Stillwater, MN: 17 Things to Do & Complete Travel Guide (2023)

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Are you planning a visit to Stillwater, MN and are looking for a guide to make the most of your vacation? You’ve come to the right place!

Nestled along the banks of the St. Croix River in Minnesota, the charming city of Stillwater intrigues visitors with its picturesque scenery, historic downtown, and good food.

Whether you’re looking to savor a gourmet meal, sip on a craft beer, or indulge in a sweet treat, this riverfront city has something for everyone.

And when it comes to things to do, Stillwater doesn’t disappoint either. From exploring the city’s quaint shops and boutiques to kayaking along the river, there is so much to be done!

I lived just 30 minutes from Stillwater for a year and have spent a lot of time in this adorable city.

In this post, I’ll share with you all of the best things to do, where to eat, where to stay, and everything you need to know about Stillwater, Minnesota!

Stillwater, MN Travel Guide

With so many great places to visit in Minnesota, it can be tough to decide where to go first, but I highly recommend that you don’t miss out on Stillwater!

This charming town shares a border with Wisconsin, just separated by the beautiful St. Croix River Valley.

From the stunning scenic viewpoints to the trendy restaurants and cool cafes, there’s something for everyone here!

And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not take a kayak trip down the river or hit the hiking trails in nearby state parks?

No matter what you’re looking for, this small city has it, and I’m going to tell you everything there is to know in this Stillwater ultimate travel guide.


Things to Do in Stillwater

Let’s start this ultimate travel guide off with the very best things to do in Stillwater. There are so many great ways to keep yourself busy, and here are the very best!

1. Walk Across the Stillwater Lift Bridge

The Stillwater historic lift bridge is an iconic symbol of the city’s rich history and culture, and walking across it is a must!

Built in 1931, the bridge spans the St. Croix River and is one of the very few lift bridges in the country that still operates!

The historic Lift Bridge crossing the St. Croix River.

While it used to carry both cars and pedestrians between Minnesota and Wisconsin, today, it’s just a pedestrian bridge (people and bikes). So take your time wandering across it!

The views of the river from the bridge are beautiful, and especially in the fall months, when you can see the trees changing colors along the river.

The bridge connects the riverwalk in Minnesota to the St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail in Wisconsin, making it the perfect place for a hike.

2. Go to Teddy Bear Park

This unique park features a variety of teddy bear-themed play equipment, including climbing structures, swings, and slides.

Along with the teddy bears, there are structures that look like trains, boats, and more for kids to play on.

A rock wall on the edge of the park is a great place for kids to crawl around in, and there’s a large sand pit for kids to dig through and build castles.

There are things like zip lines, slides, climbing walls, tunnels and caves to wander around, monkey bars, and more for the entire family to enjoy a day outside.

3. Take a Trolley Tour

Taking a ride on a bright red trolley through the streets of Stillwater is the perfect way to really explore the city and see all that it has to offer.

On the Stillwater Trolley Company, you can take either a historic, storytime, or custom tour.

As for the historic tours, you’ll learn all about the town and its history to becoming the ‘Birthplace of Minnesota.’

A red stand where you can buy tickets for the Stillwater trolley company.

For families with children, check out the storytime trolley, where you’ll get to enjoy a story, read by a narrator, and then a trolley ride.

Custom rides are also available, if there’s a specific reason that you’re visiting.

4. Sip on Wine at Saint Croix Vineyards

Another of the best things to do in Stillwater is to stop at Saint Croix Vineyards and enjoy sipping on a glass of wine.

As one of Minnesota’s best wineries, you’ll be in for a treat with a stop in their tasting room.

And a wander through the vineyards will showcase where the grapes are grown that help create these magical tasting wines.

You can also enjoy relaxing on their patio or listening to live music on select nights during the summer months.

5. Grab a Treat at MN Nice Cream

If you’re ready for a treat after a day of exploring, then a stop at MN Nice Cream will cure that sweet tooth that you’ve got!

The MN Nice Cream checkout counter.

With a huge variety of ice cream toppings to choose from, you can make your dessert your very own!

They have options to make your own treat, or you can choose one of their pre-made ones, such as the Bourbon Caramel Brownie, which is my favorite!

6. Take in Rooftop Views at Papa’s Rooftop

If you’re looking for a romantic date night in Stillwater, then head to Papa’s Rooftop for some great food and even better views.

