Enjoy Relaxing Views of the Bluffs and River Valley
As the riverboat glides along the mighty Mississippi River, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the towering bluffs and rolling river valley. This area is characterized by steep limestone cliffs rising high above the river, showcasing the power of nature as the river has carved through the landscape over thousands of years. Take in the spectacular vistas as bald eagles soar overhead and get your camera ready to capture the charming river towns nestled along the shore. There’s no better way to experience the majestic beauty of this historic waterway than on a relaxing river cruise from Winona, Minnesota.
One of the highlights of a Winona river cruise is getting to see the natural splendor of the Upper Mississippi River Valley up close. This area was once covered by glaciers during the Ice Age, which smoothed and flattened the landscape. As the glaciers retreated, the Mississippi River cut a deep valley through the rock, creating breathtaking bluffs towering 450 feet above the water in some areas. Cruising along the river, you’ll be eye-level with these geological wonders as the captain expertly navigates through the river’s twists and turns.
In addition to the bluffs, you’ll get to take in lovely views of the rolling river valley dotted with islands, sloughs, and backwaters. The valley is home to bottomland forests, pristine wetlands, and sandy beaches with plenty of room for wildlife like birds, deer, turtles, and otters. Many cruises even offer opportunities to get off the boat and explore some of these habitats up close. As you gaze out over the valley, you’ll understand why this region has inspired artists and authors for generations.
Marvel at Historic River Towns
Beyond the natural scenery, cruising from Winona allows you to discover the historic river towns and villages along the way. From the cobblestone streets of Wabasha to the brick storefronts of Red Wing, each town has its own unique charm and culture shaped by the mighty Mississippi.
In Wabasha, you can visit the Hiawatha Valley Museum to learn about the area’s long history as a meeting place for Native American tribes. Downtown is full of quaint shops, restaurants, and National Historic Landmarks like the Anderson House Hotel built in 1856. Kids will enjoy camping out in fur trade era teepees at nearby Beaver Creek Valley State Park.
The river town of Red Wing boasts breathtaking views of the Mississippi River gorge and Barn Bluff. You can tour the historic Pottery Museum of Red Wing or browse the handmade stoneware at Red Wing Stoneware. Other highlights include hiking at Memorial Park, shopping at the St. James Hotel built in 1875, and sampling craft brews at the Red Wing Brewery.
From small towns full of history and charm to sweeping vistas of the bluffs, a riverboat cruise from Winona perfectly captures the spirit of the Upper Mississippi. As the paddlewheel propels you along, take time to lose yourself in the natural beauty and imagine what life was like for the fur traders and pioneers who traveled these waters in earlier times.
Relax with Live Music and Gaming
In addition to sightseeing opportunities, many cruises on the Upper Mississippi River offer entertainment options to make your trip even more memorable. Relax and tap your toes as talented musicians play classic riverboat tunes and modern hits. Some cruises even have professional dancers perform routines like the Cotton Eye Joe to get the party started.
You can also try your luck in the riverboat’s casino. Test your skills on slot machines, play card games like Texas Hold ‘Em, or spin the roulette wheel while taking in scenic views. Friendly dealers are happy to explain the rules if you’re new to gaming. Win or lose, you’ll have fun experiencing the excitement of riverboat gambling.
At the end of a long day exploring river towns, most cruises from Winona provide the perfect place to unwind with live entertainment and gaming onboard. Grab a drink at the bar, relax on the deck, and let the sounds of the paddlewheel lull you into vacation mode as the river scenery slides by. With non-stop fun and activity, adult cruises on the Mississippi have something for everyone.
Explore Scenic Parks and Trails
Before or after your Winona riverboat cruise, be sure to spend some time exploring the abundance of parks and trails near the Mississippi River. The Great River Bluffs State Park offers stunning views from its towering cliffs and has miles of scenic hiking and biking trails. You can also tour the historic Pickwick Mill or visit the trout hatchery.
Just north of Winona lies the Whitewater State Park where you can see majestic waterfalls, hike through beautiful forests, or camp overnight. East of town, the Root River State Trail is one of the most popular bike trails in Minnesota, winding through the Root River valley for 42 spectacular miles.
Finally, no visit to Winona is complete without experiencing Sugar Loaf, a steep bluff rising almost 500 feet directly above the city. You can drive or hike to the top where a lookout tower provides unparalleled 360-degree panoramas of Winona’s rolling landscape. Whether you’re looking for a short nature stroll or an adventurous trek, Winona’s wealth of parks and trails has something to offer every outdoor enthusiast.
Savor Delicious Food and Drink
One of the best parts of a Mississippi riverboat vacation is getting to sample delicious food and drink inspired by the region. Most cruises from Winona feature buffet-style dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with menus that change daily. Expect hearty Midwestern fare like juicy pot roast, crisp fried chicken, fluffy mashed potatoes, and farm fresh vegetables. Homestyle desserts like fruit pies, chocolate cake, cheesecake, and ice cream round out the meals.
In addition to the included group dining, many boats have alternate restaurants onboard where you can enjoy specialty meals for an added fee. Here you may find fare like hand-cut steaks, seafood, or Italian dishes paired with fine wines. Some cruises even offer festive deck barbecues and picnics when weather permits.
While dining, soak up the atmosphere and scenery of the river valley. Whether you’re enjoying a casual lunch in the dining hall or an elegant dinner by moonlight, the meals are almost as memorable as the cruising itself. With amazing food, drink, and views, dining is one of the best parts of exploring the Mississippi River from Winona by paddleboat.
See Wildlife Like Bald Eagles, Deer, and River Otters
One of the greatest joys of a Mississippi River cruise from Winona is getting a front row view of the diverse wildlife that call this majestic waterway home. As your riverboat glides along, keep your eyes peeled and camera ready to spot remarkable animals in their natural habitat.
Of all the wildlife here, none is more iconic than the regal bald eagle. Scan the skies above and the tree tops along shore and you’re likely to see these powerful raptors majestically soaring overhead or perched in their giant nests. Thanks to conservation efforts, bald eagle populations are thriving along the Upper Mississippi, giving you an excellent chance to admire America’s national bird up close.
Deer are also a common sight, especially white-tailed deer. They gather near the water’s edge to drink and feed on lush vegetation. You may spot bucks with impressive antlers, does with their dainty fawns, or even whole herds mingling peacefully. It’s a special treat to watch them leap and play along the banks of the mighty river.
If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of mischievous North American river otters splashing and swimming near shore. These nimble creatures glide effortlessly through the water as they hunt for fish, frogs, and crustaceans. Their playful antics like sliding down mud banks will bring smiles to cruiser’s faces.
