Red Wing, MN Weekend Away
A weekend in Red Wing is a step back in time with modern touches. A downtown lined with brick buildings and the rhythmic chug of the trains passing by is a perfect setting for a romantic weekend or a getaway with friends. Head to the river town in southeast Minnesota for shopping and dining, live theatre, golf, hiking, boating or relaxing spas.
- Best Bets
- Things to Do
- Where to Eat
- Where to Stay
- When to Go
- Getting There
Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society
A History of Farming and Business
The first settlers arrived in Red Wing in the 1850s by steamboat. The town quickly grew into a major farm market, and during the late 1800s Red Wing was the world’s largest wheat market. Businessmen were drawn to the port town, and they built a world class hotel, the St. James Hotel, as a place for business travelers to stay.
After the railroads came, the town’s port became less important to farm business and the milling focus moved to Minneapolis. But wheat wasn’t the only thing Red Wing would be known for. The town also was the first to form a ski club in North America, and became home to internationally known brands like Red Wing Pottery and Red Wing Stoneware, Red Wing Shoes and Riedell Ice Skates.
Once visited by Henry David Thoreau, who commented on the town’s beauty from atop the cliffs of Barn Bluff, today the town’s beautiful scenery, history and charm continue to draw visitors from around the region.
Red Wing, MN Best Bets
- Stay at the historic St. James Hotel. Book a package in the Boardroom suite for a luxurious stay.
- Shop downtown or at nearby Red Wing Stoneware and Red Wing Pottery stores.
- Hike or enjoy bird watching at Frontenac State Park.
- Relax with a drink at Jimmy’s Pub in the St. James or a tasting nearby at Falconer Vineyard and Winery.
- Don’t head home without enjoying brunch at The Levee and some famous Sturdiwheat pancakes – a Red Wing favorite.
Things to Do
Red Wing's diverse opportunities fit just about any vacation style. The area’s bluffs offer some of the best rock climbing and hiking in the state, and endless bike trails, golf and skiing add to an active weekend. Those looking for a slower pace will find shopping, dining, theatre and spas. Plan a day downtown, an active weekend, a night at the theatre or a relaxing weekend getaway.
A Day Downtown: Shopping and Dining in Red Wing
Red Wing boasts a range of unique and quaint shops. For more than a century it has been known as a destination for collectable pottery and stoneware, and was once the country’s largest stoneware manufacturing location. For classic, simple designs and high-end country style, visit Red Wing Stoneware just off Highway 61 and Moundview Drive west of downtown. The factory store is open daily and sells a range of serving platters and dinnerware, crocks and soup tureens, bowls, mugs and garden items including planters and birdhouses. Must-have items include the classic water coolers, in designs dating back more than a century, and counter-top items including cookie jars, canister sets and the popular toothpick holders that look like mini 50-gallon crocks. The store also features a range a food items, including bread and pancake mix, fish coating, Minnesota wild rice and soup mixes. View potters at work during factor tours that are given three times each weekday.
A short distance away on Old Main Street is Pottery Place Mall, featuring a variety of shops in the historic brick building that used to house Red Wing Union pottery. Outside the building, ruins of the former pottery kilns still remain. Inside, stores include Pottery Place Antiques, 3rd Floor Antiques, as well as kitchen, bed and bath, candy, clothing and baby goods stores. Be sure to visit the Red Wing Pottery Museum to see the oldest collection of Red Wing pottery and stoneware in the country. The mall also hosts weekly flea markets the first and third Sundays of May through October, and the international Red Wing pottery convention each July.
Across the street is Red Wing’s second pottery store, Red Wing Pottery, featuring a selection of crocks, pitchers and mugs in a more eclectic style, with hand-painted, often abstract designs. The handmade pottery is crafted on site by three artists. In addition to pottery, the majority of the store features other kitchen and home goods, including one of the country’s largest selections of Fiestaware.
Downtown, head to Main Street for a variety of shops all within walking distance. In the St. James Hotel, stop for coffee at Clara’s Gifts and Coffee, which serves coffee, pastries and other snacks, and offers a variety of hotel souvenirs and other gift items, as well as books and magazines if you’re looking for a relaxing read. Check the calendar for book signing events with local authors. The coffee shop is named for Clara Lilybald, wife of the hotel’s first owner, who was known for making home cooked meals at the hotel. It was not long before the hotel was nicknamed “Clara’s Place,” and the train even adjusted its schedules so travelers could arrive in time for dinner.
Also within the St. James Hotel, visit The Levee clothing boutique, featuring 100% natural knitwear from Blue Willi’s of Denmark. Levee was once the exclusive Minnesota seller of Blue Willi’s clothing; although a store is now open in the Galleria in Edina, Minnesota, the Levee remains the largest seller of Blue Willi’s clothing in the state. The store is also one of just four locations in Minnesota featuring Maralyce Ferree designed coats and jackets (other locations include Grand Avenue in St. Paul, the Galleria in Edina, and Beautiful Antiques in Pequot Lakes).
