Backyard Getaways Makes a Run for the Border … the Wisconsin Border
Two cities, two states and one river are actually not all that far away from the northwest suburbs. Seventy-seven miles round-trip to be exact. Road trip season is a time to explore and the city of Stillwater on the St. Croix River is a good place to start.
“Stillwater is considered the birthplace of Minnesota,” said Miles Winslow, a Stillwater historian.
“You feel like you’re in a resort area,” said Lindsay Koepke of Wausau, Wis. “My gosh it’s so close to the cities.”
There is a huge wow factor when it comes to the scenic St. Croix.
“The river is beautiful,” Koepke said. “All of the eagles.”
There are postcard-like views everywhere and sometimes it seems like you have stepped back in time as riverboats float by.
“You feel like you are on vacation I guess 24-7,” said Austin Reese of Stillwater. “Everywhere around here is pretty good.”
Stillwater Traces History to Logging Boom
Miles Winslow is a trolley driver in Stillwater.
“We get people from all over the world coming here to take our tour,” Winslow said.
He’s also an expert on Stillwater’s rich history, which dates back to an era when lumber was king.
“I like to liken our boom to the gold rush of San Francisco,” Winslow said. “We didn’t have the gold obviously, but we did have the logs.”
The lumber barons profited from the logging business and built expensive European-style homes.
“A couple of the homes were part of the underground railroad,” Winslow said. “I’m really proud of that.”
Stillwater’s signature is a charming downtown with plenty of bars, restaurants and shops.
“I always compare it to Uptown,” Reese said, “but without all the crazy traffic and the really crazy drunk people.”
The Freight House is a city landmark. Its outdoor deck is a destination spot. Another cool place is Teddy Bear Park. This kid-centric playground is free and has places to climb and jump.
Wisconsin Border Leads to Popular Spot
When we left Stillwater, we hopped on the fabulous new bridge that spans the St. Croix. Goodbye North Star State, it’s now time for a pastoral drive through America’s Dairyland.
We wound up in Hudson where we discovered that the city has its own unique connection to the St. Croix as well.
“We’re busy,” said Andrew Kron the manager at Pier 500 restaurant in Hudson. “The stores are busy. The other restaurants are busy. There’s just a super fun vibe with the river and what downtown Hudson has to offer as a whole.”
Pier 500 has become trendy. The restaurant was jammed when we showed up for lunch on a recent Wednesday.
“There’s just a ton of character to the downtown,” Kron said.
Hudson and Stillwater are just nine miles apart. They share a river and are similar in many ways. But, they have their own identities.
“The biggest difference is we can get New Glarus beer here in Wisconsin,” Kron joked.
Competing businesses in downtown Hudson have a harmonious relationship.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit group that tends to feed off of each other,” Kron said.
This synergy has created quite a food scene and has made Hudson a go-to city.
“If we look at what’s down here we tend to check all the boxes on what people can get from a culinary experience in downtown Hudson,” Kron said.
Of course, being a border town means split loyalties – which is why Pier 500 takes no chances with their televisions on an NFL Sunday.
“We split them in half,” Kron said. “Half Viking and half Packer.”