Held aloft by 35 years of family tradition, Stillwater Balloon sends intrepid explorers skyward from a port just off the scenic St. Croix River. Friendly FAA-certified pilots operate each craft and readily answer any questions that passengers may have as they float through gorgeous views of the surrounding valley. The billowy, multicolored behemoths cruise at treetop level, allowing travelers to shake hands with monkeys. Private and semiprivate flights are the business's forte, but Stillwater Balloon also accommodates custom flights for backyard surprises or ultimate school pickups.
Afton Leather’s owners, Jim and Donna, are active members of the local biking community and use their time off the hog to proffer a selection of fine leather apparel and other unique products that complement the motorcycling lifestyle. Browse the 1,400-square-foot shop for a selection of bike-themed T-shirts ($20/1, $25/2). Or, fight back against wind, glare, and drag-racing gnats with speed-friendly sunglasses ($10–$25). Female bikers can warm windblown necks with a women’s scarf ($10), and all riders rebelling against the oppressive tyranny of sleeves can suit up in a vest ($45+).
Scott Hansen's Comedy Gallery splits sides with stand-up comedy performances served up alongside full dinners. Take a seat at Welsch’s Big Ten Tavern at 8 p.m. to enjoy a quarter-chicken dinner, served with soup or salad, and the choice of a baked potato, au gratins, garlic mashed potatoes, wild rice, steamed vegetables, or a side of already-primed smiles. At 9 p.m., the laughs begin as that evening’s comic takes the stage. On September 9 and 10, veteran Minneapolis comic Jodie Maruska relates hilarious hijinks about life, family, and body acceptance. On September 16 and 17, Eugene Meaux presents a menagerie of relatable characters from daily life in a fun, friendly, and real performance. On September 24, laugh along with comedian Jim Wiggins, who has tickled audiences on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in a performance that harkens back to the witty styles of comedians like George Carlin and Thomas Edison.
Hosted by an eclectically elegant collection of inns and museums peppered throughout the St. Croix River Valley, the 2011 Chocolate March launches guests on self-guided, cocoa-centric excursions. Guests munch on chocolate delicacies and take in architectural desserts with chocolate-dipped innkeepers at five separate stops, one of which will feature a wine pairing, on the Sunday jaunts (different destinations are featured each weekend). Depending on their chosen date, chocolate hunters can relax under the mannered, leaf-shaded porticos of Rosewood's Queen Anne mansion, take in the brick-draped Gilded Age grandeur of the Water Street Inn, or plot a sweet rustic retreat or candy-coated coup d'état by Wissahickon Farms' general store façade and peppermint-stick split-rail fence.
American Sky Beer by Hudson Brewing Company was established by Greg and Molly Harris in 2012. The line reflects a military reverence, whose flagship beers pay homage to US aviation during World War II and appeal to microbrew and mainstream fans alike. Their flagship beers – a mainstay at establishments in western Wisconsin – include the blonde ale Tailgunner Gold, smooth and malty Amber Salute, and robust citra-hopped USA-IPA.
The military and aviation theme can also be seen through the black-framed photographs of past and current veterans which decorate one corner of The Hangar—their taproom. Complementing this decor is a U-shaped bar, made of riveted aluminum and looking as though it's been stripped right off a plane. This sense of architectural spectacle is more than mere theatrics; for every picture the microbrewery receives, it donates $2 to Fisher House Foundation, which provides low-cost and free housing to the families of veterans receiving medical treatment.
Along with American Sky Beer's mainstays, beer-tenders serve pints of weekly-rotating specialties, such as Black IPA, Coffee Stout, and Cream Ale. Keeping revelers in full revel, events such as beer and bacon Sundays, happy hour Thursdays with complimentary meat and cheese samplings, and Firkin Fridays complement live local music featured on Saturdays. The Hangar is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4-8 p.m., Saturdays from 2-8 p.m. with live music beginning at 5 p.m., and Sundays from 12-4 p.m.
In the open autumn air at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Twin Cities Oktoberfest celebrates all that is German during its two days of festivities. Throughout the weekend, live bands such as the Bavarian Musikmeisters, a 30-piece wind-instrument outfit, and The Squires Band, a four-piece band with 30 years of experience, entertain guests with traditional German harmonies and live renditions of the ER theme song. Between shows, audience members peruse vendors' booths, noshing on brats and German snacks. Beer from Summit and wine from Pedroncelli flow into glasses, keeping guests lingering into the evening hours as they discuss the latest in lederhosen fashion.