Tours in North Branch

Select Local Merchants

Approximately 6,000 years ago, when Sumerian scholars were devising some of mankind's first mathematic systems, a mile-thick sheet of ice began to melt half a world away in the region known today as Minnesota. Slowly, the glacier shrank and poured gallons of water into the land around it, leaving behind gorgeous rock formations dotted with artistic ridges and eye-catching striations. Perhaps most notable of these formations is a structure that resembles a cross, which inspired settlers to name its surrounding river St. Croix, or "holy cross."

Today, modern humans can catch a glimpse of these awesome sights thanks to Wild Mountain. Seasonal activities include skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, where snow-goers explore 100 acres of hills encompassing 26 runs, bunny slopes for newcomers, and four terrain parks for the seasoned veterans. Wild Mountain also holds daily lessons, youth and adult programs, as well as racing competitions and camps run by knowledgable and trained northerners.

37200 Wild Mountain Rd
Taylors Falls,
MN
US

While stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force, Troy Chamberlin and his wife Laura developed a love for wine at the wineries of the Rhine Valley. Upon returning home, they set about creating a European-style vineyard to share the joy of their days abroad without having to hurl their fellow countrymen across the Atlantic. Thus Chateau St. Croix Winery & Vineyard was born, a 55-acre plot complete with stables, a fishing pond, and an art gallery. The heart of the vineyard, though, is its 2.5 acres of grapes, nearly five tons of which are grown in six varieties for use in their award-winning wines. Visitors can sample Chateau St. Croix's sundry varietals and blends after a half-hour tour, pairing each sip with chocolates, cheeses, and crackers.

1998 State Road 87
Saint Croix Falls,
WI
US

At Wild Mountain Winery, everything is local, right down to the grapes and the process in which they're grown. Surrounded by the green hillsides of the St. Croix River Valley, Wild Mountain utilizes the methods of Elmer Swenson—a pioneering breeder who revolutionized grape growing in regions plagued by cold, short seasons, and undomesticated snowplows. Having been perfected over the years, those time-tested processes now result in hardy varietals that represent the local climate, soils, and vines. Travelers along the Upper St. Croix Wine Trail can explore Wild Mountain's territorial flavors in a number of ways, including during weekend tastings that come with a souvenir glass.

16920 Wild Mountain Road
Taylors Falls,
MN
US

15201 Zurich Street
Forest Lake,
MN
US

Northern Vineyards is a shared winery owned by the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative, a group of winemakers who own 1- to 15-acre vineyards across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Members grow Frontenac, Prairie Star, and other grape varieties that perform well in the region; since the region has a cold climate and short growing season, grapes grown here must tolerate lower temperatures, ripen early, and be able to knit their own woolen mittens. In the fall, growers lug their mature grapes to the main winery in Stillwater, where award-winning winemaker Robin Partch transforms them into 30 kinds of wine.

The winery’s barrel room hosts wine tastings seven days a week at a glossy, wooden tasting bar. There’s also an outdoor deck that overlooks a historic lift bridge along the St. Croix River. In nice weather, visitors can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with a glass of wine on the deck.

223 Main St N
Stillwater,
MN
US

The youngest of nine children, Luna Rossa’s owner and chef, Raffaele Virgillo, grew up at his mother’s side, studying her every move as she cooked in the kitchen of their small cottage in southern Italy. Emigrating to the United States in the 1970s, Virgillo put the culinary skills and magical Italian incantations he learned from his mother to use here in the States. He settled in the Twin Cities, where he cooked his way through four restaurants before opening the original Buona Sera, and eventually, Luna Rossa. There, he works alongside his daughter, Anna, son-in-law, Jesse, and grandson, Vinny, serving a menu of Italian-inspired cuisine within a rustic eatery near Stillwater’s historic limestone caves.

402 Main St S
Stillwater,
MN
US