Located in southeast Minnesota, Winona is nestled in scenic bluff country along the Mississippi River. Known for its picturesque vistas, abundant parks, historic sites, and stunning architecture, the city is a natural oasis highlighted by an extraordinary history. The city’s downtown features 11 monumental blocks devoted to its architectural distinction from stone and stained glass masterpieces to remarkable basilica structures.

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1.Minnesota Marine Art Museum

Minnesota Marine Art Museum
© Minnesota Marine Art Museum

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) examines the historic and ongoing human relationship with water through consequential and educational visual arts experiences and exhibitions. A nonprofit education center and art museum, MMAM’s initial collection consisted of a massive accumulation of traditional marine paintings and a large number of folk artworks by Leo and Marilyn Smith. The collection has expanded throughout the years to include a variety of artworks from American and European masters such as Turner, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, O’Keeffe, and Cassatt. Today, there are more than ten historical and contemporary exhibits on display. They define what marine art is and push the boundaries of what marine art can be.

800 Riverview Drive, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-474-6626

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2.Garvin Heights

Garvin Heights
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Situated high in the sky atop a towering bluff, Garvin Heights is a stunning overlook surrounded by beautiful, verdant, oak savanna and a restored goat prairie boasting scenic views from Mount Trempealeau to Lake Pepin. On the clearest of days visitors can see over 30 miles of the sprawling city of Winona and Mississippi River Valley. To reach the lookout, visitors will have to drive, bike, or hike up the bluff for a mile and a half. The latter is done via a well-maintained, but winding trail that climbs up the bluff side, reaches a flight of stairs, and ends with a dirt path that curves along the edge of the bluff.

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3.Lake Park

Lake Park
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Lake Park is a charming city park surrounding the lovely and serene Lake Winona. It’s most prominent feature is a five-mile long blacktop trail that runs along the city’s south side and circles both areas of the lake. The route provides some truly extraordinary views of the Park as well as the surrounding neighborhoods and bluffs. Visitors can walk, bike, or in-line skate on the trail. Lake Park is also home to Veteran’s Memorial Park, a tranquil beach with boat dock, playgrounds, a winter skating rink, sport fields, a Frisbee golf course, picnic areas, a band shell, and a rose garden with adjacent gazebo. Visitors are allowed to kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, and fish on Lake Winona.

W Lake Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-457-8258

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4.Great River Bluffs State Park

Great River Bluffs State Park
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Nestled in the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest, Great Bluffs State Park is a quiet, remote park roughly 20 minutes southeast of Winona where U.S. Highway 61 and Interstate 90 connect. Located in Minnesota’s bluff country, it features scenic bluff top views of the majestic Mississippi River valley offering. It is also home to a hardwood forest, side-hill prairies, pine plantations, and old fields. The park is home to an abundance of rare and diverse plant and wildlife. It is popular for hiking, bird watching, and camping during the warmer months. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular during the colder months.

121 7th Place E, Suite 360, St. Paul, MN, Phone: 651-556-8465

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5.U.S. Highway 61

U.S. Highway 61
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U.S. Highway 61, commonly referred to as blues highway, is a sprawling scenic highway traveling through the heart of the United States. It spans 1,300 miles from New Orleans in the south to the bustling Twin Cities in the north, and on to the legendary Great Lakes ending at the Canadian border. Historically it served as more than just a road, it was an escape route for black Americans fleeing the rural south to establish new lives in cities like Memphis, St. Louis, and Chicago. It’s equally influential to blues history; several famous blues singers lived along its bordering communities and wrote songs about traveling it. Bob Dylan, Willie Dixon, and Artie White among them.

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6.Winona County Historical Society

Winona County Historical Society
© Winona County Historical Society

Founded in 1935, the Winona County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the rich history of Winona. This is done through three museums. The main museum, the Winona County History Center, is the home of their headquarters, various interactive exhibits, and the Laird Lucas Library and Archives. Visitors can see what it was like during the Victorian era and pioneer days at the Historic Bunnell House. Originally built for fur-trader Willard Bunnell, it’s an exquisite example of Rural Gothic Architecture. Guests explore the home with costumed guides encouraging them to participate in activities notable to the Victorian and Pioneer days. The Rural Heritage Museum is their latest addition it boasts several exhibits on rural life in Winona.

160 Johnson Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-454-2723

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7.Pickwick Mill

Pickwick Mill
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The Pickwick Mill is a historic gristmill built by Wilson Davis and Thomas Grant from 1856 to 1858. Situated on the banks of Big Trout Creek, it is one of the oldest mills of its kind in southeast Minnesota and was the first commercial mill west of the Mississippi River. Powered by a 20-foot water wheel, the six-story mill boasts a timber frame and was made using locally quarried limestone. Most of the original machinery is still intact and operable. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Pickwick Mill is now a museum showcasing its history through its exhibitions.

