Just under 200 miles southwest of the Twin Cities, Pipestone, MN, is a small, quiet town that offers a unique experience in a quaint setting. There are many entertaining and educational things that you can get into while in the city.
What’s more, there are interesting local landmarks and monuments, historic sites, quality local restaurants to dine at, and other top attractions, which are simply gems that you won’t want to pass up on!
Interestingly, Pipestone has tons of Native American historical significance entrenched into the town’s fabric.
So if you’re a history buff, outdoor adventurer, or just in the mood for something different and find yourself in the southwestern part of Minnesota, visit Pipestone MN, and enjoy all that the city has to offer.
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things To Do in Pipestone, Minnesota
- 1. Pipestone Performing Arts Center
- 2. Casey Jones Trail
- 3. Pipestone National Monument
- 4. Syndicate Block
- 5. Bole-Mor Lanes
- 6. Pipestone County Museum
- 7. Ghost Walk
- 8. Take a Trip Down Main Street
- 9. Pipestone Civil War Days
- 10. Picnic at The Three Maidens
- 11. Circle Trail
- 12. Split Rock Creek State Park
- 13. Calumet Inn
- 14. Rock Island Depot
- 15. County Courthouse
- 16. Split Rock Bridge
- 17. Winnewissa Falls
- 18. Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers
Fun & Best Things To Do in Pipestone, Minnesota
1. Pipestone Performing Arts Center
Located in the heart of the Historic District is the Pipestone Performing Arts Center. This building is in a Sioux quartzite building that dates back to 1897.
The Calumet Players provide excellent community theater. Locals and native Minnesotans manage, direct, and perform the shows. They produce three shows a year, typically in mid-winter, fall, and summertime.
A Children’s Theater also produces one show per year, starring the local youth. The center has a group of talented people with amazing voices known as the Al Opland Singers.
This group mesmerizes the crowd twice a year. As of late, they have hosted a litany of concerts, performances, comedy shows, dance troupes, cultural speakers, traveling theater groups, documentary films, and many different community events.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN
2. Casey Jones Trail
The Casey Jones State Trail is multi-purpose and serves as a hiking, running, and biking trail. Additionally, there’s a parallel trail for snowmobiling and horseback riding.
Even though this is one of the first state trails to be established, it is still incomplete in the form of three discontinuous sections. Moreover, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages the trail.
Along the Casey Jones path, you can expect to see stunning wildflowers. The trial is best suited for use from April-October. Although dogs are allowed to use the trail, they have to be on a leash at all times.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN
3. Pipestone National Monument
The Pipestone National Monument (or Jealous Maiden, as it is known to local Native Americans) is near the South Dakota border, northwest of Pipestone MN, home to hiking trails and prairie grasses. The monument was made in 1937 to protect the pipestone quarries. These quarries were a critical source of the soft red stone used by the Plains Indians to produce pipes for their ceremonial celebrations.
The Native American legend says that the stone and the people were all made from the same red substance. Therefore, they only used (and still use) the stone to make pipes for religious and ceremonial use. In 1893 the site became government property.
The monument amounts to 282 acres of land. Furthermore, there is a circular walking trail that goes for about a mile, allowing you to view the spectacular waterfall and the quarries. If you go to the visitor’s bureau, there is a video explaining making pipes in great detail.
Typically there are Native Americans at the center who make pipes in person, allowing visitors to watch the process live while asking questions.
There are also activities for children to partake in at the Pipestone National Monument. Children can exchange a voucher for access to the ‘Every Kid Outdoors’ pass. Here, you and the children can enjoy the activities together.
4. Syndicate Block
When visiting Pipestone MN, you can spend an afternoon shopping for clothes at Geyermans, a favorite women’s clothing store that has been in business since 1936. You can find the store situated on the Syndicate Block in the downtown area of Pipestone.
5. Bole-Mor Lanes
After you’re tired of sightseeing and you’re craving a bit of physical activity, stop by Bole-Mor Lanes to get a session of bowling in with family and friends!
This bowling joint features ten lanes, a varied menu, and a full bar. You and the family are bound to have fun here.
You can catch a meal there, as the place offers burgers, chicken tenders, pizza, and more. Be mindful that bowling is charged by the hour here, and you can rent shoes if you need them.
6. Pipestone County Museum
Be sure to tour the Pipestone County Museum. The museum’s objective is to preserve and display Pipestone County’s history and how it’s interconnected with Minnesota and the nation.
Furthermore, stop by the gift store and take advantage of their specials so that you can take home a nice souvenir.
7. Ghost Walk
The Ghost Walk begins at the Pipestone County Museum. From here, take a walk down Main Street and move through the alleyways. A guide in a costume will tell tales of unusual and bizarre happenings that have taken place in the area.
One exciting point of the tour happens at a local hotel, which is the source of many sightings and accounts of paranormal activity. These stories are so impressionable and palpable that three locally published ghost storybooks and souvenirs are available for purchase at the Pipestone County Museum’s gift store.
See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Minnesota
8. Take a Trip Down Main Street
Take the time to meander down Main Street, a historical destination that features buildings constructed with local stones. You can find several restaurants, a theater, and several shops along the way.
9. Pipestone Civil War Days
Minnesota was one of the first states (if not the first) in the Union to raise volunteer regiments to preserve the Union and destroy the evil of slavery. Most of these units fought with valor in some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and at Gettysburg, it was men from Maine and Minnesota that saved the Union.
