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24 Family-Friendly Hours in Stillwater


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Two of my best friends live in the pretty river town of Stillwater, about a 30-minute drive from my house in St. Paul. Whenever I visit, I am overcome with Stillwater envy. There are plenty of really wonderful reasons to live in St. Paul, but there’s just something about Stillwater. It has this vibe, this energy, this unique beauty that leaves a lasting impression on you long after you leave. It’s like the cool kid who doesn’t try to be cool, it just is. 

I’ve been to Stillwater too many times to count, for celebrations like Lumberjack Days (which—boo hoo—has since been canceled), Harvest Fest, Oktoberfest, and girls’ nights out, but during the summer, I like to go to Stillwater because it’s a family-friendly close-to-home escape. The only problem is that we don’t spend enough time there. One of these days, I'm going to plan the perfect family day in Stillwater, and spend all morning, all afternoon, and all evening there. My 24-hours in Stillwater would go like this:

10:30 a.m.: After heading down Highway 36 toward downtown Stillwater—with the beautiful St. Croix River looming large on our right—we’d pass by The Freight House (the site of many fun evenings, back in the pre-kids days) and keep driving to Nelson Street, where we'd take a left, and go up the hill to Teddy Bear Park (on South Second and Nelson). The parking lot across from the park would be nearly empty. (This is my perfect day, after all. In a perfect world, parking is never an issue.) The park—with plenty of sand, slides, climbing structures, teddy bear sculptures, soft astroturf, and picnic seating—was designed for kids 7 and under, so nothing is too high to reach or too challenging to operate. My boys think it’s fantastic.  

Noon: After playing at the park, we would have lunch on the patio at Nacho Mama’s, followed by a little sweet treat from Tremblay’s old-fashioned candy store, or ice cream from the walk-up window at Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop. Even though we would be blissfully full, we’d still walk along the river (it’s too pretty not to!), watch the boats go under the lift bridge, and let the kids chase each other on the grassy riverfront lawn.  

3 p.m. on: We would go on a geocaching adventure (search the Stillwater zip code 55082), followed by an educational trolley ride (just like the one in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood!), and dinner at Brine’s, before heading to the AmericInn Hotel & Suites for some swimming and relaxing before falling asleep completely exhausted.

Next on the agenda = making this "dream" day a reality! 

Oh, Stillwater. You really are amazing. If you haven't been in awhile, I'd highly recommend a day trip.  

*Other Stillwater favorites include Belgium waffles or quiche at The Bikery, dinner or drinks at The Green Room or Domacin Restaurant & Wine Bar, and ice cream from Nelson’s, with a selection of 46 (!) delicious flavors.

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Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

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