I’m Chasing My Favorite Parts of Summer—so Should You!

by | Jun 2024

Keep for Cheap plays at Franconia Sculpture Park.

Keep for Cheap plays at Franconia Sculpture Park. Photo: Rachel Underland

For me, summer in the Valley is all about maximizing the weekend’s potential. There’s nothing like ending the week on a Thursday, heading north (or south) to cabin getaways or exploring close to home. And with so much to do, see, taste and explore, my unofficial summer bucket list is always jam-packed.

And while I could use this time to share a list of all the new things I want to do this summer, I’m going to give you a glimpse into my ideal weekend itinerary, from my favorite activities and adventures to ways I endeavor to support and build community on the regular.

Enjoy the Arts

When I’m not working on St. Croix Valley Magazine, I can often be found with a camera in hand—either at weddings or somewhere fun taking senior photos. Suffice to say, during my busy months, I can experience a bit of a creative drought! I’ve found there’s no better way to fill up my cup than to enjoy other forms of art.

Music and sculpture are two of my favorites, and these come together at Franconia Sculpture Park’s Music @ Franconia outdoor summer concert series. The concerts, which occur monthly on Saturdays from June to August, bring in exceptional regional musicians to perform at the Earthen Amphitheater stage. To enjoy the event to the fullest, bring your favorite blanket, provisions and company. The concert series is free with a suggested $5 parking donation. Franconia Sculpture Park, 29836 St. Croix Trail N., Shafer; 651.257.6668; franconia.org

Another great way to enjoy music is Concerts in the Park at Hudson’s Lakefront Park Bandshell. The event takes place Thursdays from June to August, with beautiful views of the St. Croix River. Don’t forget to bring your own lawn chair! Lakefront Park, Locust and First streets, Hudson, Wisconsin; 715.386.8411; hudsonwi.org

Or, head north on Fridays for Music on the Overlook, a distinct concert series at Michael Severson Memorial Overlook Park in downtown St. Croix Falls. From high above the St. Croix River, music is amplified across the Valley, making it a special event to witness. Bring a chair or blanket to the show for best results. Severson Memorial Overlook Park, 210 N. Washington St., St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin; musicontheoverlook.com

Time for Trivia

Trivia is a new interest to come out of 2023. I was hesitant when my husband’s coworkers began inviting us to biweekly trivia events, but it soon became a routine I looked forward to. I’m a highly competitive person whose brain just doesn’t hold trivial facts well, so it’s been a lesson in patience made easier by camaraderie and brews. And I learn something new every time!

Toward the north end of Main Street, River Siren Brewing Co. offers relaxing and scenic views of downtown Stillwater from expansive outdoor seating areas.

Toward the north end of Main Street, River Siren Brewing Co. offers relaxing and scenic views of downtown Stillwater from expansive outdoor seating areas. Photo: John Launderville

Thursday nights make for a great trivia night, and we regularly visit River Siren Brewing Co. in Stillwater. Run by Trivia Mafia, the event finds an ideal setting at River Siren during the summer as rolling doors along the indoor space open to a charming patio. The brewery has a unique lineup of brews on tap; visitors can bring their own food and takeout or take advantage of easy ordering from Victoriano’s Pizza. It’s a lively time, made even better by the lovely staff and beautiful river views. River Siren Brewing Co., 225 Main St. N., Stillwater; riversirenbrewing.com

River Siren Brewing Co. has 12 brews on tap, including hard seltzers and seasonal flavors. Pictured is the Boom Site Hazy Pale Ale.

River Siren Brewing Co. has 12 brews on tap, including hard seltzers and seasonal flavors. Pictured is the Boom Site Hazy Pale Ale. Photo: Kailee Olson

Trivia Guide

Take a look at some trivia offerings around the Valley.


Rustic Roots Winery (biweekly)
20168 St. Croix Trail N., Scandia


Lift Bridge Brewing Co.
1900 Tower Drive W., Stillwater

Spiral Brewery
111 Second St. E., Hastings

Uncommon Loon Brewing Company
10825 Lake Blvd., Chisago City


Hop & Barrel Brewing
310 Second St., Hudson, Wisconsin

Prescott Tap
138 Broad St., Prescott, Wisconsin

Trap Rock Brewing Company
520 S. Blanding Woods Road, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

45th Parallel Distillery
1490 Madison Ave., New Richmond, Wisconsin 


Thor’s Hard Cider
6428 Manning Ave. N., Stillwater

Support Local Markets

Some of the best people we’ve met since moving to the Valley are farmers, so we’re quite committed to our local farmers markets. These folks work so hard to grow fresh produce, raise high-quality meats and craft other delicious and beautiful goods—and many of them rely on market visitors to continue this work.

