Alexander Mansion Bed and Breakfast
Plan your stay at the Alexander Mansion Historic Bed & Breakfast Winona 5 Mar 2013, 9:34 pm
Weekend Getaway | Brian E. Clark
High points of river city Winona
A birds-eye view of Winona, Minn., shows Lake Park (where the band shell offers free concerts every Wednesday night in the summer) with East Lake Winona in the foreground and the bluffs of Wisconsin on the opposite shore of the Mississippi River.
Art museum, bluffs stand out in river city
For a burg of less than 30,000 souls, Winona, Minn., might be considered an unusual spot for one of the country’s premier maritime art museums. (Then again, it is situated on an island in the Mississippi River and home to three universities.)
In any case, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous industrialist, the 6-year-old Minnesota Marine Art Museum features paintings by Paul Cezanne, Winslow Homer, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claude Monet and many regional artists. All have something of a watery theme.
“We have one of the finest Hudson River School, Impressionist and Modern collections in Middle America, which is quite remarkable for a town of this size,” said Andy Maus, the facility’s executive director.
Situated in 4 acres of gardens – which should begin blooming in a month or so – the museum also hosts as many as 10 exhibits each year, he said. They’ll include upcoming shows dubbed “Valor in Marine Art,” “150 Years on Minnesota’s Waters” and “Sacred Waters: Photographs from National Geographic Society.” Another will be the “National Exhibition of the American Society of Marine Artists,” which starts in May.
But this outstanding art museum at 800 Riverview Drive isn’t the only reason to visit Winona, which was founded in 1851 on a large sandbar between towering, 500-foot wooded limestone bluffs that make the upper stretches of the Mississippi so inspiring.
Winona also has other cultural attractions, including many examples of outstanding 19th-century architecture, plus festivals and outdoor activities focused on the river and surrounding countryside.
Things to do
The lumber industry made Winona one of the wealthiest – per capita – towns in the United States in the late 1800s. Visitors can see that legacy in more than 100 buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Winona Downtown Commercial Historic District represents Minnesota’s largest collection of Victorian commercial architecture on the Mississippi. Most of the buildings are Italianate or Queen Anne in style and date from 1857 to 1916.Walking tour brochures are available.
These remarkable buildings include the Prairie School-style Merchants Bank, 102 E. 3rd St.; and the Winona National Bank, 204 Main St., which has Egyptian Revival and Prairie School influences.
History buffs may also want to stop by the Winona County History Center, 160 Johnson St., to see artifacts and displays dealing with the region’s geologic, Native American and European history.
The Watkins Museum, 150 Liberty St., deals with one of the country’s original direct-sales companies.
Winona wasn’t settled by Poles, but waves of them – mostly Kashubians from the Baltic region – soon became the second largest ethnic group in the city. The Polish Museum, 102 Liberty St., showcases the influence Polish immigrants had on Winona’s development.
Poles also built the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka: 625 E. 4th St. Known locally as St. Stan’s, it is one of only two basilicas in Minnesota.
Garvin Heights Overlook and Park, 200 Garvin Heights Road, rises high above Winona and offers spectacular views of the city, the Mississippi River, surrounding valleys and Wisconsin to the east. When the weather warms, it’s a great spot for a picnic.
Garvin Heights Vineyards, 2255 Garvin Heights Road is on the way to the Overlook. Established in 2006, it is part of the Great River Road Wine Trail that includes wineries in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Great River Bluffs State Park is about 20 miles southeast of Winona at the junction of U.S. Highway 61 and I-90. The park contains oak, hickory and maple forests, as well as two scientific and natural areas: King’s and Queen’s Bluff. The King’s Bluff trail offers a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River Valley. Bring your binoculars because the river valley is a major flyway for waterfowl, eagles, and hawks.
Come spring, there’s canoeing and kayaking in Lake Winona on the west side of town. There’s a $5 fee to use canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards.
And if horses are your thing, the Minnesota Equestrian Center, 24621 Gilmore Valley Rd., will have numerous shows from March through November.
The Midwest Music Fest, April 18-20, attracts more than 70 bands and musical acts at various venues around the community to raise funds for local nonprofit organizations. It coincides with a celebration of Earth Dayalong the Mississippi.
The Bluff Country Studio Art Tour will run the weekend of April 26-28, with visits to galleries and artists’ studios. Artists will be taking questions and talking about their work. Some will be doing demonstrations.
Places to stay
Alexander Mansion Historic B&B, 274 East Broadway, is an 1886 Grand Victorian Tudor home.
The Carriage House B&B, 420 Main St., is an authentic 1870 carriage house in the heart of Winona. But this wasn’t just any carriage house. It had three stories and now features four guest rooms.
Village House Inn, 72 College Rd., is a charming, turn-of-the-century brick farm house with four guest rooms.
Windom Park B&B, 369 W. Broadway, is a classic 1900 Colonial Revival home with a Prairie School-style great room and fireplace. It has five rooms.
Places to eat
Bloedow Bakery, 451 East Broadway St., was listed in the March issue of Saveur Magazine as one of the 50 best doughnut shops in the country.
Betty Jo Byoloski’s, 66 Center St., serves burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, steaks and more.
Blooming Grounds Coffee House, 50 E. 3rd St.
Blue Heron Coffeehouse, 162 E. 2nd St.
Bub’s Brewing Co., 65 E. 4th St., is known for its burgers.
The Grill at Signatures, 22852 County Road 17.
Jefferson Pub & Grill, 58 Center St.
Lakeview Drive Inn, 610 East Sarnia St.
Signatures Restaurant, 22852 County Rd. 17.
Winona is about four hours west of Milwaukee via I-90 and Highway 61. Train aficionados can get there from Milwaukee via Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which runs from Chicago to Seattle and Portland.
For more information on lodging, dining and other activities, see visitwinona.com or call (507) 452-0735. Come April 1, the city’s visitor center will open at 924 Huff St.
Brian E. Clark is a Madison writer and photographer.