24 Best Things To Do in Red Wing MN 2023
Sitting along the Mississippi River, Red Wing Minnesota has been attracting Day Trippers from Minneapolis for years. At only an hour’s drive, it makes for the perfect southern Minnesota destination.
The riverfront, views, hiking and outdoor activities, architecture, and ding options are some of the reasons to bring you in. There are so many things to do in Red Wing MN, I dare you not to spend more time there.
Red Wing Minnesota is one of those small towns I’ve driven through a bunch of times and looked out the window in awe. I’ve always been so tired from my previous adventures that I could bring myself to get out of the car.
This time, it was going to change. I decided to play a whole day devoted just to things to do in Red Wing MN.
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Why is Red Wing so Popular?
Red Wing Minnesota is probably most famous thanks to the Red Wing Shoes. But settlers first started stopping in town because of its proximity to the Mississippi River.
The bend of the Mississippi River is said to be the sharpest navigable turn on the entire River, and its natural flood plain became an ideal resting stop.
The first inhabitants were the Dakota, settled at the base of Barn Bluff. Missionaries started arriving in 1837. By the late nineteenth century, riverfront trade was big, and soon came the railroad.
Today this riverfront town has been charming visitors on their day trips from Minneapolis.
Things to do in Downtown Red Wing MN
Red Wing has tons of fun things to do. From hiking Barn Bluff to catching a boat cruise down the Mississippi River. Or hit up a free sculpture garden or stand next to the worlds largest boot!
Let’s dive right into why Red Wing MN is a great day trip location:
Red Wing Historic Walking Tour
Some of the best towns I visit are the ones that are rich in history. I can spend hours just looking at the details that went into the construction.
Red Wing is unique in that it’s almost impossible to find something that is not a historic building. You’ll find 1890s Queen Anne Style houses, and wood ornamented rooflines along with the commercial buildings.
In order to help visitors, find out more about the homes, they have put together three different walking tours, each taking about 45 minutes to complete.
I recommend starting with the Downtown Historic District first. If you want a printed guide, stop by the historic depot or the Visitors Center.
Cruise Lake Pepin
During the summer months, set aboard the Pearl of the Lake and cruise Lake Pepin. Cruises take guests on a 90-minute tour of the lake.
The cruise is narrated by knowledgeable Captains who explain the geological features and history. Often times they spot eagles. The paddle boats have an upper deck allowing unobstructed views.
On weekends, you won’t want to miss their sunset cruise. Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time.
Hike to the top of Barn Bluff
Looking for the best view in town? You have to climb to the top of 340-foot Barn Bluff. Named for its resemblance to a barn, this bluff has been attracting visitors for a while now.
The bluff has multiple hiking options depending on your athletic ability. The north side is designed for experienced hikers because of its seep ledges and cable handrail.
The locals like to get up early and tackle this hill. Once you get to the top, make sure to check out the West and East Scenic Overlooks. You’ll see both Minnesota and Wisconsin from this vantage point.
The west provides a spectacular view of downtown Red Wing and the East gives a stunning view of Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River. Early morning keep your eye out for bald eagles and other raptors that like to soar in the jet stream.
Parking for the bluff starts under highway 61. Later in the day, the street will be lined with cars. Red Wing is in the process of creating parking and a new entrance to the trail that should elevate the problem. It looks like they should have it up and running by summertime.
One of the things to do in Red Wing MN is hiking Barn Bluff. Check out more details on the Barn Bluff hike: Barn Bluff in Red Wing MN: The Best Hiking Trail with a view
Does the thought of looking down on the city from scenic overlooks sound fun, but the hike doesn’t? Then you’ll want to go to Memorial Parks Scenic Skyline Drive.
The drive takes you right up to the top of the bluff, just west of Barn Bluff. The wooded drive has multiple stops and overlooks to explore. Each with trails and easy vantage points.
At the top is a 9-hole Frisbee golf course.
If you take the road down the historic Quarries, there are popular mountain bike trails to enjoy along with more overlooks. There are even a few hidden caves to explore.
See Related Post: Over 28 Fun Things to do in Stillwater MN
Biking in Red Wing
Red Wing MN is an amazing biking destination. Between all the history and scenic trails. It’s also ideal for bikers of all skill levels, so load up those bikes on your adventure!
Starting in downtown Red Wing at Levee Park, bikers can ride along the scenic Cannon Valley Trail. This trail is 20 miles and ends in Cannon Falls.
There trail is popular with runners, walkers, and inline skaters too. The Cannon Valley Trail also makes a stop in Welch, where riders can stop at the Bleu Dog Cafe or even down Welch Mill Tubing.