From songbirds flitting through marshes to painted turtles sunbathing on logs to beavers busily constructing lodges, a myriad of wildlife thrives in the Mississippi’s rich habitats. As your riverboat gracefully passes by, relax on deck with your binoculars and camera ready to revel in nature’s wonders.
Try Exciting Outdoor Activities
Beyond sightseeing from the cruise boat, many Mississippi River vacations from Winona offer opportunities to get off the boat and enjoy thrilling outdoor adventures. If you crave a little more excitement during your trip, look for cruises that allow you to kayak, canoe, hike, bike, and more.
Paddling a kayak or canoe allows you to intimately explore the river’s lush backwaters, tributaries, and marshes. Glide silently through labyrinths of greenery in search of wildlife. Stop to picnic on sandy beaches tucked away from the main channel. Seek out brilliant wildflowers and keep an eye out for turtles sunbathing on logs.
Hiking excursions let you stretch your legs in river towns and parks to experience panoramic views from high bluffs and walk through cool forests. Or hop on a bike to cruise miles of scenic trails along the shores of the Mississippi and nearby Root River.
Some cruises even offer camping under the stars on remote islands only accessible by boat. Cook over a crackling fire, go fishing for your dinner, watch the sunset over the river, and fall asleep to the gentle lapping of waves on shore. Roughing it never felt so luxurious.
With the mighty Mississippi River as your playground, a cruise vacation from Winona pairs leisurely sightseeing with opportunities for active outdoor adventures. Paddle, pedal, hike and more as you breathe fresh air and absorb the region’s natural splendor. A perfect balance for nature lovers craving both relaxation and excitement.
Learn About the History of Riverboats and River Trade
A Mississippi River cruise from Winona provides the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich history of riverboats and trade along this iconic waterway. As you gaze at the paddlewheel propelling you upstream, listen closely as guides regale you with tales of the river’s storied past.
Long before trains and trucks, riverboats were the lifeblood of commerce for communities along the Mississippi. Starting in the early 1800s, elegantly designed sternwheelers carried passengers, mail, freight and livestock between river towns. They linked people, connected markets, and supplied goods that fueled America’s westward expansion.
From the opulent finery of luxurious 19th century passenger vessels to the no-frills practicality of workhorse packet boats hauling lumber, grain and furs, riverboats came in all shapes and sizes. But they shared a vital role in fostering trade up and down the Mississippi and its tributaries.
The crews manning these boats also came from diverse backgrounds. Handsomely uniformed captains and pilots shared the decks with rough and tumble roustabouts and deckhands of all races. People regularly worked and socialized across racial divides rarely seen in other areas of society at the time.
Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Boilers sometimes exploded, snags ripped through hulls, and unpredictable currents capsized boats. But river captains viewed navigating the Mississippi as an art form and took pride in their skills piloting boats across this rugged landscape.
While new technologies eventually diminished their utility, the glory days of Mississippi riverboating live on. Modern cruises let you envision bygone days when showboats dazzled crowds with music and theater while transporting goods to fuel America’s growth. Relax in a Victorian lounge or stand on the deck as river mists transport you back in time.
Step Back in Time at River Museums
To further delve into the heyday of Mississippi River trade, be sure to visit some of the excellent river museums located along the shore. Many cruises offer tours of these facilities or provide free time to explore them yourself.
At the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, you can gaze at the extensive collection of paintings, folk art, and artifacts from the river’s past. Wander through detailed exhibits of a towboat pilot house, steamboat interiors, and even a life-sized diorama of river workers.
Upstream in Wabasha, tour the historic Anderson House Hotel, once an elegant mid-19th century steamboat era hotel. At the Hiawatha Valley Museum, learn how Native American tribes and European traders interacted via the river’s networks.
In Dubuque, Iowa, the National Mississippi River Museum immerses you in the river’s natural history and culture via interactive exhibits and steamboat tours. Climb aboard a full-sized towboat and stand astride the paddlewheel to feel like you’re piloting a giant vessel.
From humble packet boats to opulent Victorian steamships, river cruising allows you to embrace the Mississippi’s heritage firsthand. Let these world-class museums transport you back through time to the river’s heyday as America’s bustling maritime superhighway.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing the mighty Mississippi River from the deck of a riverboat cruise. With towering bluffs, quaint river towns, and abundant wildlife, a voyage from Winona, Minnesota allows you to revel in the majesty of the Upper Mississippi.
Tour Historic and Unique River Towns Like Wabasha and Red Wing
One of the best parts of a Winona river cruise is the opportunity to stop in charming river communities along the way. Just 30 miles downriver from Winona lies Wabasha, the “Oldest Town on the Mississippi.” Meandering the brick roads and visiting historic landmarks like the Anderson House Museum provides a glimpse into Wabasha’s rustic past.
The river cruise may also dock at Red Wing, named after the red sandstone bluffs overlooking the town. Red Wing is filled with arts, culture, and entertainment. You can browse the award-winning Red Wing Pottery collection, tour the historic Sheldon Theatre, or sample craft beers at the Falconer Vineyards. With its rolling hills and small-town charm, Red Wing is a treat to explore from the river.
See Wildlife and Nature along the Mississippi Flyway
The Upper Mississippi River is part of the Mississippi Flyway, a vital migration route for over 300 bird species. Winona cruises provide excellent bird watching opportunities. You’re likely to spot pelicans, herons, eagles, and even the rare trumpeter swan gliding over the water. Signs of beaver, river otter, deer, and turtles appear along the wooded banks. With diverse fish like walleye, catfish, and bass, the Mississippi teems with aquatic life. Having nature surround you on all sides is part of the magic of a Winona river trip.
The fall journey reveals an explosion of color from the blazing maples and oaks along the shores. Spring cruises showcase lush greenery and wildflowers blanketing the river bluffs. Even winter cruises have a stark beauty, with snow-dusted pines and icy rock formations glistening in the sunlight. Whenever you choose to cruise, the varied ecosystems and habitats of the Upper Mississippi will be on full display.
Relax On Deck and Admire Dramatic River Bluffs
A highlight of the Winona riverboat experience is kicking back on the deck to soak in the breathtaking scenery. The Upper Mississippi is characterized by towering 500-foot limestone bluffs carved by the water’s flow over millennia. Some of the most dramatic bluffs occur right around Winona, like the Deer Run Bluffs with striated rock strata visible.
Further downriver, you’ll marvel at the Palisades cliffs with their pockmarked rock face and soaring pines growing at the top. Seeing these geological wonders right from the boat deck makes you feel small next to the river’s power. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the forces that shaped this river into the iconic natural feature it is today.
Experience River History and Lore
A river cruise lets you immerse yourself in the pivotal history and culture of the Mississippi. Costumed historical guides share river lore, tales of fur traders, roaring riverboat captains, and more. You gain insight into how generations have depended on and shaped this waterway.
