Well away from the Mississippi River, but just 2.5 miles south of Highway 61, quaint and quiet Welch is worth a detour even if you just drive down into the valley for a quick peek.
The tiny bluff-ringed town on the Cannon River so resembles a New England village that it stood in as one in the film Here on Earth. Welch is at the midpoint of the Cannon Valley Trail (www.cannonvalleytrail.com ), a 19.7-mile paved bike and cross-country ski path between Red Wing  and Cannon Falls.
Just as beautiful as a ride on the trail is a trip on the river. Welch Mill Canoeing & Tubing (26389 County Road 7 Blvd., 651/388-9857 or 800/657-6760, www.welchmillcanoeandtube.com ) will set you up for easy 5- or 12-mile canoe trips down the Cannon for $25 and $30 respectively. Tubing trips are just $10.
Added to the recreation mix in winter is Welch Village (26685 County Road 7 Blvd., 651/258-4567, www.welchvillage.com ) with 50 downhill ski and snowboard runs, the largest dropping 360 feet, plus a half-pipe and terrain park.
If you want to stay overnight, you can choose between the six slope-side bunkhouses (a two-day lift ticket plus one night lodging cost $66) or Hidden Valley Campground (27173 144th Ave. Way, 651/258-4550, www.hvcamping.com , $35 full hookup) just outside town along the Cannon Valley Trail.
The Trout Scream Café (14689 Welch Trl., 651/388-7494, 7:30 a.m.–2 p.m. Mon.–Sat., dinner 5–8 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $3–16) downtown is an unexpected place for an out-of-the ordinary meal (Reuben soup? Wonder why no one ever thought of that before), as well as inexpensive omelets, sandwiches, and ice cream by day, and pasta and steak by night.