Goodhue County

The most wonderful road trips of the year

When winter rolls around, I hop in the car to look for Christmas decorations on Minnesota main streets. I’m surprised that five years into these trips, there’s still so much variety to be seen. Not counting the simple snowflakes and wreaths, I keep spotting more tinsel or white-light shapes around nearly every corner.

My first trip of the season was a solo venture out west on 212 to Brownton, then north to Hutchinson and back on 7.

A snowflake, though with blue as well as white, in Norwood Young America:

six-pointed white snowflake with a blue star center

and this fun stack of presents:

a red present on its side on the bottom, a leaning gold present, and a small green present on top

I ventured off the main road when I saw a sign for Biscay (which I hadn’t heard of), and I’m glad I did.

Candy canes across the bridge in Glencoe:

a white wire candy cane on a light pole at the top right, and four more in a diagonal row off into the distance

And stockings down the entire street in Winsted:

a red stocking with candy canes in the middle, a diagonal row of the same stockings to the bottom left, and the Winsted water tower at the right

Cologne’s white wire shapes:

A sleigh in Missile Park in St. Bonifacius:

a wire horse pulling a man in a sleigh at the right, with a US Army statue in the background, at dusk

The next evening, we took a trip to Le Sueur to do the candlelight tour at the Mayo House. The park next to the house has this very bright tree:

giant tree glowing with white lights, and a small white house in the background

A week later, my husband and I took a trip up 169 and back to the Twin Cities on 65. I got to take pictures from the passenger seat.

Princeton variety:

This fun garland in Onamia reminded me of the Grinch tree:

two swoops of greenery with multicolored light bulbs, and a red bell hanging off the top greenery

A park scene in Onamia:

wire train set under a real pine tree, with three green tree decorations in the snow at the right

I enjoy the decorations that cross a street, like this one in Milaca:

double strand of greenery draped across the street, with big red bows at the corners, and a white circle in a wreath at the center saying Seasons Greetings MILACA

On the next street was this very festive bank:

brick building with four white pillars wrapped in greenery, greenery draped across the top front, and gold tinsel letters spelling NOEL at the top

After turning east at Lake Mille Lacs, we went through Isle. I first thought these swoopy stars were a fancy boot:

lamppost with a Seasons Greetings banner, with white swoops and star shapes above

Santas in the library window:

five homemade paper Santas

On the east end of town, I wondered why Santa wasn’t in the sleigh on the roof, then I noticed he is piloting a boat:

brown garage with a white wire sleigh and reindeer on the roof at the right, a blow-up boat with Santa and standing reindeer at the left

Ogilvie has a simple version of the decoration we saw in Milaca:

wreath with a white center that says Seasons Greetings

Finally, on a sunny day two days before Christmas, we took a road trip south on Highway 61. Wintry trees along the highway:

Pine trees along highway 61

Red Wing snowflake:

closeup of a white tinsel snowflake

and a decoration that stretches to all four corners of the intersection of Bush and 3rd:

looking up at a white light decoration that comes from four corners and meets in the middle, with multiple strands that look like bunting and two stars dangling on each side

We drove through Minneiska quickly and didn’t get close to any of these, but I wanted to include them anyway:

Kellogg started out with a plain snowflake near the highway, but driving into town we saw this great reindeer swag:

garland stretching across the street, with a wreath with three candles in the middle, and matching wire reindeer facing the center on both sides of the wreath

and then we stumbled across this simple and beautiful star display on the other end of town:

white strands across the road that look like bunting, with one white wire star in the center

More photos

Previous Christmas road trips

Categories: Carver County, Goodhue County, Hennepin County, Kanabec County, Le Sueur County, McLeod County, Mille Lacs County, Wabasha County, Winona County | Leave a comment

Christmas decoration road trips

I love road trips in December because of the vintage Christmas decorations in small-town Minnesota. This year I took two trips just to see the lights – the first heading west along Highway 12 to Dassel, then north to 55 back to the Twin Cities (though it was too dark for pictures for the journey back), and the second south on 35 to Owatonna, back to Faribault, and then west to Waterville and New Prague. These were my favorites from the adventures (along with a couple extra photos from shorter trips).

My new favorite scene is in Montgomery, a city that celebrates its Czech heritage. These 3-D Christmas trees are paired with a blue banner that says “Peace” and “Joy” in both English and Czech.

tree decoration with a banner that says Pokoj Radost

The town also has two other styles:

garland and an antique streetlight, and a wreath with three red candles

Its neighbor, Lonsdale, has many design variations on the Season’s Greetings lights.

three drawings on white oval lights surrounded by garland

Antique street lights share a pole with the regular city spirit banners in Delano:

Share the Road with Bicycles banner next to a streetlight hanging from garland

Owatonna’s Central Park has trees in each corner, including a picturesque spot across from the historic National Farmers’ Bank:

tall tree with a gold tinsel star, in front of the historic bank, and a lightpole with garland and a wreath

Snowflakes in Northfield:

blue Welcome to Northfield banner next to a white snowflake

Simple wreaths in North St. Paul:

wreath on the left side of a lamppost with two lights

New Prague has candle wreaths like many other towns, and this jeweler added its own tree:

wreath on a utility pole next to Marquardt Jewelers sign with a tree made from green light strings

