Red Wing is beautiful to visit any time of year with kids, but the fall can be particularly lovely and there are a few good reasons to plan a fall visit, including the annual Children’s Book Festival (held the mid-weekend of September), a fall warehouse sale at Red Wing Shoes and Featherstone Pottery’s annual fall sales. This is a good time to sneak in a last camping trip and/or view the beautiful fall colors. The best place to camp near Red Wing is FRONTENAC STATE PARK, located about 12 miles south of the town on Highway 61.
Red Wing Parks and Nature
Hike Barn Bluff / He Mni Can
Barn Bluff, known as He Mni Can (Hill Water Wood) by the Dakota, is the absolute best place for scenic hiking in Red Wing. Yes, even with kids. Mine were in awe of the view at the Barn Bluff overlooks. The trails provide a fantastic view out over the town, boats on the Mississippi River and the valley beyond. In the fall, the colors are spectacular and well worth a day trip. We have hiked the trails with tweens and teens and have this to say: the South Trail to the West overlook is fairly easy, though it does climb and there are stairs involved. The North Trail is narrow and hugs a curve of the bluff with a steep drop to one side. There are smooth ropes to keep a firm grip to (we advise this), if needed. Take extra, extra caution on this trail with young children. Know in advance that if you desire to take in the view from both overlooks it will take over an hour. If you choose to take this hike in the fall, the brilliant yellow leaf display will make you glad you did. Barn Bluff Trail Start, 602 Centennial St, Red Wing, MN 55066.
The Dakota consider it a sacred space where first creation happened. For this reason, the town has worked closely with the Dakota community to protect and respect burial spaces, add storytelling signs and Columns of Dialogue to help visitors enjoy the beauty of the area while respecting its sacred significance. Learn more here.
Frontenac State Park
29223 County 28 Blvd, Frontenac, MN 55026
Fifteen minutes southeast of Red Wing, FRONTENAC STATE PARK is a good option for overnight camping or short hikes with smaller kids. There are several manageable, scenic trails to do with kids in the park. We picked the trail to In-Yan-Teopa Rock (pictured), quite doable with various stages of little ones. Frontenac State Park is also perfect for a picnic with a stunning view over the Mississippi River. This winter, we rented snowshoes for a new experience in the park, though we recommend this modus of exploration for sturdy kids (and adults!) prepared for a workout. ($7/vehicle permit).
Photos of Frontenac State Park:
COLVILL PARK is THE place to go in Red Wing if kids need to blow off steam on a playground. It doesn’t have especially challenging equipment, but its linear layout is fun and should provide an hour of run-around time. The playground is designated as “universal”, created with a vision to serve children of all abilities. Plus there is a carefully tended Discovery Garden that will delight those who have a soft spot for fairy and gnome homes.
Colvill Park rests in a little pocket between Highway 61 and the Mississippi River. It makes for an easy stop off during your visit (like, when your kids need a break from the car…). If you pick the summer season for a trip, save a little space on the itinerary for the Red Wing Water Park, located within Colvill Park.
Families can find plenty to do if they stay in Red Wing and visit MEMORIAL PARK, including hiking (or biking) the trails and bluffs, space to picnic with charcoal grills and a frisbee golf course.
Red Wing Museum Tour
Red Wing is best known for two things – boots and pottery. You can tour museums for both while visiting the area. But that is just the beginning – this little city has a surprising number of museums tucked into it. The museums on this list have free admission, which is good, because you are probably going to want to keep your visits with kids short and keep moving along. If you travel in from the Twin Cities, you can stop at each of these museums in this order:
Anderson Center at Tower View
163 Tower View Dr, Red Wing, MN 55066
The ANDRERSON CENTER actually offers indoor and outdoor fun. The main building has art galleries and studio space for working artists. Outdoors, there is a spacious sculpture garden and the historic water tower. The best time to visit with family is for the annual Children’s Book Festival in September. Besides getting a chance to meet and listen to local children’s book authors, families can explore the water tower and participate in a variety of kid-friendly activities on the grounds. Building hours: 8am-4pm Weekdays; 10am-2pm Saturdays. Sculpture Garden 8am-10pm daily. Free admission.
