Bald eagles carved a blue sky overhead as we unloaded our luggage from the automotive within the St. James Hotel car parking zone in Red Wing, Minnesota. Nestled tight in opposition to the river since 1875, the historic boutique lodge has historically greeted riverboats and practice passengers on the adjoining depot. It already felt like the most effective place on the town to identify eagles — too many to depend, I advised my husband. “It’s been that way most of the drive up,” he identified, and he was proper — a part of what makes Red Wing an excellent highway journey is the drive itself.
Red Wing is round 4 hours northwest of Madison, relying which route you’re taking, and far of that distance might be traveled on The Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway Route that crosses 10 states. It hugs Wisconsin’s share of the Mississippi River all the best way up via Prairie du Chien and La Crosse, then over the Minnesota border via Winona and on to Red Wing. We may have stopped at any variety of locations alongside the best way, however now that we’d arrived within the charming, industrial river city and noticed the various outlets and eateries inside steps of the St. James — together with Red Wing Shoes, which my husband was already eyeing up throughout the road — it was apparent we’d have a lot to discover right here on the town.
Although there have been many tempting bed-and-breakfast choices (we’ll be again), the St. James Hotel is a vacation spot in itself, and we most likely may have spent your complete weekend inside its partitions. Built in 1875, it was thought-about luxurious for the time, with steam warmth, and cold and hot working water, in addition to a grand entryway, posh eating room and ornate library. After a number of renovations and expansions, the St. James is now a mixture of preserved authentic sections and trendy additions which have introduced boutique outlets, a salon, a spa and the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum. Each of the 67 visitor rooms and luxurious suites is called after a riverboat and uniquely adorned, however all keep the Victorian attraction whereas incorporating trendy facilities like phone-charging ports.
On-site eating is on level at Scarlet Kitchen & Bar, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner at tables that overlook the river and in addition includes a full bar and an outside patio. Be certain to choose up a brochure from the foyer for a self-guided tour of your complete lodge — the unique rooms are straightforward to overlook when you’re not in search of them.
Dining and Drink Within Blocks
First factor within the morning, Scarlet’s “The Swirl” yogurt bowl is a superb selection — lush with a number of fruits plus apple cinnamon compote, sticky pecans and creamy, honey-drizzled yogurt. But it’s best to positively take a stroll over to the award-winning Hanisch’s Bakery & Coffee Shop for an apple fritter or bacon maple doughnut — consider it as pre-fueling for the morning hike you’ll need to take earlier than the outlets open for enterprise. We additionally appreciated Liberty’s Restaurant & Tavern with its cozy vinyl cubicles and basic wainscotting, even earlier than we tasted the Belgian waffles or eavesdropped on a number of the finest native chatter we caught all weekend. If you’ll be able to’t hit Liberty’s till later within the day, that’s tremendous, too — the institution is understood for its specialty pizzas, in addition to its au gratin potatoes served piping scorching and its home salad dressing, a Parmesan peppercorn with dill that instantly received over this non-ranch-loving salad eater.
For lunch, we struck gold with Mandy’s Coffee and Cafe, the place we every ordered a soup-and-sandwich combo after which argued over whose was tastier. (I nonetheless keep my veggie sandwich with hummus and banana peppers on cranberry wild rice bread received out over his Italian panini.) But the all-around winner for finest eats, regardless of steep competitors, needed to go to Staghead Gastropub, a darkish and dreamy, brick-lined restaurant and bar. With an emphasis on sourcing regionally and seasonally, the menu varies — however hopefully you’ll be able to catch the Brussels sprout salad, which is perhaps the most effective I’ve ever had. The salmon burger was additionally a stunner — three fingers thick and completely crisped on the surface with a savory remoulade and a buttery bun. Given the can’t-miss dishes, cozy ambiance and in depth specialty drinks and craft beer menu, you’d higher snag a reservation.
