Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do Washington County, MN

  • Published 2023/02/22

Known for its rich agricultural and natural resources, Washington County, Minnesota, prides itself on its historically diverse heritage.

It’s the fifth-most populous county in the state.

The county is part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area with Stillwater as its county seat.

In 1837, the first European settlers in the county arrived in Afton and Stillwater along the banks of the St. Croix River and Brown’s Creek.

The county is among the nine counties established in the state and was named after former President George Washington.

Today, the county’s economy features its agricultural industry, recreation, and tourism.

Visiting the county means checking out museums, dining at fancy restaurants, attending festivals, and many more.

Here’s a round-up of the best things to do in Washington County, Minnesota.

Cross the Historic Stillwater Lift Bridge

Side view of the Historic Stillwater Lift Bridge

Ken Wolter /

Constructed in 1931, the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge connects the City of Stillwater to Houlton, Wisconsin, over the St. Croix River.

It’s a vertical-lift bridge made with seven fixed steel trusses, which is only open to pedestrian and bicycle use.

The bridge is the last of this design in the area, courtesy of Waddell & Harrington Company.

The road of the Historic Stillwater Lift Bridge

Milen Mkv /

It replaced a 1910 swing bridge and originally opened for vehicle traffic crossing the St. Croix River, but was made available to pedestrians and cyclists in 2017.

In 1989, the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance to the pioneering vertical-lift design bridge.

The bridge is located on Chestnut Street East.

Aerial view of the Historic Stillwater Lift Bridge

Jeff Lueders /

Drop by the Minnesota Welcome Center

Any time you travel around Washington County, you can drop by the Minnesota Welcome Center at St. Croix in West Lakeland Township.

The lobby is filled with travel brochures, maps, and other helpful information you can find in getting around the county.

Travel staff will assist you with your questions.

The center also has a vending machine for snacks, friendly and clean restrooms, and a rest area for a quick nap if you were to rest.

The Minnesota Welcome Center at St. Croix is located on I-94 on the border of Wisconsin.

Paint Your Pottery at Color Me Mine Woodbury

Whether or not you’re an experienced artist, you can enjoy painting your pottery at Color Me Mine Woodbury.

The studio offers a painting session for visitors who can choose their pottery to be painted with the help of its skilled staff.

There are a hundred pots to choose from, which you can paint to your liking.

It’s a family-friendly spot, and kids will love making their own painted pottery too.

As soon as you’re finished with your pottery, the studio will have it glazed and fired, and you can have it after 10 to 12 days.

Color Me Mine Woodbury also holds trivia with unique gifts for the winning groups.

You can find it off Hudson Road in Woodbury.

Grab a Delicious Meal at Junction 70 Grill

Junction 70 Grill serves American comfort food with the best barbecue you can’t find elsewhere!

Try its mouthwatering smokehouse burger and authentic smoked barbecue that customers are raving about.

It also offers a great selection of craft beers, whiskey, and other specialty drinks at the full-service bar with huge displays to watch your favorite sports.

You can also settle at the restaurant’s outdoor patio to enjoy natural sunlight and warm air, especially when you’re visiting during the summer.

Visit during happy hour for amazing deals!

There’s everything for every palate at Junction 70 Grill!

You can find it on Pine Arbor Drive South.

Go Snow Tubing at Green Acres Recreation

If you love snow tubing, you can enjoy sliding down the hill at Green Acres Recreation in Lake Elmo.

The facility features an open hill where snow tubers enjoy sliding on the snow with quality tow ropes, tubes, and a warming chalet.

If you have little ones riding under 42 inches, you must ride with them regardless of their snow tubing ability.

Also, you can only use Green Acres Recreation’s tubes.

Wear your winter footwear and warm clothing for safety purposes.

Just follow the rules and try not to fall!

Green Acres Recreation is located at 55th Street North.

Spend the Day at William O’Brien State Park

Welcome sign of William O'Brien State Park

Ken Wolter /

William O’Brien State Park is the best spot for nature lovers because it is famous for its scenic hiking trails, picnics, camping, paddling, birdwatching, fishing, and cross-country skiing.

Take the hiking trails, and get the best view of the St. Croix River, beautiful riparian zones, restored oak savanna, and rolling glacial moraine.

Due to its undulating groomed trails, people visit the state park for cross-country skiing.

For backpack, tent, and drive-in camping, the park’s campground offers water and approved firewood to help prevent the spread of tree-killing insects.

A swamp at William O'Brien State Park

Ken Wolter /

Paddlers can launch their canoes or kayaks at the park’s designated ramp.

If you’re sharing a picnic with family and friends, William O’Brien State Park also has picnic areas to use.

The park is beautifully located in St. Croix River on O’Brien Trail North.

Wooden pier at William O'Brien State Park

Sam Wagner /

Raise a Glass of Wine at 7 Vines Vineyard

Experience love at first sip at 7 Vines Vineyard!

The vineyard grows more than 7,000 vines on the beautiful ten acres of the property with different varieties, including Marquette, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, La Crescent, and Itasca.

You can take a winery tour and enjoy wine tasting with delicious gourmet bites and a 7 Vines tasting glass.

Learn more about the winery, its historic land, and the terrific hospitality that the Peltiers left as a legacy in the beautiful vineyard & winery.

