Lake City Minnesota travel guide

Get Up Close And Personal With Eagles Then Visit The Birthplace Of Water Skiing!

Are you ready for a fun escape? Come spend the weekend in Lake City and Wabasha! Tucked away on the Mississippi River shore in southern Minnesota, an enchanting adventure awaits. 🦅🎿 #WabashaMN #LakeCityMN #Minnesota

LAKE CITY, MN – Are you looking for a fun escape from the hustle and bustle of the Minneapolis and St. Paul? Come spend the weekend in Lake City and Wabasha, Minnesota! Tucked away in the breathtaking scenic vistas of southern Minnesota, an enchanting adventure awaits.

Lake City and Wabasha are twin jewels nestled along the mighty Mississippi River. We live just south in the lovely town of Winona, and always enjoy visiting Wabasha and Lake City as we drive north to the Twin Cities.

Wabasha, Minnesota. Eagle dancer with crowd watching.
Celebrate Indigenous heritage by visiting Wabasha’s National Eagle Center.

In both of these towns 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 Minnesota nice.

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 people.

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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. 

Wabasha, Minnesota. Grumpy Old Men pumpkins.
We visited Wabasha during SeptOberfest, but no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll definitely find references to Grumpy Old Men!

Here’s our recommendations if you have a day to spend in this lovely river town…

National Eagle Center

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.

Wabasha, Minnesota. National Eagle Center staff with an eagle.
It’s fun to see the eagles up close and personal!

Anderson Gardens

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.

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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 riverboat town. In the 1860s it had 27 hotels, 21 saloons, 15 mercantiles, several brothels…and only one church! Uff da.

Lake City, Minnesota. Lake City harbor with sailboats.
One of Kitty’s fave stops in Minnesota is walking around the Lake City Harbor, listening to the peaceful sounds of the sailboats.

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. 

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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.

Lake City, Minnesota. Water skiing was invented by Ralph Samuelson of Lake City in the summer of 1922
Good ol’ Ralph back in 1922…the first man to ski on water!

Here’s our recommendations for spending a fun day in Lake City…

Lake Pepin

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.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder captured her first impressions of Lake Pepin in her book Little House in the Big Woods. She writes:

“After a long time Laura began to see glimpses of blue water between the trees…Then all at once the road came out of the woods and Laura saw the lake. It was as blue as the sky, and it went to the edge of the world. As far as she could see, there was nothing but flat, blue water.”

Lake City, Minnesota. Lake Pepin.
A pic of beautiful Lake Pepin, taken by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Just kidding!

Pearl of the Lake

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.

Pepin Heights Store

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!

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Wabasha, Minnesota
A lovely stop along the banks of the Mississippi River as we drove from Winona to Wabasha. If you look closely, you can see a majestic eagle soaring in the sky!

Video Tour with Jack and Kitty

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more travel tips, hidden gems and more. We typically make a lot of content about fun and quirky spots to visit in Minnesota and the upper Midwest… you betcha!

LAKE CITY and WABASHA Minnesota Travel Guide 📍 Lake City, Minnesota and Wabasha, Minnesota

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