But when you strike out — or need to hop again within the automotive for a brief drive — a number of enthusiastic locals beneficial the Red Wing Brewery (for its pizzas), the Rancho Loco Grill & Bar (for its crafted tequila drinks), Bayside Tap & Steakhouse (for its steaks) and The Barrel House (for its reside music). For after-dinner drinks, you’ll be able to all the time return to the St. James and head straight downstairs to The Port, a comfy, grotto-style bar. On your approach again to your room, cease again into Scarlet, the place desserts are removed from an afterthought — in reality, there’s a pastry chef on workers. (Troupers that we’re, we managed to pattern each dessert on the menu.)
Red Wing could also be arguably finest recognized for Red Wing Shoes, a must-stop on my husband’s itinerary. He’d coveted a pair of the prized footwear for years and had already achieved his analysis, however he nonetheless went via the paces on the manufacturing unit retailer, with its computerized measuring system and educated workers. As a browser, I had a lot to maintain me occupied, with the official Red Wing Shoe Co. Museum upstairs, varied historic shows all through the shop and possibly one-too-many selfies with the “world’s largest boot” — a greater than 20-foot-tall, size-638-and-a-half hunk of footwear. As payback, my husband let me linger longer than he most likely needed to in Fair Trade Books, a stellar unbiased bookshop with a remarkably strong stock of recent and used titles — and one delightfully curmudgeonly canine named Reveler. We additionally took residence some treats from Red Wing Confectionery after watching them make the chocolate via the window-lined kitchen behind the register, and we discovered a lot extra procuring proper subsequent door (together with the Uffda Shop, Whimsey’s clothes boutique, Duluth Trading Co. and Red Wing Olive Oils & Vinegars).
Although you could find all of the procuring you’d ever need downtown, it might be a mistake to not proceed on to Old West Main Street to take a look at extra outlets — particularly The Pottery Place, a towering brick mall and the previous residence of the well-known Red Wing Pottery stoneware manufacturing unit, now crammed with antiques, reward outlets and meals, together with Godfather’s Pizza and the Pie Plate Café.
Explore Some More
If The Pottery Place leaves you wanting extra, you’ll be able to brush up on its historical past by visiting the Pottery Museum of Red Wing throughout the car parking zone. Continue even farther west out of city and also you’ll discover the Anderson Center, an artist residency with an artwork gallery and outside sculpture backyard. Back downtown, you can too view artwork on the Red Wing Arts Center (situated contained in the depot subsequent to the St. James) and catch a present on the famed Sheldon Theatre of Performing Arts. Continue wandering up Third and Fourth streets for glimpses of grand homes in one other historic district (Red Wing has 5 whole), in addition to bed-and-breakfast choices to your return journey, together with Moondance Inn and Pratt-Taber Inn. Then make your approach as much as the highest of the bluff to go to the Goodhue County Historical Society.
Remarkably, top-of-the-line views of the Mighty Mississippi and Red Wing itself additionally occurs to be accessible inside strolling distance of the St. James. About a half-mile away, you’ll discover the trailhead for the He Mni Can-Barn Bluff lookouts, that are related by a number of trails — it’s a hike, however the view is effectively value it. If you don’t thoughts hopping again within the automotive, Frontenac State Park is just quarter-hour east and a brief drive as much as the highest — from there, you’ll discover a lookout and a straightforward, flat path that runs parallel to the river and provides breathtaking views from excessive above.
We spent a lot of our 48 hours debating the most effective spot to look at bald eagles. We noticed a lot on the lodge and on our hikes, then determined the winner was Colvill Park, simply on the fringe of city, the place an unfathomable variety of them swirled and swooped, diving for fish and even small geese mere ft from the place we sat. We’d hoped to go to the National Eagle Center on the drive again residence, about 30 miles south of Red Wing, but it surely was closed for a $27 million renovation. We requested a number of locals for his or her opinions — in the long run, it was a lady on the St. James who summed it up finest. “Pretty much anywhere. You can’t not see them,” she mentioned, then added, “And you never get tired of it.”
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