WITH LONGER AND SUNNIER DAYS to enjoy during Minnesota summers, there is no shortage of things to do and places to go. If you’re looking for a fun destination to meet this summer, consider taking a quick 45-minute ride outside the Twin Cities to the historic city of Stillwater. Located on the St. Croix River, the charming birthplace of Minnesota offers a plethora of activities and places for people of all ages to partake in.

"Minnesota is a great Midwest meeting destination in a fresh, dynamic setting," says Christie L. Rosckes, marketing director for Discover Stillwater. "[Stillwater is an amalgamation of] natural beauty, historic architecture, art and culinary scene, distinct lodging choices, unique shops, riverboat cruises, six golf courses and more to make this an inspiring and vibrant place to stay."

For affordable elegance, the Lowell Inn is conveniently located in the downtown area. Dubbed the Mount Vernon of the Midwest, it features 35 guest rooms, a restaurant and a variety of special event spaces. There are four main dining rooms: The George Washington Room, The Garden Room, The Mount Vernon Room and The Matterhorn Room. Private parties can accommodate 20-75 people, depending on the dining venue. "We offer a unique combination between the elegance of the past and the amenities of the present," says Leigha Bauer, assistant general manager. For larger corporate events, the Lowell Inn Center, built in 2010, accommodates up to 220 people and features a contemporary atmosphere with a full-service bar, lounge area and dance floor, making it ideal for any celebration. The electric pull-down screen, DVD player, projector, microphone and Wi-Fi make it perfectly suitable for business meetings, as well as school functions or memorials.

Take in the picturesque St. Croix River from the largest outdoor deck in Stillwater at the historic Freight House, built in 1883. For those planning an intimate event for 20 to 30 or want to hold a festive celebration for 1,000 close friends, family, and colleagues, this is the place. The two-story main dining room is serving up a brand-new menu made in the new state-of-the-art exhibition kitchen. The many selections are a fresh take on Minnesota comfort food with an urban appeal. "This is the place where people come to relax, rejuvenate and have fun," says Brian Ingram, director of operations. "We’re booking national music acts this summer, combined with great food and premier craft beers; there is something for everyone to enjoy." Recently, the venue underwent a significant remodel to solidify its spot as a Stillwater favorite for locals and visitors alike.

The Rivertown Inn features a mix of European elegance and old-world splendor. Built in 1882, Minnesota’s oldest bed-and-breakfast also offers a quaint gazebo and enchanting courtyard, both ideal for a unique party, small business meetings, corporate retreats and other functions, such as fundraisers or even a romantic getaway, with space for up to 40 people. "On behalf of our guests, we ensure that every experience and special occasion is designed to exceed expectations" says Elise Gardner, inn manager. "This is a first-class, premier venue for dining and socializing, where guests can create memories to last a lifetime." The inn features nine suites and bedchambers with décor that pays homage to iconic poets and literary figures of the 19th century.

The Loft at Studio J offers guests a remarkable experience with a unique vibe. Owner Judd Sather describes it as a "rustic-chic event venue loaded with character and floor-to-ceiling windows." Parties, receptions, benefits, and concerts ranging in size from 125-300 have all taken place here. Coupled with top-notch service and a historic ambiance, any event here will be one to remember.

A historic landmark, Water Street Inn boasts some of the original features from when it was built in 1890. As guests enter the lobby, they can marvel at the original tin ceilings in the hotel lobby, enjoy views of the St. Croix River on the 300-foot-long patio or gather for refreshments at Charlie’s Restaurant and Irish Pub. Each of the 41 guest rooms was designed to replicate Victorian décor, and most of the guest suites boast balconies and picturesque views. "We believe that our amenities, staff, location, and great attention to detail make the Water Street Inn the complete hospitality experience," says Chuck Dougherty, innkeeper. For business groups wanting a location that feels like they have been transported to a whole new setting, this is the place. The inn’s conference facilities can accommodate VIP meetings, banquets and special events for 50 to 300 people. In addition, there is even a complimentary event planner on staff to ensure no detail is left to chance.

Last, but not least, be sure to visit the awardwinning Northern Vineyards Winery, which is owned by the member-growers of the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative. "We were the first modern winery cooperative in the United States," says Amy Felton, events manager. "The essence of NVW is to make award-winning wines from Minnesota and Wisconsin and promoting the potential that our state has for winemaking." The winery has a deck that overlooks the St. Croix River and historic lift bridge with a tasting room that is open year-round.

Whether it’s the incredible scenery, warm hospitality or a downtown main street that has a variety of shops, boutiques, restaurants, parks and festivals, Stillwater’s historic river town keeps people coming back for more.

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