See more of the story

Giving an experience instead of a gift for the holidays this year? Here are three quick-and-easy destinations where you can do a little shopping and dining, and turn it into an overnight for that real getaway feeling.

Stillwater gets into the holiday spirit.
Stillwater gets into the holiday spirit.

Star Tribune file

Downtown Stillwater

The bustling town on the St. Croix gussies up for the holidays and has become quite a food destination.

Shop: When in Stillwater, antique shopping is half the fun. There are several spots to choose from — all on Main Street. Start with Midtown Antique Mall, which has everything under the sun, including a third floor dedicated to furniture. There also are plenty of places to shop new finds in this river town. Alfresco Casual Living, which recently relocated, is top-notch in the home, garden and gifts world. For fashion, make sure one of your stops is Enchante, which excels in keeping pace with trends.

Stay: Lora came on the scene five years ago as a charming renovation that cleverly stitched together four 1880s buildings into one modern hotel. Higher-level rooms offer picturesque views of the river and town. Once you arrive, you won't have to drive — shopping and dining options are walking distance. If you decide to hole up inside, opt for a fireplace room. And yes, you can save boarding costs by bringing your pet.

Eat: After weathering a pandemic and construction, there's a new energy around the food and drink scene. For exceptional bar food (and cheese curds with an epic cheese pull), Howard's Bar, a newcomer with an old soul, can't be beat. Pizza is never a bad idea, and Melt Pizza Co. is a Detroit-style pizza destination. But don't sleep on their chicken wings, which are doused in adobo sauce. Grab a nightcap at Velveteen Speakeasy, with its stowaway vibes and elegant cocktails, and plan tomorrow's adventures.

Alfresco Casual Living, 114 N. Main St.,; Enchante, 317 Main St. S.,; Midtown Antique Mall, 301 Main St. S.,; Lora, 402 S. Main St.,; Howard's Bar, 302 S. Main St.,; Melt Pizza Co., 112 N. Main St.,; Velveteen Speakeasy, 123 N. 2nd St.,

Hotel Landing in Wayzata.
Hotel Landing in Wayzata.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune file

Downtown Wayzata

Lake Minnetonka remains a draw in this pretty, walkable town that turns on the charm around the holidays.

Shop: It's no surprise Henri Home was co-founded by an interior designer, as evidenced by the well-curated home decor, furniture and apothecary products. Julia Moss Designs is another must-stop with a range of playful and refined home goods and more from coveted brands around the world. While here, check out the Grocer's Table, which, in addition to its popular cafe and wine bar, is a place to shop food-focused artisans and gifts, including provisions made in-house.

Stay: Sleek and modern, Hotel Landing sits on prime real estate at Wayzata's promenade. A glass fireplace greets visitors coming in from the cold, adding warmth to all the white surfaces you'll find. If it's too chilly for lake walks, indulge in a Nordic-inspired spa treatment or relax in the lobby bar or one of the boutique hotel's 92 rooms. Pets are welcome.

Eat: No need to stray far — Lake Street has it all. Get an early start at Benedict's Morning Heroes, which opens at 7 a.m. (but through lunch, so no need to rush). Midday, Cōv and 6 Smith have robust menus and lakefront views that are still serene, even in winter. Be sure to save room for dinner. Josefina suits all tastes; adventure seekers will enjoy the Italian-inspired menu, but wood-fired pizzas will please even the pickiest eaters. And classic elegance is steps away at Gianni's Steakhouse, where the potatoes papallete alone are worth the trip.

Henri Home, 879 N. Lake St.,; Julia Moss Designs, 647 E. Lake St.,; The Grocer's Table, 326 Broadway Av. S.,; Hotel Landing, 925 E. Lake St.,; Benedict's, 845 E. Lake St.,; Cōv, 700 E. Lake St.,; 6 Smith, 294 Grove Lane E.,; Josefina, 739 E. Lake St.,; Gianni's, 635 E. Lake St.,

Cozy cabins at the Four Seasons’ Nordic Village.
Cozy cabins at the Four Seasons’ Nordic Village.


Minneapolis' North Loop

The hip factor runs high here, with a spate of trendy new restaurants and bars and unique shopping.

Shop: The neighborhood on the edge of downtown has built a reputation for offering shops you can't find anywhere else. One of those is MartinPatrick3. There's much to check out, from the luxe, off-the-beaten-path, men's and women's clothing labels from around the world to fine home furniture and decor. Also like no other, D.Nolo, a retail co-op, is a great way to shop a variety of apparel and home accessories retailers under one roof. And there's always an exciting fashion score to be made at Queen Anna House of Fashion, carrying brands from top fashion houses and independent, emerging designers.

Stay: Looking for the ultimate in hygge (pronounced "hyoo-guh")? Find coziness and conviviality at the Hewing Hotel. Guests can bake in the sauna and take in downtown views while soaking in the rooftop hot tub. With restaurant Tullibee and excellent bars on site, there's no need to venture out if you don't want to. But the hotel's convenient location makes neighborhood exploration easy. Pet-friendly.

Eat: For hygge staying power, splurge on the Four Seasons' Nordic Village — eight cozy (and heated) cabins on the terrace, where you'll feel pampered immersed in high-end design, dinner and service. Wake up with a Maple Standard cold brew from Backstory Coffee Roaster, made with Minnesota maple syrup, before breakfast at nearby NOLO, where breakfast fried rice, tacos and pizza await. You can't go wrong with dinner, with restaurants from chefs Gavin Kaysen (Spoon and Stable), Daniel del Prado (Porzana) and David Fhima (Maison Margaux) all on the same 1st Street block. Decision fatigue? Head to the Monte Carlo for the iconic wings and call it a night.

D.Nolo, 211 3rd Av. N.,; MartinPatrick3, 212 3rd Av. N.,; Queen Anna House of Fashion, 109 N. 2nd St.,; Hewing Hotel, 300 Washington Av. N.,; Four Seasons, 245 Hennepin Av. S.,; Backstory, 528 Washington Av. N.,; NOLO, 515 Washington Av. N.,; Monte Carlo, 219 3rd Av. N.,