Don’t be remiss by forgetting to visit Pipestone Civil War Days which allows you to learn the integral history essential to understanding Pipestone and its development as a whole. You can schedule appointments for the weekend, including Artillery and Infantry maneuvers and a re-enactment of a Civil War battle.
10. Picnic at The Three Maidens
As you go along the entrance road to the Visitor Center, you’ll encounter several boulders situated near a small pond. The boulders are granite, though there doesn’t seem to be a source nearby. They likely got carried to this location as one boulder from the north, pushed by a glacier. It’s probably the remnants of the glacier after the ice melted.
The Three Maidens is a great place to take photos because of the history and the indigenous traditions still upheld today. American Indians view the Three Maidens as the guardians or caretakers of the quarries. This space is sacred, and many people leave offerings there as they enter into work.
Please respect these beliefs by not climbing on the boulders or disturbing the offerings left near them. There is a picnic space nearby where you can feel free to have a peaceful sit-down.
Hiawatha Pageant Park is also close, and there’s a pond where you can engage in catch-and-release fishing, have a picnic in a covered shelter, or go to the lodge.
11. Circle Trail
The Circle Trail starts and finishes at the Visitor Center, totaling about ¾ miles of paved walking paths. It leads guests to multiple interesting locations at the Pipestone National Monument.
It takes between 45 minutes and one hour to complete the walk. As you go, you’ll see the Pipestone quarries, Old Stone Face, historical markers, native tallgrass prairie, Winnewissa Falls, and a few other points of interest.
Conveniently, you can also purchase a trail guide from the center before you start walking. There are several benches for you to stop and enjoy the views as you walk along the trail.
12. Split Rock Creek State Park
Split Rock Creek State Park is calm and serene, with plenty of activities for kids and adults to explore. There are nice paths to hike near the dam area, which kids tend to love. Additionally, there’s a beach area by the lake, suitable for a quick dip.
Families can engage in other activities together, such as camping, fishing, and other water recreation sports, horse trails, wildlife observation, and picnics in this notable state park. This open space allows kids to run around and play while parents take in the scenery, or everyone can come together to play outdoor games.
It’s never very crowded when you go. However, there are just enough people to give you the chance to meet others that have come for a relaxing afternoon at this little gem in Pipestone.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Duluth Minnesota
13. Calumet Inn
The Calumet Inn is a gorgeous building on the list for the National Register of Historic Places. It’s another photo-worthy destination because of its rich meaning and historical significance.
Calumet Inn was restored in downtown Pipestone, after being initially built in 1888. It is still a fully operational hotel that guests can enjoy.
The historic charm of the building draws tourists with beautiful architecture, antiques, and quartzite structures. You’ll also find a restaurant that receives high marks for hospitality and delicious cuisine within the inn.
The Rock Island Depot has an art gallery and gift shop available to visit and do a little sightseeing. Built-in 1890, Rock Island was the last depot in all of Pipestone. Earlier, four railroad lines entered the city. The depot closed as a result of decreased railroad use.
In the 1970s, this location became known as the Spirit of Peace Indian Center for Native Americans. The historical society purchased this building in 1986 and deemed it a historical landmark.
The exterior has since then gotten renovated, as well as the interior. Guests may now enjoy the large meeting rooms, an art gallery, and the gift shop with small knick-knacks and souvenirs.
See Related: Famous Historical Landmarks in the USA
As you’ll notice, most of the places of interest on this list deal with the deep history behind the locations. The County Courthouse is another structure that’s great for taking pictures as a small slice of history that you can take with you. The building is also made from local quartzite stone.
This clock tower is 110 feet, with a dome and on the top and a statue of Lady Justice. It was rededicated and restored in 1996. It’s a lovely option for those who like remnants from the past and for history buffs who love learning about places at the root of a city’s birth.
The Split Rock Bridge is a single-span bridge constructed from pink and blue Sioux quartzite. It has rock and split-faced surfaces. The Split Rock Bridge has defined coping above the parapets, which functions like railings.
It also has a long arch span, the most extensive of all the highway bridges in Minnesota. A cool commemorative plaque made from stone is on the east railing. It reads, “Split Rock Bridge/Works Progress Administration/1938.”
The beauty and purity of the ashlar stone add to its aesthetic effect, as it’s a beautiful example of what would be an ornamental park bridge.
It cost $46,000 to construct the bridge, and you can still find it unaltered to this day. It’s a remarkable sight to see, so make sure you stop and take pictures.
17. Winnewissa Falls
Nestled amongst the quarries at the Pipestone National Monument, Winnewissa Falls is a sacred territory by most American Indians. The colors of the stones that lead up to the waterfall are stunning, and it’s a great place to hang out and observe nature. It is among the stunning falls in Minnesota.
You don’t expect to see a waterfall in the prairies, which is another reason this space is sacred and revered by the American Indians that believe it to be a gift from the Great Spirit.
Many tourists have also said that a spiritual feeling comes over you as you walk the grounds, further attesting to the meaning of the land.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, check out Winnewissa Falls. The stream isn’t very high, so you can easily walk along the rocks and take a few photos during your time there.
Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers is a non-profit gift shop that showcases tribal pieces, such as arts and crafts. They have a nice selection of files, raw pipestone, leather, beads, and other supplies.
The shop also carries books, herbs, cards, and t-shirts, but their focus remains on the paintings, popes, carvings, quillwork, and beadwork by local tribal artists.
The organization’s leaders, Rona, and Bud Johnston are typically available to set up a private appointment or group event for beadwork or Pipestone carving to make dream catchers or drums. They are also willing to give a tour of the Pipestone National Monument.