Our favorite local market is the St. Croix Falls Farmers Market, which takes place on Saturdays in the St. Croix Falls Library plaza from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s an intimate group of vendors with each providing a unique offering to visitors. Multiple farmers sell meats, cheese and produce; often, there are also baked goods and breads, flowers, preserves and honey. 230 S. Washington St., St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

The good news is, there are dozens of markets across the Valley on different days, with a variety of skilled vendors. I’m sure you’ll find your favorite—as we’ve found ours.

Here’s a sampling of local farmers markets across the Valley:
  • Bayport Farmers Market, 2:30–6:30 p.m. Monday; 400 Third St. N., Bayport
  • Hudson Farmers Market at Plaza 94, 7:30 a.m.–noon Thursday; 1800 Ward Ave., Hudson, Wisconsin
  • Hudson Farmers Market on Carmichael, 8 a.m.–noon Sunday; 777 Carmichael Road, Hudson, Wisconsin
  • Lake Elmo Farmers Market, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturday; 11030 Stillwater Blvd. N., Lake Elmo
  • Market at the 45th, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday; 45th Parallel Distillery, 1490 Madison Ave., New Richmond, Wisconsin
  • New Richmond Farmers Market at the Heritage Center, 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturday; 1100 Heritage Drive, New Richmond, Wisconsin
  • River Falls Farmers Market, 8 a.m.–noon Saturday; 1121 S. Main St., River Falls, Wisconsin
  • Scandia Farmers Market, 3:30–6:30 p.m. Wednesday; 14727 209th St. N., Scandia
  • Stillwater Farmers Market, 7:30 a.m.–noon Saturday; Veterans Memorial Parking Lot, Third and Pine streets, Stillwater
Find an Adventure

Last year, my husband and I decided to start a weekly routine—Sunday Adventures—to encourage us to get out and explore places close to home. Our excursions have taken us biking on the Stower Seven Lakes Trail, boating and kayaking on nearby lakes, floating down the Apple River and hiking at numerous local and state parks—and that’s just to name a few!

In the hope that you’ll carve out time to explore this summer, I’d like to share one of my favorite ways to spend a summer day—exploring Taylors Falls!

Taylors Falls is a special place to me. My grandparents lived there for many years. It’s where my dad was raised and where my parents met. As a child, my mom would take me to see the potholes and unique rock formations at Interstate State Park. So, when I have a free day, I’m often drawn there to reminiscence and revisit my favorite places.

There’s nothing better than a good book and coffee on the patio at Coffee Talk.

There’s nothing better than a good book and coffee on the patio at Coffee Talk. Photo: Zoe Yates

On a recent excursion, I started the morning at Coffee Talk. It’s a cute little coffee shop that has been around for decades. With age, I’ve upgraded from hot chocolate to a latte. I settled into one of the chairs on the back patio to read and journal. It was a crisp, lovely morning, but I soon grew restless and decided to go on a walk. Nowadays, I like to hike the Walter F. Mondale River Trail & Railroad Trail Loop, beginning at the parking lot behind Taylors Falls Memorial Community Center. It’s a relatively flat trail that takes you along the highway into the forested hills, then under the highway and back along the river. It’s a nostalgic walk for me, bringing back memories of summer explorations with my family.

For a post-hike treat, I’ll always head to Schoony’s Malt Shop & Pizzeria for a scoop of white chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream, walking around the back of the shop with my cone in hand to descend the stairs down to the river. I may search for crayfish along the water or simply enjoy the view before walking back up to my last stop—the Taylors Falls Bead Store. It still contains much of the magic I felt as a child, and I often peruse the beads—though it’ll always be the rocks and gemstones that I love the most.

I’ve found it just as rewarding to return to a nostalgic place as to experience a new one. I hope you’ll take this as an opportunity to get out and explore your community or revisit some of your favorite spots.


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