Itineraries built by locals to help you discover the best in Greater St. Cloud
Contributed by Alison Schroeder, Content Lead at Leighton Interactive, a marketing agency in downtown, St. Cloud. She’s been a Central Minnesota transplant since 2002 and her family lives in St. Joseph. She believes she’s at her best when she’s standing in front of a plate of tacos or surrounded by her favorite people on a sunny patio, iced coffee (or beer) in hand.
If you’re like me, a solitary Saturday can be built a few different ways depending on what you want to accomplish. If you’re looking at it from a staycation, R&R-type day, you’ll want to maximize your day while at the same time free-styling enough to make it seem leisurely. It’s a precarious balance. When my summer starts to take shape I make sure I save a few Saturdays for that very thing. Regardless of if I’m flying solo or joined by my daughter or best girlfriend, here’s my favorite way to spend a local Saturday in the St. Cloud, MN area.
Even in the summertime, I love an early morning spent in some form of exertion. St. Cloud is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and getting outside after a long week inside behind a desk is the best way to kickoff a weekend.
I can be on the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail system in less than 10 minutes from my driveway. Run, bike, roller blade, or walk your dog. Grab your best gals and catch up on life under the tree-lined canopy. This year the trail turns 20 and will make its final extension to Waite Park. At 63 miles, it offers enough coverage for any level of fitness.
You’d be remiss to skip Quarry Park and Nature Preserve if you’re looking for another way to work up a sweat on your staycation. A 600-plus acre park featuring over 20 abandoned granite quarries, this quiet piece of nature can also be biked, ran, or walked – and even cliff-dived if you’re so inclined.
Shopping is also my cardio. My favorite stops in the St. Cloud area are those places that offer more than window-shopping. I love a great string of occasional or repurposed stores – an absolute nod to my childhood spent following my parents around as they did the same thing. I love the “hunt” of it. My local favorites include:
- Heim-Kins Rescued Treasures in St. Joe.
- Salvage Sisters and Rusty Pick in Waite Park and St. Cloud
- The Copper Pony located in downtown St. Cloud – not a secondhand store, this boutique tags itself with as: for living well and exceptional giving. I love its seasonality of merchandise and store layout and design.
Sip (& Savor)
I saved the best for last—the eating and drink part. That was intentional in case you skimmed this post, I’ll leave you with my recommendations for the best places in Central Minnesota to eat and drink. You can trust me; I’m a professional gold medal appreciator of cuisine.
My love for Cold Spring Bakery donuts began decades ago when a friend’s grandma frequently brought them to our grade school basketball games when we were visitors at ROCORI. Though I’m a sucker for the vanilla-glazed cake donut with sprinkles, I certainly don’t discriminate against the rest. Bonus, you can get the same donutty goodness at the brand’s Connection store in Waite Park.
What happens when you pair a pineapple with an avocado? You get the Pineapple Guacamole from the guys at The Pickled Loon downtown. Their taco menu is out of this world and my favorite tacos change every time I’m there. Fried avocado or fish tacos? Maybe the carnitas…
St. Cloud has plenty of big box coffee brands, but Saturdays are special and deserve special coffee. My suggestion is the tiny sidewalk tables at either The Local Blend in St. Joe for its cold press or Jules’ Bistro downtown St. Cloud for a handmade oat milk latte.
Crafts & Cocktails.
What’s vacation without a little imbibing? I’m proud of how far St. Cloud has come in its food and beverage offerings in a short few years and the future looks even brighter. I could offer a litany of places in this category, so instead I’ll list my top places by genre:
- Wine – head to Old Capital Tavern in Sauk Rapids. It’s the cutest little place. Don’t you love when people call venues cute? It has a loft and is cozy. It’s cute by default. Great menu, great staff, and a great wine list.
- Cocktail – head to Veranda Lounge on 5th downtown St. Cloud for a handmade old fashioned and sip it from the outdoor patio that overlooks the city’s most vibrant strip. Excellent venue for live music.
- Beer – Cloud’s Beaver Island Brewery Co. is in its fourth summer and continues to pump out some amazing beer. I love the laidback and family (and dog)-friendly atmosphere of the taproom and the patio. Get a flight but whatever you do, don’t skip the Sweet Miss chocolate oatmeal milk stout.