By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers

Winona, the Miami of Minnesota, is just far enough away from the Twin Cities to feel special, but close enough to make for an easy weekend escape. On our first ever solo trip without our kiddos, my husband and I enjoyed the walkability of Winona, its focus on local food, the unique independent stores in the downtown, and the fun college town vibes with easy access to the best of Minnesota’s outdoor recreation. 

These are my top five reasons to visit Winona:

1. Outdoor recreation: Soaring bluffs with clearly marked trails and rock climbing, fresh water access for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, winter ice park and ski trails, and a network of bike trails all within the reach of a highly walkable downtown packed with locally-owned restaurants and coffee shops to fuel you before and after your adventure. 

2. Unique museums and cultural centers: During our weekend enjoyed special exhibits at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, learned Minnesota’s spice  trade history at the Watkins Heritage Museum and Gift Shop, and discovered the influence of Kashubian and Polish immigrants at the Kashubian Cultural Center & Polish Museum. 

 3. A stop at the Winona County Historical Society is a must. The carefully curated exhibits offer background information on the Winona community, especially the distinctive architecture of the downtown area and the folklore of Princess Wenonah, a Dakotah princess for whom the city and the county is named. 

4. A chance to try something new—Have you tried axe throwing? The patient and knowledgeable coaches kept me on target at Minnesota Axe and Arcade. If Ms. Pac Man is more your speed than launching a spear, their vintage arcade is packed with games guaranteed to trigger all your nostalgia. 

Visit houseboats, stay at a historic B&B like the Alexander Mansion, get your antiquing fix. We have a long list of things to do on our next visit!

5. Wander Main Street—locally-owned restaurants, coffee shops, and stores. We especially enjoyed our stop at Yarnology to pick up some beautiful gifts for our crafty kiddos. The staff was so knowledgable with a great range of local and ethically-sourced products. My oldest kiddo loved the crochet hooks and yarn selection for her new hobby; we were grateful for the help to find the perfect gift.

With restaurants like Muddled Thyme, Sappori de Sicilia, Miya Japanese, Heirloom Seasonal Bistro, Blooming Grounds, and The Blue Heron, you’ll never go hungry.

Speaking of food…Did you know that Winona boasts over 50 unique restaurants? 

These were some of my favorite spots where we ate during our recent visit. All of these are easily walkable in the downtown area. 

Lunch: Cafe Sapori de Sicilia

This cafe features Italian fare from Sicily. Menu highlights are house-made pastas, giant sandwiches on pillowy fresh baked bread, a tempting gelato bar and a full espresso menu.  

Their breads are really stand out. We ordered focaccia with our meal. It was warm, richly herbed, and married perfect with the olive oil provided for dipping. We brought home a few desserts to share with our kiddos. Everyone was happy with that choice. 

The soups were full of flavor, warm, and cozy comfort food. Just what I craved on a damp and chilly day. 

Dinner: Muddled Thyme

Fun cocktail menu featuring bitters and extracts from Winona’s Watkins. My blood orange martini was beautifully balanced and flavorful.

The menu is packed with wood fired pizzas and lots of tasty shareables. We especially enjoyed the tomatoes with burrata and our Margherita pizza. 

The space itself is very welcoming and feels special. Sitting up on the balcony with a bird’s eye view of the whole restaurant and bar was a great way to enjoy the space. 

Dinner: Heirloom Seasonal Bistro

This family-run, seasonally-inspired, locally driven fast-casual restaurant sources from my CSA farm @featherstonefarmmn as well as other meat, bread, and produce sources from the Driftless region. Their rotating menu celebrates Minnesota’s seasons in a tasty way. 

Even their selections of beers and ciders were locally sourced!

I absolutely loved my Carbonara Bucatini. It was topped with fermented egg yolk shavings. It was rich and flavorful without the heaviness carbonara can have. Their elote fries are a crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. We also ordered a beet salad, which I came to like more with each bite. It was sweet, crunchy and savory. Definitely making the most of their local products. 

What are your favorite Winona spots? Where should we eat on our next visit? 

Portions of our trip to Winona were hosted by Visit Winona. 

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to discover the local makers who make Minnesota amazing!


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