240 Harrison Street, Red Wing MN 55066
It might be worth following this museum’s Facebook page and waiting for a kid-friendly event to visit. Otherwise, be prepared for a bunch of breakable items out in the open. It would be a good museum for the “look don’t touch” reminder before entering. Maybe pair this visit with a stop at nearby Pottery Pond Park, where there is plenty of room to run and a skateboard park. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sunday 11am-4pm. Free admission.
935 Levee Red, Red Wing, MN 55066
This museum is only open in the summer months. It is in a beautifully restored historic building and features boat motors, fishing tackle and other marine memorabilia. Open summer months, Saturdays 1-5pm.
The first recorded ski jumping competition happened in Red Wing in 1887. This Museum is located in the beautiful St. James Hotel and includes ski jumping memorabilia and historical information. Open 10am-2pm weekends and 3pm-6pm on Fridays.
Stop by the Red Wing Shoe Store to take a selfie with the giant boot. If you happen to know a one-footed giant, you can point him to Red Wing to buy his 20-foot shoe. There is also a small museum on the second floor that may be mildly entertaining to older kids interested in learning how the work boots are designed to protect those in hazardous careers . The store and museum are open from 9am-7pm on weekdays, 9am-6pm on Saturdays and 11am-5pm on Sundays. Free admission.
321 Bush Street, Red Wing, MN 55066
With exhibits covering American Wars from the revolution through the Persian Gulf. This could be an interesting visit for grade school kids studying the various time periods. Hours: Friday-Saturday 10am to 4pm.
1166 Oak St, Red Wing, MN 55066
Don’t overlook a history stop with kids! The historical society presents Free Family Fun Days monthly with crafts, activities and holiday-themed events for children. Please see the society’s calendar for the most up-to-date details. Sat, 10am-3pm. Closed Sundays.
Family-friendly Shopping in Red Wing
Fair Trade Books specializes in both new and used books, so if you love to wander the stacks of old books, you’ll want to make a stop Red Wing!
31998 210th Ave, Red Wing, MN 55066
Featherstone Pottery is home of the Larkin family just a handful of miles outside of Red Wing. Located on a farm, we’ve been assured that there is space enough for kids to run and play. Look for special fall shows in September and November. Otherwise, you probably want to make an appointment.
920 State Highway 19 Blvd., Red Wing, MN 55066
After indulging the book lover in your family, stop by Hobgoblin Music to feed the soul of the musician in your family. Built in an old barn, find handmade harps (made on location) and other folk, traditional and Celtic instruments.
Go A Little Further Past Red Wing
You’re already on the road. If you are willing to go another 40 minutes, we recommend the National Eagle Center in Wabasha and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, Wisconsin.
Driftless Orchard, Hager City, WI
Combine two of our favorite fall outings, a drive along the scenic Great River Road with apple-picking at DRIFTLESS ORCHARD. You could even make a full fall weekend with one last camping trip, Saturday of the Children’s Book Festival and the following Sunday apple picking before heading home on time to get ready for school on Monday! 10 minutes north of Redwing.
National Eagle Center, Wabasha
Worth a little extra, drive, the National Eagle Center in Wabasha has raptors, hands-on exhibits and more family fun. Read about Anne’s visit here: National Eagle Center, Wabasha: Family Day Trip. 40 minutes southeast of Redwing.
Although the Wayside Cabin is not the original Little House in the Big Woods, it is a replica and give you an idea of the space the Ingalls family occupied during their time in Minnesota. It will give you a whole new appreciation of Caroline Ingalls when you think about the long winters she spent cooped up inside that cabin with small children. 35 minutes southeast of Redwing.