Get out and shop
Up and down the river valley, eager shoppers are treated to everything from one-of-a-kind chocolatiers, antiques and specialty gift stores in quaint downtowns to retail shopping complexes.
In downtown Hudson, Wis., for example, unique shops line each side of Second Street. Similar settings play out in Ellsworth, Wis., River Falls, Wis., and New Richmond, Wis. Farther south in Wisconsin is a hidden treasure, the tiny town of Stockholm, where arts abound.
On the Minnesota side of the river, Hastings, Farmington and Red Wing boast idyllic settings with big beautiful brick buildings lining the roadways. The insides of the buildings are just as unique, with small business owners each having their own approaches to offer shoppers. Either way, each downtown would be perfect for a day trip - there's a lot to be seen, and a lot to be eaten.
If downtowns here appear to be having a revival, it's not a mirage. While many downtowns were plowed under for "urban renewal," in the mid-20th century, those in the river valley have survived as well-preserved glimpses of our past. Even better is that many of those buildings are filled from floor to ceiling with unique finds and personalized service.
Each community has its own chamber of commerce, and they are all great resources to begin with if you are interested in traveling to a new town for the day. Many of the downtowns have summertime events planned, ranging from unique car shows in Hastings, Minn., to an art festival in River Falls, Wis.
If you are seeking out major retailers, all the while staying outside during our brief summer, consider Woodbury Lakes in Woodbury, Minn. While the buildings are new, the setting is similar to that of a downtown, with big sidewalks and plenty of hustle and bustle. There are clothing stores for infants, teens and adults and gift shops, too.
Also in Woodbury is the expansive collection of shops known as Tamarack Village, located just south of Interstate 94 along Radio Drive.