If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to try new experiences in your community, you’re in luck. Even in winter months, the Mississippi River region offers festivals and activities to entertain the entire family. So don’t hibernate—get out and explore!
Grumpy Old Men Festival
Wabasha celebrates its claim-to-fame settingof blockbuster films “Grumpy Old Men” and “Grumpier Old Men” with its 19th annual Grumpy Old Men Festival on February 24–26. It features a frigid “Grumpy Plunge” into the Mississippi, hotdish luncheon, cribbage tournament, pet pageant, ice-fishing contest, spaghetti dinner and raffles.
“We like winter here in Wabasha,” says Veronica Hemmingsen, director of the Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber of Commerce. “People are attracted to our small river town, and the festival gives us an opportunity to celebrate winter, the movie and our small-town culture.” Visit wabashamn.org.
Coffee Mill Ski Area
Coffee Mill Ski Area is a scenic resort at the intersection of Highways 60 and 61 in Wabasha. Coffee Mill is famous for its “coulee,” a group of valleys merged into a bowl shape. According to manager Brian Fries, this unique terrain gives Coffee Mill’s runs excellent wind protection, extra long and winding trails, and the tallest vertical drop in the area.
Fries encourages skiiers of all abilities to visit the resort. “We’re small and family-friendly, a place where everyone knows your name.” Fries says people return to Coffee Mill because of its reasonable lift tickets, homemade cafe soups and views of the Mississippi and Chippewa River Valleys.
Visit coffeemillski.com for information on almost-free lift tickets, as well as the Spring Fling ski weekend held during the Grumpy Old Men Festival.
National Eagle Center
Have you ever wanted to see our national bird up close and personal? National Eagle Center, an interpretive center on the banks of the Mississippi, is home to five rescued eagles unable to survive in the wild.
“It’s exciting for people of all ages to get up close and get their pictures taken with the birds,” says Eileen Hanson, program specialist. Hanson encourages visitors to come in January and February, two peak months for observing eagles on the river. The Center will host programs in January and February focusing on the lesser-known Golden Eagle. Visit nationaleaglecenter.org.
Consider visiting Wabasha for the entire Grumpy Old Men Festival weekend to experience the charming town. AmericInn of Wabasha offers several package deals to make your stay affordable. To further the weekend’s theme, consider staying in the Grumpy Old Men Suite or the American Eagle Suite. Visit americinn.com/hotels/MN/Wabasha.
Historic Anderson House Hotel
Area entrepreneurs Brian and Rachel Yenter reopened the Anderson House on December 31. Known as one of the oldest hotels west of the Mississippi, the stately building is one of Wabasha’s most treasured historical sites. “The Anderson House is an icon,” says Rachel Yenter. “It’s important to us as a town to have it open again.”
Each of the hotel’s unique 22 rooms has its own bathroom and authentic historical furniture and decor. A main-floor commercial kitchen is available for weddings and other events. Visit historicandersonhousehotel.com.
Frozen River Film Festival
If you want entertainment that doubles as education, head to Winona State University for the Frozen River Film Festival on January 25–29. The festival offers more than 40 documentaries, with topics ranging from urban chicken farming to the New York subway system. The festival also offers concerts, workshops and speakers.
“Green Fire,” this year’s January 26 Opening Night film, depicts an inside view of environmentalist Aldo Leopold and his work. Another festival highlight is the Meltdown Concert on January 28, featuring Head for the Hills and Whiskey Blanket at Ed’s No Name Bar. Check frff.org for festival updates.
Kristina Larson is a Red Wing freelance writer.