Other stores in the St. James Hotel include women’s clothing and jewelry boutique Vestages, and gift and accessory store.
For a unique Minnesota shopping experience, head across the street to the Uffda Shop (Main & Bust St.) for Scandinavian housewares and gifts. The shop offers unique and hard-to-find items like æbleskiver pans, krumkake bakers and lefse grills, as well as Swedish dala horses, a range of dinnerware lines and holiday collectables. For gift ideas, be sure to pick up the shop’s annual holiday catalog.
Finally, a day of shopping in Red Wing wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Red Wing Shoe store. The new store on Main Street offers a complete range of Red Wing shoes, apparel and accessories for both men and women. In addition to the classic work boots Red Wing Shoe has manufactured for more than 100 years, look for sandals, Oxfords and hiking boots, as well as shirts, jackets and other clothing. The lower level Outlet Center offers a range of boots and apparel for 30-70 percent off.While there, you can’t miss the World’s Largest Boot displayed in the store’s entrance. Upstairs, be sure to visit the Red Wing Shoe museum, and you can also participate in a factory tour May through October.
A Night at the Theatre: Sheldon Theatre
For an evening out in Red Wing, visit the Sheldon Theatre. Shows include classics like Show Boat, Singin in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Cabaret. The theatre first opened in 1904 and hosted some of the most noted traveling shows of the time. In the 1930s when movies became popular, the Sheldon was renovated into a movie theatre, complete with a snack bar. By the 1970s though, multi-screen theatres increased and the Sheldon declined. In the 1980s, the Sheldon was restored to its original design. Today, it hosts local, regional and national theatre, films, music performances and other entertainment.
An Active Weekend
Towering 400 feet above downtown, Barn Bluff is a highlight of the range of activities available in Red Wing. The bluff’s two-mile hiking trail has several overlook points offering panoramic views of Red Wing, the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin to the south. It’s also one of the premier sport rock climbing spots in the state, with more than 100 routes of varying difficulty throughout the 43-acre park.
Nearby, Red Wing’s Memorial Park offers hiking and biking trails, scenic views of the city and surrounding countryside, picnic sites and a Frisbee golf course. The overlook is also an excellent location to watch the sun set over the Mississippi River and downtown Red Wing.
The nearly 20-mile Cannon Valley Trail is another popular attraction for those looking to hike, bike or skate. The route travels along a former Chicago Great Western railroad line that connected Red Wing to Mankato. Today, the converted paved railroad line hosts bikers and walkers, with more than 100,000 people using the trail each year. Bikers, skaters and others using wheeled recreational devices must purchase a wheel pass a day or an annual pass. Visit the Cannon Valley Trail website for a list of places to purchase a pass.
Red Wing is also home to one of the most picturesque golf courses in the area. The Mississippi National Golf Links features two 18-hole championship public courses. The Lowlands course is a traditional style course overlooking the Hiawatha Valley, and has played host to the U.S. Senior Open qualifying, U.S. Amateur qualifying, and Minnesota Section PGA Championship games. The Highlands course offers views of the surrounding valley and Mississippi River. Special events, including couples tournaments and themed events, are held throughout the summer, and the course is especially picturesque during the fall. Look for “Stay and Play” packages, including a round of golf and cart rental, at the St. James Hotel.
For those looking for a fishing experience, Hahn’s Guide Service in Red Wing offers guided walleye fishing trips on the Mississippi and Lake Pepin. Other adventures on the Mississippi include the Pearl of the Lake riverboat cruises, on a 1800s replica paddle boat. Cruises are available Wednesday through Sunday.
Just minutes away, Welch Mill Canoeing and Tubing offers 5 and 12-mile canoe or kayak tours on the Cannon River. Trips are available for people of any experience level, and life jackets, paddles and shuttle service is included in rental rates. Welch Mill also offers tube rentals and is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
A Weekend of Relaxation
For those looking for a relaxing getaway or a girl’s weekend, the Red Wing area has several spas. At the St. James Hotel, Refined Skin Medi-Spa offers full service skin care and massage treatments and a range of spa packages. The spa offers a full range of facial treatments for men and women, organic facials, hair removal, Botox and Juvederm treatments. Swedish, hot stone, sports and several other types of massage are offered daily. The St. James Hotel offers a Spa Escape package, including a Refined Skin gift card and bottle of Champaign delivered to your room.
Just a block away on Bush Street, Body Kneads Massage & Wellness Center offers massage, homeopathy, acupuncture and other services. Massage is available six days a week. Call for appointment times for other services. Finally, nearby Indigo Salon and Day Spa offers hair services, massage, nail treatments, and facials in a modern setting. The salon features Aveda products and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Complete your relaxing weekend with a visit to nearby wineries. Red Wing is one stop on the Three Rivers Wine Trail and Great River Road Wine Trail, featuring some of the most notable wineries in the state. Within the city, Falconer Vineyards and Winery offers wine tastings every weekend late April through the holiday season, and Saturdays year round. The vineyard specializes in cold hardy Northern grape varieties, including the award-winning Frontenac Port, Frontenac Reserve, La Crescent and Frontenac Gris. During the summer months, stop for the “Music in the Vines” concert series.
