If you are a My Town reader, I’m sure you have caught on that you can find value and joy in every small town, and that My Town loves every town we visit. But sometimes you come across a town that is hard to miss, and in fact, mighty. Yep, I’m eluding to the “Mighty Mississippi”, which happens to host the Small Town of Wabasha on its banks.
Unique Places and Memorable Faces
Wabasha is located in Wabasha County, and is the county seat, which usually for me means- great history, and I was right (keep reading). It’s located in the Southeastern part of the state, and is part of a National Scenic Byway ( Minnesota’s Great River Road) that boasts great small towns both on the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the river. Yes, if you have not been to this area, you just go over the bridge from downtown Wabasha, and into the land of Wisconsin you go! Wabasha also markets the area with next door neighbor Kellogg, whose features are highlighted in this article too.
While Minnesota is known for its outdoor recreation, what really makes Wabasha-Kellogg special is its character given from its citizens, like the quirkiness of Hoppy Girl Brewing, hand-made items that look like they came from Santa’s workshop courtesy of Lark Toys, and the fun flair everywhere promoting “Grumpy Old Men.” Wabasha is the location where the story takes place from the film Grumpy Old Men. It’s truly a place to make memories, because the people and activities are simply memorable.
Wabasha and Grumpy Old Men
Whether you have seen the films or not (I suggest you do, they’re hilarious!), Grumpy Old Men has become a Sleeper Hit due to its quick wit of the “Grumpy Old Men,” Walter Mathau and Jack Lemon, and its fun antics based in Minnesota small town culture. While not filmed in Wabasha, the entire story takes place there, and was written based on the memories of the writer’s time spent in Wabasha with his grandfather. Which when you see the film, it makes the story all the more hilarious that these were real scenarios!
Slippery’s Bar and Grill
One place made famous in Wabasha by the movie is Slippery’s Bar and Grill. Now an iconic location in town, in the movie the location was renamed “Chuck’s Bait Shop.”
Started in 1979, Slippery’s is now a restaurant, and a place to get gas and bait on the river. But it used to be the site of Wabasha’s Boat Yard and Marina which made Paddle Steam Boats, how cool is that? You can boat up to Slippery’s or walk from town, and they have an entire gift shop dedicated to Grumpy Old Men.
I also think Slippery’s has the best local account on the history of the movie, and ties to Wabasha. You can read more and see filming locations here. And check out Wabasha’s Grumpy Old Men Fest Here!
Inns and Institutions
It seems like every small town has unique old buildings that capture your attention and your imagination. It is wonderful when you’re able to visit a town that has invested resources in these institutions, and brings them back to life or they have been lovingly maintained. In Wabasha you will find these investments at Turning Waters Bed, Breakfast and Brewery, and the Historic Anderson House.
Turning Waters Bed, Breakfast, and Brewery
How do you quantify a great stay, when the only word that keeps coming to mind is amazing? Well I will try. Turning Waters is a historic B&B built in 1902 by a lumber baron, so it’s been around pretty much as long as anyone in town can remember. It’s been several different types of businesses over its long life, but kept its beautiful woodwork and charm, because for a good majority its lifespan it was family home. In fact, the home is so in tact, the current owners believe the original blueprints are in the post at the bottom of the staircase- which used to be customary in the early 1900’s.
Cozy Setting and Great Food
Turning Waters has beautifully decorated rooms with old world charm, a little rustic chic, a little whimsy, and all new amenities. They have a great location, literally a few minutes walk to anything in downtown. But what makes Turning Waters stand out is its Innkeepers Brenda and Ford. Each morning Brenda would be up making what’s nothing short of a gourmet breakfast, and her fun personality always made me and my family smile; she insisted my kids call her “grandma Brenda” and you know what, they did!
Another awesome aspect of this Inn is that it is the first B&B and Brewery in the state of Minnesota! Yep, they added a brewery in 2018. In addition to just being a brew pub they have pizza and ice cream, so guess what we did each evening? It’s a unique place to get away, and have the together moments the My Town family needed.
Turning Waters makes you feel at home, truly, my kids pretty much felt the comfort level of being in our own living room when in the common areas. They also absolutely loved their bedroom, as did my husband and I. Why? Can you say giant bed, fireplace, and Jacuzzi tub! Turing Waters has it all, but their legacy is definitely from the hospitality you will receive there, making Turning Waters Bed, Breakfast, and Brewery a My Town Must.
The Historic Anderson House
The Historic Anderson House Hotel and Event Venue was built as a home in 1840, and opened in 1856 as a hotel in response to the railroad boom in town. During that time the small town of only a few thousand residents, exploded to over 15,000. Located right in the heart of downtown Wabasha, you can view the Mississippi river from many it’s rooms.
The mid to late 1800’s style rooms feature original period furniture coupled with today’s amenities. A fun aspect of my tour was getting to see all the beautifully made furniture in the rooms, and hearing stories of visitors. The Mayo brother’s (of the Mayo Clinic) used to stay in this beautiful room pictured to get away, after docking their their Yacht, the North Star.
New Experiences and Fun Memories
The current owners are doing a great job with promoting the fun history of this hotel, adding amenities like: Selfie Stations where you can dress in period costumes to match the original 1840’s decor, and luxury amenities like a sauna, and chroma and aromatherapy.
Now, you may have heard of the famous rent-a-cat option here at the Anderson House, and yes that is a true story! Not only is it true that you could rent a cat of choice at the Anderson House back in the 1970’s, but there has also been a children’s book written about it! Click here for a great history account by Purr-n-Fur and links to others articles like the Chicago Tribune. In addition, the unit that housed these felines is now calling Hoppy Girl Brewing home, where you can visit and see for yourself!