Make sure you are all geared up for your bike ride:
Hands-Free Phone Mount
Bike Storage to secure your valuables
Levee Park River Views
On a beautiful day, head out to Levee Park and sit along the Mississippi River. The park is situated between the Red Wing Depot and the Mississippi River.
Through the center of the park, you’ll find a paved recreation path connecting to the Cannon Valley Trail. There are also picnic tables.
My favorite part about Levee Park is taking your doughnuts from Hanisch Baker and eating riverside. It beats indoor dining every time. There is free parking just on the other side of the train tracks.
Anderson Center Sculpture Garden, Water Tower, and Art
The Anderson Center is a hidden treasure in Red Wing. The historic estate is that of Dr Alexander Pierce Anderson and his family.
He was a first-generation American Swedish who gained worldwide attention for developing Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice.
The home was a working farm and also where more than 15,000 cereal experiences were conducted for the Quaker Oats Company, including the puffing process.
In 1995 the Anderson Center at Tower view became a historic site. Inspired by the Anderson Family’s patronage for the arts, it houses art exhibits and a full-fledged sculpture garden.
It’s also recognizable by the water tower out front with an observation balcony.
Most people visit to see the Main Gallery of Art and its Permanent displays. They are open Wednesday – Saturday 11 am – 4 pm.
Tours are available by request of the interior and are customized to your interests. They also host artists in residence, providing them with studio rooms and accommodations.
They also have a sculpture garden out on the grounds. It’s free to enter and enjoy the creations. The gardens are open every day from 8 am to 10 pm. Thi sis one of the best things to do in Red Wing MN.
Gallery at the Red Wing Depot
The Railway Depot in Red Wing serves two purposes. First, it’s still an active railway. Amtrak makes two stops a day. If you are looking for a fun way to add to your things to do in Red Wing, traveling by train is one of them.
The depot was originally built by the Chicago Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad in 1904.
The city of Red Wing provided trackage concessions and the railroad agreed to construct this depot and donate money toward the construction of Levee Park. The railroad ended up donating $20,550.00 to the park.
The Classical-style depot building was designed by J.N. Nettenstrom. It is in such great shape, that you’d have no idea that it was over 100 years old.
The Red Wing Depot still has trains coming through. Next time you are up for a day trip, consider taking the train! Find out where else you can day trip by train by clicking here!
The depot is also home to the Red Wing Arts gallery. The gallery is on a mission to build a vibrant community ruled by the arts.
Their organization is responsible for much of the public art around town, including the murals. When you aren’t admiring their work around Red Wing, you can visit their Gallery inside the depot. It is open Thursday – Sunday 12pm – 4pm.
The Pottery Museum of Red Wing and Stoneware Museum
Aside from its famous boots, the next claim to fame for Red Wing is its Pottery. A German immigrant by the name of John Paul discovered a rich pocket of clay on the land he was going to farm.
As a potter by trade, he used clay to make the first Red Wing Stoneware. From there a company took shape, changing names a few times before finally becoming Red Wing Potteries.
Throughout the 150 years running, they made Dishware, Jugs, and even Sewer Pipe. As the needs changed so did the type of products produced. You can see a lot of the products made at the Red Wing Pottery and Stoneware Museum.
This is a free museum, just outside of downtown, and one of the fun things to do in Red Wing MN. There is also a retail store where you can purchase items and even take a factory tour. The official retail location is at 1920 Old West Main Street.
Inside the Pottery Museum is over 6,000 vintage pieces of stoneware. On exhibit is the “Red Wing Saloon”. Before prohibition, they produced many stoneware Jugs with liquor advertising.
One of the most fascinating pieces on the exhibit is the wall of discarded pottery. On the hill behind the Red Wing Pottery Salesroom was a graveyard of sorts of discarded and broken stoneware.
The museum is just down the street from the retail store at 240 Harrison St., Red Wing, MN 55066. They are open Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM Sunday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM and are free to the public.
The American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum
The American Ski Jumping Museum and Hall of Fame in Red Wing Minnesota documents the history and development of ski jumping from its origins in the early days of skiing to its prominence as an Olympic sport.
The museum contains a large collection of ski equipment, photographs, and memorabilia from the early days of ski jumping to the present day.
The hall of fame features some of the world’s best ski jumpers who have achieved success at the Olympic level.
Colvill Park in Red Wing MN
Colvill Park is a quiet oasis in the heart of the city and features a variety of trees and plants, a pond, a playground, and a basketball court. When brings most families the large playground equipment.
