About ten miles south of Saint Paul, Minnesota, is the beautiful small town of Cottage Grove; a great place perfect for a weekend getaway. It sits on the northern edge of the Mighty Mississippi River in Washington County and has plenty of top attractions for you to do and see when in town.
Several parks in Cottage Grove are the perfect place to explore during the spring and summer. Even if spending time outside isn’t something you want to do your entire vacation, you can still find fun things in bunches in Cottage Grove.
Whether you’re taking a day trip from the Twin Cities or are planning on spending a few days there, check out the ten top things to do in Cottage Grove, MN.
Table of Contents
- Good Things to Do in Cottage Grove, Minnesota
- 1. Spend Some Time at Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park
- 2. Surround Yourself With Plants at Zywiec Garden Center
- 3. Watch the Sunset at Arbor Meadows Park
- 4. Visit the Haunting Experience
- 5. Spend a Day on the Ice at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena
- 6. Snowmobile Through the Star Trails in Cottage Grove
- 7. Treat Yourself to a Massage at the Healing Place
- 8. Enjoy Some Time Outdoors at Hazen P. Mooer’s Park
- 9. Hit the Links at River Oaks Golf Course
- 10. Dine at One of the Locals’ Favorite Restaurants, Junction 70
Good Things to Do in Cottage Grove, Minnesota
1. Spend Some Time at Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park
There are over 30 parks in the Cottage Grove region, but one of the most popular ones for visitors and locals is Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park. The park sits on over 500-acres of beautiful nature, ready for you to explore.
People love this nice place because it has a variety of activities to participate in, regardless of the season. During the warmer months, you’ll see people biking, jogging, or out for a stroll for their daily exercise.
There’s a small area for canoeing or kayaking too.
There’s only one launch, but it’s not usually too crowded. People love fishing in the water here, and there are plenty of nearby picnic sites if you want to relax with a good book or just enjoy the sun and fresh air while the others catch some lunch.
When the weather is warmer, you may see some interesting local wildlife. Deer, rabbits, and woodpeckers roam the area, so be on the lookout. You can snowshoe and ride snowmobiles through the park during the winter on designated trails. There’s even a playground area for the little ones to enjoy.
If you’re thinking of hiking through the park, you’ll want to check the park’s website. They have a detailed map of the trails for summer and winter. This way, you can safely enjoy your hike or jog.
See Related: Best Winter Destination in Minnesota to Visit
2. Surround Yourself With Plants at Zywiec Garden Center
Whether you’re fascinated by learning about the local foliage in Cottage Grove, or you just have an appreciation for nature, you’ll love spending a few hours at Zywiec Garden Center.
This garden center is run by a local family and has been since opening in 1982.
As you walk through the plant nursery, you’ll see beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees. The plants at the garden center are all common species that grow in Cottage Grove.
Not only can you take in all the beauty that the nursery has, but you can expand your knowledge of a variety of plants. There are benches throughout where you can sit, relax, and smell the flowers.
Zywiec Garden Center is more than a plant nursery, though.
They often hold special events for the community. Some of the events they host include their garden market, where local creators come and share their art with visitors.
They have a gift shop that’s fun to browse around. You can bring home seeds for planting or snag a potted plant that you can take home if you don’t have to fly.
3. Watch the Sunset at Arbor Meadows Park
There’s something magical about watching the sunset. It’s a great way to wind down after a long day of exploring the area. Arbor Meadows Park is a small community park in Cottage Grove that’s known for sunset watching. Many locals love heading to this eight-acre park for a quiet evening with nature.
The park has several amenities for you to use before or after you watch the sunset. They have a playground that kids will love if you’re traveling with little ones, soccer fields, walking trails, basketball courts, and a place to play horseshoes.
You can bring your lawn or beach chair and post up facing west and wait for the sun to set. If you don’t have a chair, you can bring a blanket and sit in the grass or maybe snag a spot at their picnic benches.
One great idea is to get some snacks or a meal to enjoy while you relax and enjoy the sunset.
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4. Visit the Haunting Experience
If you love Halloween and all things spooky, you need to try and make it to Cottage Grove in October to visit the Haunting Experience.
Even though the Haunting Experience is only open for one month of the year, the actors and staff prepare the rest of the year to ensure they’re putting on the scariest haunted house and attractions in all of Minnesota.
The haunted house they offer is not only the scariest in Minnesota, but it’s one of the oldest in the state.
It’s filled with clowns, vampires, and other creatures that go bump in the night. If you’re interested in visiting but are wary about the haunted house, they have different activities too.