Onboard talks cover river ecology, the era of lumber rafting, and even the exploits of notorious pirates and bandits along the Mississippi. Local musicians come aboard to play old-time folk tunes and tell colorful stories through song. By learning about the river’s past, you come to better understand its present importance.
Savor Regional Food and Drink
Midwestern hospitality shines bright on a Winona river cruise, including at dinnertime. Locally sourced cuisine features regional specialties like fried walleye, juicy lucy burgers, wild rice soup, and don’t forget the hotdish! Homemade pies from local bakeries cap off meals deliciously.
You can sample local wines like those from Forestville’s Whistling Well Vineyard or Minnesota’s Wabasha-Kellogg distillery along the way too. Toasting to the river views and new friends with a glass of local wine or beer makes for an unbeatable experience. With the flavors of the Upper Midwest and cozy atmosphere, dinnertimes feed both your body and soul.
Appreciate the River’s Significance
A voyage from Winona provides new insight into the Mississippi River’s cultural and economic importance. The river transports over $105 billion in goods like grain, lumber, and iron ore each year. Cruising past barges and seeing massive locks enables you to witness this mighty “working river” up close.
You also recognize the Mississippi’s environmental diversity that supports wildlife and recreation alike. By cruising its waters firsthand, you come to better appreciate the Mississippi not just as an impressive natural feature but as the lifeblood of a region.
If you want to experience the spirit, splendor, and tranquility of the Upper Mississippi River, consider booking a cruise from Winona. Let the mighty river current sweep you away on an unforgettable voyage filled with history, nature, and hospitality.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the powerful Mississippi River from the deck of a riverboat cruise. With soaring bluffs, charming river towns, and plenty of wildlife, a journey from Winona, Minnesota lets you revel in the magnificence of the Upper Mississippi.
Savor Delicious Meals Prepared Fresh Onboard
One of the best parts of a Winona river cruise is the scrumptious locally-inspired cuisine. Chefs prepare meals fresh daily using seasonal ingredients. At breakfast, you’ll find hot-off-the-griddle flapjacks, crispy bacon, huevos rancheros, and fresh fruit. At lunch, enjoy juicy burgers, hand-battered fried chicken, or walleye fish tacos out on the deck.
Come dinnertime, mouthwatering dishes like Parmesan crusted walleye, beer-braised pot roasts, and fettuccine alfredo take center stage. Leave room for melt-in-your-mouth pies from nearby Minnesota orchards. Toasting to the riverside sunsets with regional beers and wines makes every meal memorable.
Stop in Historic River Towns Along the Way
A highlight of a Winona river cruise is getting to stop in charming towns along the Mississippi. Just 30 miles from Winona, the community of Wabasha has vintage brick streets and landmarks like the Anderson House Museum for a taste of a bygone era. Red Wing, named after its iconic red sandstone bluffs, is filled with galleries, shops, and wineries to explore.
With rolling hills and small-town ambiance, towns like Lake City, Hastings, and St. Paul are treasures to wander. Meandering their neighborhoods, main streets, and river walks provides an authentic slice of Midwest life. From homey cafes to river history exhibits, you get immersed in the culture of the river communities.
Enjoy Front-Row Views of Dramatic Bluffs and Islands
One highlight of the journey from Winona is reveling in the spectacular scenery. The Upper Mississippi is known for its towering 500-foot limestone bluffs carved by the river’s currents. Near Winona, the Deer Run Bluffs and Rieck’s Lake Park showcase multi-colored rock layers and pine-dotted crags.
Further along, you’ll be awed by the enormous Palisades cliffs swirled with rock formations. Small islands like Pike’s Pole and Deer Island rising from the river channel add to the scenic allure. With the bluffs and islands all around, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the river’s beauty and power.
Spot Birds and Wildlife in the Mississippi Flyway
The Upper Mississippi River falls along the Mississippi Flyway, an avian migration corridor used by over 300 bird species annually. Winona cruises let you scout for eagles, pelicans, swans, herons, and songbirds from the deck. You’re bound to spot beavers, river otters, deer, turtles, and other wildlife along the wooded banks too.
With healthy fish populations like walleye, bass, and catfish, the river teems with life. Experiencing such biodiversity firsthand allows you to better admire the vital ecosystems of the Mississippi. Fall journeys offer blazing fall colors, while spring cruises showcase wildflowers and new greenery along the shores.
Learn About the River’s Fascinating History and Lore
A Winona river cruise lets you delve into the Mississippi’s rich history and culture. Onboard talks cover everything from the eras of riverboat captains and log rafting to the exploits of rogues like river pirates. Historians and local musicians share colorful stories of life on the river through the generations.
You gain perspective into how people have shaped the river by tours of grain mills, barges, and river locks. By learning about the past, you come to appreciate the Mississippi’s ongoing cultural importance and economic role for communities today.
From tasting handcrafted beers to listening to folk tunes, you’ll be immersed in the spirit of the river. Meandering the waterway that has captivated people for centuries makes this an unforgettable voyage through nature, history, and the heart of the Midwest.
If you want to experience the allure and tranquility of the Upper Mississippi River, then book a cruise from Winona. Let the river’s mystique sweep you away on an amazing journey you’ll cherish.
There’s nothing quite like witnessing the power and splendor of the Mississippi River from the vantage point of a riverboat. With towering bluffs, quaint river towns, and abundant wildlife, a journey from Winona, Minnesota allows you to revel in the majesty of the Upper Mississippi.
Unwind with Live Musical Entertainment
One of the unique pleasures of a Winona river cruise is getting to enjoy live music entertainment on board. In the evening, talented local musicians come aboard to put on lively folk, country, and bluegrass performances. Toe-tapping fiddles, soulful harmonicas, and twangy guitars fill the ship with down-home sounds.
During scenic stretches, musicians stroll the deck playing acoustic tunes perfect for the riverside setting. Hearing live music while cruising along the water creates such a fun and festive ambiance. From lively river shanties to poignant ballads, the music transports you straight into the heart and soul of the region.
Savor Regional Cuisine Prepared Fresh Daily
Midwestern hospitality shines bright at mealtimes on a Winona cruise. Talented chefs prepare cuisine daily using the freshest local ingredients. Indulge in hearty comfort foods like chicken pot pie, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, or mac and cheese casserole. Save room for fruit pies and cobblers from nearby orchards.
You can sample regional beers and wines like those from Wabasha’s Pearl Street Brewery or Cannon River Winery too. Enjoying local flavors while gazing at the passing river scenery makes for an unforgettable dining experience.
