The Goodhue County History Center (1166 Oak St., 651/388-6024, www.goodhuehistory.mus.mn.us, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 1–5 p.m. Sat.–Sun., $5 adults), perched high above the town, has a better-than-average local history collection on display. Highlights are the fossils and agates in the geology room, the ancient pottery and modern crafts in the Native American exhibit, and Red Wing Pottery.
There’s an even larger pottery display at the Red Wing Pottery Museum (2000 Old West Main St., 651/388-4004, www.redwingpottery.com, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., free admission) at historic Pottery Place, a former pottery factory that has been transformed into a beautiful shopping mall. The extensive collection, organized by the Red Wing Collectors Society, spans the earliest salt-glazed crocks to the expensive dinnerware made at the end of the company’s history.
The story of the city’s other famous industry is told at the Red Wing Shoe Museum (315 Main St., 800/733-9464, free admission), relocated and expanded in 2009. Displays show the history of the company and the whole shoemaking process, from cutting the hide to final inspection. Red Wing’s pride and joy, a 16-foot-tall work boot, is finally home here, as well, after years in storage.
Barn Bluff, looming nearly 350 feet over downtown, has always been a dominant landmark on the river, and its magnetic appeal has lured countless visitors to the top. Most famous was Henry David Thoreau, who climbed it during his 1861 journey to Minnesota. A set of steps leading up the backside makes the climb easier these days, though the steep route means you still have to earn the wonderful city and river views. (To find the stairs, follow 5th Street East as it passes under Highway 61, toward the river.)
The extensively bolted bluff faces are a popular rock-climbing destination. You can follow Scenic Skyline Drive to the top of Sorin’s Bluff for another scenic overlook of the city. The view isn’t quite as good, but it comes with a lot less effort.
Each winter over 100 bald eagles winter in the Red Wing area, and they can be seen up close and personal at Colvill Park, where dozens perch in the cottonwood trees when not fishing in the Mississippi. Spotting scopes are set up during Eagle Watch Weekends in February and March. To get to Colvill Park, follow 7th Street East as it passes under Highway 61, toward the river.
Red Wing River Boat Rides (Levee Park, 651/388-3047, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily May–Oct., $15, call ahead) offers an hour-long Mississippi River trip, poking into the backwaters when possible.
Botanist Alexander Anderson, inventor of the process behind “puffed” wheat and rice, built his country estate and laboratory five miles west of downtown. After he died his family donated the land and home to promote the arts, and today the Anderson Center (163 Tower View Dr., 651/388-2009, www.andersoncenter.org, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–noon Fri., free admission) offers classes and hosts artist retreats. You can stop by to see the art—the collection includes minor works by Calder, Matisse, Chagall, Dali, and more—climb the water tower, or stroll the 15-acre grounds and sculpture garden.
Narrated tours on the Red Wing Trolley (420 Levee St., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. May–Oct., www.redwingtrolley.com, $10) leave from Red Wing Depot and wind through town for 45 minutes.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition