A pedal along the Root River reveals southern Minnesota’s finest—scenic landscapes, food and drink, even native trout. A professional theater and arts galleries round out a weekend stay.

By The editors of MidwestLiving.com
November 07, 2012
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Due to possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.

Most visitors come to Lanesboro for the trail system. Lanesboro (120 miles southeast of the Twin Cities) stands at the heart of the area's paved multi-use trails, including the 42-mile Root River Valley Trail and the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Trail. Many travelers bring their own bikes, but you also can rent them at the Little River General Store (lrgeneralstore.net). Be sure to get a trail map before heading out (rootrivertrail.org). Art galleries, a seasonal farmers market and a professional theater round out a weekend trip here.

Root River State Trail.

What to do

The Commonweal Theatre The professional theater is known for comedies, family shows and musicals.  Look for programming to return in 2021. commonwealtheatre.org

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park Tours of Minnesota’s longest cave, west of Preston, range from a ¾-mile stroll to a four-hour crawl-on-your-belly expedition. Above ground, you can explore tallgrass prairie, bluffs and the village of Forestville restored to its 19th-century appearance. exploreminnesota.com

Lanesboro Arts Juried Sales Gallery See works by more than 90 artists from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, including beautifully displayed photography, jewelry, ceramics and literature. lanesboroarts.org

Lanesboro Farmers Market Held seasonally at Sylvan Park, the market has vendors representing some of the region’s 1,500 farms. lanesboro.com

Little River General Store Rent a bike here or book a shuttle that will drop you and your bike in one of the trailhead towns so you can ride back to Lanesboro. Canoe and kayak rentals are available as well. lrgeneralstore.net

National Trout Center A self-guided 9-Hole Fishing Course in Preston introduces anglers to a 0.8-mile stretch of the South Branch Root River, where fish hide in spring-fed pools and swift currents. Gear rentals and workshops are available. nationaltroutcenter.org

Niagara Cave Visitors to one of the Midwest’s largest limestone caverns—and its nearly 60-foot waterfall—should pack sweatshirts: It’s a constant 48 degrees at the Harmony attraction. niagaracave.com

Root River bike Trails The 60-mile system connects nine communities, with Lanesboro at its heart. Along the trails, watch for wildlife, barns dotting the countryside and scenic river overlooks. A bike-share program in five towns lends bikes for free. rootrivertrail.org

Root River State Water Trail Canoe, kayak or fish along the Root River, which has no major rapids. rootrivertrail.org

Windy Mesa Browse Navajo, Hopi and Zuni jewelry and art. Check out the unique collection of horsehair pottery; this beautiful style of Navajo art uses horsehair in the firing process, creating a marblelike finish. Windy Mesa on Facebook

Where to eat

The Bite Fuel up for your ride—or celebrate the end of one—with hearty portions of sandwiches, salads, house-made potato chips and desserts listed on chalkboard menus. The Bite on Facebook

Estelle’s Eatery and Bar At the modern cafe in Harmony, beef comes from a farm down the road. Try it as a burger dressed up with goat cheese, arugula and blackberry jam. estelleseatery.com

High Court Pub Sample seasonal flatbreads, cocktails and craft beer. Prime patio seating overlooks the river. highcourtpub.com

Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe Try the huge cookies and sticky buns at this small-town cafe with an upscale edge. Lunch sandwiches are good too. Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe on Facebook

Old Village Hall Restaurant This mainstay has a deck overlooking the Root River Bike Trail. When it’s in season, try the morel mushroom and chopped sirloin soup. oldvillagehall.com

Pedal Pusher's Cafe and Coffee Bar Burgers, grain bowls and vegan sausage with locally sourced ingredients rule here. Try the homemade draft root beer or have a Minnesota craft beer. pedalpusherscafe.com

Spud Boy Diner It’s all about comfort-food breakfast and lunches in a restored 1926 wooden dining cart. nydiners.com

Where to stay

Cedar Valley Resort Five miles east of Lanesboro, well-appointed cabins, each with multiple bedrooms and easy access to the Root River Trail, make family reunions a breeze. cedarvalleyresort.com

Cedar Valley Resort.

Habberstad House The just-renovated Carriage House and third-floor Amish Suite sparkle at the 1897 Queen Anne Victorian, which has four other suites as well. habberstadhouse.com

Habberstad House.

Iron Horse Outfitters and Inn The four rooms embody steampunk style above a motorcycle shop. Ask about scooter rentals or a tour on the region’s backroads. ironhorselanesboro.com

Old Barn Resort Between Lanesboro and Preston, the property offers a campground and hostel, plus a golf course and pool. The namesake barn houses a restaurant and music venue. barnresort.com

Stone Mill Hotel and Suites Guests stay in one of 13 themed rooms created in an 1885 feed mill; some rooms preserve original mill equipment inside. stonemillsuites.com

For more information visit Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce. lanesboro.com