Stillwater has so many options for a fun-filled Fourth of July holiday that it’s hard to choose how to spend the day. A few things are on the must do list, though.Start off with a stroll along the St. Croix River in Lowell Park to see the historic Stillwater lift bridge up-close. It’s the most photographed site in the area. You will see many boats cruising up and down the river, but toward the evening they will secure spots for the fireworks display.
When you’re ready to hit the shops, the best plan is to go up one side of Main Street and back down on the other, poking your head into any of the shops that you find appealing. If you’re an antique lover, you’ll want to spend time on the north end of Main Street at Staples Mill Antiques. If you travel further south on Main Street you’ll find cool little shops like Alfresco Casual Living, Stillwater Olive Oil Company, 45 Degrees, and many others. There are also a few art galleries tucked in between the shops and restaurants.
With all of the shopping you’ve done, you may be getting hungry. River Market Community Co-Op is the perfect place to find picnic foods to enjoy in Lowell Park. After you’ve had your lunch, another must do is to get out of downtown and up to some of the very charming neighborhoods on the north or south hills. Stillwater was home to lumber barons in the 1800’s, which means a lot of the older houses and B&B’s are very grand homes. If you’re up for climbing the 157 steps, the Main Street stairs on the south end of town will take you to the south hill neighborhoods and give you a bird’s eye view of Stillwater. The steps behind the Warden’s House Museum on the north end of town will take you to Pioneer Park. If you’ve got little ones with you, you have to take them to Teddy Bear Park. It’s the cutest darn park you’ve ever seen, with a giant teddy bear statue that your kids can climb on.
You absolutely must not leave Stillwater without a trip to Nelson’s Ice Cream, and after climbing all of those steps you will deserve it. In business since 1923, Nelson’s has been the ice cream parlor in Stillwater for decades. They are known for their unbelievably huge ice cream cones. I am not kidding when I tell you to order a child’s cone and ask them to make it small if you want a regular sized portion! On the other hand, if you are really into ice cream, you will want to order The Lumberjack with five softball-sized scoops. With flavors ranging from plain old vanilla to pirate’s booty, Nelson’s has something for everyone. Be warned, though, that Nelson’s is an extremely popular place, with a line often out the door and to the corner.
If you haven’t spoiled your appetite for dinner with all that ice cream, head back downtown and you’ll have many dining options. From pizza at QuickFire Pizza or Grand Pizza, to burgers and malts at Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop, to fine dining at Marx Fusion Bistro or Dock Cafe, there is something for everyone to eat in Stillwater.
And for the grand finale of your day — the Fourth of July fireworks. Stillwater’s annual holiday display, complete with choreographed music, is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. With Stillwater’s two hills and lovely waterfront park, there are many excellent places to view them from. My personal favorite is from one of the Stillwater River Boat cruises. You can get a great meal and a scenic ride up or down river and be back near the dock in time for the big show. Wherever you choose to watch the fireworks from, be sure to secure your viewing spot early.
Regardless of what activities you chose to do, I know you will think back on the day you spent in Stillwater with fond memories and plans to return another time to experience more of what this great little Minnesota river town has to offer.
By Dianne Swanson