The Anderson House Hotel is listed on the National Registry for Historic Places and is Minnesota’s oldest continuously operating bed and breakfast inn west of the Mississippi River. It’s also now a My Town Must.
No doubt these two locations are institutions of Wabasha!
The Delicious and Delectable of Wabasha
There are wonderful choices in Wabasha when it comes to great food. From pub style dining to coffee shops, Here a few My Town Picks:
The Olde Triangle– Whenever I get the chance to travel with my husband, “our” place of choice is almost always pub style dining, and we were thrilled to find a great one here in Wabasha!
Authentic and delicious, we had the Shepherd’s Pie and the Irish Stew made with Jameson soaked beef tips! I also love their story of “What’s in a Name” on the front of their menu describing the Celtic heritage of the Triangle. And more specifically, the Trinity knot symbolizing the most important things in life – Friendship, Food, and Drink. Make sure to look at the photo gallery for menu and pub pics, this place was awesome!
Los Portales – Start your small town adventure with 2×1 Specialty Margaritas during Happy Hour, and Great Mexican food right downtown! They also offer free kids meals- check webpage for details.
Slippery’s Bar and Grill – Description above, but in relation to food- We had shrimp tacos, and a giant pretzel to start, plus it’s all on the waterfront, how can you go wrong?!
Stacy’s Kitchen- If you love diner style, small town establishments like My Town, this is a great stop for breakfast or lunch. Plus the baked goods- Wow!
The Chocolate Escape– I absolutely love it when you walk into a historic building that has been lovingly looked after and/or restored for a use that all can see. In Wabasha, an added benefit is that one of those buildings is filled with homemade chocolates! And adding to their charm, you will also find lots of local handcrafted gifts, coffee, and a back deck on the river walk. Definitely one of My Town’s favorite finds in Wabasha.
Unique, Interesting, Yours of Wabasha
What is it about a town that makes it special? A local attraction, a family-owned business that has been there forever? A piece of history you can’t find anywhere else, or a bookstore with just the right vibe? Here are a few of the Unique, Interesting, Yours of Wabasha-Kellogg.
Lark Toys -Have you ever wanted to experience what its like to enter Santa’s Workshop? That’s how you feel when you enter the world of Lark Toys. Each of their hand crafted toys has a story about the talented artisan who created it. In addition, they have created a toy land of all your childhood favorites! They also offer experiences like their famous carousel, hand carved from Minnesota basswood. It’s no wonder they have been named one of the Top Ten Toy Stores In The World!
Wind Whisper West Art Gallery– Did you know can buy a genuine Kimono in small town Wabasha?? Yep, kinda blew my mind too, how awesome its that! Worth your time just to check out his unique stop with beautiful art.
Wabasha Beach Park and River Walk- One of the best parts of visiting a small town is the walkability and a sense of time slowing down. In Wabasha, it’s easy to find this feeling thanks to their lovely beach park and river walk. All you have to do is get downtown, and you can begin your experience to your walking or biking happy place. For all your biking, hiking, and fishing needs around Wabasha click here. And to create even more fun while exploring check out River Rider Cycle and Specialty!
National Eagle Center- Did You know that there is a world class Avian Care Center in small town Wabasha? Located on the banks of the Mississippi, This is a not a museum where you simply read about these majestic birds- this is home to non-releasable bald and golden eagles, where you can experience and learn about them up close! Visit their interpretive center and learn about their unique conservation efforts to create a lasting memory while in Wabasha.
Broken Paddle Guiding– You can’t come to Wabasha without spending time on the Mississpi River. While you have plenty of places to fish and explore right off the Wabasha shores, a great way to really get up close is to paddle with a guide. What a unique way to learn about this area of the Mississippi!
Small Town Story Highlight
Hoppy Girl Brewing– I love it when I’m able to experience a small town success story up close, and show my children the value of what hard work and passion create. My Town and family were fortunate to see this passion up close at Hoppy Girl Brewing.
Ford and Brenda Pearson purchased Turning Waters Bed, Breakfast, and Adventure in 2015, and always had a vision of starting a pub and brewery there. Brenda grew up in Wabasha, and after years away decided to move back with her husband Ford for personal reasons. When contemplating work options, they wanted to begin on something they could be passionate about, and keep them self-employed. Since breweries were opening in nearby towns, Brenda and Ford thought Wabasha could also benefit from a craft brewery, and they were right.
In 2016 they started the renovation of the their three car garage space to make a totally unique brewery and pub space. It was completed and opened as a craft beer bar on Thanksgiving Day 2017. Shortly thereafter, they received their brewer’s notice on March 17th, 2018, and with Ford as the head brewer, they started to become a “craft beer mecca”(Brenda Pearson ) for small town Wabasha. They also began serving specialty pizza and ice cream.
I can tell you first hand that the beer coming out of this brewery is fantastic, small batch deliciousness. This was where My Town was introduced to ice cream beer floats! But what’s really special is the small town feel, and the residents in addition to visitors, who will just come to hang out and support this local craft beer hot spot.
MTT Antique and Market Finds
Great Antique Shops and Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This includes Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and the like! In Wabasha there are great Antique and Market finds everywhere you look, so below are a list of My Town‘s Favorite Finds.
Nelson Cheese Factory AKA Nelson Creamery– Technically over the bridge from Wabasha, but is so close, and such a great place, it had to be on the list! Tons of homemade cheeses, ice cream, wine, and other goodies to explore to your hearts content.
Dick’s Food Market– This is not your average grocery store. It’s locally owned, and has some wonderful surprises, like their homemade specialty popcorn. We loved the White Cheddar Dill!
My Town Today has started a referral section of each article. It’s based on visiting a town, and finding out what town the majority of its residents recommend My Town to visit next.
The referral for this entry is: Alma, WI. Stay tuned for My Town to pop up there soon.
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