St. Cloud: Just a Hop, Skip, and a Jump

Downtown St. Cloud. Photos courtesy of Visit St. Cloud
Downtown St. Cloud. Photos courtesy of Visit St. Cloud

As the ice melts away and the bird songs slowly return, those weekend getaways are looking more and more appealing. But what’s even better than a fun-filled weekend excursion? One that’s only an hour away!

Welcome to St. Cloud, just a short 65-mile drive from the heart of Minneapolis… Okay, let’s be honest, it’s not up there competing with New York City or Denver on your list of places to go, but what do you really know about Minnesota’s “granite city?”

Lynn Hubbard of Visit St. Cloud gave me a stunning audio tour, and then I just had to take the trek and check out some of these places for myself.

Lake George

Lake George: A pretty little lake, right in the center of downtown St. Cloud. “It’s a beautiful little spot,” Hubbard told me, and it’s where they hold many of St. Cloud Pride’s main events like “Pride in the Park,” and, yes, the “Puppy Parade.” It was a nice short walk around the lake to break up my day, get some fresh air and get a chance to meet the neighborhood pooches. By the way, St. Cloud is “very, very, very pet friendly,” Hubbard says. Lots of restaurants and even hotels have open arms for your beloved fur-children, so bring them along for the ride. Lake George Park also has a warming house area for ice skating in the winter and a little amphitheater for summer concerts in the park! In summertime they hold a summer concert series on Wednesday nights complete with food vendors.    

Quarry Park and Nature Preserve

Quarry Park and Nature Preserve: A 684-acre park full of beautiful old granite mining quarries? Count me in! Pay $5-10 for parking (dependent on the season) and have hours of fun. There are swimming quarries in the summer and plenty of cliff jumping and rock climbing opportunities for the thrill seekers in your group. If you’re like me and the very thought of cliff jumping makes your stomach turn, never fear! There are miles and miles of scenic hiking trails, fishing quarries, and even geocaching opportunities for you and the doggo to enjoy.

Paramount Center for the Arts: Now this is a cool place! The Paramount is St. Cloud’s hub for everything fine arts: they host concerts, plays, art classes, have an awesome gift shop full of locally-made art as well as several exhibits.  And it’s all inside an incredibly restored historic building. “The majority of the original theater is still intact,” Hubbard told me, commenting that “it’s been around since 1921.” While I didn’t get to catch a show when I visited, I was very impressed by the exhibits on the main floor and in the gift shop, paintings and photography alike. “You name it, there is always something to do at the Paramount,” Hubbard says. Footloose! will be on stage March 30-April 1 and directly after that they are doing Legally Blonde – The Musical April 7-23. When Lynn told me that, my eyes lit up and I went insane for a moment. Guess I just might be back next weekend.

Paramount Theater

Spice of Life Tea: This was an unexpected gem. I would never guess that a small place like St. Cloud would have a niche tea shop in its downtown, but this place was so cute! They sold all kinds of tea brewing equipment and gifts as well as some very unique tea blends and tea lattes. I had the “Wakin’ Up too Early” tea latte, a banana pancakes black tea with caramel syrup and your choice of milk. I couldn’t pass up a nod to one of my favorite Hawaiians and it was delicious!

Jules’ Bistro: Flatbread pizzas, soups, chili, scones, the best coffee in town, made-from-scratch everything! Plenty of vegan and gluten free options and the first place in St. Cloud to obtain a license for THC-infused drinks.

Arroy Thai & Filipino Restaurant

Arroy: Thai and Filipino food jam packed with flavor! I visited Arroy and I can say with confidence they made one of the best pad thai dishes I’ve ever had – it’s not something I normally order but the server convinced me to stop being a hipster and go classic, and I’m glad I listened. This one is LGBTQ-owned too. Come support some tasty diverse cuisine!

Beaver Island Brewing

Beaver Island Brewery: Brewery right downtown with great beers, hard tea, and hard lemonade (this means hard Arnie Palmers too of course). On Saturday nights you can catch their Silly Beaver Comedy show. “It’s always a lot of fun, they’re bringing in different comedians all the time so if you’re up more than once you’ll see a different show!” Hubbard says.

Red Carpet Martini Lounge & Nightclub: Nightlife spot complete with live music, a game room, cribbage nights and a dance floor. Check out the martini lounge too, our guide says the martinis are “fantastic!”

The Pioneer Place on Fifth:  Intimate and historic space with lots of live music, local and otherwise. Their adjacent “Veranda Lounge” hosts smaller acoustic-type shows, jazz nights, and even boasts the best wine list in Central Minnesota!

St. Cloud wants us to know that they’re friendly and ready to host some fun. “My wife and I, we’ve got three young kids, and we love being a part of this community because we feel welcomed, and we don’t get that everywhere we go,” Hubbard says. “We’ve got so many establishments that we like to be in here because we feel comfortable.” She also talks about St. Cloud Pride’s awesome resources for LGBTQ youth, hosting events like Pride Skate and Queer Connect where youth can come together and feel embraced by the community.

So, we’ll see you up here soon, right? Come visit May 14-20 to catch St. Cloud’s “restaurant week” and September 11-17 for St. Cloud Pride!

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