Things To Do in Stillwater in the Summer with Kids
A visit to Stillwater always manages to feel like something special, a destination, an event. The pretty city, nestled in the St Croix river valley, dresses up for every season and caters to every crowd: families, tourists, shoppers, diners, outdoor enthusiasts and music lovers (for starters). Here at FFTC we make it our business to seek out the kid-friendliest activities to try in communities across the metro area – and Stillwater is one of our absolute favorites to feature. Read on for a dozen or so reasons why. We’ll start with activities to do in the summertime; stick with us ’til the end for winter and holiday ideas.
Boat-watching on the Stillwater Lift Bridge
106 Chestnut St E, Stillwater, MN 55082
Young or old, one highlight of a summer day in Stillwater is being near the historic Lift Bridge as the center rises to allow rivercraft to pass. You can get as close as standing right on it, giving curious kids (and adults) a look at how the mechanics operate. The bridge is strictly open to pedestrians and small wheels with designated lanes for walking and biking. We encourage you to have a cross to the Wisconsin side and back. Kids will enjoy watching the boats plying the waters of the St Croix.
216 4th St N, Stillwater, MN 55082
The play equipment is designed for children 7 years of age and younger. They will enjoy the train car play equipment, a climbing structure made to resemble the Stillwater Lift Bridge, and an engineered wall of cliffs to climb. Not a one of my kids was able to resist cuddling the giant granite teddy bears residing in the park. The reservable park building makes for an ideal spot to host a birthday party in Stillwater.
The sweet, red Storytime Trolley picks up passengers outside of VALLEY BOOKSELLER at 10:30 am. Keep the token you’re given upon check-in at the shop; it’s used as currency for a free snack at CANDYLAND after the ride. The trolley will shuttle you to PIONEER PARK for storytime, then a short loop around town before heading back. The very kid-friendly experience lasts about an hour.
The Storytime Trolley is super popular so you’ll want to plan to secure your tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment. Rides begin June 4, 2022 and run every Saturday through October. Tickets are $5/pp and can be booked on the STILLWATER TROLLEY website.
Date idea! Take a 45-minute Historic Trolley Tour of Stillwater. Tours also run through the summer and fall season.
Summer family entertainment & music in the park
Lowell Park, 201 Water Street, Stillwater, MN 55082
LOWELL PARK is the hub for summer entertainment in Stillwater. Front and center on the St Croix river with a backdrop of beautiful bluffs and bridges, live music and performances feel extra festive. Here’s a quick rundown of what you can find during the summer with especially kid-friendly events highlighted first:
- Stillwater Summer Tuesdays: An outdoor market opens at 5pm followed by live music from 6-8pm and a free family movie just past sunset. Please see the Stillwater website to check movie titles and bands. Ongoing, July 5-Aug 9, 2022.
- Stillwater Fourth of July Celebration: Stillwater aims to claim the title for largest fireworks display in Minnesota over Independence Day. Plus family-friendly concerts at the bandshell and amphitheater stage. July 4, 2022.
- Stillwater Lumberjack Days: The signature summer festival pays homage to the industry that built Stillwater. You guessed it – logrolling and axe throwing are both involved.
601 Main St N, Stillwater, MN 55082
Each season, Zephyr Theatre has a line up of entertaining shows. And in the summer the performances never cease to delight. Check out this season’s summer musical performed next door to the iconic Stillwater Lift Bridge (where you can hear boats honk their horns throughout the show). Or come inside for a breath of fresh music and nods to the legends.
9450 Mendel Rd N, Stillwater, MN 55082
The bushels of wild blueberries we picked from BLUEBERRY FIELDS OF STILLWATER one August barely survived the trip back home. They were that delicious. The blueberry-picking window can be a small one in Minnesota so check the website often starting in July. For more ideas for picking your own berries this summer, jump over to our Twin Cities-area Pick-Your-Own Guide.
