These southern Minnesota towns could be siblings. Lanesboro, the little sister, is known for its bike trail through the Root River Valley and a lineup of 27 B&Bs (one for every 28 residents). Brother Northfield (95 miles northwest) has miles of forested trails and a bustling downtown with creative cafes.
A small-town cafe with an upscale feel, Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe sells sticky buns and delicious coffee.
Little River General Store rents bikes for riding the Root River Bike Trail.
The Old Village Hall Restaurant and Pub overlooks the bike trail; in spring, try a delish soup of morel mushrooms and chopped sirloin.
Shop for local and regional art at Lanesboro Arts, and sample fruity wines at Scenic Valley Winery.
Burgers of locally raised beef are a specialty at the family-oriented Pedal Pushers Cafe.
The 27-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 (95 miles northwest), visit Northfield Historical Society Museum, which housed the First National Bank that Jesse James’ gang tried to rob.
Coffee shop Goodbye Blue Monday bakes its own pastries.
You’ll find creative gifts at The Eclectic Goat, a bounty of art supplies at The Sketchy Artist and rows of fashionable clothing at The Rare Pair.
Fuel up with Bittersweet Cafe’s freshly prepared sandwiches, smoothies and baked goods before hiking Cowling Arboretum’s 10 miles of trails through wildflower meadows and forests.
For dinner, try plates of tandoori 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
Bring the Kids
Jesse James A foiled 1876 bank robbery in Northfield gives locals reason to celebrate Defeat of Jesse James Days the first weekend after Labor Day. Kids love it when volunteers reenact the James-Younger Gang raid with pistols and horses at the scene of the crime. djjd.org