Absorb the Beauty of the River’s Bluffs and Islands
One highlight of the journey from Winona is getting to admire the awe-inspiring scenery. The Upper Mississippi is renowned for its monumental 500-foot limestone bluffs sculpted by the river’s currents. Near Winona, Pike’s Peak bluff and Deer Island showcase multi-hued rock layers dotted with pines.
Further along, you’ll marvel at the Palisades cliffs’ craggy facades and Willow Island’s lush greenery. With the bluffs and islands surrounding you, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the river’s allure and force.
Discover Charming River Towns and Cities
Stopping to explore quaint river communities makes for an unforgettable experience. In Wabasha, strolling the vintage brick roads and visiting old landmarks provides a glimpse into the past. Art galleries, shops, and eateries fill Red Wing’s streets overlooking the red rock cliffs.
River cities like Hastings, St. Paul, and Minneapolis also allow you to venture ashore and wander their neighborhoods. From stately mansions to bustling marketplaces, absorbing their ambiance gives you a well-rounded river experience.
Learning about the Mississippi’s ongoing role for these communities gives you new insight into the river’s cultural importance and heritage.
Spot Abundant Birds and Wildlife
Gliding through the Mississippi Flyway lets you witness the river’s remarkable biodiversity. Hundreds of bird species like bald eagles, pelicans, swans, and warblers can be spotted winging over the water. Lively beavers, river otters, deer, and turtles appear along the banks.
Vibrant wildflowers in spring and brilliant fall foliage enhance the beauty. With such a diversity of habitats and life, you gain a deep appreciation for the Mississippi’s natural splendor.
If you want to soak in the spirit, history, and ecology of the Mighty Mississippi, then book a Winona river cruise. Let the mythology of Ol’ Man River sweep you away on an unforgettable voyage filled with music, nature, and regional hospitality.
Try Your Luck at Riverboat Casino Gaming
Looking for a fun and exciting way to spend a weekend or vacation in Winona, Minnesota? Consider embarking on a Mississippi riverboat cruise and trying your hand at the thrilling world of riverboat casino gaming. Many travelers don’t realize that right here in southeastern Minnesota, you can experience the thrill of gaming on the river just like in the golden days of the 1800s.
Winona is ideally situated on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, which has a rich history of riverboat travel and commerce. Back in the 19th century, paddle wheel riverboats were a popular way to transport cargo and passengers along the river. And where there were riverboats, there were often card sharks and dice rollers looking to make their fortune through games of chance. Riverboat casinos were an iconic part of life on the Mississippi for decades.
Today, modern riverboat casinos allow you to step back in time and try your luck on the rolling waters of the Mississippi. On river cruises departing from Winona, you’ll find gaming onboard authentic paddle wheel boats designed to resemble the riverboats of yesteryear. From blackjack and poker to roulette and slot machines, you’ll have plenty of options to tempt Lady Luck on a riverboat casino getaway.
One great option for experiencing riverboat casino gaming from Winona is the Grand Excursion cruise line. Their sleek black riverboats feature indoor gaming halls complete with slots, table games, and sports betting. You can play a few hands of Texas Hold ‘Em in a tournament or jingle the slots as the paddles churn the waters around you. It’s a one-of-a-kind gaming experience you won’t find anywhere else.
In addition to gaming, Grand Excursion cruises include live musical entertainment that gets you tapping your toes. When you need a break from the tables, grab a tallboy from the onboard bar and relax on the outdoor viewing decks. There, you can soak in spectacular views of the wild Mississippi bluffs and watch river traffic pass by. From bald eagles fishing to barges loaded with grain, a river cruise lets you immerse yourself in the majesty of the Mississippi.
If you’re looking for a cruise line with more amenities, check out Southern Star Riverboat Adventures based in Winona. Their multilevel riverboats are like floating hotels, complete with grand ballrooms, restaurants, and luxurious staterooms. Try your luck at their Vegas-style casino outfitted with all the latest machines and table games. When you’re not gambling, unwind with spa treatments, line dancing, art classes, and more onboard activities.
Southern Star also offers flexible cruise options from Winona. Looking for an afternoon escape? Take a daylight lunch or dinner cruise and enjoy gaming and a meal on the river. For a longer getaway, opt for an overnight voyage complete with inclusive dining, entertainment, and an ocean view stateroom. It’s an unbeatable way to experience the majesty of the upper Mississippi.
Riverboat cruises also make gaming getaways easy and hassle-free. With gambling, dining, entertainment, and lodging all onboard, everything is taken care of for you. All you have to do is step off the dock and let your cares float away as the paddle boat transports you back in time. It’s a nostalgic way to try your luck in an iconic slice of Americana.
If you’re planning a trip to scenic Winona, consider booking a riverboat casino cruise for a unique gaming experience. Float along the Mississippi River’s rolling currents as the sound of the paddle wheel sets a relaxing rhythm. Deal yourself in for poker, spin the roulette wheel, or dance the night away under the stars. With spectacular scenery, top-notch amenities, and non-stop gaming action, it’s an adventurous way to strike it big on the mighty Mississippi.
Shop and Stroll Through Downtown Winona
Looking for a fun and relaxing way to spend a day exploring Winona, Minnesota? Head downtown and take in the sights, sounds, and flavors of this vibrant river city. Historic downtown Winona offers visitors a treasure trove of locally-owned shops, art galleries, and restaurants nestled into classic brick buildings lining the streets.
Start your downtown Winona stroll along the pedestrian-friendly 3rd Street. Pop into the boutiques and specialty stores selling gifts, clothing, jewelry, home decor, and more. Find that perfect book at Paperbacks and Pieces bookstore or browse through vinyl records at Last Song Music. Stock up on artisan cheeses, cured meats, and other gourmet goodies to take home at Bluff Country Co-op.
Don’t miss the Winona County History Center, where you can immerse yourself in the area’s past through exhibits and artifact collections. Inside a stunning Victorian mansion, learn about the railroads, riverboats, pioneers, and indigenous cultures that shaped this corner of Minnesota. It’s a great way to deepen your understanding of Winona before continuing to explore its present-day charms.
After shopping, make your way over to Levee Park overlooking the Mississippi River. Stroll the scenic riverside paths shaded by majestic oak trees and get up close views of barge traffic churning by. Let the kids burn off some energy at the playground and cool down on hot days wading in the interactive fountain. Pack a picnic lunch or snacks and take in the laidback river town vibes under the park’s pavilions.
If you work up an appetite, Winona’s downtown dining options run the gamut from quaint cafes to gastropubs to ethnic eateries. Grab an outdoor patio table at Blooming Grounds Coffee House & Roastery and fuel up on coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and housemade pastries. For lunch, try a juicy Lucy burger or vegetarian sandwich at Hedberg’s Minnesota Burger Company paired with local craft brews.
