Couples’ Weekend Escape to the St. Croix Valley
Good-bye, work week. So long, smog. Sayonara, city. It’s a summer weekend and the fresh air beckons. Time to take the scenic route with your honey and that playlist of your favorite love songs. Destination: the picturesque St. Croix Valley.
1. Art in the Open Air
Franconia Sculpture Park, Franconia, MN
At Franconia Sculpture Park, imaginations run wild. And you can, too. The natural grass-and-gravel landscape of the park is a far cry from the precisely manicured and carefully planned thoroughfares of a city art center. There is even a trail through the woods where works of art meld with the elements of the forest. The 43 acres of raw, untamed environment fosters inspiration for pieces just as adventurous as their surroundings.
Forty resident artists a year come from all over the globe with various levels of experience to create sculptures on a massive scale—pieces that you can touch, climb on and interact with. Admission is free and the park is open 365 days a year, from dawn until dusk.
2. Rolling on the River
Scenic Riverboat Tours, Taylors Falls, MN
For more than a century, riverboats have traversed the waters of the St. Croix River, visiting the logging towns along its banks. The tiered white vessels with their ornate smokestacks and huge red paddlewheels offered an affordable yet luxurious way to travel. Today, the Taylors Falls Queen and the Taylors Falls Princess tour the waters for fun. The towns have grown up and the forests have matured since the logging era, but the world-famous rock formations remain as they were in the mid-1800s. The Old Man of the Dalles, Lion’s Head, Turk’s Head and St. Croix cross are optimally viewed from the river. Boats run daily with luncheon, dinner, history and special event cruises available by reservation.
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Canoe Trip, Interstate Parks to Osceola Landing
Connect with each other and harmonize with nature on a private paddle. After all, few things are more romantic than a boat made for two. Observe amazing basalt cliffs that tower over the water. Explore quiet, wooded floodplains abundant with wildlife. Discover hidden lakes. Further along, bluffs of sandstone hug the river and the Osceola Bridge comes into view marking the end of the nearly 7-mile journey.
3. An Amorous Amble
Stroll hand in hand through the woods like a couple in a storybook.
Ice Age Trail, St. Croix Falls, WI
It doesn’t take a geology buff to be awed by the fascinating landscape of the Ice Age Trail in St. Croix Falls. Following the retreat of the last continental glacier, the trail snakes through Wisconsin for almost 1,200 miles before reaching this western terminus. Hikers worldwide are drawn to the St. Croix Falls Segment for its protected woodlands, glacial potholes and eskers, graceful rock hops, lofty sandstone and basalt cliffs, and the scenic St. Croix River.
Interstate Park, Taylors Falls, MN
Interstate Park in Minnesota contains the world’s largest number of glacial potholes concentrated in a small area. Vigorous eddies of meltwater laced with sediment spun with such a force that they drilled into the hard basalt. The deepest measurable pothole on the planet, The Bottomless Pit, resides here and descends close to 70 feet. Sounds impressive, right? Wait ‘til you see ‘em. They’re an easy trail hike through the woods along the St. Croix River from the main park entrance.
4. Tunes with a View
Music on the Overlook, St. Croix Falls, WI
The summer months lure excited concert-goers outside in droves. There’s just something about live music in the open air that tantalizes the heart and entices the senses. Music on the Overlook, or MOTO as it’s known to the locals, seems like just another town square venue (free show, bring your picnic blanket or lawn chair)—until you get there. The unpretentious deck-board stage is mounted smack in the middle of a panorama of rural sky, untouched forest, and the whimsical waters of the St. Croix River.
The sounds of bluegrass, country, folk, rock-n-roll, reggae and more echo off the water in an open-air sound shell only Mother Nature can provide. Tempting aromas waft from local food vendors as they offer snacks throughout the show. After dark, colored floodlights vie for attention with the stars. The atmosphere is one of bliss, a feeling found only at summer concerts in the great outdoors.
See the full line-up here: Music on the Overlook.
5. Dining Al Fresco
Date-worthy dining in the St. Croix Valley. Two top-notch restaurants with outdoor seating earn the drive up on their own.
Tangled Up in Blue, Taylors Falls, MN
Eclectic and unique. It’s written right on the door and is an apt description of Tangled Up in Blue. True to its name, a barrage of blue décor awaits inside this cozy and intimate setting where patrons are treated with a friendly familiarity, like guests in a home. The ever-changing menu specializes in steak and seafood and introduces pleasant surprises with each visit. If the wait at the table seems a little on the long side, it’s only because the food is cooked up fresh at the point of ordering. Fans rave over the beef wellington and bananas foster, flamed tableside. Reservations are suggested, but not required.
Dalles House, St. Croix Falls, WI
Somehow, the Dalles House in St. Croix Falls manages to be both throw-back and contemporary: plush red velvet chairs and draperies (along with a few classic dishes) maintain a 1950s-era supper club vibe, while live music on Saturdays, innovative drinks and a menu for all palates keep the place modern. When Pioneer Press TwinCities.com asked readers to vote for their favorite area patios, the Dalles House made the list. Go for the ambiance and friendly service and stay for cocktails in the art deco-style lounge and bands on the outdoor stage.
The article "5 Outdoor Adventures for Two" was produced by Linda Shober Marketing & Design, and written by Karen Lawrence. Linda Shober Marketing & Design is located in the St. Croix Valley and speciales in providing content, strategy, management, design, and creative for digital and traditional marketing projects.
Top Photo: Hiking along the St. Croix River. Photo courtesy of Luminaries Retreat.