Munsinger and Clemens Gardens
These adjacent community gardens are located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, near St. Cloud State University. Start your stroll at the fern- and hosta-filled Munsinger Gardens, with its stone paths, lily pond, rock garden, and fountain that date back to the 1930s. Then head over to the formal Clemens Gardens, built in the 1980s. Featuring fancy ironwork, roses, and colorful blooms, this romantic spot is the product of the real-life love story of William and Virginia Clemens. William built the garden for his ailing wife, who liked to gaze on the flowers from her window. She succumbed to multiple sclerosis in 1998, but he continues to fund the gardens in her honor.
Walk a half-mile through a forest to this naturally formed lookout on the East Bay of Lake Superior and commune with ghosts of Minnesota’s past. Who knows how many people have traipsed over these ancient lava rocks? Head toward the lighthouse, and you’ll find a clue: turn-of-the-century signatures carved into the rocks near the breakwater, the etchings of passersby waiting for the old Grand Marais ferry.
Canal Park and the Duluth Lakewalk are always the first stops. What next? Try strolling along Superior and First Streets for a taste of Duluth’s historic wealth, which culminated at the turn of the 20th century. These streets are lined with opulent manses, including many built by the prolific local architect Isaac Vernon Hill. Look for numerous examples of Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, American Four Square, Prairie style, and even some Craftsman-like styles.
Artist Jessie Marianiello, who paints pet portraits for a living (check out her work at straydogarts.com), splits her time between Minneapolis and Bemidji. She recommends Bemidji as a destination city where you can enjoy the good life but also some elbowroom.
Her three favorite spots:
Tutto Bene: “I have a weakness for Tutto’s lavender martinis, delicious antipasto, and in-house smoked Red Lake walleye.” tuttobene.us
Wild Hare Bistro: “Their coffee is some of the best in town and so is the local artwork that graces their walls.” wildharebistro.com
Yellow Umbrella: “This is where I go to get a good dose of color. It’s filled with the fun and funky handmade work of local artists.” yellowumbrellashop.com
Winona is an architectural knockout with all its turn-of-the-century edifices: a Romanesque courthouse and lumber exchange, a Beaux Arts Masonic temple, an Art Deco city hall, plus a handful of private mansions. Use the architecture tour mobile app to guide you, and soon you’ll be walking the walk and talking the talk.
The smart people of Northfield launched a European-style RiverWalk Market along the Cannon River in recent years. The highly walkable market gathers local farmers and artists, plus an array of gourmet food vendors selling everything from locally made sausages to Scandinavian pastries on Saturday mornings June 1 through Oct. 26.
Red Wing’s classic downtown abounds with eye candy: historic buildings such as the St. James Hotel and Sheldon Theatre, a browsable little museum dedicated to sturdy Red Wing Shoes (founded in 1905), and antique shops stocked with generations of Red Wing pottery pieces, not to mention the plentiful river views and pretty bluffs. Elevate your amble to a ramble by hiking the 1.5 miles to the peak of Sorin’s Bluff, where you’ll be rewarded with a bird’s-eye view of town.
This sleepy and tiny downtown packs a cache of 100-year-old-plus Italianate and Neoclassical buildings made from Sioux quartzite, a pinkish stone native to the area. Look for the biblically themed gargoyles carved into the Moore Block building. A few blocks from downtown is the Pipestone National Monument, where American Indian craftsmen still harvest quartzite to make peace pipes.