In the evening, class it up with dinner at Signatures Restaurant. Situated in a historic bank building, this fine dining spot plates up steaks, seafood, and creative seasonal entrees in a romantic atmosphere. Not hungry for a full meal? Check out Island City Brewing Company’s menu of wood-fired pizzas, sharable apps, and 32 rotating taps of craft beer brewed onsite.
Work off your big meal with more walking and shopping in downtown Winona’s arts district. Browse the artists’ studios and galleries anchored by the Minnesota Marine Art Museum showcasing stunning maritime paintings and sculptures. Don’t miss the impressive collection of local art inside the Winona Arts Center.
Make sure to save some time for treating yourself at one of downtown’s indulgent local shops. Grab handcrafted ice cream, sorbet, or gelato in flavors like honey lavender and chocolate caramel sea salt at Bloedow Bakery. Chocoholics will think they’ve died and gone to heaven stepping into the Wonka-esque Charlie’s Eats & Sweets candy emporium.
When it’s time for a pick-me-up, duck into one of Winona’s cozy cafes like Acoustic Cafe or Mugby Junction to sip lattes, smoothies, or specialty teas paired with made-from-scratch baked goods. You’ll leave caffeine-buzzed and ready to tackle the remainder of your downtown Winona itinerary.
In the evening, downtown comes even more alive. Take in a independent or foreign film screening at the Winona 7 Movie Theater, known for its affordable tickets and concessions. Catch some live tunes pouring out of Eckert’s Bar or the Acoustic Cafe patio. Or laugh it up at comedy and improv shows at the Underground Theater.
Finally, bookend your day of downtown Winona retail therapy at the Wine Barrel wine and cocktail bar. Unwind with a glass of Minnesota wine or craft cocktail and chat with locals while listening to live acoustic music. It’s the perfect way to cap off an idyllic day immersing yourself in Winona’s thriving and historic downtown district.
With its easily walkable streets lined with hidden gem boutiques, museums, eateries, and nightlife venues, downtown Winona offers visitors an enticing blend of small town charm and culture. Take a day or two to leisurely shop, dine, and take in the sights at your own pace. You’ll leave enchanted by the many faces of this riverside town.
Explore the Great River Shakespeare Festival
Looking for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience in Winona, Minnesota? Mark your calendar for the Great River Shakespeare Festival held annually in downtown Winona. This wildly popular theater festival celebrates the works of the Bard through professional Shakespeare productions, training programs, and community events.
The centerpiece of the Great River Shakespeare Festival is the outdoor mainstage productions of Shakespeare plays and related works. Each summer, the festival puts on three mainstage shows at the Winona State University Performing Arts Center. Watch in awe as classically trained actors breathe life into Shakespeare’s iconic characters on an outdoor stage against the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.
Mainstage performances have included crowd favorites like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet, and The Tempest. But the festival also mixes in non-Shakespearean classics and contemporary works that complement the season’s selections. For instance, they’ve staged the comedy The Three Musketeers and the drama Moby Dick alongside Shakespeare plays about similar themes.
The outdoor setting under the stars adds magic and spectacle to each production. Audiences spread out on the grassy “yard” or sit in the covered bleachers. Before the show, pre-show entertainment like Elizabethan madrigal singing and juggling acts set the mood. Grab dinner from onsite food trucks or pack your own picnic to enjoy an evening of theater in the park.
In addition to the mainstage shows, don’t miss special events like kid-friendly 60-minute Shakespeare productions and concerts. Festival Campout nights involve pitching a tent right at the theater site and participating in campfire conversations with directors and actors before an evening performance.
The Great River Shakespeare Festival also includes exceptional training opportunities for both adults and youth. Adult actors can apply to participate in a professional training program with workshops, classes, and mentoring focused on classical theater. The festival’s Globe Players program provides theater education for local students, including in-school residencies and summer youth productions.
Throughout the summer festival season from early June to mid-August, the Winona community comes alive with Shakespeare-themed events. Stop by “Bard in the Yard” where you can catch informal popup performances around town. There are Renaissance Fairs, costume contests, art exhibits, and more ways to experience Shakespeare’s enduring impact on contemporary culture.
Festival organizers also partner with local businesses, organizations, and individual community members to make Shakespeare accessible to all. Their “Bard Buddies” program provides free companion tickets to mainstage shows for eligible community members facing barriers to participation.
By making world-class theater productions affordable and inviting people to get involved through programming, the Great River Shakespeare Festival fosters a spirit of creativity, joy, and togetherness throughout Winona. It’s an unforgettable way to see Shakespeare productions come to life with the majestic Mississippi River valley as a backdrop.
Travelers looking for unique things to do in Winona should absolutely include attending a Great River Shakespeare Festival performance on their Minnesota itinerary. Secure your tickets in advance, as the shows often sell out completely during the festival’s peak summer season.
If you can, try to attend multiple productions to get the full Great River Shakespeare Festival experience. Grab seats up close in the reserved sections or spread out a blanket on the grassy hill for budget-friendly general admission. Arrive early to catch the preshow acts that always delight audiences.
Pack snacks, non-alcoholic drinks, bug spray, sunglasses, and sunscreen gear for an outdoor theater adventure. Feel free to bring cushions or folding chairs for extra comfort on the lawn. Check the weather and bring layers for cool Minnesota summer evenings.
Nearby parking gets snatched up quickly, so ride your bike or take the free shuttle from downtown Winona. Once you arrive, get swept away into Shakespeare’s worlds populated by star-crossed lovers, feuding fairies, scheming villains, and insightful fools. The live performances make these classic tales leap off the page.
After the curtain closes, hang around the theater grounds for post-show music and entertainment. Strike up a conversation with cast members at the Stage Door Canteen concessions area to get their take on the magic you just witnessed onstage.
Let the Great River Shakespeare Festival ignite your imagination through the power of live theater. By making Shakespeare accessible to all ages and weaving his work into the fabric of the community, this exceptional theater festival has put Winona on the map as a Midwest cultural destination. Join visitors from around the nation in experiencing the Bard under the stars.
Visit National Eagle Center and See Eagles Up Close
Looking for a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience in Winona, Minnesota? Make plans to visit the National Eagle Center, the perfect place to learn about and observe America’s majestic bald and golden eagles.
Situated along the Mississippi River, the National Eagle Center provides an exceptionally close-up look at eagles in their natural habitat. Get eye-to-eye views of resident eagles through floor-to-ceiling windows opening into outdoor enclosure habitats. You’ll be amazed seeing these powerful raptors soar, glide, and hunt for fish only feet away.