It’s the perfect place for them to unwind. The park is perfect for strolling around with its discovery garden and horseshoe pits!
Bay Point Park
Bay Point Park is a beautiful public park located in the heart of Red Wing, Minnesota, within walking distance from downtown.
The park offers a variety of activities for visitors, including fishing, kayaking, biking, and hiking. Bay Point park also features a playground and a pavilion for events. The park is well-maintained and provides a relaxing environment for visitors to enjoy.
Aliveo Military Museum
Aliveo Military Museum showcases artifacts from the military history of the area. The museum has exhibits on local military history, weaponry, and uniforms from all branches of the military.
There is also a gift shop with items related to Minnesota military history. Open Friday-Saturday10 am to 4 pm.
Red Wing Marina
If you are coming by boat to Red Wing, you need to stay at the Red Wing Marina is a great place to stay while visiting.
The marina has a great selection of slips for boaters, as well as a wide range of amenities to make your stay comfortable.
There are also several restaurants and shops nearby, making it the perfect spot to spend a day or two in Red Wing.
the Red Wing Marine Museum
For history buffs and lovers of boats and motors, a trip to the Red Wing Marine Museum is a must-do when in the city of Red Wing in Minnesota.
The museum contains a vast collection of historical boats and motors that take visitors back in time to the early days of boating in America.
The Red Wing Marine Museum is one of the main attractions in the city and is a perfect destination for anyone interested in the rich cultural and technological history of this region.
So, if you’re looking for a unique way to spend your time in Red Wing, don’t miss the opportunity to see the fascinating exhibits at the Red Wing Marine Museum.
Shopping in Downtown Red Wing MN
One of the big appeals to Red Wing is their amazing downtown. The historic buildings and ample parking make for a great downtown experience. Plus they have a bunch of cute stores you need to check out.
Red Wing Shoe Store and Museum
It’s often asked, is the town named for the boots, or are the boots named for the town? It’s the latter. Red Wing Shoe Company makes a lasting difference in people’s lives.
Established in 1905 to supply workers in industries like mining, farming, and logging with durable footwear, they have stood the test of time.
In the book, This Tender Land, when they were in need of new boots, all they wanted was Red Wing Boots. In Red Wing are their corporate offices and their flagship store, including the world’s largest boot.
The store is located directly across the street from the corporate office, next to the Duluth Trading Company. The boot took 80 leather hides and has 80 pounds of eyelets, 300 pounds of advice, and 1,200 feet of nylon rope for the stitching. It stands 16 feet high, 20 feet long and 7 feet wide.
When you are done getting pictures with the boot, head upstairs and take a look through the free museum and see what an impact the Red Wing Shoes have had on the world.
Downstairs you can shop in their outlet center. This is the top things to do in Red Wing MN.
With a name like UFFDA it’s hard not to go in. Minnesotan’s heritage is celebrated with everything and anything you can think of. From books to t-shirts and coffee mugs.
To ornate jewelry and Norse Mythology books and Vikings Statues. There is something in everyone’s price range. Even if you don’t find anything you have to take home with you, you’ll leave with a chuckle.
Red Wing Confectionery
For a sweet treat, you gotta stop by Red Wing Confectionary. They specialize in handcrafted chocolates. They had truffles in every flavor combination.
The first thing I noticed walking in was the overwhelming scent of coffee. I didn’t even know I needed one until I walked in. On hot days, they serve hand-scooped ice cream.
When they aren’t filling their shelves, they are creating special treats for events and parties. It’s one of the best places for sweet treats in Red Wing Minnesota and one of my favorite things to do in Red Wing MN.
Looking for more great Candy Stores around Minnesota? Visit one of the 16 of the Best Candy Stores in Minnesota
Goodhue County Historical Society
The Goodhue County Historical Society is a non-profit organization that aims to collect, preserve, and share the history of Goodhue County, located in southeastern Minnesota.
The society has a collection of over 20,000 objects and items that showcase the county’s diverse history, including exhibits on Native Americans, pioneers, agriculture, mining and transportation.
The society is headquartered in the historic James Hotel building in downtown Red Wing, MN, and is open to the public for tours, exhibits, and educational programming.
It is a great resource for anyone interested in learning about the rich history and heritage of Goodhue County and its people. The address of the society’s headquarters is 1166 Oak St, Red Wing, MN 55066.
Where to Eat in Red Wing MN
Part of the fun of exploring a new city is to taste their great food. Red Wing is a culinary delight, with one of the worlds best bakers and pizza shop. Plus they have craft breweries and wineries near by.
Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop
For breakfast, you have to head to Hanisch Bakery. They have rated the best bakery in Minnesota and serve up the pastries to back up that name.
Inside you’ll find a delectable collection of every kind of donut known to man. Want yours topped with cookies or M&Ms, they got them. Maple and Bacon, Bavarian Cream, or an Apple Fritter disguised as a cinnamon roll. Want a long john filled with marshmallow fluff? Yep, they have those too.
In addition to doughnuts, they also have fresh bread and other treats. Inside the bakery, in the next room over is coffee and traditional breakfast make hot to order. Don’t be surprised if there is a line.
Red Wing Brewery
With the help of fertile grain and shipping markets in Brainerd, Breweries popping up like crazy. 1867, the city once boasted a total of five breweries.
When prohibition hit, only one survived Red Wing Brewery, changing its product offerings to non-alcoholic malt beverages, before finally closing shop in the 1950s. 60 years later, Beer would make it back to Red Wing.
The owners, William “Norm” Norman and Scott Kolby began brewing in their home, with the idea to create what is today Red Wing Brewery. The brewery sits nearby the old brewery.
The brewhouse is small in comparison to other breweries in Minnesota, but the beer is produced and sold exclusively at the brewery, meaning you’ll get everything fresh.
Remmler’s Royal Brew, Red Wing Premium Beer, and Cokins Bavarian Red Wing Beer are three of the brands made that were made in the late 1800s for the people of Red Wing. In addition to beers, they are well known in Red Wing for their fresh-made pizza.
Did you know St Cloud made my list of great Spring Break destinations in Minnesota? That’s because they have an amazing selection of fun things to do. Find out who else made the list.
Kelly’s Tap House Bar & Grill
For American comfort food, you need to head over to Kelly’s Tap House. Inside you’ll find 83 taps, and over 30 Minnesota brews.
When they aren’t serving drinks, they are serving their famous wings and stone-fired pizza. Outside families and dogs enjoy sitting on the patio and enjoying Red Wing’s bustling Old West Main Street.
In a world where people like to eat before noon and take their families out, Kelly’s Tap House Bard & Grill is amazing.
Falconer Vineyards and Winery
For a quick escape from Downtown Red Wing, you need to head over to Falconer Vineyard Winery & Cidery. They focus on winemaking from grapes grown in the northern United States and those developed specifically for colder climates.
When they aren’t making wine, they are producing hard ciders from locally sourced apples. They serve wood-fired pizza with flavors like Grapes of Wrath and Loaded Potato. Sit out on their covered deck and enjoy views of the Red Wing Valley. Pets are welcome.
Where to Stay in Red Wing MN
Need more than a day in Red Wing, I don’t blame you. Thankfully Red Wing has a couple great accommodations to choose from, and none is more famous than the St. James Hotel.
St. James Hotel
While all the buildings in Downtown Red Wing are stunning, none compare to the St. James Hotel. Opened on Thanksgiving day in 1875, it became a first-class hotel with all the modern luxuries of the day.
With steam heat, hot and cold running water, and gas on every floor. It was filled to capacity almost every night thanks to the Railroad, and river.
Today the St. James Hotel is one of the most sought-after accommodations in Red Wing thanks to the luxurious accommodations and old-world service. Inside you’ll find fine dining, ballrooms, and more. Their rooms are still Victorian-styled and have a stunning view of the Mississippi River.
Did you know that the St. James Hotel is just one of many hotels in MN rumored to be haunted?
The Haunting Tale
Book at Satay in a Haunted Hotel
Pratt Taber Inn Bed and Breakfast
The Pratt Taber Inn is a restored 1876 Bed and Breakfast. Each room is filled with line-dried sheets, fresh flowers, and home-baked goodies.
Rooms all have a private bath and fireplace. Sit on the front porch and enjoy a nice glass of lemonade with a book.
Only have an Hour in Red Wing MN?
An hour is such a short time but you can still soak in some of the best things to do in Red Wing MN on your Day Trip. First, take a drive up to Memorial Park and view the overlooks.
Then find a parking spot in town and walk along the main street for a little shopping. Don’t forget to stop in and see the Red Wing Boot.
Take a quick stop at Levee Park before continuing on with your journey. Don’t forget to check out Frontenac State Park while you are in the area. It’s only 13 minutes south of Red Wing MN.
Some of the things to see from this adventure came right out of the book Day Trips from the Twin Cities. This was the book that inspired much of my Day Tripping and had me falling in love with Red Wing MN.