Stillwater, Minnesota. It’s one of our favorite places to “get away” without really getting away.
For years, our family has visited Stillwater throughout the year for day trips, afternoon trips, evening adventures.
It’s a beautiful, quaint city along the St. Croix river, right at the easternmost border of Minnesota. It’s only about 30 minutes from the Twin Cities so that makes it an easy, quick trip.
One thing I really like about Stillwater is how it’s perfect for any kind of visit…romantic getaways, family fun, girlfriend outings.
And it reminds me of my hometown – Duluth, Minnesota – in so many ways. Walking along the river, the tour boats, the lift bridge…the many restaurants and hotels with river views…the gift shops galore…it both feels like home and like a vacation at the same time!
But after many years of day visits, my kids and I decided to visit for an overnight to get the full vacation experience!
Kari’s Create & Paint Studio
We started our Stillwater staycation at Kari’s Create & Paint Studio which is downtown. Here you can walk in or make an appointment to paint canvas or pottery.
And no you don’t have to know how to do any of it!
They have a lot of pottery to pick from- plates, mugs, decor – even Star Wars pieces!
My daughter picked a llama mug to paint and glaze.
There were a ton of options for what you could paint on canvas.
I picked a “Paris at Night” scene which took about an hour and a half. I had no idea what I was doing – but I followed the instructions they provided me, and I think it turned out ok! And I have no artistic skills!
Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop
Next we went to Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop, a 50’s-style diner that we’ve loved for years. It’s a super popular place for families like ours! It has burgers, malts, ice cream, and even mini donuts! We ate inside which is best for the nice 50’s atmosphere, but you can also order for takeout or curbside pickup.
After dinner we headed to our hotel, the AmericInn of Stillwater.
It’s just off of Highway 36 near many restaurants and stores, yet tucked away enough so it’s secluded and quiet.
We had a double queen suite which was very clean and comfortable. Amenities include a pool and hot tub so it’s perfect for families.
We definitely enjoyed the pool and hot tub that night, followed by some relaxing in bed…zzz…
The AmericInn of Stillwater offers a lot and my kids would agree it has everything kids love!
The Main Cafe
The hotel provided a free breakfast to go which held us over until checkout, which was at 11:00am, and then we headed to downtown Stillwater to walk around and shop!
We had brunch at The Main Cafe which has many hearty meals like eggs and pancakes.
Then we went to some stores like the Valley Bookseller. My kids enjoyed the teen/tween books and I picked up a coffee drink from the Daily Grind Expresso Coffee Shop right next door.
Then we checked out some gift shops, clothing shops, and of course…candy shops!
Did you know that Stillwater has trolley tours?
They just started up for the summer and are offered daily at various times. They’re 45-minutes and include a tour guide who talks about the history of Stillwater, from its wealthier lumberjack days to the present.
We loved our tour! It went all around the city, up and down steep hills (Stillwater is a VERY hilly city) and we learned about many mansions and historic sites. Plus we got some amazing views!
Stillwater is a very interesting city and my kids and I were captivated by all we learned.
Prices are $13.50 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and the military, $7.50 for kids ages 2-17. They don’t recommend kids under 3 ride the trolley though – the history is probably not of much interest to little ones! But for older kids it’s fantastic and very educational. Learn more on their website.
The St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail
The St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail is a NEW 4.7-mile trail that just opened up in 2020! It’s part of an interstate trail between Houlton, Wisconsin and Stillwater, Minnesota. It’s open to pedestrians and bicycles and crosses both the new St Croix Crossing Bridge and the historic Lift Bridge.
It’s beautiful and scenic – perfect for a beautiful day! We rode our bikes during our stay but it was a bit chilly so we didn’t do the whole trail but are coming back on a nicer day.
The trail is open from April 30th to November 1st and you can find maps here.
Nelson’s Ice Cream
Of course, no trip to Stillwater should be complete without a visit to Nelson’s Ice Cream!
We had heard about it over the years but honestly had never tried it – you definitely have to! The portions are HUGE!
This is a child-sized cone! They make the ice cream so sky high – and yes they have bigger portions! (Don’t worry – they give you a cup over it so it doesn’t fall over!)
And there are the highlights of our Stillwater visit!
There was a little bit of everything…yummy food, history, shopping, relaxing…and beautiful scenery!
Oh…and plenty of photo opportunities!
And of course – for kids there’s Teddy Bear Park! Check out my article about that from a while back.
Have you been to Stillwater?
What are your favorite things to do there?
There are literally a TON of things to see and do. Every time we visit we discover something new!
Learn more on the Discover Stillwater website, and thank you to Discover Stillwater for coordinating this wonderful visit for us!
More fun nearby
For more fun not very far away, visit Franconia Sculpture Park, Fawn-Doe-Rosa, and Taylors Falls, all about 30-45 minutes north of Stillwater!
For ALL the Minnesota fun, including an interactive spreadsheet that you can search by region, check out my guide: