Is your family ready to visit a Minnesota city that serves up the biggest ice cream cone you’ll ever eat? Are your kids ready to walk across bridges, go bike riding, or just take a walk while shopping on Main Street? Or is your family wanting to spend the afternoon at a one of a kind playground? If they say “YES”, then it’s time for a visit to Stillwater, Minnesota for a day of family fun!
Stillwater, Minnesota is the latest city to be featured in our series of Top Five Family Adventures. In this series, adventures are family friendly and tons of fun. We’re not doing anything extreme or dangerous, we’re just going out and exploring a new city and trying something for the first time.
Top Five Family Adventures will give your family some ideas and inspiration to go on new adventures in various cities around the country. It will be a fun way for the whole family to learn something new, taste some local foods, and have countless memories of the fun for years to come.
Now it’s time to start planning your trip to Stillwater and picking out which flavors of ice cream your giant ice cream cones are going to be! Here are the top five adventures in Stillwater, Minnesota for the whole family.
Start the Day Off With a “Not Your Average Breakfast”
Your family is about to have a day full of adventure, so they need a good breakfast to give them energy! The place that will put a smile on your kiddo’s face is the Oasis Café. The Oasis has a fun menu, huge portions, and gives you the chance to pull up a stool at the counter of this busy diner that has been open since 1957.
Do your kids love mac and cheese? How about pancakes? Yes? Well they are in luck, because at the Oasis they can order up a mac and cheese pancake! What?! You get one of their huge pancakes grilled with mac and cheese and topped with chopped bacon and cheddar cheese. Of course, topping this pancake with maple syrup sounds pretty gross, so they offer a sausage gravy topping for $2 more. This crazy pancake alone, only costs $8.35.
Other unique breakfast offerings on the Oasis’ menu are banana bread French toast (my favorite), Granny Smith breakfast salad (ham, caramelized Granny Smith apples, red onions, candied pecans, and queso fresco cheese), Mickey pancakes (guess who these pancakes look like), and a wide variety of haystacks (eggs served over hash browns). The portions are large and the prices are very reasonable. Breakfast is served all day and the lunch menu starts at 11:00. Check out their website here.
The Oasis is located on Highway 95, just less than a half mile from the downtown shops.
Related post: Top Five Adventures for the Whole Family in St. Paul, MN
Shop At a Store Where You Can Afford to Buy One of Everything
A visit to Tremblay’s Sweet Shoppe is an adventure for every candy lover. Everywhere you look, there is candy…jelly beans, taffy, chocolates, sour candy, fudge, caramels, and more! Most of the candy is sold in bulk, so you can buy one of everything, or just a lot of your favorites.
The best part about Tremblay’s is that they have samples! Look on the counter for samples of fudge and look near the peanut brittle for samples of the various brittles. Yay, we love samples!
This is the perfect time to try something new! A new candy can be a delicious and fun first! Let the kids try some of the candy that you grew up with, and then it’s your turn to try the super sour candy that they love!
Tremblay’s is located among the shops on Main Street (Highway 95), and since you’re there, your family has to venture up and down Main to visit the many unique shops of Stillwater.
Stillwater is known for their antique stores, have your kids ever visited one? You never know what you might find! Stillwater also has a number of other fun stores to visit. Our recommendations are The Valley Bookseller, Candyland, Kids Oasis, Cooks of Crocus Hill (maybe there’s a kids cooking class on the calendar), and Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop. Yes, Stillwater has an awesome Main Street!
Visit Larger Than Life Teddy Bears
If you have kids in your family ages 12 and under, Teddy Bear Park is the place for them. Teddy Bear Park is a playground that is located one block from Main Street, and is the perfect place to take a break during your day in Stillwater.
The park has 2 big playgrounds, a seating area, picnic tables, bathrooms, and a separate play area full of sand. You’ll need to bring your own sand toys to make a mess with in this sand. The two playgrounds are geared toward different age groups. One section is for the littler kids with small slides and a long train to run through and play on. The other section is for the older kids and anyone who wants to be a kid. The slides are bigger, there’s a bridge to run across, and trees to hide in. I always climb to the top just for the view of Stillwater (and maybe just for the slide down).
You’ll find Teddy Bear Park just up the hill from Cooks of Crocus Hill. The gates are open every day (in season) from 8:00 am thru 8:00 pm.
If your kids are too old for the playgrounds (seriously?), then you’ll want to explore the historic Stillwater Stairs. Downtown Stillwater is built on a steep hill and you can imagine the river views from higher up the hillside. There are four historic staircases around town that you’ll want to climb and explore. Just go here for a map and more info.
Find Out How Many Scoops of Ice Cream You Can Eat
Do you give your kids one scoop, maybe two scoops of ice cream for a treat? And do they say “can I have more than that?” Of course they do. Well, on this adventure, you can blow their minds with the largest ice cream cone that they will ever have their hands on.