In addition to the eagle enclosures, the center showcases educational exhibits explaining eagle ecology, biology, conservation, and significance to Native American cultures. Interactive displays let visitors identify eagle feathers, learn about their life cycle, and understand the threats facing them in the wild.
One standout exhibit experience is the Eagle Flight Simulator. Strap on virtual reality goggles and test your flying skills navigating through the Eagle Canyon obstacle course. Feel the rush of riding air currents and swooping down to snag prey from this unique eagle’s eye perspective.
Throughout the day, Eagle Center staff provide live raptor programs giving visitors up-close views of resident eagles and other birds of prey like hawks, falcons, and owls. An expert raptor handler will introduce each bird and share fun facts about its traits and behaviors as they fly around the program space.
In addition to the daily programs, visitors can observe eagle feeding demonstrations. Find out what’s on the menu for these carnivorous hunters as staff offer insights into how eagles catch and consume river fish. It’s an exciting opportunity to watch the eagles dine up-close through the glass.
The National Eagle Center also provides an unparalleled chance to watch wild bald eagles in their native habitat. Grab a spot at the outdoor viewing deck overlooking the Mississippi River and keep your eyes peeled. With a pair of binoculars handy, you’re likely to spot eagles perched in trees or circling over the water.
Free spotting scopes on the deck give you an even closer look. In winter, it’s not uncommon to see bald eagles swooping down to grab fish in their talons right off the water. At certain times of year, you may even catch a glimpse of E14 and E15, the center’s former live ambassador eagles, among the wild eagles.
In addition to the daily exhibits and programs, visitors can attend special events like the Bald Eagle Days festival each January. The event celebrates Winona’s wintering bald eagle population through exhibits, live raptor encounters, and eagle watching river cruises.
The National Eagle Center also provides educational programs for schools and community groups. Schedule an guided field trip for students to supplement classroom curriculum. Educators can also attend workshops on conservation, habitat protection, and incorporating eagle-themed lessons across subjects.
By combining up-close animal encounters, interactive exhibits, and access to wild eagles in a natural setting, the National Eagle Center offers visitors a multi-sensory learning adventure. It’s the perfect place to take kids and adults alike to inspire awe for America’savian emblem.
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours immersed in all the National Eagle Center has to offer. Start in the Soar to Explore exhibit gallery to get oriented to the breadth of interactive displays and dioramas spotlighting eagle ecology and history.
Next, grab a front row seat for one of the scheduled raptor presentations or eagle feeding programs. You’ll leave feeling like you got to personally meet these incredible birds up close.
Make time to try the Eagle Flight Simulator and test your skills navigating the river bluffs from an eagle’s perspective. The virtual reality experience truly lets you get a bird’s eye view.
Before you leave, spend some time spotting wild eagles through the viewing scopes trained on the Mississippi River. With luck, you’ll get to witness bald eagles fishing and soaring over the river.
The National Eagle Center brings these regal birds to life through immersive exhibits and encounters. Visitors of all ages leave inspired by the majesty of America’s bald eagle.
Experience a Vintage-Style Paddleboat Excursion
Looking for a nostalgic way to revel in the beauty of the upper Mississippi River? In Winona, Minnesota, you can embark on a vintage paddleboat sightseeing or dining cruise that transports you back in time to the heyday of riverboat travel. It’s a classic Midwestern experience, perfect for families, couples, and history buffs alike.
Winona offers access to fully restored paddle wheel riverboats that look and feel straight out of the 19th century. With their charming design featuring large paddles and open promenade decks, these boats evoke the elegant steam-powered riverboats that were once commonplace on the Mississippi.
Climb aboard an antique-style paddle wheeler like the Riverboat Twilight or the Celebration Belle for an unforgettable ride up and down the river. Feel the breeze on your face from the open viewing decks as the sound of the churning paddle wheel sets a relaxing, nostalgic rhythm.
One great option for a paddleboat experience in Winona is the one-hour Sightseeing & History Cruise aboard the Riverboat Twilight. This charming 150-passenger paddleboat will transport you back in time with its gleaming white lacework and red paddle wheel.
Onboard, you’ll learn about Winona’s history and soak up incredible views of the area’s iconic river bluffs and rolling hills blanketed in lush forests. An onboard guide will point out scenic landmarks and share stories about Winona’s past as a bustling riverboat port.
For a longer trip, book the Celebration Belle for their Levee Lunch Cruise or Upper Mississippi Dinner Cruise. You’ll savor delicious meals freshly prepared onboard as the paddleboat cruises the river. Tables line the interior Grand Saloon ballroom or you can dine al fresco on the deck.
In the evening, the paddleboat’s interior lights create a romantic glow and live piano music accompanies your riverside dinner. Enjoy watching the sun dip behind the bluffs and the moonlight shimmer on the water during these special evening cruises.
Both the Celebration Belle and Riverboat Twilight are outfitted with paddlewheel viewing areas, so passengers can get an up-close view of the massive wheel propelling them forward. Let the mesmerizing sight and rhythmic splashing sounds carry you back to the days when paddleboats were the epitome of travel luxury.
In addition to scenic sightseeing tours, many paddleboats can be chartered for special private events. Host a wedding ceremony and reception onboard complete with dining, dancing, and gorgeous river views as your backdrop. Or book a paddleboat for a company retreat, family reunion dinner, or other group events.
Paddleboat cruises offer families a memorable way to experience the Mississippi River’s beauty while learning about Winona’s culture and heritage. Kids will love feeling the boat breeze on their face and getting to see a real paddle wheel up close.
For couples, paddleboat excursions make for romantic date nights surrounded by gorgeous river views. Relax with a glass of wine on the deck or cuddle close to stay warm on evening cruises.
Solo travelers can use the slower pace of the boat to unplug and get lost in their thoughts watching the passing scenery. Or strike up conversations with fellow passengers about what brought them aboard.
However you choose to experience it, there’s something undeniably special about seeing the mighty Mississippi from the deck of a vintage-style paddleboat. Let the river’s timeless beauty wash over you as the paddles propel you back to a simpler era of travel.
When booking your paddleboat cruise excursion, opt for the longest trip your schedule allows to fully immerse yourself in the nostalgia of riverboat travel. For sightseeing paddlers, the 1.5-2 hour rides will give you more time to take in the sights.
Arrive early to explore the boat before shoving off. Snap some selfies with the paddlewheel and check out the onboard amenities like snack bars and gift shops. Better yet, come 30-60 minutes early and listen to pre-cruise musical entertainment on the boarding dock.
Dress comfortably for the weather but bring layers in case it gets breezy on the open viewing decks. Flat walking shoes are ideal for stability on the boat. Don’t forget sun protection like hats and sunscreen to stay comfortable.