Ron and Arlie Peltier established 7 Vines Vineyard in 2010 and planted the first vines in 2012.

Because Ron wore number 7 when he played hockey, they named it 7 Vines Vineyard.

Likewise, they named their first bottles after their seven grandchildren.

It’s located off Highway 96 in Dellwood.

Get Cozy by the Water at the Bayport Marina

Are you traveling by boat to Bayport?

The Bayport Marina offers transient slips for boats of any size so that you can stay overnight out in the water on your boat with free WiFi.

Located on the historic St. Croix River, the marina features a heated swimming pool, tennis courts, picnic areas, and BBQ grills.

The Bayport Marina also features a “Boatique” where you can get cute souvenirs, boating supplies, snacks, and apparel.

Spend time here with your family and friends and experience a resort-like atmosphere!

You can find it at 5th Avenue South.

Take a Tour of Washington County Park

Initially, the historic Washington County Courthouse, Washington County Park, offered guided and self-guided tours for visitors.

You can see the jail, the courtroom, and history exhibits relating to the county’s history.

Traveling families and friends can join family-friendly activities like the Scavenger Hunt, Playing the Past, and Creating a Comic Strip.

The little ones can also drop by Children’s Corner to see the courthouse artifacts, including snow catchers, tiles, and an antique stamp.

The historic courthouse is the longest-standing in Minnesota, established in 1870.

It’s nestled on a hill, which provides a panoramic view of downtown Stillwater and the St. Croix Valley.

Visit Washington County Park at West Pine Street.

Learn History at the Gammelgården Museum of Scandia

Exterior of the Gammelgården Museum

melissamn /

Scandia is the first Swedish settlement in Minnesota, whose history is well-kept at the Gammelgården Museum of Scandia.

Established in 1972, the open-air museum honors and celebrates the immigrants who founded the area in the mid-1800s.

The historic gammelgården, or the old farm, features six historic structures with artifacts, archives, and many exhibits.

You can join cultural and educational activities at the museum and learn more about the history of Scandia.

Entrance door of the Gammelgården Museum

Lorie Shaull, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There will be Swedish classes, story times, and many more.

The Gammelgården Museum of Scandia also hosts weddings, photo ops, and other special events.

It’s located off Olinda Trail North.

Facade of the Gammelgården Museum

McGhiever, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Test Your Aim at Best Defense Armory & Range

Practice your skills at Best Defense Armory & Range, where you can enjoy shooting at your own pace.

The shooting facility features seven lanes in a public standard range bay with a maximum of 25 yards range.

There’s a separate three-lane tactical shooting bay for skilled shooters with extra wide and reinforced block walls ideal for groups and competition shoots.

After a devastating fire in 2018, Best Defense Armory & Range replenished all new equipment and facility to serve the community.

It’s a veteran-owned business and is perfect for traveling families or friends.

You can find it at 8th Ave Southwest.

Roll a Strike at Park Grove Bowl

Saint Paul Park takes pride in Park Grove Bowl, a premiere bowling alley for bowlers.

Featuring 24 lanes with automatic scoring, you can spend a few hours hitting down the pins with your family and best buddies.

The alley also offers arcade games, darts, beanbag toss, pinball, and much other family-friendly fun.

Of course, the alley’s pub & grill serves excellent food, so you won’t have to go elsewhere to grab your meal.

Park Grove Bowl is located on Hastings Avenue in Saint Paul Park.

Cast Your Fishing Line at Lake Saint Croix Beach

If you enjoy fishing, you can drop your fishing line at Lake Saint Croix in the small, beautiful City of Lake Saint Croix Beach.

Smallmouth bass and walleye are prevalent in the lake, but it’s also stocked with musky, catfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, and sturgeon.

The lake has designated boat landings for easier access if you own a boat.

Swimming beaches are also open to the public, perfect for family and friends.

Lake Saint Croix is located along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

Find Solitude at Katherine Abbott Park

Taking scenic walks and enjoying the whimsical atmosphere at Katherine Abbott Park is a favorite local pastime.

The 76-acre park offers three miles of trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, running, and wildlife viewing.

You can find solitude in the park, despite being centrally located in an urban area.

Beautiful tall pines and water features make the park more nature-friendly, with a canoe ramp to Long Lake.

Whether traveling solo or with friends and family, you will enjoy the unique and natural experience at Katherine Abbott Park.

Head to Lincolntown Avenue to reach the park.

See a Movie at Marcus Oakdale Cinema

Neon sign of Marcus Oakdale Cinema

Wirestock Creators /

If you’d like to see the latest movie in Oakdale, Marcus Oakdale Cinema offers comfortable reclining seats, enhanced screen displays, and fantastic sound.

There are concessions offering snacks and drinks, a bar, and a bistro, where you can order food and enjoy a sports show on the huge TV.

You can have your food served in the bistro lounge, but make sure to order one before the lights go down for the movie.

Aerial view of Marcus Oakdale Cinema

Wirestock Creators /

The theater also offers a rewards program that gives out discounts and delicious fresh popcorn!

Marcus Oakdale Cinema is located at Hadley Avenue North in Oakdale.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to a well-planned itinerary, you should enjoy magical moments and unparalleled experiences while traveling.

Discover these unique destinations and enjoy the best things to do in Washington County, Minnesota.

Start planning your trip today!

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