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BEST DAY TRIP

Winona Sugarloaf

They had big plans. You have to give them that. The land speculators and the traders, the paddleboat magnates and the faro hustlers. After they tore down their claim shacks on the river flats, they built in the permanent stuff—brick and locally quarried limestone. They threw up houses in the steamboat gothic style that looked like wedding cakes, decorated for kids who couldn't get enough icing. A few paddleboats made a port call every day; the railroads followed. The town's leading men constructed warehouses near the wharves that were as big as the profits they imagined for themselves. Good times, good times! There are a few dozen of these cities, seeded up and down the big, muddy river: Galena, Dubuque, Muscatine, Hannibal. The places that could have been Chicago. Of course, they weren't and they aren't. So what's left for the daytripper? To start, there's the lay of the land. No one is going to mistake Winona's Sugarloaf—a limestone bump rising some 500 feet above Highway 61—for its more famous cousin in Rio de Janeiro. But the mound left behind by decades of mining lends Winona a geological landmark to match the Victorian and Italianate architecture in the downtown—a collection of historical districts that are listed in the National Register of Historical Places. (The banks, as they so often do in these towns, project a kind of sober grandeur that probably gave Sinclair Lewis indigestion.) If you wind your way around Lake Winona, you can zigzag up to the bluffs where the new homes are going. Hidden up there, and best found by blind reckoning, is the 61-acre Garvin Heights Park, which provides a panoramic view of the rolling river valley. And at night? Well, it is only the fact that you can't drive right up to the edge of the overlook that keeps us from declaring this site the finest make-out spot in the state.

BEST ACOUSTIC PERFORMER House of Mercy

BEST ACTOR (FEMALE)

BEST ACTOR (MALE) Bob Malos

BEST AM RADIO PERSONALITY T.D. Mischke

BEST APPLE ORCHARD Fischer's Croix Farm Orchard

BEST ARCHITECTURAL RENOVATION OF AN OLD BUILDING Franklin Community Library

BEST ARCHITECTURAL SALVAGE Art+Architecture

BEST AREA PREMIERE Take Me Out

BEST BAR YOU CAN SMOKE IN Al's

BEST BARISTA Espresso Royale

BEST BARTENDER Michel Bechara

BEST BEACH Lake Harriet

BEST BIKE TRAIL Elm Creek Park Reserve

BEST BLOG (LEFT-WING) Minvolved

BEST BLOG (PERSONAL) Driver2165

BEST BLOG (RIGHT-WING) Nihilist in Golf Pants

BEST BLOG (SPECIALTY) MN Beer

BEST BOONDOGGLE

BEST BOWLING ALLEY Elsie's Bowling Center

BEST BOXER Jason Litzau

BEST BROKEN PROMISE

BEST CAREER MOVE Kirby Puckett

BEST CHARITY Minnesota AIDS Project

BEST CHEAP THRILL Meth

BEST CHOREOGRAPHER Uri Sands

BEST CLUB DJ Karl Frankowski And Jeff Dubois

BEST COACH John Gagliardi

BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE Cole Konrad

BEST COLUMNIST Katherine Kersten

BEST COMMUNITY-BUILDING CAFE LoTo - CLOSED

BEST CORPORATE CITIZEN Kevin Garnett

BEST CRIMINAL Joshua Gardner

BEST DANCER Mary Ann Bradley

BEST DIRECTOR Peter Rothstein

BEST FISHING HOLE Northeast Tip of Pike Island

BEST FM RADIO PERSONALITY Dan Donovan

BEST GADFLY Ed Morrissey

BEST GAY BAR, BEST LESBIAN BAR The Town House

BEST GOLF COURSE Inver Wood Golf Course

BEST GYM YWCA

BEST HELLRAISER OR ACTIVIST GROUP Communities United Against Police Brutality

BEST HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE Tayler Hill

BEST HIP-HOP ARTIST I Self Devine

BEST HIP-HOP DJ Willy Lose

BEST JAZZ ARTIST Phil Hey

BEST LIBRARY Minneapolis Central Library

BEST LIVE ARTIST Birthday Suits

BEST LOCAL BOY GONE BAD Dean Zimmerman

BEST LOCAL BOY MADE GOOD Dante Culpepper

BEST LOCAL CHEF Tim McKee

BEST LOCAL GIRL GONE BAD Nicole Helget

BEST LOCAL GIRL MADE GOOD Nicole Helget

BEST LOFT OR CONDO PROJECT Le Parisien Flats and Marketplace

BEST LYNX PLAYER Nicole Ohlde

BEST MAKEOVER OF A TV PERSONALITY Cyndy Brucato

BEST MAYOR Randy Kelly

BEST NEW NAME FOR COON RAPIDS

BEST OPEN BAR/PATIO The Liffey

BEST PICNIC SPOT Prospect Park Water Tower's observation deck

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE Bryant-Lake Bowl

BEST PLACE TO BIRD-WATCH Avery's Sandhill

BEST PLACE TO CANOE St. Croix River

BEST PLACE TO DROP OFF YOUR KID FOR A WHILE Ikea

BEST PLACE TO DUMP SOMEONE Movie Theatres

BEST PLACE TO GET DUMPED Mall of America

BEST PLACE TO GET LOST WHILE RUNNING ERRANDS Bauer Brothers Salvage

BEST PLACE TO HIKE Interstate State Park

BEST PLACE TO ICE SKATE Centennial Lakes Park And Putting Course

BEST PLACE TO JOG

BEST PLACE TO LEARN TO DANCE University-Minnesota Dance

BEST PLACE TO MEET GAY FAMILIES Rainbow Families

BEST PLACE TO PLAY POOL Fat Boy Billiards

BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT OF TOWN GUESTS Minnehaha Park and Falls

BEST PLACE TO WASTE TIME PRODUCTIVELY Minnesota Historical Society Library

BEST POLITICIAN Mike Hatch

BEST PUBLIC PARK Fort Snelling State Park

BEST PUBLIC RESTROOM Ike's Food & Cocktails

BEST R&B ARTIST Mick Sterling

BEST REASON NOT TO MOVE TO THE 'BURBS

BEST ROMANTIC BIKE RIDE Midtown Greenway

BEST SIGN OF SPRING

BEST SIGNAGE Murray's Restaurant And Cocktail Lounge

BEST SONGWRITER P.O.S.

BEST SPORTS TALK RADIO HOST Dan Barreiro

BEST STATE FAIR ATTRACTION 4-H Competition

BEST STRIP CLUB The Double Deuce

BEST SUBURBAN LAKE AREA Square Lake Park

BEST TENNIS COURTS Bassett Creek Park

BEST THUNDER PLAYER Brett Branan

BEST TIMBERWOLVES PLAYER Kevin Garnett

BEST TV NEWSCASTER Julie Nelson

BEST TV SPORTS ANCHOR Eric Perkins

BEST TV WEATHERPERSON Paul Douglas

BEST TWINS PLAYER Carlos Silva

BEST VILLAIN Tim Pawlenty

BEST VOCALIST (FEMALE)

BEST VOCALIST (MALE) Robert Robinson's

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY Superior Hiking Trail