Located on top of the Water Street Inn, this rooftop patio offers unmatched views of the St. Croix River Valley and historic Stillwater, MN.

They serve hand-tossed pizzas and a few varieties of pasta and salads, as well as an expansive drink menu featuring beer on tap, cocktails, and wines.

7. Visit Lift Bridge Brewing

The Twin Cities has a fantastic brewery scene that can’t be missed during a visit, and in Stillwater, you can experience it firsthand!

At Lift Bridge Brewing, you can try out their local beers that are brewed right in-house.

You can sit back and relax in their taproom, and grab a drink from their huge list of freshly brewed beers on tap.

From seasonal brews to ones that are available year-round, every visitor will be able to find a great drink at Lift Bridge Brewing.

8. Take a Stillwater River Boats Tour

Stillwater has plenty of options for exploring the small town, and one of the best ways is by booking a Stillwater River Boats Tour.

These tours bring you along the great St. Croix River on a large river boat, where you can easily take in the amazing views of the river.

A view of the St. Croix River Valley in Stillwater, MN.

While on board, you’ll get to enjoy a meal, which is included in your ticket price, as well as a stocked bar to grab a drink from.

The patio on top allows you to enjoy the warm weather, while the enclosed lower deck is great for chillier days.

9. Wander Around Historic Main Street

Main Street in Stillwater is lined with local boutiques and shops and delicious restaurants to stop into.

Just a walk up and down the street will showcase all of the great places to stop and grab a bite to eat or find a souvenir to bring home.

Stores lining the sides of historic Main Street in Stillwater.

The shops in Stillwater, MN consist of antique stores to find hidden treasures at, boutiques with handmade decor, bookstores, and clothing shops.

You can also find some of the most popular restaurants like the Tilted Tiki, Brick & Bourbon, and MN Nice Cream in Downtown Stillwater.

10. See the Fall Colors Over the St. Croix River Valley

Fall is a magical time in Stillwater, Minnesota, and there are so many fantastic ways to experience the beautiful fall foliage.

As the weather cools, the trees that line the riverbanks burst into brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow, creating a breathtaking display of fall foliage.

A view of the St. Croix River from a viewpoint above the city.

One of the best ways to experience the season is by taking a scenic cruise down the St. Croix River. Whether it be by boat tour or kayak, you can enjoy the colors.

Alternatively, hiking trails along the riverbanks provide opportunities for more up-close and personal views of the fall foliage.

Visitors can also enjoy a variety of fall-themed activities, including apple picking, pumpkin patches, and hayrides.

11. Pick Apples at Aamodt’s Apple Farm

Picking apples is the quintessential fall activity, and at Aamodt’s Apple Farm, you can do just that, plus more to make your Minnesota fall fantastic.

Enjoy picking your own apples from the apple orchard, or grab a few from the apple barn, which features all of their varieties.

You can also enjoy checking out the goat farm or taking a wagon ride through the farm. Adults can also do a wine or hard cider tasting during the visit.

12. Visit the Warden’s House Museum

Back in 1853, the Warden’s House was built and was used to house the Minnesota Territorial Prison warden.

Today, you can wander through the halls and rooms of the home that are all decorated from the 19th and 20th centuries.

With 14 rooms in the house, there is plenty of space to wander around and imagine what it would have been like to live in this home back in the mid-1800s.

Seeing the museums here is one of the best things to do in Stillwater.

13. Take a Romantic Gondola Ride

What could possibly be more romantic than taking a gondola ride along the St. Croix River, as if you were in the canals of Venice?

You can take a ride on the Stillwater Gondolas and enjoy the amazing views along the river as your gondolier paddles you along.

Bring your own picnic along and sit back and enjoy the amazing ride through the river with that special someone.

14. Walk Along the River Crossing Loop Trail

The River Crossing Loop Trail connects Houlton, Wisconsin and Stillwater by a paved walking and biking trail.

The Stillwater, MN lift bridge crossing the St. Croix River.

The trail is known as the St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail and extends for just under 5 miles across both the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge and the new St. Croix Crossing Bridge.

Both walkers or hikers and bikers can use the trail and explore the area between these two small towns on the St. Croix.

15. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride

Another of the most romantic ways to spend an evening in the town of Stillwater is to take a hot air balloon over the St. Croix Valley.

There aren’t many places in Minnesota where you can take a hot air balloon ride, so take advantage of it and enjoy the views from above!