Grocery stores are painting their windows in New Prague…

painted words The Simple Joy of Food with painted cookies

…and Farmington:

painting of two elves and a skating snowman

Garland crossing the intersections in Cannon Falls:

four garland strands at the street corners, meeting at a wreath in the middle

Cannon Falls also has wreaths on its lampposts – an effect that is somewhat muppet-like when viewed up close:

two light bulbs with dead bugs that look like eyes above a large narrow wreath that looks like an open mouth

Snowflakes on lampposts that look like candles in Faribault:

white snowflake decoration on a light pole wrapped with red tinsel

This was the second time I drove through Morristown and Waterville, and I have a hard time keeping their names straight. I can remember the “Morris” and “Water” but never remember which is a town and which is a ville, so I usually end up saying Morrisville and Watertown. I reached these two just as the last light was fading, and the snowflakes were blinking on in Morristown:

lighted snowflake on a pole in front of a business with lighted decorations in the windows

Shooting stars in Waterville:

lighted star decorations on both sides of a quiet street

Skinny wire in Medford:

candle and Christmas tree

A variety in Rockford, including curly trees I haven’t seen anywhere else:

lighted set of bells, reindeer, and curly tree one one side of a busy street

Darwin had the most shapes of one style of decoration – in this case, white wire.

white wire shapes - snowman, angel, bells, candle, shooting star, horn, wreath

Waverly has two styles, the white-wire along Highway 12…

Welcome to Waverly banner with a dove, and a bell

…and “tinsel” style on Main Street.

colorful tinsel - candle, white snowflake with blue lights, a triangle-shaped tree, and a three-tiered tree

Montrose wins my Most Variety Award for 2015. Many different banners and tinsel shapes along Highway 12, snowflakes on the south side of County Road 12…

Peace banner, Season's Greetings oval, white wire snowflake, tinsel candles, candy cane, and tree

…and my second-favorite of the season, these ornate vintage street lights on the north side of County 12.

red streetlight circled twice by garland, more swirled above, Happy Holidays sign hanging on bottom

Other small-town Christmas trips

Categories: Dakota County, Goodhue County, Le Sueur County, Ramsey County, Rice County, Steele County, Washington County, Wright County | Leave a comment

Eagle watching at the Red Wing checkpoint

several trees with an eagle nest at the left and a bald eagle flying at the right

A lone eagle ready to land in a treetop.

Last Saturday we decided to take a short trip, hoping to have an outdoor adventure before the impending polar vortex drove us back inside. We had a good time visiting Paul Bunyan last month when we stumbled across the CheckpointMN winter scavenger hunt, so we thought we would try another destination. One of the options is a location in prime eagle-viewing territory in Red Wing, so we headed south on Highway 61, just needing an hour to drive from the Twin Cities.

The DNR recommends looking for eagles anywhere from Bay Point Park and Colvill Park, so we started at the checkpoint at the south end and headed back north. If you’re not paying attention, you will miss the turn for Colvill Park because the park is not easily visible from the highway, and you need to go west and cross under 61 to reach the park. I have been to this park before, and we still missed the turn.

a faraway view of three bald eagles in one tree and one eagle in another tree

The busiest section of trees we saw. Too bad I didn’t have a zoom lens!

This was at least our third joint trip to Red Wing, one of our favorite Minnesota cities. It was allegedly 19 degrees above zero, but a strong wind made it feel like at least 19 below. I struggled to smile for the official pose, and my husband struggled to take a photo without removing his gloves!

a smiling woman in a purple winter coat with her arms outstretched

Soaring like an eagle for my CheckpointMN pose.

I’m typically not one to complain about the cold, but the wind was strong enough that we didn’t last long outside and we’re already talking about returning when it’s a little warmer. It would be a lot of fun to walk along the river or relax on a bench to watch the action. The last weeks of February and first weeks of March are typically good times to view eagles in Red Wing or a little farther south in Wabasha.

Lots of ducks — mallards and what we think were common mergansers — weren’t afraid of the cold water, but of course eagles are the stars here. This photo was taken from the comfort of our car. I imagined one bird saying to the other, “Cold enough for ya?”

a bald eagle and another bird sitting on an ice sheet in the middle of a river, with a dock and grasses in the foreground

A bald eagle chatting with a friend.

We planned to also visit Barn Bluff Park, but since it requires a long climb on snow-covered stairs, we’ll save that one for a warmer day. Instead we headed to the third park, Bay Point, for our last look at the eagles, near a lot of ice fishing houses on Ole Miss Marina. At this location the eagles were too far away to watch for long, but this bird made the stop worthwhile:

raptor flying to the left with a view of the underside of its left wing

We got a closeup look at the flight of this beautiful bird.

We didn’t realize that Saturday would also be a good day for watching trains. In the short time we were in the parks, three different trains moved through Red Wing.

three trains: Soo Line, Canadian Pacific, Amtrak

Three parks, three trains.

Red Wing is also notable, of course, for pottery, antiques, and shoes, but we didn’t do any of those this time — just lunch and a stop at the uniquely fun Scandinavian Uffda Shop. A fun end to a fun afternoon of eagle watching.

More about Red Wing

Visited: January 4, 2014

Categories: Goodhue County | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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