Nelson’s Ice Cream has been in business since 1923 and you’ll easily see why people keep coming back for more. The ice cream cones are huge and the prices are small. A child’s size ice cream cone or dish consists of about 4 or 5 scoops of ice cream and costs $4. Yes, wow and wow. They do offer larger sizes, but I don’t know anyone that could possibly eat that much.
You can choose two flavors for the child size, or go all out and order the Lumberjack. The Lumberjack sundae is five softball sized scoops of ice cream and 3 toppings for $12. Eat the whole thing, and you get your picture put on the wall of fame.
Nelson’s Ice Cream has about 45 flavors to choose from, and it’s the perfect opportunity to try a flavor for the first time. Never had Brownie S’mores? Try it here! Other flavors you probably haven’t seen before are licorice chip, rum cherry, and raspberry chocolate chunk. If you don’t want to commit your whole 4-5 scoops to a “new to you” flavor, then at least try a sample of something new.
There is only outdoor seating at Nelson’s and thankfully they have a faucet outside to wash those sticky fingers off. There are no bathrooms besides the porta potty in the corner of the parking lot.
If it’s nice outside, be prepared for a wait. The line does move pretty fast, and the ice cream is worth the waiting for.
Nelson’s is cash only and you probably have enough change floating around the family car to cover the cost of a cone. Nelson’s is typically open from sometime in April – October, so you will want to watch their Facebook page for opening and closing dates.
Get Out On the Water, or Over the Water
Stillwater sits on the banks of the St. Croix River and that makes some pretty impressive scenery. Your family can get up close to the fantastic river views two ways…by getting out on the water or walking over the water.
During the summertime, check out the daily riverboat rides at Stillwater River Boats. The cruises last about 2 hours, and lunch is served as you cruise up and down the St. Croix River. There is no narration on the cruise, so you don’t learn any of the history of Stillwater. Instead, you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Evening cruises are also available.
An adventure over the water will also be a little bit of a workout because your family will be walking over a bridge….a BIG bridge. The new St. Croix Crossing bridge opened in 2017 and has a wide pedestrian lane, three observation decks, and an awesome view of the river.
To access the bridge, you’ll need to park along 59th Street N., and walk on the St. Croix Trail to the bridge. Depending on how far across the bridge your family wants to go, you could have a two mile walk round trip.
Each observation deck has information signs that explain how the bridge was built and give you a little history of the river.
Walking across the St. Croix Crossing bridge is definitely an unique experience for the whole family.
Probably the most well-known bridge in Stillwater is the historic lift bridge. This old bridge connects Wisconsin and Minnesota and is one of two operating lift bridges left in Minnesota. Do you know where the other lift bridge is that’s still in operation? Two points if you guessed one of my other favorite Minnesota cities of Duluth.
The Stillwater lift bridge is no longer open to vehicle traffic, but it still lifts to let the boats through. Currently it is undergoing a renovation and closed to the public, but when the work is done your family can walk and ride bike over it.
Starting in June 2020, there is a five mile loop that allows bikers, runners, and walkers to travel over the St. Croix Crossing bridge and the historic lift bridge. The St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail is a fantastic way to enjoy the scenery along the river and the historic buildings of downtown Stillwater.
Need a bigger adventure? Or maybe you ate all of your ice cream at Nelson’s? Your family can bike from downtown Stillwater all the way to the state capital of St. Paul. Your journey from Stillwater will start on the Brown’s Creek state bike trail and continue onto the Gateway Trail. The trail is mostly level and 25 miles long. Once you get to St. Paul, maybe you’ll be ready to eat a Juicy Lucy or to begin another five adventures!
Bonus Adventures for Fall and Winter
There is fun to be had in Stillwater all year long. If you visit in the Fall, don’t leave town without a visit to Aamodt’s Apple Farm. Your family can pick a basket of apples for a pie, or visit their large shop and buy your own apples or pie. They also offer wagon rides, a goat farm, weekday treasure hunts, and more!
A trip to Stillwater in the winter, has to include a visit to the ice castle. The ice castle is built downtown near the river, and really is a unique experience. Along with a trip thru the ice castle, there is also entertainment and special events that may be going on. Tickets to the castle need to be purchased in advance online, and you are assigned a set time for your visit. The necessary reservation insures that you won’t have to wait in line or that the castle will be too crowded. There may be walk-up tickets available, but there is no guarantee.
So, how much fun do you think your family will have on their adventures in Stillwater, Minnesota? I guarantee that a visit to Stillwater will certainly add some fun first experiences into your family’s everyday life, and be a trip that will have everyone talking. Keep the adventures coming, and start planning your next one!
Looking for some more family fun in the Twin Cities area? Find some here:
- Top Five Adventures for the Whole Family in St. Paul, MN
- 9 First Experiences for the Whole Family at Mall of America
- A Look Inside the new Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington, Minnesota
- Follow my Family Travel in Minnesota board on Pinterest