Winona, known as the Island City, is a historic river and college town in Southeastern Minnesota, located on a large sandbar among the bluffs along the Mississippi River. It is about 110 miles southeast of the Twin Cities.
Home to Winona State University, St. Mary's University, and MN State - Southeast Technical College, Winona has a large student population. It is also central to five state parks: Great River Bluffs, John A. Latsch, and Whitewater, in Minnesota, and Merrick and Perrot in Wisconsin; and two wildlife refuges: Upper Mississippi Nat'l Wildlife and Fish Refuge, and Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge.
Winona has a Continental climate, with hot, wet summers, and cold, dry winters. Average January temperatures are 26°/9°F (-3°/-13°C) and can reach as cold as -20°F (-29°C) on the coldest nights, while average July temps are 85°/66°F (29°/19°C) but can reach up to over 100°F (38°C).
If you are travelling by car, from the north (Twin Cities), travel along the Mississippi River on US highway 61 through the picturesque Hiawatha Valley. About 110 miles from the Twin Cities. From the west (Rochester), take Interstate 90 east about 45 miles, then head north on state highway 43 about 6 miles. From the east (La Crosse, Madison), take Interstate 90 west about 10 miles into Minnesota then continue north on US highway 61, another 15 miles.
There are several nearby airports, including La Crosse (LSE, 25 miles), Rochester (RST, 45 miles), and the Twin Cities (MSP, 110 miles).
There are scores of churches in Winona, offering a diverse selection of size, age, and denomination. Some of architectural interest include Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Diocese of Winona; on East side of Main Street, between WSU and Downtown), United Methodist Church (intersection of Broadway and Main Streets), Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka (Polish Catholic, 625 Fourth Street, in the East End), and First Congregational Church (historically, now United Church of Christ, 161 W. Broadway). If you are looking for a different place of worship to go when in Winona, search for one here.
- Garvin Heights Overlook (Up Garvin Heights Road, then head east, following signs). Looking out from 575 feet over the Hiawatha Valley, this is the most accessible overlook in the city. Looking up the valley, the Alma power station can be seen in the distance on a clear day, while the bluffs in Trempealeau can be seen looking downriver. There is a steep trail from the base to the overlook.
- Great River Shakespeare Festival (WSU Performing Arts Center, on the Winona State main campus), ☏ . A professional Shakespeare theater, performing annually for six weeks in the summer. Tickets start at $19/person.
- Minnesota Marine Art Museum. On the river, near the port. Features extensive collections of maritime paintings, river folk art, and photography. The museum is purchasing the river dredge William A. Thompson from the US Army Corps of Engineers, which will because an additional exhibit.
- Polish Cultural Institute, 102 Liberty Street, ☏ . In the East End. This museum tells the history of the Kashubian Polish people who fled their homeland in the 19th century to Winona.
- Hike, bike, or ski on Winona's paths around the lakes, on the 16 km of mountain biking trails behind Holzinger Lodge (cross highway 61 on Huff street to the frontage road, turn right and follow past the cemetery, the lodge is on the left and has ample parking) or the 17 km of cross-country skiing trails around St. Mary's University (in Gilmore Valley, on highway 14).
- Swim at one of the many sandbars in the Mississippi around Winona, or particularly at the Latsch Island Beach (from Winona, cross the bridge and take an immediate right; also leads to several houseboat communities), the LaCanne Park Beach in Goodview (head Northeast on 61/14 through Goodview, on the right), or the city-owned Bob Welch Aquatic Center (from downtown go West on 5th Street to High Street, turn right; $4 adult, $3 under 18), which includes an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 200-ft waterslide.
Fairs and festivals
Winona has a variety of festivals throughout the summer, along with a few sprinkled here and there the rest of the year. Some of the best include:
- [dead link] Earth Day Fair. Saturday nearest Earth Day on the Winona State campus. An annual event that has grown throughout the years, includes many informational booths, speakers, and activities.
- Goodview Days. In August, in Goodview. The community festival celebrating the city of Goodview, featuring a parade, a car show, road race, and royalty pageant.
- Mid West Music Fest. In late July 30, the festival embraces the art and culture of Winona and serves as a fundraiser for local charities. Features local, regional, and national musical acts.
- Heritage Fair. In Mid-September in Levee Park. Celebrating various eras important to the history of the city, the Heritage Fair includes living history re-enactors, food, and music.
- Steamboat Days. Annual celebration in mid-June, includes many activities including a carnival, and concludes with a grand parade down Broadway, and fireworks at the Levee on that Sunday night.
- Frozen River Film Festival. Annual film festival in late-January that shows numbers of films on a variety of topics including nature, adventure, children's themes, social justice, social awareness, and inspirational.
There are two main shopping areas in Winona: Downtown, and along Highway 61.
Winona's historic downtown hosts a variety of interesting architectural styles...including Italianate, Queen Anne, Victorian, Egyption Revival...the list goes on. The city's Heritage Preservation Commission and Visit Winona have walking and driving tour brochures, cassettes, and mp3s available to assist in exploring downtown. Be sure to visit Levee Park, and talk a walk on Third Street from the Courthouse to Watkins, then head back west on Second Street. It is also a nice walk from City Hall west to the Courthouse on Fourth Street. Sandwiched between downtown and WSU is a wonderfully walkable historic residential neighborhood along Seventh Street from Franklin to Huff. You'll find interesting spots everywhere.