From above, you can see for miles and look down into the city to see towering buildings, the river bluffs, and all of the surrounding land.

16. Drive the St. Croix Scenic Byway

Driving the St. Croix Scenic Byway is a picturesque experience that takes visitors through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Midwest.

The drive starts in Askov and makes its way down through Pine City, Taylors Falls, Stillwater, and Afton, before ending in Port Douglas. It’s about 125 miles long.

A yellow leaf with several yellow trees behind it.

The journey takes travelers through quaint small towns, rolling hills, and dense forests, with many opportunities to stop and explore historic sites, unique boutiques, and charming cafes.

Along the way, visitors can also admire the stunning vistas of the river from roadside pull-offs or at the state parks that dot the roadway.

17. Visit the Washington County Heritage Center

Discover Stillwater, MN, which is located in Washington County, and at the Washington County Heritage Center, you can learn more about the local county.

You’ll learn about the rich history of the small town from its lumberjack days to the trendy restaurants and shops that now line the streets.

Inside the Washington County Historical Society buildings, you’ll find information and artifacts from the past years in Stillwater, and you can really get to know how the city found its way onto the map.


Where to Stay in Stillwater

Now that you know all of the very best things to do in Stillwater, let’s go over the best places to stay in the town, so you can have a great night’s rest for more exploring tomorrow!

📍 Water Street Inn

This historic hotel features stunning views of the St. Croix River and is just a short distance from the lift bridge. It has beautifully decorated rooms that reflect the Victorian era.

Enjoy two on-site restaurants, including Papa’s Rooftop Bar, where you can see the views for miles. Some of the rooms even have balconies to enjoy the outdoors, and a few have private whirlpools to sit back and relax in.

📍 Hotel Crosby

A rooftop hot tub surrounded by views, gorgeous suites to kick back and relax in, an on-site restaurant and spa, and a cozy atmosphere are all wrapped up in Hotel Crosby.

Experience this amazing hotel in Stillwater and be ready to explore the next day! There are 55 rooms to choose from, all decorated to fit the vibe of Hotel Crosby. And what could be better than relaxing in a rooftop hot tub at the end of the day?

📍 Lora

Right on the banks of the St. Croix River, Lora offers comfortable beds, dog-friendly rooms, delightful food, and amazing views, all in one place.

Each room has its own signature touch and is unique from any of the others. And if you’ve got a friendly dog, they can tag along for the stay! An on-site restaurant, bar, and coffee shop make your entire stay easy.


Places to Eat in Stillwater

After you’ve found things to do and places to stay, you’re probably more than ready to grab a bite to eat! Below are the best places to eat in Stillwater.

🥘 Brick & Bourbon

Holding one of the best spots on Main Street, Brick & Bourbon offers up delicious eats and drinks, including burgers, mac & cheese, brunch foods, and sandwiches.

Pair your food with a signature cocktail or a beer from a local brewery like Lift Bridge Brewing or Surly Brewing.

Inside, there are TVs to catch the local sports game on, and if you want to enjoy the weather, you can sit outside on their patio.

🥘 The Tilted Tiki

Want to feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical island? Then head to the Tilted Tiki!

This Main Street bar features island-like decor, an outdoor patio with tiki torches and palm trees, and an expansive list of tropical drinks.

Order up a plate of Coconut Shrimp or Ahi Tuna Bites to share, and then move on to main dishes like Shrimp Po’boy Tacos or a Tiki Burger! Plus, order a drink to pair with your meal.

🥘 LoLo American Kitchen

This laid-back bar and restaurant features delicious foods, from burgers and tacos to sticky rice bowls.

Their list of cocktails and open bar layout makes for a unique experience and makes you wanting to come back for more!

🥘 Charlie’s Restaurant

Located in the Water Street Inn, this popular restaurant in Stillwater is an Irish Pub that is perfect for a romantic night out or just a friendly get-together!

Order from their menu of scrumptious burgers and sandwiches, entrees like fish & chips or shepherd’s pie, and of course, a massive drink menu.

Be sure to grab dessert, and stay for a while!


Stillwater, MN Location

Stillwater is located along the St. Croix River Valley, just a short distance outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In order to reach it from the Twin Cities, it’s just a short 30-minute drive along Minnesota Highway 36.

Stillwater is actually a part of the Twin Cities metro area, making up part of the nearly 3,000 square miles of land in the metro.