Once onboard, ask the captain and crew questions about steamboat history and their own backgrounds with paddleboats. They love sharing insights with curious passengers.
On sightseeing cruises, soak up the onboard guide’s river commentary and feel free to ask follow-up questions. Learning about the river you’re cruising makes the experience even more meaningful.
Capture plenty of photos and selfies throughout your cruise to commemorate your vintage riverboat adventure. Just remember to live in the moment and appreciate the nostalgic paddleboat experience as you recreate river travel’s glorious past.
Cruise the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge
Looking for a scenic and eco-friendly way to revel in the beauty of the Upper Mississippi River? In Winona, Minnesota, you can embark on a river cruise through the stunning Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge surrounding the river’s sparkling waters.
At over 240,000 acres, this National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the largest blocks of floodplain habitat in the country. Cruising this section of the river lets you soak up incredible views of the refuge’s vast forests, islands, backwater sloughs, and wetland marshes teeming with wildlife.
Joining a refuge river cruise is a peaceful way to experience the diverse plants and animals that rely on the mighty Mississippi. Keep your eyes peeled and you might spot turtles basking on logs, great blue herons stalking fish, and whitetail deer grazing on the shore.
One excellent option for cruising the refuge is through the Celebration River Cruises company based in Winona, MN. Their Riverlore Legacy paddle wheeler boat has an outdoor second level for optimal wildlife viewing over the river banks.
The Riverlore Legacy offers 2.5 hour Lakes & River Cruises that take passengers along the main river channel, then into picturesque Crooked Slough. This shallow, winding backwater area lined with marshes and forests offers prime opportunities to spot river wildlife.
Knowledgeable onboard guides will point out nesting sites for bald eagles, falcons, and other raptors perched high in the majestic bluffside trees. You’re also likely to see ducks, herons, and even river otters fishing in the backwaters’ calm currents.
In autumn, passengers can revel in brilliant fall colors reflected in the river and bluffs along the cruise route. Come springtime, you’ll see newly arrived migratory birds like colorful warblers darting through trees budding to life.
In addition to scenic cruises, Celebration River Cruises offers specialized Bald Eagle Watch cruises in winter when bald eagles flock to the open river waters. On these trips, experienced guides assist passengers in spotting and identifying the refuge’s iconic raptors.
The company also provides guided paddling excursions that explore the refuge’s protected backwaters at an even closer level. Choose from guided kayak trips or boat rentals perfect for do-it-yourself paddling adventures in the secluded sloughs.
By partnering with the Friends of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge, Celebration River Cruises helps fund conservation, education, recreation, and stewardship projects that protect this treasured habitat and ecosystem.
Cruising the refuge allows families to unplug from devices and bond over appreciating the area’s natural beauty and diversity. Kids will love scanning the shores for wildlife surprises around every river bend.
Couples can cuddle close on the observation decks as they soak up gorgeous river vistas. Solo travelers can bask in solitude and the relaxing sounds of water and birdsong.
However you choose to cruise it, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge is a must-visit when exploring Winona, MN and the surrounding river valley. Let this immersive river refuge adventure awaken your spirit to the majesty of the Mississippi.
When booking your cruise, opt for at least 2 hours on the water to allow sufficient time for soaking up vistas and spotting wildlife. Longer 4-5 hour trips are also available for more immersive refuge explorations.
Come dressed for the weather with layers, sun protection, and sturdy shoes. Bring binoculars to scan for birds and other animals along the banks. Field guides and wildlife reference apps can also help identify what you spot.
Arrive early to claim a coveted top deck seat for unobstructed wildlife watching. Engage crew with questions about the river and their favorite refuge dwellers.
Onboard, challenge kids to a wildlife scavenger hunt, seeing who can spot creatures like fish, turtles, and birds first. Offer a small prize for the winning explorer.
Capture plenty of photos to commemorate your memorable wilderness adventure. But be sure to put down devices often and simply soak up the refuge’s splendor through all your senses.
Cruising the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge immerses you in the wild splendor of one of America’s most precious natural resources. Let this protected ribbon of river wilderness awaken your spirit to nature’s timeless rhythms.
Marvel at Rustic River Cabins and Mansions
While cruising the mighty Mississippi River around Winona, Minnesota, one of the real treasures is gazing upon the rustic river cabins and grand mansions dotted along the shoreline. From quaint fishing cottages to sprawling Victorian estates, these charming dwellings provide a window into Winona’s rich architectural history.
River cabin architecture tells a tale of the simpler life along the Mississippi River valley. These compact wood-frame cabins offered refuge to fishermen and a rustic respite from hectic city living. Located up and down the wooded river banks, the small cabins maximized breathtaking views of the water with large windows and cozy porches.
While styles vary, river cabins often have gabled roofs, stone chimneys, screened-in porches, and cedar shingles that blend harmoniously into the natural surroundings. Pastel hues like robin’s egg blue or buttery yellow complement the lush green forests.
Inside, river cabins contain modest amenities tailored toward reconnecting with nature. You’ll find wood-burning fireplaces, antique ice boxes, iron woodstoves, and handmade quilts. Such cabins summon memories of Huck Finn adventures and simpler times before modern conveniences.
In addition to fishing cottages, the riverscape around Winona reveals grand Victorian-era mansions where wealthy lumber barons once lived. These imposing multi-story homes feature elaborate architectural details that create a stark contrast to the quaint river cabins.
Ornate “gingerbread” woodwork trims the roof lines and porches of these iconic Victorians. Towering columns, grand porticos, bay windows, and gabled roofs add majesty to the manicured riverfront estates. Elegant cupolas often top the homes, taking advantage of river views.
While river cabins contained just the bare essentials, these luxurious mansionsoffer rooms upon rooms elegantly decorated with fine furnishings. Explore grand ballrooms, libraries, music salons, and lavish dining rooms separated by spiraling staircases.
Many of these majestic homes now operate as historic inns or museums open for tours. Walking through their manicured gardens and immaculately preserved interiors feels like stepping back in time to the Mississippi River’s gilded era.
One highlight is the Villa Louis Estate along Prairie Island showcasing Victorian opulence at its finest. Or visit the East Second Street Historic District downtown to see other gorgeously restored 19th century mansions up close.
While styles vary, these regal riverfront homes share intricately detailed architecture, expensive materials, and a commanding presence overlooking the Mississippi. Their ambitious designs reflect the wealth and prominence of their original owners.
Admiring this contrast between rustic river cabins and palatial Victorians is part of what makes touring Winona by riverboat so memorable. These dwellings encapsulate two distinct eras and ways of life along the Mississippi River valley.
