Selected in 2010 as one of the Best Old House Neighborhoods by This Old House magazine, St. Cloud is steeped in history and tradition, yet maintains a laid-back college town vibe. Known as The Granite City, St. Cloud is filled with regal granite architecture, from churches to city buildings to accents on impressive homes. The drive north from Minneapolis–St. Paul is also impressive, with recommended stops at either the Haehn Museum at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, or a rest stop at Saint John’s University to view The Saint John’s Bible and buy a loaf of Johnny Bread. On the drive north I’m always reminded that St. Cloud and the surrounding area is a fun-filled daytrip, and if I have time, a great leisurely weekend getaway. Here are just a few hot spots that I always enjoy checking out when I visit St. Cloud.
1515 Riverside Dr. S.E.
St. Cloud, Minn. 56301
No admission fee
While the Clemens Gardens are best during the summer months, no trip to St. Cloud is complete without a visit to one of the most romantic places in town. Virginia Clemens was wheelchair bound with multiple sclerosis for many years of her life, and over time her husband Bill donated not only money, but land to the city of St. Cloud for the construction of Clemens Gardens. Located across the street from the Clemens’ home, Bill provided Virginia a beautiful view of flowers and plants created in the finest European tradition. Today the garden is a peaceful stroll any time of year. Start at the Renaissance Fountain with Cranes, which was donated to the gardens by the Clemens’. The ornate 24 feet tall fountain is the largest public park fountain in Minnesota.
Hwy. 23 W. and Chapel Hill Rd.
Cold Spring, Minn.
Hours: Call 320-685-3280
Free admission, donation gladly accepted.
A physical representation of the power of prayer, Assumption Chapel, or what is fondly nicknamed “Grasshopper Chapel,” was erected in honor of something very Minnesotan – bad spring weather. In April 1877 the area was threatened by a devastating grasshopper plague, which would ruin the crops for a second year in a row. The governor of Minnesota declared April 26 a day of prayer, and the result was a good old-fashioned late spring snowstorm. The grasshoppers perished and the crops were saved. While not the original structure (the first wooden chapel was destroyed by a tornado in 1894), the current day chapel is made from area granite. Contact Saint Boniface Parish at the above mentioned website for information on seasonal hours.
Minnesota Fishing Museum
304 W. Broadway
Little Falls, Minn. 56345
Hours: April-December, Tues.-Sat., 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sun., 12:00-4:00 p.m., Jan.-March, by appointment
Admission: Family $15, Adults $5, Students (6-17) $4, children under 5 are free
The Land of 10,000 Lakes celebrates its love of fishing at this unique museum in Little Falls, just 30 minutes from St. Cloud. More than 10,000 antique artifacts are on display in a museum that celebrates four million acres of waterways in the state. Not only can you see lures from days past, but a cabin recreation and lake diorama are also part of the museum, in addition to a Minnesota record fish display.
Paramount Theatre and Visual Arts Center
913 West St. Germain St.
St. Cloud, Minn.
Paramount Theatre Hours: Based on performance times
Paramount Theatre Cost: Based on performance
Paramount Gallery Hours: Mon.-Fri., 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sat., 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Located in downtown St. Cloud, the Paramount Theatre opened in 1921 with the showing of the silent film, “Way Down East.” Today the spirit of the Paramount is still alive, with entertainment year ’round. Beginning Nov. 19 the Paramount will host holiday shows including A Christmas Carol, Lorie Line’s Christmas Bells a Ringing, The Nutcracker, The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas, George Maurer Group and Rock and Roll Christmas. Check the Paramount website or box office for prices, dates and times.
Bravo Burritos Mexicatessen and Bar
68 33rd Ave. S.
St. Cloud, Minn. 56301
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
If you like Chipotle, you will probably love Bravo Burritos. Burritos are king, but tacos, nachos and specialty plates make up an extensive menu. I prefer the vegetarian burrito, but the combo burrito might be more your style, with three slow-roasted meats, rice, beans and two cheeses (never fear, you have the choice of eight different meats to stuff in your burrito). Bravo Burritos is a great lunch or dinner option, but bring your appetite.
Stearns History Museum
235 33rd Ave. S.
St. Cloud, Minn. 56301
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sun., 12:00-5:00 p.m.
Cost: Adults $5, Children $2
With two floors of exhibits, the Stearns History Museum explains why St. Cloud is The Granite Capital of Minnesota. A model of a 1930 working quarry speaks to the history of the working Granite City. There is a children’s room for ages 4-7 that teaches about commerce, and in the museum’s theater several shows review everything about St. Cloud, from the impact of the Mississippi River to the industrial history of the town.
Cold Spring Bakery
308 Main St.
Cold Spring, Minn. 56320
Hours: Mon.-Sat, 6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
It might sound a little far, but driving 20 minutes west of St. Cloud for baked goods like turtle buns, mint chocolate brownies or glazed donuts will feel like a moment in time once you bite into one of the delicious varieties. Our family favorite is salt sticks. A combination of half doughy breadstick and half crunchy breadstick with chunky Kosher salt, they are an easy snack for the road.
The Red Carpet
11 5th Ave. Street S.
St. Cloud, Minn.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 4:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m., Sat., 3:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m., Sun., 8:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
If you are traveling without the kids, you can kick it up at The Red Carpet for the night. A legendary music venue in St. Cloud, The Red Carpet sits in the heart of downtown, and is a close walk from several hotels and restaurants. There are five bars and numerous stages, ranging from an elegant martini bar to a garage rock bar in the basement. You can play pool on the upper level, dance to a DJ in Club Red or catch a national touring act in the Band Room. The cover charge is typically $3-5 and allows you to watch any band in the house.
Colleen McGuire is a digital marketing communications professional and author of the blog, Travel Snapshots. When she is not touring the Twin Cities for interesting festivals and events, she is wandering the world with her camera and iPad.