s best restaurants.
What is Stillwater known for?
Downtown Stillwater is known for many things, such as being the first established city in the state of Minnesota, its historic main street, beautiful architecture, and the legendary Lift Bridge over the St. Croix River.
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