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.
Artist’s Point in Grand Marais
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.
Duluth’s East End Historic District
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.
Downtown Red Wing
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.
Hermann the German. The 102-foot Teutonic war hero is a symbol of German American pride that has towered over this “Little Bavaria” since 1897. Cast in copper and standing atop an ornate pedestal, he can’t be missed. hermannmonument.com
Brown County Historical Society. Another homage to German heritage, this 1910 building was originally built as a post office in a highly decorative Renaissance style that was popular in the motherland at the time. The exterior has a distinct two-toned look, thanks to the alternating red brick and terra cotta. Snack break: Stop by nearby Lola’s Larkspur Market for a sandwich, an espresso drink, or a pastry. browncountyhistorymn.org; lolaslarkspurmarket.com
Glockenspiel. Think kitsch: This hybridized clock and bell tower features cuckoo clock–style woodcarvings depicting local stereotypes. Then again, think music: The chimes of the glockenspiel are mesmerizing. Finally, think lunch: Grab a Wiener schnitzel or some ribs (the house specialty) from nearby Veigel’s Kaiserhoff. newulmweb.com; kaiserhoff.org
Religious interlude. Walk the Stations of the Cross, a series of 14 artistic depictions of Christ and his crucifixion. Built in the Catholic tradition, the New Ulm version features Bavarian-imported statuary, which were installed into this quiet, tree-covered hillside by local religious leaders in 1904. dnu.org
Wanda Gag house. Members of the Gag family were considered town eccentrics in the early 1900s. Daughter Wanda eventually channeled her quirks into the famous illustrated children’s book Millions of Cats, but the family patriarch (Anton Gag) was also artistic. The house now functions as a museum for Wanda and Anton’s artworks. wandagaghouse.org
August Schell Brewery. Visit the oldest brewery in Minnesota, a scenic site boasting formal gardens and resident peacocks— plus brewery tours and tastings aplenty. schellsbrewery.com
Get the tour at: faribaulthpc.org/podcast-downtown-walking-tour
Timothy McCarthy Building. Built in 1884, this Italianate storefront is the prettiest structure in town because its colorful façade was originally designed to tout the services of a granite and marble company. faribaulthpc.org
Wolf Building. Another fine example of Italianate architecture, this 1878 storefront features an ornate cornice and window hoods, plus an appealingly earthy palette. Lunchtime: Head for nearby Lyons Meats for a grinder or a barbecue pork sandwich. lyonsmeatsmn.com
Union Block. This newly restored Victorian storefront on Central Avenue is notable for its rich patterns of stonework. Snack break: Try house-made fudge or a scoop of ice cream from Sweet Spot Candies across the street. sweetspotcandies.net
Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. Completed in 1869, this Gothic Revival cathedral was the vision of Bishop Henry Whipple, a leader in the Episcopal Church and an important figure in Minnesota history. Learn more about the cathedral’s long and storied past by downloading the Faribault walking tour at faribaulthpc.org. thecathedralfaribault.com
Buckham Memorial Library. Dedicated in 1930, this impressive Art Deco building was built, perhaps out of guilt, by a well-connected local widow who had left her wealthy husband many years prior. Duck inside to admire all the Greek-themed murals and stained-glass windows. faribault.org/library
Faribault Woolen Mill Co. What a comeback! Faribault’s iconic blanket factory was resurrected in 2011, with its high-end products quickly earning accolades from style gurus nationwide. Drop by the factory’s newly opened retail shop and see firsthand what all the fuss is about. faribaultmill.com