While perusing my Facebook page the other day I came across the most interesting post. It was from a woman I know here in Winona who had her 14-year-old cousin in town and was polling people for ideas on things to do. What happened next was kind of like this blog on steroids — so many ideas poured forth that I’m sure if my friend tried to do them all, the cousin would get a restraining order against her. Or her cousin would have to stay here for about a month.
Point is – it was a lovely reminder of the ways to while away the day in our beautiful neck of the woods, right from the mouths, er, fingertips, of the people who live here and love it.
So let’s discuss.
First suggestions – fishing and swimming. Good call. It’s been hot enough to make skin melt, but there is nothing quite like the cooling breeze off of the Mississippi. Latsch Island, our biggest public beach on the river, has the perfect mix of sunny sand and shady grass, and the water, I hear, is pleasantly warm. For a less busy beach, walk across the Old Wagon Bridge to Aghaming Park where a petite beach offers a quieter swim. La Canne Park in Goodview is good for a lake swim and a beach with amenities like bathrooms and a soda pop machine, and of course the Bob Welch Aquatic Center is a swimming paradise. You can even swim laps there, which I do all the time. OK, that’s a lie.
Second suggestions came from a mostly good link that someone posted, called the Best Cheap Things To Do In Winona. First, I have to say that I think the list was populated by a robot, because it added things to Winona that I’ve never heard of. For example, have any of you been to the Little Sahara Recreation Area? The description boasts free-moving sand dunes and sage brush flats, oh, and an elevation of 5,000 feet. Uh yeah, we are about 4,500 feet lower than that and the only sage around here is at the Farmers Market, and any trusting souls who bring their dune buggies here are going to be disappointed. BUT – the list did have other good ideas, like the Winona County History Center, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, The Bunnel House, the Skate Park, and such as that.
Someone suggested they go to Ed’s No Name Bar, which is of course a terrible idea seeing as the cousin is 14. I think they were trying to be funny. But for us grown-ups – always a great choice for chillaxing. Yes, I made that word up.
Why not go up the Wisconsin side of the river and explore some little towns, someone said. I love this idea – within a stone’s throw of Winona are oodles of charming little places that are good for a day visit. Fountain City is just plain adorable, and Alma has some good eating and cute shops to wander through. And if you haven’t been to The Rock In The House in Fountain City, you need to go. It sounds cheesy, and it kind of is – as in when I was there we paid a dollar in a donation box outside and gave ourselves a self-guided little tour – but it’s pretty freaky inside. Everything looks normal when you walk in, then you open a bedroom door and are face-to-face with a boulder as big as the room. Weird. Obviously the people don’t live there anymore. Literature around the house tells the story, and explains that the same thing happened to a house on the same site like 70 years ago. I wouldn’t have built another house there – but maybe that’s just me.
Someone said go to La Crosse, which is an idea-fail. No offense to La Crosse, but you don’t need to drive 30 miles to find something to do around here whether you’re 14 (in which case hopefully someone would be driving FOR you) or 40.
I suggested the free canoes and kayaks at Lake Park, the Lefty Hymes Deer Park, and the rope swings at Airport Lake. Disclaimer – I don’t go off of the rope swings there; I am afraid of them and I think I’d probably break something or end up with rope burns all the way down my body. However, area teenagers LOVE these rope swings and seem to manage them without injury. If it’s for you – more power to you.
The BEST suggestion on the list was to take the 14-year-old cousin to see The Complete Works of Will by the Great River Shakespeare Festival. I took my 15-year-old daughter, kicking and screaming, to see it, and she LOVED it. OK, she neither kicks nor screams, but she was resolute that she doesn’t like theater and I was wasting a ticket on her. But this production is so so so so funny, even my theater-hating daughter laughed out loud. A lot. She even said it was “fun” after we left, which any parent of a 15-year-old child will tell you is a nearly impossible feat.
To that GRSF suggestion I am going to add the Callithump, which if you hurry you can still get tickets for before the show Tuesday evening. It’s about the funniest variety show I’ve ever seen, with company members of GRSF showing off all their hidden talents in a rowdy, irreverently funny production that you honestly shouldn’t miss – it’s the most fun you can have for $16. Here is a trailer for the show – see for yourself:
Fun stuff, folks.
And, by the way, the home-run of the Facebook comment thread was when someone who doesn’t live here read through all the things listed, and wrote, “Wow, what a list! I’m moving to Winona.”
Amen, sister. That’s what I’m talking about.