Bike on Brown’s Creek State Trail
Before I discovered the BROWN’S CREEK TRAIL, I figured my young family of bikers wouldn’t be able to handle the steep topography of scenic Stillwater. It was a delightful surprise to find we could park a few miles west of the town on the GATEWAY STATE TRAIL (it soon links to the Brown’s Creek Trail) and enjoy a smooth and rather secluded ride all the way to the end of the line in Stillwater’s lovely Lowell Park on the St Croix. Kids should have no trouble with the easy grade (which always makes it more fun for their adults!) We include this trail on our list of the BEST BIKE TRAILS IN THE TWIN CITIES NORTHEAST METRO.
More Things To Do in Stillwater Year-Round
This family fun in Stillwater need not be limited to the summer months and nicer weather. Here are a few ideas for indoor activities, plus keep scrolling so you don’t miss a link to TONS of fun things to do during the winter and holidays in Stillwater.
131 Main St S, Stillwater, MN 55082
This malt shop claims the award of best place to eat in Stillwater with kids! Choose from yummy ice cream creations, sandwiches, burgers and fries at the throwback diner on the corner of Water & Chestnut streets. Centrally located and absolutely walkable from Stillwater’s best sights and shops. We have parked in the free lots just steps from the diner and explored on foot in all seasons.
NELSON’S ICE CREAM also has a sweet little branch in Stillwater. Find it tucked away from the city’s bustling main drag. Please trust us when we encourage you to order the kiddie size – these are some generous scoops of ice cream! 920 Olive St. W, Stillwater, MN.
221 Chestnut St E, Stillwater, MN 55082
My kids have really enjoyed this year-round activity in Stillwater – in fact, I believe they visited in the dreariest time of winter when all the outdoor festivals and excitement were on pause. My daughter reports you can choose to paint either a canvas or a ceramic piece. If you’re stuck for ideas, there are examples on display to fire up the inspiration. This is a great indoor option for kids in Stillwater (or could make a cool birthday party idea!). Open Mon-Tues by reservation only, Thurs-Sun 11am-7pm.)
Stillwater’s Historic Sites
It’s impossible for me to get through an article without promoting an area’s little museums and historic sites. Full disclosure, I visited both of these places mentioned on an adults-only day date so I can’t guarantee your children will enjoy them. However, I have noted where they might.
1862 Greeley Street S, Stillwater, MN 55038
The main exhibit gallery in the heritage center tells the story of Stillwater’s lumbering history, connecting Minnesota pioneers with the folk who continue to celebrate the lumberjacks today. There are a surprising number of small, hands-on exhibits that kids can play with, too, making the stop worthwhile for adults who are interested in learning more about the town. Open year-round, Sun-Tues, 10-4pm. $8/adults, $3 ages 6-17.
602 Main Street N, Stillwater, MN 55082
Once upon a time, Stillwater was home to a large prison (a requirement for Minnesota to be recognized as a territory). The prison no longer exists, but the Warden’s House next door does and is open for tours that include a run through the peri0d-furnished rooms and a spiel with interesting facts about prison life. On a tight schedule, we appreciated that the guide tailored the tour
We beg you, when the cold sets in, don’t make the mistake of thinking that tourism season is over in Stillwater! The reality is that Stillwater literally shines and sparkles during the winter in Minnesota and is one of our favorite places to experience winter festivals and events with our kids. An ice palace, ice sculptures, dazzling lights and entertainment on the banks of the river are just the beginning.
More things to do with kids near Stillwater
- WILLOW RIVER STATE PARK: Do not miss the beautiful spill of waterfalls, listed on our roundup of 8 TWIN CITIES WATERFALLS TO VISIT WITH KIDS. Located 18 miles from the city center of Stillwater in Wisconsin. 1034 Co Hwy A, Hudson, WI 54016.
- AAMODT’S APPLE FARM: The kid appeal shines mainly during the fall when apple picking is is season. But the farm is open all summer for shopping in the apple barn and there is typically live music during the summer. See their calendar for details and also our guide to APPLE ORCHARDS IN THE TWIN CITIES.