From wine tastings to outdoor adventures, activities beckon throughout the region
Rochester, MN residents enjoy abundant attractions and activities, but now and then it’s nice to hit the road for a day or a long weekend. Fortunately, the Rochester region has much to explore. Here is a sampling of destinations, listed by the direction from Rochester you’ll need to go to find them.
North, Northwest, Northeast
Northwest: Grab your bike or put on your sneakers, cross country skis, hiking boots or inline skates, and head to the Douglas Trail, which runs from Rochester through Douglas to Pine Island. This 12.5 mile rail-to-trail, wide, paved and accessible, winds through some pretty farmland, forests and picturesque pastures. An adjacent trail is for horseback riding.
North: What do you call 20 people waterskiing? A crowded lake. What about 20 people waterskiing together in a four-level pyramid? An amazing sight that you can see from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Lake Zumbro in Oronoco. The skiing daredevils are members of the SkiDox Water Ski Team, a nationally known group that has been astonishing audiences for 56 years. Shows are at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. in August.
Keep driving north, to Red Wing, and spend a night at the distinguished St. James Hotel. Built in 1875, the iconic hostelry was the place visiting dignitaries stayed or stopped to dine. Today, fine dining still prevails, as well as live music, and the hotel can arrange bicycles, kayaking and more. Also in town, tour the Red Wing Shoe factory or the Red Wing Pottery works. Further north, in Welch, the Treasure Island Resort & Casino may not guarantee you good fortune at the roulette wheel, but will certainly turn your head with its Caribbean-themed restaurants and guest rooms.
Northeast: It’s no wonder that hundreds of Trip Advisor reviews say things like “spectacular!â€ and “Drive out of your way to see thisâ€ about the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. Here, learn everything you ever wanted to know about bald eagles and golden eagles. Live shows are at 11 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m. daily, and you can also join an eagle-watching field trip. In Lake City, let loose your inner Mark Twain and board the Pearl of the Lake, a replica of an 1800s paddlewheel river steamboat, for a serene cruise on Lake Pepin.
East, South, Southeast
East: Camp, picnic, bird-watch, hike, ski, geocache, fish for trout and learn about nature at Whitewater State Park in Altura. No matter when you visit this phenomenal 2,700-acre natural area, you’ll find something to engage you. Yes, you can even climb a fire tower.
Southeast: From the westernmost trailhead of the Root River Trail in Fountain, cyclists can meander east to Houston, passing through Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson and Rushford, with dozens of trailheads along the way. The trail takes you past the Bluffland Region’s rivers, streams and dramatic scenery and through historic downtowns, with plenty of picnicking, camping and exploring as you go. Check out the Old Barn Resort in Preston, and enjoy a campground, hostel and restaurant.
South: Okay, hiking isn’t everyone’s cup of…Merlot. So perhaps a visit to Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery in Spring Valley is more appealing. Daily wine tastings, food, special events and more make this a must-see. For somewhat noisier fun, head to Deer Creek Speedway, also in Spring Valley, for automotive thrills and chills most weekends, April through September.