About 30 minutes away, Cannon River Winery in historic downtown Cannon River offers about 20 varieties of wine, including Minnesota-inspired varieties like Gunflint Red (made of Minnesota Frontenac, Merlot, & Syrah grapes), St. Pepin and Bootlegger’s Red Port (made of Frontenac grapes), as well as specialty apple and honey wines.
Watch for wine trail events year round, including the annual Cheese and Chocolate Weekend in November featuring locally made cheeses, and the Tap the Barrel event in May, marking the start of the growing season and barrel tasting.
Where to Eat
Red Wing restaurants range from the quick family sit-down to romantic, high-end dinner spots.
For a good lunch value, stop at Provenzano’s Ristorante across from Pottery Place Mall. Lunch selections such as spaghetti and meatballs with garlic toast and personal-sized pizzas with salad are a good value. Other pasta items include fettuccini, chicken parmesan, penne and Italian-sausage stuffed shells, as well as a variety of sandwiches and burgers, salads, soups, steak and walleye.
Downtown, make a reservation at one of the St. James Hotel restaurants. A breakfast favorite is the Veranda, which offers outdoor seating spring through fall. Serving breakfast classics like omelets, cakes and eggs, and eggs benedict, the restaurant also features locally produced Sturdiwheat brand cereal and pancakes, using the recipe that has been a favorite since 1939. The Veranda also serves soups, sandwiches and salads for lunch and casual dinners.
Upstairs, visit Jimmy’s Pub for a light meal or appetizers. The highlight of this British-style pub is its large oak bar and dark woodwork throughout. The pub offers a full bar and features live entertainment each Friday evening.
Downstairs, visit The Port for a high-end dinner. Open five evenings a week, the Port offers entrees like wild Chinook salmon, baby back ribs, North Dakota bison, and Hawaiian blue prawns, among other entrees. The lower level space was once a bank, and the former vault is now the restaurant’s wine cellar, featuring more than 50 different labels.
For a casual meal, visit the family-owned Brickhouse Pub & Grill. The extensive menu offers sandwiches, burgers, salads, Mexican, pizza and pasta, as well as unique martinis and a range of brews and wines. The restaurant was named Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce Restaurant of the Year in 2010.
Where to Stay
Take a step back in time with a stay at the historic St. James Hotel in Red Wing, Minnesota. The landmark hotel was built in 1875, after local businessmen recognized the need for a world-class hotel in the city, which at the time was the wheat capital of the world. Located in downtown Red Wing just steps from the train depot, the hotel mixes classic style and cutting edge, offering high-class amenities like flat screen TVs and wireless internet, amidst its historic Victorian design.
Inside the hotel, guests can dine at one of three restaurants. Also within the hotel are a coffee shop, spa and several retailers. The St. James offers rest, relaxation and adventure year round. Plan a spa getaway in the spring or romantic weekend year round. Visit in the fall for views of the fall leaves, and a visit to nearby wineries. In the winter, plan a visit to nearby Welch Village Ski & Snowboard Area. The hotel provides package deals throughout the year.
When to Go
Red Wing features activities, shopping and dining year round. Go for the trials, hiking, golfing and boating during the summer months. Visit in the fall for an unrivaled view of Minnesota’s fall leaves. In the winter months, ski, snowboard, sled or snowshoe, then stop for a warm fireside dinner at the St. James Hotel. Year round, stop for a relaxing spa weekend.
Winter in Red Wing, MN
Red Wing isn’t just a summer or fall destination – there’s plenty to do in the winter too. Bring your cross country skis in the winter to ski the 20-mile Cannon Valley Trail, or the 10-miles of Mississippi National Ski trails.
Just minutes away, Welch Village Ski and Snowboard Area features 60 slopes on more than 140 acres, with runs for every experience level. With a vertical elevation of 360 feet, it is one of the largest downhill sites in the area, and traditionally opens for the season the first weekend in November. Welch Village also offers two chalets; the larger of the two, the Base Lodge, features cafeteria style food service, and the Madd Jaxx Chalet is geared for adults, with a full bar and foodservice. Look for the ski package at the St. James Hotel, and head back for a drink in front of the fire at Jimmy’s Pub after a long day on the slopes.
A few minutes away, Frontenac State Park offers snowshoeing and cross country ski trails, and a sledding hill with a nearby warming house. The park also has 5 miles of groomed snowmobile trails connected with miles more county trails, and warming houses with firewood in the winter months.
Red Wing is about an hour south of the Twin Cities on Hwy 61. For added adventure, take the train. Amtrak’s Empire Builder route runs daily between the Twin Cities and Red Wing, as well as other Midwest cities, and stops just steps from the St. James Hotel. Show your ticket at check in to receive the “Ride the Rails” package, including shuttle service to nearby Wheelhouse Cycle for bike rentals and Pottery Place for shopping.
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