Dubbed the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Minnesota, Lanesboro offers a step back to a simpler time. Visitors to this village of just 754, tucked in the Root River Valley, will find historic charm -- with not a sports bar, billboard or franchise in sight. Nature has also surrounded Lanesboro with picturesque limestone bluffs, making it a gorgeous backdrop for biking and other outdoor activities.
Lanesboro sits in the southeast corner of Minnesota along the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway, an 88-mile stretch of Hwy. 16. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Lanesboro's three-block downtown has preserved its character with a ban on stoplights and franchises.
WHAT TO DO
Art immersion: Find handcrafted artwork by accomplished regional and nationally acclaimed artists, as well as juried art exhibits, at the Lanesboro Art Center. Art media include ceramics, photography, jewelry, wood and more (103 Parkway Av. N.; www.lanesboroarts.org).
Experience Lanesboro's local theater scene by catching a play at the Commonweal Theatre Company. This $3.5 million facility, featuring seats reclaimed from the original Guthrie Theatre, offers no seat more than 35 feet from the stage. (208 Parkway Av. N.; www. commonwealtheatre.org).
Shop! Check out one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques downtown, including Potiche Pottery and Gifts (113 Parkway Av. N.). Find stylish natural-fiber women's clothing at Bittersweet Boutique & Antiques (117 Parkway Av. N.) and stop by Essence of Lanesboro (100 Parkway Av. S.) for an education in natural body-care products, including soaps, lotions and essential oil blends.
Experience outdoor tranquility: The Root River trickling through Lanesboro offers opportunities for trout fishing, kayaking, canoeing and tubing.
Bike the Root River Trail -- a paved trail system combined with the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail -- extending 60 miles with scenic views of the county's 300-foot bluffs and rural landscape. Find details on the trail at www.rootrivertrail.org.
Explore another culture: An Amish community of 3,000 is settled in the rolling hills surrounding Lanesboro, and two local tour companies that have developed a rapport with Amish families offer guided tours: R&M Amish Tours (105 Coffee St.; 1-507-467-2128) and Bluffscape Amish Tours (102 E. Beacon St.; 1-507-467-3070). The tours give an up-close look at the Amish way of life and allow visitors to purchase Amish-made goods. For the independent types, a self-guided CD tour is available to rent at Amish Experience (105 Parkway Av. N.).
WHERE TO EAT
Lanesboro is a diner kind of town. Pedal Pushers Café at 121 Parkway Av. N. offers classic 1950s American cuisine featuring local meat, dairy and produce. Don't miss a slice of pie for dessert. New to Lanesboro is Spud Boy Lunch at 105¾ Parkway Av. N. -- a refurbished dining car -- offering counter dining in a historic setting.
Catching a play? Stop by Intermission at 210 Parkway Av. N., near the theater, for a casual evening meal of pasta, steak or shrimp. Take note that the menu changes weekly.
Find fine dining at Old Village Hall Restaurant and Pub at 111 Coffee St. E., which features entrees such as grilled lamb chops with a shallot, port and peppercorn sauce.
The Riverside on the Root & Dirty Martini Lounge at 109 Parkway Av. S. offers riverside dining and cocktails, including an array of martinis with creative flavors such as chai and caramel apple.
Check out the fresh fruit wines at the Scenic Valley Winery, housed in the town's former creamery at 101 Coffee St.
WHERE TO STAY
With 15 licensed B&Bs -- 12 within the city limits and three in rural Lanesboro -- there's no shortage of unique getaways, from Queen Anne Victorians to new renovations. Some B&Bs overlook the dam and others the valley and bluffs, and styles range from formal to relaxed and homey.
Other options include hotels, resorts, campgrounds and inns such as the Stone Mill Hotel & Suites at 100 Beacon St. E., housed within an 1885 limestone building that was once the Lanesboro Feed Mill. The inn's lobby features the original scale once used for weighing feed.
Find lodging information at www.lanesboro.com/lanesboro-lodging-main.php.
IF YOU GO
Ask some of the locals to point you in the direction of "Church Hill," where you'll find two church steeples perched on a bluff overlooking Lanesboro with a scenic view of the local waterfall.
Christine Bernier Lienke is a freelance writer based in Northfield, Minn.