BEST DAY TRIP - 2010
Is there a more versatile one-day destination than Red Wing? The charming little town of about 16,000 seems able to mold itself to any day-trip agenda. For one thing, it's only an hour and 15 minutes from either of the Twin Cities, which gives you all day to play and is close enough to beckon even on a whim, without the dread of a long drive home. If you're looking for a mellow getaway, spend a quiet day browsing its famous antique and pottery shops, poking through the farmers' market (open seven days a week in summer), or sauntering along the riverfront watching boats cruise through the marina. If you need to get the blood circulating, hike to the top of Barn Bluff for a picnic and spectacular views of Red Wing and the Mississippi as it widens into Lake Pepin. For a bit more exercise, Frontenac State Park is just 20 minutes downstream, with equally thrilling views, or pedal along one of the state's most eye-popping bike paths, the Cannon Valley Trail, which runs 20 miles along a river and through farmland from Red Wing to Cannon Falls. In keeping with the town's versatility, Red Wing's pleasures can be had year-round, including eagle-watching on Lake Pepin in early spring, leaf-watching in late autumn, and cross-country skiing along the Cannon Valley Trail in winter. At the end of the day, treat yourself to a meal at Norton's Downtown and Lucky Cat Lounge on Main Street, where a boldly flavored, globally inspired menu ranges from duck confit and Cuban roast pork to a Saigon sub and lamb burger. If you tire of quaintness, head 20 minutes up the road to Treasure Island Casino for an indoor adrenaline rush. Or if you can't get enough of the town, bed down at the historic, 135-year-old St. James Hotel and spend another day.