Most of the retail development of the big-box type occurs along or near this highway which traverses Winona east-west. In and around Riverbend, under Sugarloaf, are Target, Wal-mart Supercenter, and Fleet Farm, as well as a variety of smaller, mostly chain stores.
Furthur West, is the Winona Mall, which, despite its name, includes very little shopping. Then comes the area around Hy-Vee Grocery, which has many smaller businesses, particularly fast-food places. Nearing Goodview, you'll encounter another cluster of stores and restaurants where the highway intersects Highway 14/Pelzer Street, which include JC Penney, and Shopko. Unless you like Big-box retailing, I'd recommend sticking to downtown.
- Acoustic Café, 77 Lafayette (at 3rd, downtown), ☏ . A relaxing atmosphere serving excellent sandwiches and coffee, there is music performed live every weekend. About $5-$10 per person.
- Bloedow Bakery, 451 East Broadway (at Laird). Pronounced like 'playdough'. In the words of one blogger, "Putting a Bloedow's doughnut next to a Krispy Kreme doughnut is like parking a Ferrari next to a Pinto."
- Green Mill, 1025 Hwy 61 East (connected to the Holiday Inn, underneath Sugarloaf), ☏ . Pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, salads. A nice, but not too expensive restaurant serving mainly Italian cuisine. $10-15 per person.
- [dead link] Jefferson's Pub & Grill, Center Street (at the River, Downtown). A fun restaurant serving American foods, it has a nice gameroom upstairs. $5-10 per person.
- Lakeview Drive-Inn, 610 East Sarnia (by the big lake), ☏ . The oldest restaurant in Winona, Lakeview makes its own root beer and has carhop service. "Cruise Nights", every Wednesday from 6-9PM in the summer, feature dozens of locally owned classic vehicles.
- [formerly dead link] Signatures, 22852 County Road 17 (in Pleasant Valley), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-2PM and 5-9PM, Su 10AM-2PM and 5-8PM. A nice restaurant serving various cuisines.
- [formerly dead link] Zaza's, 529 Huff Street, ☏ . Sports bar & pizzeria across the street from the WSU main campus. Pizzas ('zas), sandwiches, burritos, calzones, chicken wings, pastas, $5-15 per person.
- Great Hunan Restaurant, 111 W 3rd St, ☏ . A Chinese place in a small storefront on 3rd street. If you want a fancy dining experience, this would not be it. However, if you want some delicious and inexpensive food, come here.
Winona boasts the most bars per capita in the state of Minnesota. Each bar offers a different personality and atmosphere.
- Ed's (No Name) Bar (on 3rd and Franklin Streets). Ed's offers a relaxing atmosphere and a unique variety of ales and lagers served on tap. Take advantage of the beer garden during the summer or enjoy a nice chat with friends in the adjecent lounge room. Ed's also showcases new local artwork every month.
- Jefferson's Pub and Grille. A fun place to go out with friends for a few drinks and some appetizers.
- [dead link] The Legendary Tavern, 129 W 3rd St, MN 55987, ☏ . M-Th 5PM-1AM, F-Su 11AM-1AM. Cool place, popular with college students. Cheap with lots of drink and food specials.
- Alexander Mansion Bed and Breakfast, 274 East Broadway, ☏ . Four rooms, from $149/night.
- Carriage House Bed and Breakfast, 420 Main Street, ☏ . Across from WSU main campus. Four rooms, from $89/night.
- Windom Park Bed and Breakfast, 369 West Broadway (across from Windom Park), ☏ . Six rooms, from $120/night.
Camp or RV
- Great River Bluffs State Park.
- KOA Campground Winona.
- Prairie Island Campground.
- AmericInn, 60 Riverview Drive. Next to the river, under the bridge. Ave. price/night $91.
- Best Western - Riverport Inn & Suites, 900 Bruski Drive. Near intersection of MN 45 and US 61. Ave. price/night $91.
- Holiday Inn, 1025 Highway 61 East (near intersection of MN 43 and US 61, underneath Sugarloaf). Includes attached Green Mill Restaurant, specializing in Italian cuisine. Ave. price/night $124.
- Nichol's Inn, 1025 Sugar Loaf Road. Underneath Sugarloaf. Ave. price/night $69.
- Quality Inn, 956 Mankato Ave. Near intersection of MN 43 and US 61. Includes an attached Perkin's Restaurant, with amazing breakfasts. Ave. price/night $81.
Being small, Winona is a quite safe community. Other than staying away from unlit and untravelled areas at night, you should remain safe just taking basic precautions. If you have a problem, just remember the number for 911 is 911.
The local hospital and clinic are located in the same building, off of Highway 61 on Mankato Ave in the East End, across from Target. The East End is where Sugarloaf is.
|Routes through Winona|
|St. Paul ← Red Wing ←||W E||→ La Crosse → Milwaukee|
|Mankato ← Rochester ←||W E||→ La Crosse → Madison|
|St. Paul ← Wabasha ←||N S||→ La Crosse → Dubuque|
|Black River Falls ← Jct N S ← Jct N S ← becomes ←||N S||→ Jct W E → Jct W E → Jct E|