Family patriarch Nordy Rockler opened the doors of his first store in 1954 to supply his fellow craftsmen with knowledge, friendly advice, and a large selection of tools for at-home woodworking projects. Now, the chain of retail outlets brims with more than 20,000 tools and specialized woodworking equipment. Next to a steely rainbow of hinges, casters, and screws, a supply of lumber and exotic hardwoods provides planks for building tree houses or just leaving around as a warning to uncooperative trees. The tenor buzz of power tools operated by newly knowledgeable guests drifts from educational sessions on operating equipment and woodworking.
At Stillwater Boat Rentals, adventurous explorers can enjoy the scenic views of the St. Croix River while perched in a pontoon boat that seats 10–14 passengers, depending on the boat's size. Blaze new trails through thickly-forested waterways while commandeering one of Stillwater’s six novice-friendly, 22-foot pontoon rental boats, available in three styles. The Deluxe ($270 for four hours) seats 12 people and offers plush lounge seating for posteriors of all types, while the spacious Super LX ($255 for four hours) seats 14 passengers, allowing Parliament Funkadelic tribute bands to enjoy maritime merriment in between Minnesota gigs. Stillwater's third and final pontoon style, the Fish & Cruise ($270 for four hours) seats 10 passengers and, with its swivel seats and fish-finder equipment, is ideal for fishing fanatics. Starting out at the Stillwater Marina Gas Dock near historic downtown Stillwater, enthusiastic river pilots can wreak wake havoc for five miles to the north, viewing limestone bluffs, braving backwater mazes, and invading island wildernesses claimed by bearded castaways before reaching the turnaround point at the high bridge. From there, pontooners can pontificate on the origin of river spirits and disrupt random beach parties all the way down to Prescott, Wisconsin, before returning.
Ace Hardware's handy employees help customers to navigate shelves stocked with home-improvement implements, household appliances, and domestic essentials. The shop’s technicians are certified to perform warranty repair tasks for more than 100 manufacturers, including Honda, Kawasaki, and Stihl, returning a snowblower or Statue of Liberty replica to working order. In addition to its wide selection of hardware, paint, plumbing, and electrical supplies, Ace Hardware dedicates ample space to gifts, home decor, men's and women's clothing, and housewares.
Boasting the longest tube rides on the Apple River, Float Rite Park sets the scene for a three-hour vacation through the winding river's gentle rapids. Friends can tether their tubes together and pass around canned drinks and sunscreen without the hassle of training a pigeon to carry them. At the end of their trip, everyone climbs out onto the riverside campground, where they're welcome to extend their respite from reality at an open-air patio bar.
At the campground, visitors can take showers and pitch their tents or reserve one- and two-bedroom rustic log cabins. The campground keeps things lively with mechanical-bull rides, volleyball games on sand courts, and nightly activities such as themed costume dances and outdoor film screenings.
Castle Building & Remodeling, one of Remodeling magazine’s Big 50 of 2011, hosts a team of professional designers and builders who overhaul interiors with historically inspired concepts. Two design-selection studios display the custom craftsmanship, showcasing a 1940s–style kitchen with cherry cabinets and a 1910s–style bathroom with hex tile flooring and a sink full of Teddy Roosevelt's mustache trimmings.
The remodelers create a mockup of each project using 3-D CAD software, noting any desired changes before installation. They realize projects with the help of artisanal manufacturers such as Clay Squared, whose artists craft custom ceramic tiles using time-honored methods.