Aerial View of the Twin Cities Suburb of Stillwater, Minnesota.

7 Towns in Minnesota That Have The Best Main Streets

Everyone loves a charming small town with a lovely main street, and the northern Great Lakes state of Minnesota has more than its fair share of these little gems. Whether you are looking for a bustling shopping district, historic architecture, community parades, and festivals, or all of the above, you are sure to find a downtown area that fits the bill. Explore these great small-town Minnesota main streets, featuring selections from all around the state, and find even more little gems on the way!


Aerial View of Ely, Minnesota during Summer
Downtown street view of Ely, Minnesota.

Located in the northeast corner of Minnesota in St. Louis County, the town of Ely (pronounced “ee-lee”) sits in the vicinity of both Lake Superior and the border with Canada. Once a key player in the Minnesota mining industry, Ely now draws in outdoor recreation enthusiasts. For a town of only 3,300 residents, Ely has a bustling downtown area, with several outdoor outfitters serving the kayak-topped cars parked along Sheridan Street, which serves as the town’s main street. Even for visitors who are not into kayaking, hiking, or fishing, the well-preserved buildings, range of restaurants and galleries, and overall charm of Sheridan Street make Ely well worth a visit.


Aerial View of the Twin Cities Suburb of Excelsior, Minnesota
Downtown street view of Excelsior, Minnesota.

Tucked along the southern shore of Lake Minnetonka and only 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis, Excelsior is a town that earns its exceptional name. Due to its proximity to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Excelsior’s downtown core along Water Street maintains a youthful vibe with a range of coffee shops, boutiques, and trendy restaurants. Excelsior has also excelled at preserving its past, with numerous well-maintained Victorian-era buildings and homes along Water Street, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Excelsior’s 2,400 residents and many visitors also enjoy direct access to one of the prettiest bodies of water in the state, Lake Minnetonka. 

Fergus Falls

Downtown Fergus Falls, Minnesota, commercial buildings on a summer's day
Downtown Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Image credit Barbarajo via Shutterstock

Located in west central Minnesota along the Otter Tail River, the town of Fergus Falls is the seat of Otter Tail County and home to about 14,000 residents. In addition to the river, surrounding Fergus Falls are numerous lakes, as befitting Minnesota’s claim as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Along with these picturesque bodies of water, Fergus Falls has a lovely downtown area centered along Lincoln Avenue. Visitors can check out the nicely preserved Fergus Theatre or a range of shops, cafes, and galleries. Fergus Falls also contains unique features like an ornate former hospital (now the Regional Treatment Center) and a statue of “Otto the Otter” in Grotto Park.

Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is a Town on the Mississippi River in Northern Minnesota with a Paper Mill
Downtown streets in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

The northern Minnesota town of Grand Rapids was named for the 3.5 miles of imposing rapids that once marked the furthest upriver point of steamboat navigation on the Mississippi River. While the rapids are now submerged due to damming, Grand Rapids remains a lovely little river town with a charming downtown area centered around the intersection of Fifth and Pokegama Streets. Located at this intersection, the beautiful Old Central School is now a shopping and civic center. Grand Rapids also honors the most famous person born in the town, Judy Garland, with a "yellow brick road" that passes through downtown and an annual Wizard of Oz festival in June.


Downtown Henderson, Minnesota streets with a tractor and vehicles parked.
Downtown Henderson, Minnesota. Image credit,_Minnesota_5.jpg

Once an important railroad and river junction, the southern Minnesota town of Henderson’s population slowly declined during the 20th century due to shifts in commerce and industry. The population has rebounded, up to around 1,000 today, as people rediscover the historic beauty of Henderson. Numerous buildings from the town’s 1850s to 1880s heyday remain in use in the downtown area, including a log cabin turned into an antique shop. Main Street houses an old-fashioned soda fountain shop, adding to the back-in-time feeling that visitors get while exploring Henderson. The town is also charmingly quirky, with an annual festival called Sauerkraut Days and a downtown mural and bench dedicated to the late musician Prince.

Red Wing

A Medium Long Exposure Shot of Downtown Rural Red Wing, Minnesota during a Summer Twilight
Downtown Red Wing, Minnesota.

The town of Red Wing, which overlooks the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota, is known to many outsiders only as the home of the Red Wing Shoe Company. Red Wing, however, is also one of America’s loveliest historic towns, as designated by organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation. From the Romanesque-style State Correctional Facility to the 1875 St. James Hotel, Red Wing is full of buildings with an aesthetic charm that match the beauty of the adjacent Mississippi River. Main Street and the surrounding downtown area bustle with businesses catering to the 16,500 residents and many visitors. Red Wing even has a still-in-operation historic train depot that doubles as an art gallery.


Street view of the downtown stores and restaurants in historic buildings and cars parked alongside on a sunny day in summer
Downtown stores and restaurants in historic buildings in Stillwater, Minnesota. Image credit Sandra Burm via Shutterstock

Nicknamed "The Birthplace of Minnesota" because of its importance in the creation of the territory and state in the 1830s and 1840s, Stillwater is home to one of the oldest downtowns in Minnesota. Situated along the still water of the St. Croix River (which serves as the border with Wisconsin), the town is home to about 20,000 people. Stillwater makes excellent use of its location, with riverfront dining and gondola rides along the St. Croix. Additionally, the main street corridor houses an array of more than 50 shops and boutiques, selling everything from kitchenware to imported German Christmas decor. Stillwater is only about 30 minutes from downtown Minneapolis but remains full of small-town charm.

Minnesota might be best known for its thousands of lakes, but it is also home to dozens, if not hundreds, of pretty little towns with picturesque main streets. Even in the chill of winter, visitors are sure to be greeted with the warmth of the people who call these small towns home. So, whether it is your first time or 50th time visiting Minnesota, be sure to check out the charming main streets that dot the landscape.

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