39238 Mill Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-457-0499

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8.Sugar Loaf

Sugar Loaf
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Arguably the most distinguishing landmark in Winona, Sugar Loaf is a towering bluff uniquely capped by a rock pinnacle situated along the Mississippi River. Created by quarrying in the late 19th century, the bluff rises above the junction of State Highway 43 and U.S. Highway 61. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the bluff, including its pinnacle, stands at nearly 585 feet above Lake Winona. Visitors flock to Sugar Loaf for its incredible hiking trails and magnificent scenic vistas of the lake, river valley, and magnificent city.

Corner of Highway 61 and Highway 43, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-452-0735

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9.Polish Cultural Institute and Museum

Polish Cultural Institute and Museum
© Polish Cultural Institute and Museum

Housed in a historic three-story building originally constructed in 1890, the Polish Cultural Institute and Museum is a cultural complex devoted to the preservation of Winona’s Kashubian Polish heritage. The museum is located on the first floor and contains several exhibits showcasing the life of Polish immigrants in Winona and the neighboring cities. There is also a gift shop adjacent to the museum where visitors can purchase clothing, music, books, and other imported artifacts from Poland. The cultural institute includes two nearby buildings, the Schultz House, a heritage house, and the Annex, an event hall featuring a 165-foot tall mural depicting the lives of Polish immigrants and the contributions the made to the city.

102 Liberty Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-454-3431

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10.Island City Brewing Company

Island City Brewing Company
© Island City Brewing Company

Island City Brewing Company is located adjacent to Levee Park, in downtown Winona. Housed in a former train transfer station, the 5,000-square-foot building was divided equally between the 15-barrel system brewhouse and the taproom. Showcasing its original red brick, the brewery has an old-world charm highlighted by a rustic, earthy décor. The taproom provides a mixture of beer hall tables, lounge chairs, couches, and traditional bar seating. They have eight select taproom tastings available, Docksider – a double IPA, High Forest – a red lager, and cellar bear – a blackberry saison among them. Tasting options change regularly, but many remain on tap for purchase.

65 East Front Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-474-2739

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11.Garvin Heights Vineyard

Garvin Heights Vineyard
© Garvin Heights Vineyard

Garvin Heights Vineyard is comprised of four acres of vineyards, a nearly 1,400-square-foot winery building with matching sized wine production cellar, and an almost 2,250-square-foot event center and production area. Currently, the vineyard produces more than 20 different wines from over 20 different grape varieties. A majority of them only feature one type of North American grape variety, La Crescent, Frontenac, Edelweiss, Sabrevois, and Marquette to name a few. The pastoral-style tasting room has an expansive outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard and the sprawling woodlands beyond. Tastings are available whenever the winery is open; guests can choose from a selection of more than a dozen of their current wines.

2255 Garvin Heights Road, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-474-9463

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12.John A. Latsch State Park

John A. Latsch State Park
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Located a little over 10 miles northwest of Winona, John A. Latsch State Park is a nearly 1,700-acre state park located along the Mississippi River. The park is made up of three steep bluffs that rise 500 feet above the river, Mount Hope, Mount Faith, and Mount Charity. Riverview Trailhead is the only marked pathway that travels through the park. It is made up of 592 wooden steps that climb for a half-mile, ending at the Mount Charity Overlook. Once there, trekkers be rewarded with scenic views of the Mississippi River, surrounding bluffs, floodplain forests, oak forests, and prairies.

U.S. Highway 61, Minnesota City, MN, Phone: 507-312-2300

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13.Winona Visitor’s Center

Winona Visitor’s Center
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The Winona Visitor’s Center is located at the bottom of Garvin Heights Park at the intersection of Highway 14/61 and Huff Street. Housed in an adorable brick building along the Mississippi River, the visitor center provides guests with important information about Winona. Their well-trained, knowledgeable, and friendly staff are available to offer counsel to visitors on all things Winona. Aside from their professional staff, the visitor center also provides several maps and brochures of the city to assist visitors in finding everything from a good cup of Joe to a thrilling river adventure. The center also features a small gift shop selling Minnesota and Winona souvenirs and apparel.

924 Huff Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-452-2278

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14.Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka

Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka
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The oldest Catholic Church in Winona, Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka is home to the Catholic Parish of St. John Nepomucene. Though the congregation dates back to 1871, the church wasn’t designed until 1893-94, and constructed in the winter of 1895. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Basilica boasts a Polish-Cathedral style. Its original structure featured a great golden dome, intricate stained glass windows, marble pillars, and a massive marble alter. Due to several unfortunate events throughout the years including a fire, the Basilica has been renovated several times. Currently it presents a red-brick edifice with white domes and towers, it still remains a striking structure in the city’s skyline.

625 E. 4th Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-452-5430

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15.Winona County Courthouse

Winona County Courthouse
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Originally constructed in 1889, the Winona County Courthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970 due to its local significance in the categories of government/politics, art, and architecture. Designed by renowned architect Charles G. Maybury, the courthouse has a Richardsonian Romanesque style with touches from the Victorian era. The latter can be seen in the contrast between the sandstone buffs and brownstone trim, as well as its twin towers and carvings. The exterior is equally impressive with French stained glass windows, carved red-oak woodwork, copper flashings, soaring 16-foot ceilings, and carved wood-mantled and tile fireplaces.

