Meet me in Zumbrota

Looking to travel? Think local.
By Samantha Erickson  |  Photography by AB-Photography.us

Travel plans are looking a little different these days—maybe even nonexistent—but our current situation doesn’t have to completely deprive you of that relaxed vacation feeling. Discover a local slice of paradise with a day trip!  

There are plenty of smaller towns surrounding Rochester that feel worlds away but are just a quick and easy drive. One of these hidden gems is Zumbrota. Fun things to do there are abundant year-round, but especially during the fall season. In addition to the vibrant boutique shopping scene, there are restaurants, parks, outdoor markets and art spaces perfectly fitting people of all ages and interests.

A friend and I were lucky to slip away on a weekday when the weather was absolutely beautiful, so we took full advantage of the great outdoors! Have no fear of inclement weather, though. The local shops and restaurants in Zumbrota are doing a great job with their COVID-19 response, keeping indoor spaces safe and comfortable with plexiglass shields, distanced seating and strategically placed sanitizing stations. Most even offer disposable masks at their entrances.

CAFFEINE AND WINDOW SHOPPING

If you’re traveling from Rochester via US-52 N, a quick exit onto MN-58 will land you directly on Main Street Zumbrota. Here you will find ample street parking and a handful of public parking lots within walking distance of shops and restaurants. Bridget’s Café makes the perfect starting point for your adventure. Grab a hot beverage and pastry from the bakery case to fuel up for some shopping. We made ours a to-go order so that we could stroll Main Street and take in the small-town charm.

RETAIL THERAPY

There are several boutiques right along Main Street that will have you ready to freshen up your fall wardrobe with unique finds. Shop hours vary and can be limited, so be sure to do your research ahead of time so that you can squeeze everything in. Sara and I started at Wild Ginger, which specializes in women’s apparel that one can only describe as “wearable art.” Amongst these eye-catching pieces, we also discovered great basics such as the JAG Jeans brand denim and a great selection of blouses that will layer beautifully as the weather turns cooler. Owner Roxanne Bartsch has gone the extra mile to make her customers feel safe and valued by offering personal shopping experiences! You can schedule a time to have the store all to yourself by calling Wild Ginger.

No outfit is complete without a great pair of shoes! Luya Shoes and Other Fine Things offers handcrafted, well-made, artistically designed shoes along with gifting items for everyone on your holiday list (yes, I went there. It WILL creep up on you). Though owner Connie Hawley is normally just winding down from wedding season by now, she has shifted her inventory focus to the more casual climate that is fashion these days. I know I’ll be back soon for a “consciously cute” pair of Fortress of Inca boots, which are handmade in Peru using responsible production methods.

Our final shopping destination for the day was Dwell Local. You may already recognize the name, as the original Rochester store was a home decor staple for six years before closing in April. Finding your favorite locally made and fair-trade goods in a more spacious setting isn’t the only reason to shop “small.” Owner Paul Bennett says that there is a special sense of community among business owners here in Zumbrota that sets itself apart from bigger cities. With the warm welcome from all throughout our day, we could certainly feel it.

PICNIC FOR TWO

All that shopping works up quite the appetite, so we rounded out our day with a picnic. Finding a meal fit for dining al fresco was actually really easy! We popped into Coffee Mill Café, also right on Main Street, which offers a variety of salads, wraps and sandwiches with much appreciated gluten-free bread options. Our server noted that Coffee Mill is also well known for pie, of which several flavors on the daily menu tempted me to no end. Just across the street at the Guilty Goose, we were able to choose from an impressive off-sale selection of local wine and ciders that were already chilled for added convenience.

With our food and beverages in tow, we set up under a shade tree at the historic Covered Bridge Park. Of course, you could eat straight from the containers, but cute picnic sets are way more fun! I picked up mine from Rochester local Chris Armstrong, who curates beautiful new and used wares for her themed sets.

Covered Bridge Park is a great site for outdoor dining and a number of recreational activities. Walk off lunch on one of the many trails, play a couple rounds of disc golf or let the kiddos burn some energy on the Kid’s Kingdom playground. For those looking to get some biking in, the park also serves a trailhead to the regional Pioneer Trail which connects to neighboring cities Goodhue and Red Wing.

As you can see, it’s easy to spend a few hours or even a whole day exploring the local treasure that is Zumbrota. We barely even scratched the surface, so I’m excited to get back for more art and entertainment! For a full list of fun things to do and points of interest, visit the ci.zumbrota.mn.us website. You will find a local events calendar, recreation sites, a full list of restaurants and more! Facebook is another great resource for the most up-to-date information on these small businesses including changes to hours of operation, store policies regarding COVID-19 and current specials.