Are you ready for a fun escape? Come spend the weekend in Lake City and Wabasha, Minnesota! Tucked away in the breathtaking scenic vistas of Minnesota, an enchanting adventure awaits. Welcome to Lake City and Wabasha, twin jewels nestled along the storied Mississippi River. Here, you’ll find a seamless blend of quaint charm and sweeping landscapes where picturesque waterways meet rolling green hills. From Lake City, the birthplace of waterskiing, to Wabasha, famed for its National Eagle Center and historic riverboat charm, these two cities offer an unforgettable slice of the Minnesotan soul.
Wabasha, Minnesota: Home of Grumpy Old Men
Wabasha is located on the shores of the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota. It’s a town of about 2,500 people. It is the oldest city in Minnesota, becoming officially recognized in 1830 with the Prairie du Chien Treaty. The city and county get their names from Chief Wapi-sha, or “red leaf”. The Chief was considered “mixed blood”: from the Mdewakanton Dakota and Anishinaabe tribes.
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The 1993 film Grumpy Old Men, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, was set in Wabasha. Today, the town celebrates the film and its boom to local tourism. You’ll find many Grumpy Old Men references sprinkled throughout Wabasha.
Here’s our recommendations if you have a day to spend in this lovely river town…
This interpretive center is located on the banks of the Mississippi River. It aims to connect visitors to eagles in nature, history and cultures. It’s home to four adorable bald eagles which you can meet to get an up-close view of the majestic beauties. The Indigenous Nations gallery is highly recommended.
Peaceful and tranquil, these beautiful gardens are a must-stop in the summer. There are specialty gardens including pray garden, memorial garden, military garden and civilian garden. A great visit for garden clubs, church and senior groups.
Wabasha County Historical Society
The Museum is located outside of Wabasha in the quaint village of Reads Landing, which is only about four miles from the city of Wabasha. It is housed in the oldest surviving brick schoolhouse in Minnesota, built in 1870. Reads Landing was once a wild and crazy riverboat town. In the 1860s it had 27 hotels, 21 saloons, 15 mercantiles, several brothels…and only one church!
Lake City, Minnesota: The Birthplace of Water Skiing
Located just 15 miles north of Wabasha on the Mississippi River, Lake City is another must-stop if you are visiting southeast Minnesota. Lake City is a big larger, with a population of around 5,000.
Water skiing was invented by Ralph Samuelson of Lake City in the summer of 1922. Because of this, Lake City prides itself as “The Birthplace of Water Skiing”. Its annual Water Ski Days is a fun small-town festival full of quaint Americana.
Here’s our picks for spending a fun day in Lake City…
22-miles long and 2-miles wide, Lake Pepin is a natural broadening of the Mississippi River. It covers a massive 30,000 acres and is the largest lake on the mighty Miss! There are plenty of fun lake activities and a stroll gazing at the sailboats docked in the harbor is a peaceful way to spend your afternoon.
Laura Ingalls Wilder captured her first impressions of Lake Pepin in her book Little House in the Big Woods. She writes:
Speaking of fun lake activities, consider a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River! This genuine replica of an 1800s paddleboat, is a great way to see experience Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River. Sightseeing cruises are narrated. You’ll learn about the area’s rich history, environment and fun riverboat lore.
After exploring all that Lake City has to offer, you’ll work up on an appetite. What better way to enjoy Lake City than with a locally grown apple! Considered by many to be “The Cutest Store on the River”, this is an essential stop if your craving a sweet caramel apple, yummy pie and the best apple cider you’ll ever taste! Oh, and be sure to buy a few pounds of their apples…they are the best in the midwest!
Spending time in Minnesota? Discover our Top 10 Travel Picks for visiting Minneapolis! Don’t miss our expert travel guide here: https://jackandkitty.com/2023/02/minneapolis-travel-guide-2023
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About the Authors
Jack and Kitty Norton are Emmy Award winning travel experts. They have spent a lifetime on the road: as traveling musicians, documentary filmmakers and television producers. They now focus on writing for their travel blog (JackAndKitty.com) and making fun videos for their YouTube channel. Jack and Kitty offer travelers fun and quirky things to do in Minnesota, the Midwest and beyond. High school sweethearts turned married soulmates, the couple lives in the small college town of Winona, Minnesota and would love to have you over for some hotdish.