Photo courtesy Discover Stillwater

Minnesota’s birthplace does not sit ‘still’

Give Me the Mike received promotional consideration from Discover Stillwater.

As the host of Minnesota’s first territorial convention in 1848, Stillwater is considered Minnesota’s birthplace. The town is actually older than Minneapolis.

Nestled on the St. Croix River about 25 miles east of downtown Minneapolis, Stillwater was recently voted as having one of the top 10 Best Small Town Food Scenes by USA Today.

Between the restaurants, you’ll find an eclectic group of antique shops, along with other shopping experiences showcasing makers from Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

And for those from the Twin Cities, Stillwater makes for a close staycation destination with hotels offering elegance.

Businesses and community organizers aren’t skipping a beat this winter. Head down Main Street and you will find an ever-popular ice palace maze offering socially-distanced fun. And that’s just the beginning.

Here’s a list of spots in Stillwater worth visiting.

Ice Palace Maze

601 Main Street N

Touted as the largest ice maze in the United States, the Ice Palace Maze next to The Zephyr Theatre features one-half mile of passages and 1,500 blocks of ice.

Photo courtesy Discover Stillwater

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, organizers are following safe social distancing guidelines by requiring reservations and limiting the number of people on-site at one time. 

This maze is a child’s paradise. They’ll love the 36 foot ice slide that awaits them at the end of the maze. Plus, kids four and under get in for free. Make sure the kiddos wear snow pants. 

This would be a good stop for a date night, too. The Ice Palace Maze features an ice bar and you can stroll through or sit by a bonfire with a warm drink in hand.

Since opening January 22nd, the Ice Palace Maze has repeatedly sold out of tickets, so if you want to visit, you’ll want to plan ahead and purchase in advance. Weather permitting, the Maze will be open through February 28th, 2021. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 5 to 12.

Wintertime LED Light Show

Corner of Chestnut & Main Streets

Just a few blocks south from the Ice Palace Maze, you’ll find the perfect backdrop for a wintertime photo.

Stillwater hosts a nightly LED lights show set to music at the corner of Chestnut and Main Streets. The free show, which runs until the end of February, provided me with a fantastic photo with twinkling lights in the background.

The lights are right in front of the revamped Stillwater Lift Bridge, which is now exclusively for pedestrian and bike traffic. If you’re looking for some exercise, the Lift Bridge is part of a new 4.7 mile Loop Trail that brings you across the St. Croix Crossing Bridge, which is the new Highway 36 bridge that goes into Wisconsin.

The Water Street Inn, located right next to the light show, has a Winter River Rink, offering ice skating for all ages. Pack your own skates and head out on the ice for free through March 30, 2021, weather permitting.

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Smith + Trade Mercantile

229 Main Street S

Fodor’s Travel included Stillwater in its list of the 10 Best Antiquing Towns in the United States, but there’s plenty more shopping in town. Stillwater is home to over 50 independent owner-operated stores, including Smith + Trade Mercantile, which opened on Main Street in May 2019.

Smith + Trade features the work of 60 artisans from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and once they move into the storefront next door later in 2021, they will be able to host around 90 artists.

From leather work to jewelry, wall art to glass, Smith + Trade offers a wide array of home decor, with no more than two or three artists in the same aesthetic. 

Placards around the store feature the bio of every artist, and you’re able to scan a QR code that takes you to their page on Smith + Trade Mercantile’s website. Many of the artists can be found in the store working on their craft, and all do custom orders.

Smith + Trade offers classes, including cigar rolling and bourbon tastings, along with live music, and owners hope to get those going once again as COVID restrictions ease.


212 Main Street N

Every true Minnesotan knows about Candyland. The first location, in downtown Saint Paul, opened in 1932. It got its start by selling fudge and popcorn. 

It’s that popcorn that’s a big part of Candyland’s success today. They are well known for their Chicago Mix, a combination of their seasoned popcorn, caramel popcorn, and cheese popcorn. The Chicago Mix has been a staple on the Candyland menu since 1988. 

The Stillwater location opened in the summer of 2012 right along Main Street. Beyond the popcorn, you’ll find hand-dipped chocolates made from scratch at their shop, along with a wide assortment of candy. You don’t have to walk into the store to catch Candyland’s sweet, sweet smell.

Nacho Mama’s

312 Main Street S

When I asked my Facebook fans what they love about Stillwater, Nacho’s Mama’s was the most popular response. Located right on Main Street, the eclectic vibe inside will instantly put a smile on your face.

The menu mixes authentic and modern Mexican dishes with a twist. You’ll find a hint of the Caribbean on the menu, too. 

The Nacho Mama’s Nachos, on the appetizers menu, is more like a dinner entree. For $15, you’ll get a platter full of chips with pico de gallo, guacamole, lettuce, multiple types of melted cheese, sour cream, and your choice of beef, chicken, pulled pork or a Tijuana cocktail (marinated shrimp). For two people, these nachos and a couple margaritas is all you need for a great dinner.

I also ordered The Three Amigos off the specialty entree menu. It features three stuffed bell peppers — the green has shredded beef and rice, the red has shredded chicken, black beans and smoked gouda, and my favorite, the yellow, has shrimp, crab, and jalapeno popper cream cheese.

Also on Give Me The Mike: 20 best Mexican restaurants in Minnesota

Hotel Crosby

232 Main Street N

With its close proximity to the Twin Cities, Stillwater is the perfect spot for a weekend staycation. The town of 20,000 residents is home to multiple boutique hotels, including Hotel Crosby, located along Main Street.

The Crosby features 55 guest rooms, including five suites. I stayed in a one bedroom suite that featured a sectional couch and oversized bean bag chair, patio, and wood features throughout.

A few rooms include a full kitchen, including ovens, refrigerators and plenty of counter space if you want to entertain.

My room, on the third floor, was right outside an outdoor hot tub, which was open during the winter. The Crosby also features an onsite spa and fitness center. Plus, they offer complimentary, reserved parking for hotel guests.

Whether you stay overnight at the Crosby or not, a major highlight is MatchStick Restaurant & Spirits, located in the hotel’s lobby. MatchStick boasts more than 700 rare and unique spirits, which are displayed behind a gorgeous bar. They also offer wine, local beers, and a selection of farm to table menu items.

I wasn’t able to visit this time around because they’re closed for the winter, but Nelson’s Ice Cream up the hill in Stillwater was voted to my list of top five ice cream shops in Minnesota. Read more about Nelson’s, and the other best ice cream shops, by clicking here.

Special thanks to Discover Stillwater for their help with my staycation. Plan your trip to Stillwater by visiting


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