Best Antique Shopping in Minnesota: With a half dozen large antiques stores and antiquarian booksellers within easy walking distance, Stillwater’s Historic Main Street (about 22 miles northeast from St. Paul) takes the prize, hands down.
Most Jaw-Dropping View of the Mississippi River: Near Red Wing, 45 southest of St. Paul, the great river broadens into the stunning Lake Pepin, easily viewed from a 20-mile stretch of the Great River Road. The entire Great River Road stretches 380 miles from from Itasca State Park in Minnesota to the Iowa stateline.
Best Birding, Even for Non-Birders: Eagles and other raptors congregate around Lake Pepin’s warm waters on the Mississippi River and are easily spotted from the National Eagle Center (20 Pembroke Ave., Wabasha, 651/565-4989, www.nationaleaglecenter.org , daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children).
Best Place to Enjoy the Student Lifestyle: In the quiet college town of Northfield, students from both Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges have long enjoyed the pleasure of hiking and running in Carleton College’s (1 N. College St., Northfield, 507/222-4000, www.carleton.edu ) 800-acre Cowling Arboretum.
Best Treat for Shipping Buffs: With a copy of the Duluth Shipping News (www.duluthshippingnews.com ) in hand, you can be sure to time your stop in Maritime Duluth (217/727-2479, www.lsmma.com , daily 10 a.m.–9 p.m., free) at the aerial lift bridge in Canal Park to see it lift straight up and allow a massive freighter to pass through to the docks.
Most Iconic Minnesota Sight: The Split Rock Lighthouse (3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd., Two Harbors, 218/226-6372, www.mnhs.org , May 15–Oct. 15 daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m., $8 adults, $6 seniors and students, $5 children 5–17) looks impressive on a postcard or Minnesota Historical Society brochure, but that’s nothing compared to marveling at the building in person and staring straight down the bluff at Lake Superior 600 feet below.
Best Way to Go Back in Time: The railroad helped transform Duluth from a swamp to a major shipping port. Now you can enjoy pleasure rides along the North Shore of Lake Superior or the wooded St. Louis River, leaving from the Union Depot (www.duluthdepot.org ).