Can you believe we are already halfway through August? Things here at Franconia have been full steam ahead all summer, I’m only now catching my breath. The Hot Metal Artists have come and gone, six of our nine fellowship artists-in-residence have installed their sculptures, and we are preparing to say goodbye to the summer intern artists (check back next week for profiles of the group!) and hello to the fabulous fall bunch. As the air turns a little bit crisper, why not take advantage of these last days of summer to explore a part of the state you maybe haven’t considered before?
The St. Croix River Valley is bustling with things to do and breathtaking natural scenery, you just need to know where to look. In the last few weeks we have pointed you north of the park towards Taylor’s Falls, and south, from Osceola to Stillwater. Today, the final installment of our Summer Staycation series will focus on our neighbors to the west, the towns situated along Highway 8. Discovering Shafer, Center City, Lindström, and Chisago City is a great way to spend a late-summer day, and we are here to guide you to the best they have to offer. So buckle up and hit the road, its time to find out why “’life is great on Highway 8”!
This route is the perfect place to go if you are looking to entertain children. Grab some minnows at Frankie’s Live Bait and Marine before heading to North or South Center Lake to catch some fish. Tire them out with a day of swimming and playing at Chisago City’s lakeside Paradise Park, or take them to Okijeta Regional Park for a stroll through the forest and fern gardens. The Swedish coffee pot water tower is sure to delight the young ones, and is conveniently located right next to Lindstrom Bakery, where traditional Swedish donuts are only 70 cents a pop. The Shafer Corn Maze, opening mid-September, promises a good time for kids of all ages, with special treasure hunts, labyrinth-inspired games, and spooky events throughout the season.
There are also tons of historic houses and landmarks in the area, particularly in Lindström, “America’s Little Sweden.” The city has created a Historical Walking Tour that will take you to the most notable sights, such as the Gustaf Anderson House and the Karl Oskar House and Statue. The Chisago County Historical Society also has lots of information about local history and attractions; check their website for a local event schedule.
Adult travelers should head to Minnesota’s largest winery, WineHaven, for tasting and a tour. On August 15th and 16th they will be ringing in their 20th year with the Rhubard Frenzy, an annual celebration of food and rhubard wine. The vineyard is also part of the Three Rivers Wine Trail – meandering across the state to visit all five is a great way to spend a weekend! And what goes better with wine than some meats and cheese? Stop by Eichten’s Bistro and Market in Center City for their famous Gouda and Bison meat, the hit up Deutschland Meats in Lindström for all the brats your heart desires. If beer and burgers are more your thing, Al’s Center Saloon has got you covered, with live music and pool to boot.
Still hungry? Chisago City is home to both the Wagon Wheel Café – a great spot for brunch – and the Northern Lake Tavern and Grill, which offers traditional American fare. If you are closer to Lindström, stop for a freshly-brewed cup of coffee at Northwoods Roasterie. You know fall is truly here when the apple picking begins – our friends at Pleasant Valley Orchard, in Shafer, will start their season come September. For more fresh eats, the Chisago City Farmer’s Market takes place every Friday afternoon through September in Moberg Park.
Franconia is not the only artistic endeavor in the area – the St. Croix Valley is home to many incredible crafters and makers. The Minnesota Potter’s Tour has already happened for the year, but their website has ample information about the studios of the best local ceramisists. Gustaf’s Galleries in downtown Lindström represents artists from the Upper Midwest working in a variety of media, and the Alan Honn Glass Showroom in Center City sells the creations of Mr. Honn, a Minnesota native who has been working with glass for over 30 years.
For those looking to do a little shopping, Grama’s Barn, right next to Eichten’s and less than five minutes from the park, has a great selection of home and garden goods, and also boasts the most Fairy Garden products in the north metro. Want to celebrate the Scandinavian history of these towns via your footwear? Look no further than Sven Clogs. They’ve got a factory outlet store located in Chisago City, where you can get a pair of their beautiful leather and wooden shoes at a deep discount. The area has some great opportunities for antiquing as well – we recommend checking out the Lindström Antique Mall and Flapper Jane’s.
If all this sounds like so much fun you will need an entire weekend to experience it, book a room in one of these great local hotels and B&B’s. The Summit Inn Bed and Breakfast in Center City offers comfortable luxury, or try Country Bed and Breakfast in Shafer for quiet, countryside living. Center City’s Timberhaze Retreat is great for artsier groups – the for-rent house has a complete crafting room (and a ping pong table!). If camping is more your style, Wildwood RV Park and Campground has a heated pool, mini golf course, and a game room.
Finally, mark your calendar for some upcoming special events happening in the area. Ki-Chi-Saga Days is Chisago City’s annual summertime celebration, and this year it will take place August 20-23. Head on over to Moberg Park for music, food vendors, a craft fair and fireworks. Shafer Days, September 18-19, will be celebrated with a car show, a parade, and the always-popular bank robbery reenactment.
And, of course, be sure to stop by Franconia this Saturday, August 15 for the final installment in this summer’s Music @ Franconia concert series. We will be chowing down with grill fare from Deutschland Meats and touring Europe with performances by Orkestar Bez Ime and more! Hope to see you there!