The small town is located just across the Wisconsin border, and is just a short distance from Hudson, Wisconsin.

Here’s a map of Stillwater’s location in Minnesota.


Best Time to Visit Stillwater

Stillwater is an incredible place to be year-round, and no matter the season, you can find so much to do! But because this is Minnesota, the very best time to visit is summer!

With outdoor concerts, festivals, and events happening all summer long, there’s never a dull moment to discover Stillwater.

Stairs leading down to the downtown area of Stillwater.

And let’s not forget about all the fun outdoor things to do in Stillwater to enjoy, from kayaking and paddleboarding to hiking and biking.

Plus, the local shops and restaurants are always buzzing with activity, serving fresh and delicious foods to hungry visitors!

The weather is best during the summer months, with sunny skies and warm temperatures! Here’s a quick breakdown of the weather throughout the year.

Weather in Stillwater

Summer brings the warmest weather in Stillwater, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the high 80s. Plus, sunny skies make for beautiful summer days on the water!

Fall is the next best, with cooler temperatures, but fewer crowds along the streets and waterways. Temperatures range from the mid-40s to low 70s.

Winter, of course, brings a lot of snow and cold temperatures, but beautiful views of the snow-covered trees. Temperatures often fall below 0 degrees and rarely rise about 35 degrees.

Spring brings melting snow, blooming flowers, and warmer temperatures, You might see quite a bit of rain though, as well as slushy streets from the melting snow.


Is Stillwater Worth Visiting?

Yes, if you’re planning a visit to somewhere in the state of Minnesota, Stillwater is one of the very best places to add to your must-see list!

There are countless reasons why Stillwater is worth a visit!

For starters, the city is home to a wealth of natural beauty, from the stunning St. Croix River to the nearby state parks and hiking trails.

Stillwater also boasts a rich history and vibrant culture, with a range of unique local shops, restaurants, and breweries that offer visitors a taste of the local flavor.

A building covered in pink flowers in Stillwater.

Going on a romantic getaway? Check out the gondola and hot air balloon rides for your date!

Or if you just want a relaxing place to spend time, the many great hotels provide the perfect place to sit back and relax, including one with a great rooftop pool!

For foodies, adventure lovers, romantics, or those wanting to relax, Stillwater is the place to be!


What is Stillwater, MN Known For?

Back in the mid-1800s, Stillwater was considered the ‘Birthplace of Minnesota’ because it was on Main Street that the first territorial convention began to make Minnesota a state.

The lumber industry also put Stillwater on the map, as many of the town’s lumber mills sent out thousands of rail cars with timber.

And because the Stillwater Lift Bridge is one of the only operating lift bridges in the country (along with the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth!), the town is known for that as well.

Today, the city of Stillwater, MN is mostly known for its location along the St. Croix River, which makes for a beautiful place to visit!

For foodies and outdoors lovers, the city is a prime location for a day trip from Minneapolis or just a place to get away and relax.


FAQs

How Can I Spend a Day in Stillwater, MN?

If you have just one day in Stillwater, plan it with these activities. Wander along the St. Croix River, grab lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants, walk Historic Main Street, and take a trolley tour.

Is Stillwater, MN a Good Place to Live?

Stillwater is a beautiful town and one of the best places to live in Minnesota. It offers plenty to do, great housing, lower crime rates, average costs of living, and access to larger cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Is Stillwater a Small Town?

Yes, Stillwater is a fairly small town. It’s only about 9 square miles and has a population of around 20,000 residents.

What City is Across the River from Stillwater?

Across the St. Croix River from Stillwater is the town of Houlton, Wisconsin.

Is Stillwater Expensive to Live?

According to Pay Scale, Stillwater has a slightly higher cost of living than the national average. It isn’t outrageously expensive, but you also won’t find that it’s dirt cheap.

What is Halfway Between Stillwater and Minneapolis?

Stillwater and Minneapolis are about 30 minutes apart, and about halfway between the two is North St. Paul. You can find many small towns scattered along the route between the two cities.


Wrap-Up: Stillwater, MN Ultimate Guide

So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re a foodie, an adventurer, or just someone looking for a relaxing getaway, Stillwater, MN has got you covered.

With its picturesque scenery, delicious foods, and endless recreational opportunities, this charming city is sure to delight and inspire you.

No matter what you’re searching for, Stillwater is the perfect place to find it! Pack your bags and take a trip!