BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY - 2005
It's one of those things you really should see if you live here: The glaciers that flattened much of Minnesota split at Red Wing, leaving behind a landscape worthy of Brueghel--a valley overlooked by dramatic limestone bluffs covered in trees. You can hike Barn Bluff for a view, as Zebulon Pike did in 1805, followed by Henry David Thoreau 55 years later. Or drive to the top of nearby Sorin Bluff to see it all from Memorial Park, more than a thousand feet above sea level. (Frisbee golfers know this peaceful spot as a course.) While you're there, why not stay a while? The richly historic Mississippi town between the bluffs, less than an hour and a half south of the Twin Cities by car, is a city known for Red Wing Shoes, massive antique malls, the reform school Bob Dylan sang about, and romantic bed-and-breakfasts (though you can also opt for the 130-year-old St. James Hotel). The place is festival central, and live music and plays can be taken in at the beautifully restored Sheldon Performing Arts Theatre. But the trip is worth it just for a chance to dine at Norton's, the wonderful contemporary American restaurant opened in 2003 by former Hüsker Dü bassist Greg Norton and his wife Sarah Norton, located just over the Eisenhower Bridge in Bay City, Wisconsin. With reasonable prices and a sophisticated international wine list (often chosen against Wine Spectator tastes), the cozy place evinces the best DIY values of Greg's old punk band--and, in a quiet way, just as much passion.