River cruises offer the perfect vantage point to marvel at Winona’s unique riverfront architecture. Sightseeing vessels like the Riverboat Twilight cruise close to shore, providing views of cabins nestled along the banks.
Paddleboat cruises also showcase homes dotting the bluffs above like grand beacons fromWinona’s past. Don’t forget your camera to capture these scenic dwellings.
Seeing the homes as you float by river evokes nostalgia for the steamboat era when mansions kept watch over passing vessels. It’s easy to imagine elegant parties spilling out onto the verandas overlooking the water.
Next time you embark on a Mississippirver cruise from Winona, pay special attention to the rustic cabins and regal mansions punctuating the shores. Their contrasting architecture tells an important story of prosperity, progress, and preserving historical heritage in this charming river town.
Dream about sipping your morning coffee on a cozy cabin porch or dressing up for a soiree in a three-story mansion. Marveling at Winona’s historical homes brings this unique river community to life.
See Ancient Native American Effigy Mounds
One of the most fascinating historical attractions to visit while cruising the Upper Mississippi River around Winona, Minnesota is the enigmatic Native American effigy mounds preserved along the riverbanks. Dating back over 1,000 years, these mysterious earthworks provide a window into the region’s ancient cultures and spiritual beliefs.
Effigy mounds are carefully constructed earthen mounds built in the shapes of various animals like bears, birds, bison, and turtles. They were created by Native American groups like the Hopewell Culture for ceremonial practices and burial rituals.
The term “effigy” means a sculptural representation of someone or something. When viewed from above, the mounds clearly take on zoomorphic forms representing animals meaningful to their builders.
It remains unclear exactly how prehistoric Mississippians constructed these elaborate earthworks. Researchers estimate the mounds were built over generations using hand tools and basketry to move tons of soil into symbolic shapes.
Many mounds include burials with funerary objects at their bases. Their elevated locations suggest Native peoples revered the animal mounds as sacred ceremonial sites and portals between the earthly and spirit worlds.
While thousands of effigy mounds once dotted the upper Mississippi region, many have been lost over time to agriculture and development. Today, protected mound groups around Winona provide rare access to admire these cryptic structures firsthand.
One of the best places to view effigy mounds is Bright’s Mounds Park located just south of downtown Winona. A paved walking trail loops past a clustering of seven mounds, including clear bear and bird effigies.
Informational plaques shed light on the mounds’ estimated ages (1,000-1,400 years old) and construction techniques. You can readily make out the shapes from the viewing platforms.
Further upstream, Wights Mounds Park contains another trail looping past a variety of animal-shaped mounds up to 15 feet high. Signage helps identify the stylized forms of turtles, bison, birds, bears, and other creatures.
Seeing the mounds up-close evokes wonder at the engineering feats and visionary cosmic beliefs of ancient cultures. While their exact purposes remain mysterious, their presence undoubtedly sanctified the land.
River cruises provide unique vantage points to glimpse Winona’s mound groups from the water. The Celebration River Cruise paddleboat passes by Indian Mounds Park across the river from downtown Winona.
Many mounds align prominently along ridgelines overlooking the Mississippi River valley that Native peoples traversed for millennia. Viewing them from below underscores their impression as sacred monuments.
While cruising, marvel at the generations of human effort required to construct the mounds by hand without modern machinery. Their sheer massiveness pays tribute to prehistoric Mississippians’ reverence for the spirits embodied in animal forms.
When visiting the mound groups by land, take time to walk each trail slowly and thoughtfully while picturing past peoples gathering for ceremonies. Download the free ArcGIS app for interactive content at certain mound sites.
Try sitting quietly atop various mounds while facing the river to contemplate the broad valley vista that inspired their ancestors. What moved them to dedicate such efforts honoring the land and its animal inhabitants?
Getting up close to the enigmatic effigy mounds scattered along the Mississippi River valley around Winona provides intriguing insight into Minnesota’s ancient cultures. While their original intent remains shrouded in mystery, their spiritual power still resonates.
Let these sacred earthwork sculptures kindle your imagination about Mississippians’ cosmological beliefs and connection to the natural world they venerated through monumental architecture.
Enjoy Sunrises and Sunsets Over the River
One of the most magical experiences while taking a river cruise from Winona, Minnesota is witnessing spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the mighty Mississippi River. Seeing the sun crest over the eastern bluffs at dawn or dip below the western hills at dusk fills you with awe.
Watching the beginning and end of each day from the vantage point of the river allows you to soak up brilliant hues reflected in the rippling waters. Both sunrise and sunset ignite the river valley skies with dazzling color.
Sunrise cruise options let early risers experience the rebirth of a new day from the tranquil river. Watching the glowing orb peek above towering bluffs and trees fills you with hope.
The world seems to magically transition from darkness to light during a riverside sunrise. Birdsong fills the air as the sky transforms from inky black to radiant amber, violet, peach, and periwinkle blue.
Some Winona river cruise companies like Celebration River Cruises offer early morning Bald Eagle Watching cruises that depart before dawn. You’ll get premier seats to daybreak as eagles stir from their roosts and soar over the glimmering river.
Sunset cruises in the evening provide an equally magical perspective on the day’s end from the Mississippi’s tranquil waters. The setting sun splashes brilliant orange, fuchsia, ruby, and gold hues across the billowing clouds and rippling river.
Watching the sun sink behind the bluffs from the open deck of a paddleboat or cruiser fills you with nostalgic contentment. The sunset signals a time of transition and reflection at the water’s edge.
Many Winona riverboat companies offer scenic evening dinner, cocktail, and moonlight cruises to experience dazzling sunsets on the Mississippi. Relax on open decks with a glass of wine as the sky ignites into a painting.
Both sunrise and sunset glow even more radiantly across the river in autumn and winter when humidity is low. But each season offers its own stunning palette over the water.
Gazing at the sky’s masterpiece from the gently rolling river creates a magical floating perspective. You feel part of the natural glory rather than just an observer from shore.
River towns like Winona also light up beautifully at dusk with lamp posts and homes twinkling to life. Watch the charming scenery transition from day to night during a peaceful evening cruise.
When booking a river cruise, consider choosing a sunrise or sunset departure time to experience these mesmerizing moments. For sunrise, cabins on the east-facing side of overnight paddleboat cruises offer dazzling views as the sun peeks over your window.
Arrive early and stake out an open deck seat facing the direction of sunrise or sunset. For sunsets, enjoy west-facing seats on the right side of the boat heading downstream.
Capture photos and video of the breathtaking color changes, but remain present in the moment as well. Silently soak up nature’s incredible art show glowing across the river valley.
Savoring sunrises and sunsets from the soothing vantage point of the river allows you to bookend your Mississippi River experience with beauty. Let their restorative light fill your spirit with inspiration and wonder.