A small-town cafe with an upscale feel, Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe sells sticky buns and delicious coffee.
Little River General Store rents bikes to those who want to ride the Root River Bike Trail.
The Old Village Hall Restaurant and Pub overlooks the bike trail; in spring, try delish morel mushroom and chopped sirloin soup.
Shop for local and regional art at Lanesboro Arts Center, and sample fruity wines at Scenic Valley Winery.
Locally raised beef burgers and creamy shakes are the specialties at the family-oriented Pedal Pushers Cafe.
The 26-year-old Commonweal Theatre gained its reputation for quality productions with its Henrik Ibsen Festival each spring.
The 100-plus-year-old Victorian Habberstad House bed-and-breakfast is within walking distance of downtown (from $140).
More information: (800) 944-2670; lanesboro.com 
In downtown Northfield (92 miles northwest), visit where Jesse James’ outlaw gang met its end in 1876 at Northfield Historical Society Museum.
Coffee shop Goodbye Blue Monday bakes its own pastries.
You’ll find creative gifts at The Sketchy Artist, thousands of used books at Monkey See Monkey Read and rows of fashionable clothing at The Rare Pair.
Fuel up with Bittersweet Cafe’s chicken potpie before hiking Cowling Arboretum’s 10 miles of trails through expansive wildflower meadows and forests.
For dinner, try smoky tandoori kabobs and curry chicken at Chapati.
Choose from 36 rooms at the 1877 Archer House River Inn, in the downtown shopping and entertainment area (from $90).
More information: (800) 658-2548; visitingnorthfield.com 
The 30,000-square-foot Midtown Antique Mall in Stillwater (about 30 miles northeast of Minneapolis) includes vintage toys and sporting goods.
Join the locals for walleye, pasta and Greek dishes at Phil’s Tara Hideaway Bar and Restaurant.
Darn Knit (Anyway) gives customers their yarn fix, and Valley Bookseller impresses bookworms with its big-box-store quantity, indie-store-style selection.
Christmas store Kathe Wohlfahrt is the legendary German ornament-maker’s only U.S. location.
In Interstate State Park, admire the basalt rock formations along the St. Croix River and hike the 1-mile Sandstone Bluffs Trail.
At dinnertime, enjoy a blend of Caribbean, Asian and Italian-American cuisine at Marx Fusion Bistro.
Can’t bear to leave town? The elegant Rivertown Inn (from $195) has nine guest rooms, all named for authors
More information: (651) 351-1717; discoverstillwater.com 
One big party
Do Germans have more fun? The people of New Ulm (95 miles southwest of Minneapolis) think so. The community celebrates its heritage with an annual Oktoberfest (October 3–4 and 10–11, 2014). Sample authentic German foods like schnitzel and landjaegers (pork and beef sausages) at Veigel’s Kaiserhoff, polka to live music downtown and shop for German goods. At Schell’s Brewing Company, quench your thirst with a classic pilsner and seasonal brews. (888) 463-9856; newulmoktoberfest.com