171 W 3rd Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-547-6310

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16.Latsch Island - Aghaming Park and Preserve

Latsch Island - Aghaming Park and Preserve
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Latsch Island-Aghaming Park and Preserve is located directly across from downtown Winona using the Main Channel Bridge. It is home to an unconventional community of homes that float, and the city’s marina. Located on a thin section of wild bottomland, Aghaming Park has 1,950 acres of some of the nation’s best preserved floodplain forest. Visitors are encouraged to don their long pants and hiking boots for day trekking through this incredible park. It’s an ideal place for bird watching. Back on the Island visitors can spend the day sunbathing on Latsch Island Beach, or paddling downstream to explore some of the channels inlets.

924 Huff Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-457-8258

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17.Bloedow Bakery

Bloedow Bakery
© Bloedow Bakery

Bloedow Bakery is a legendary donut shop and bakery located in a quaint white-brick building in downtown Winona. Originally opened in 1924 by Ernest Bloedow and his wife, Mary, the bakery was passed down through the family until Hugh and Mary Polus purchased it in 2004. Though Hugh wasn’t a blood relative, he was family. He worked as a baker there since he was 15 years old. A neighborhood spot, Bloedow’s still uses the same great recipes from nearly a century ago for their exceptional menu of donuts, pastries, rye breads, and homemade loafs. Their displays feature the classics like glazed donuts and sprinkled cookies, but they also serve baked treats like maple-bacon long johns and Bavarian cream-filled donuts.

451 East Broadway, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-452-3682

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18.Blue Heron Coffee House

Blue Heron Coffee House
© Blue Heron Coffee House

Blue Heron Coffee House is a charming corner café with a beautiful brick façade, and a classic yet modern interior. Vintage checkered tiled flooring is complemented with powder blue walls adorned with black, oversized menu chalkboards, and varying styles and colors of handcrafted wood tables and chairs. The coffee house also features a breakfast bar equipped with high-back bar stools as well as a quaint reading nook featuring a plush, patterned Chesterfield-style chair surrounded by large bookshelves. Known for their avocation of bio-diversity and sustainability they use locally sourced, seasonal ingredients whenever possible. This commitment to the environment and community means their diverse, made-from-scratch menu changes frequently. Customers can expect a variety of breakfast items, soups, salads, and sandwiches.

162 W 2nd Sreet, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-452-7020

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19.Acoustic Cafe

Acoustic Cafe
© Acoustic Cafe

Open since 1993, Acoustic Café is known for its award-winning service, great coffee, delicious food, and warm, welcoming, community-centered atmosphere. Housed in a beautiful red-brick building in the heart of downtown Winona, the café boasts an urban chicness with a rustic edge. Large, arched floor-to-ceiling glass windows bathe the eatery in natural light by day while funky and ornate light fixtures create a romantic, underground vibe at night. Design features include gorgeous hardwood floors, and stone and wood tables with chairs. Beautiful artworks adorn its honey-hued brick walls. Menu selections include house roasted coffee, espresso, a variety of smoothies, hot hoagies, salads, and soups, as well as home-made muffins, cookies, and honey-cracked wheat bread.

77 Lafayette, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-453-0394

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20.Bub’s Brewing Co Eatery & Saloon

Bub’s Brewing Co Eatery & Saloon
© Bub’s Brewing Co Eatery & Saloon

Housed in a stately, late 19th century building, Bub’s Brewing Co Eatery & Saloon is located in downtown Winona. Named after the historic Peter Bub Brewery, the second brewery to ever open in Winona County in 1862, the Brewing Co. Eatery & Saloon is dedicated to carrying on its predecessors legacy. They offer an extensive list of name brand draft and bottled beers, wines, and a few of their own home-brewed craft beers including Bub’s Amber Red, Bub’s Black Forest Ale, and Bub’s Golden. Each of their brews can be paired with their menu of Brewhaus burgers, chicken sandwiches, specialty sandwiches, wraps, and select entrees like their Steak & Shrimp Combo.

64 E 4th Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-457-3121

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21.Blooming Grounds Coffee House

Blooming Grounds Coffee House
© Blooming Grounds Coffee House

Nestled in the heart of downtown Winona, the Blooming Grounds Coffee House is a charming corner café serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Boasting a modern décor of exposed brick, hardwood floors, teak wood furniture, plush booths, giant-sized chalkboard menus, and Kitschy decorations, the coffee house provides visitors a cozy, warm atmosphere. They provide an extensive menu of coffee, tea, blended drinks, and smoothies, as well as craft beer and wine. Serving classic American cuisine with a twist for lunch and dinner, menu selections include, Panini’s, wraps, large fresh salads, homemade soup, and pizzas. For breakfast they offer a small menu of jumbo muffins, bagels, scones, quiches, and a gourmet breakfast burrito.

50 E 3rd Street, Winona, MN, Phone: 507-474-6770

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21 Best Things to Do in Winona, Minnesota