Whether you arrive by train on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, by car on Highway 61 or by bike on the Cannon River Valley Trail, swing into Red Wing Depot along the river. Besides serving as the city visitor center and functioning depot, it also has an arts gallery and store for area artists.
Hungry? Walk next door to the St. James Hotel (the oldest in Minnesota) for locally made Sturdiwheat pancakes with vanilla syrup on The Veranda, which overlooks the river.
Stroll through hotel shops and along historic Main Street, which includes the Uffda Shop, a classy blend of Scandinavian housewares, holiday decor and gifts.
Have your camera handy for the size 638½ work boot at Red Wing Shoe Company Museum and Store. The second floor of this downtown shop covers the evolution of work boots in America and includes some kid-friendly displays. Ask about weekday tours of the off-site factory. The store’s main floor includes dress shoes, work boots and hiking boots; the basement is stacked with outlet bargains.
Grab a 3 Pigs Burger (beef and Italian sausage topped with ham and bacon) at Bev’s Cafe downtown or have a sweet snack or lunch sandwich at Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop before taking your own boots a-walking for the afternoon.
Take a drive up Sorin’s Bluff for great views of the town or hike up iconic Barn Bluff along the Mississippi River. Stop at Colvill Park to watch for eagles—especially during peak migration and mating season in March. You’ll find another fine birding area 10 minutes south of Red Wing in Frontenac State Park, where trails run along steep wooded riverbanks.
The Port, in the lower level of the St. James Hotel, serves the town’s most elegant dinners, with seasonal entrees such as locally raised and braised Duroc pork or North Dakota bison ribeye. Spend at night in the hotel (where halls were built wide enough for hoop skirts!), or head south to Round Barn Farm Bed and Breakfast & Bread, where guests can roll up their sleeves to help bake nicely crusted buttermilk bread.
Delve into the city’s roots as a pottery town dating to when a German immigrant used local clay to fashion sturdy salt-glazed stoneware in the 1860s. See bowls, crocks and jugs used by Minnesota’s pioneers at the free, self-guided Red Wing Pottery Museum. With mechanization in the early 1900s, the Red Wing company became one of the biggest pottery manufacturers in the world—even branching into elegant dinnerware.
The museum is within Pottery Place Mall, a converted warehouse ranking as a favorite place for shopping. Find collectible Red Wing pottery or go a little “Mad Men” in your kitchen at Pottery Place Antiques,with close to 50 dealers under one roof. You’ll find aisles packed with floral juice glasses, Watts ware, rare bottles, vintage hats and aprons, rare toys, beer glasses, old books and colorful quilts. It can be nirvana for antique lovers.
Browse more than 10,000 pairs of shoes at Hush Puppies outlet store, look for new kitchen wares at Pete’s Kitchen Corner, or find a new outfit at Whimsy’s Closet—all within Pottery Place Mall.
Take a breather next door at Smokey Row Cafe and its Jenny Lind Bakery, which serve creative soups and chowders, pesto paninis, flaky quiche, caramel cashew bars and chocolate-dipped cardamom cookies.
The bakery is part of Red Wing Pottery Salesroom and Shops, where you can often see potters handcrafting clay in the demonstration area. The store sells Red Wing Pottery’s full line of crocks and wares, which include the iconic Red Wing design on coffee mugs, lamp bases, French butter dishes and more. You’ll find bread bakers that work well with another local favorite: Sturdiwheat bread.
This salesroom also is the nation’s No. 1 retailer of Fiestaware and boasts an extensive selection of kitchenware and decor. Connecting shops sell playful birdbaths, women’s clothing, candy and Minnesota souvenirs.
Haven’t shopped ’til you drop? Walk or bike along the 19-mile Cannon Valley Trail to wind down the day.
For information: Red Wing Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 498-3444; redwing.org