You can join them for their hayride, the longest-running one in Minnesota. It’s less scary than the haunted house, but it does go around the property, which is pretty spooky. You can do both the haunted house and hayride in one visit if you want.
Their fall festival is one of the most popular things in Cottage Grove and the surrounding areas. They have their haunted house and hayride at the festival, but they also have live music, food vendors, and other Halloween activities. Don’t forget to pet the goats that come to hang out during October!
See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Minnesota
5. Spend a Day on the Ice at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena
It’s no secret that Minnesota gets cold enough that the ponds will freeze over in the winter, and you can go ice skating. While that’s true if you need something to do indoors while in Cottage Grove throughout the year, the Cottage Grove Ice Arena is a great option.
The arena features an ice rink and sometimes turf. There are open public skating sessions throughout the year for attractive prices, where you can skate your heart away.
They also offer ice skating lessons if you’ve never skated before or want to hone your skills.
Besides ice skating, you can watch or play hockey in the arena. They host open hockey sessions where the public can come and play, and there are league hockey games often.
Once a year, the Cottage Grove Ice Skating Booster Club puts on an ice show for the people of Cottage Grove and people who visit from out of town. It’s usually hosted in May but may vary depending on the year. It’s a fun experience if you have some time to visit.
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6. Snowmobile Through the Star Trails in Cottage Grove
For some winter fun in Cottage Grove, you have to check out the Star Trails. The Washington County Star Trails consists of 140 miles of trails throughout the county, some in Cottage Grove.
People break out the snowmobiles and hit the trails when the snowfalls.
The county runs and maintains the trials to ensure that they’re safe and enjoyable for everyone to use.
The trailhead in Cottage Grove is at Lamar Park, and you can venture south through Cottage Grove or head north and explore the rest of the trails that lead to surrounding areas.
If you want to snowmobile through the trails, there is a maximum speed limit to help prevent injury and accidents.
You can only go 55 mph, but that’s fast enough to enjoy your time on the trails thoroughly.
7. Treat Yourself to a Massage at the Healing Place
A vacation doesn’t have to consist of back-to-back exciting activities. Sometimes, taking it slow and treating yourself to a relaxing day is just what you need.
If you find yourself wanting a massage or other spa treatment, The Healing Place is the best in Cottage Grove.
They offer a variety of massages such as a hot stone massage, a Swedish massage, and even couples massages.
The Healing Place provides essential oils for purchase too. If you’re interested in some of the oils, you can speak with a specialist who will help you pick out the perfect ones for you.
The environment is calming, and you won’t want to leave once the massage therapist finishes with your massage.
8. Enjoy Some Time Outdoors at Hazen P. Mooer’s Park
Another fantastic park to visit in Cottage Grove is Hazen P. Mooer’s Park. The park is named after Hazen P. Mooers, who, after serving in the War of 1812, settled with his wife on Grey Cloud Island. The small town park is situated ideally on Grey Cloud Island.
The park doesn’t have nearly as many amenities as some of the other parks in Cottage Grove, but it’s one of the best places to kayak or canoe and fish in town. There’s a kayak launch where you can paddle around Mooer’s Lake and back.
There is a small picnic area if you want to have a meal when you need a break from paddling. It’s a beautiful park that many people love spending time at because it is a little more secluded than others.
9. Hit the Links at River Oaks Golf Course
There’s only one golf course in Cottage Grove, and it’s a great one. River Oaks Golf Course is a beautifully crafted, 18-hole course along the Mississippi River Valley. It’s a course that people who are experienced or beginners will love.
When you book your tee time, you can choose to play all 18 holes, or you can sign up just for nine. Either way, it’s a great way to spend a few hours of your day. You’re more than welcome to walk the course, or you can look into their golf cart rentals.
Once you’ve finished up golfing for the day, you may want to check out their restaurant. The restaurant faces the lush greens, and the patio is the best place to sit to enjoy the fresh air and watch other people golf.
The food is fantastic, and they have something for everyone.
10. Dine at One of the Locals’ Favorite Restaurants, Junction 70
What’s better than eating at a locally owned and operated restaurant when visiting a new city?
If you want to eat where the locals of Cottage Grove love to eat, you need to check out Junction 70.
Junction 70 is a grill and bar specializing in serving classic American cuisine and bringing craft beer to Cottage Grove patrons. The owners wanted to serve an extensive menu so that you could get anything you wanted in one place.
From burger to barbeque to traditional bar food, you’ll find it at Junction 70. The environment is friendly, and the staff will make you feel like family.
Plus, it’s one of the only places in town with an extensive list of craft beer from around Minnesota.
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