Spectacular Beauty. Remarkable Arts and Culture
Winona, the largest river town south of the Twin Cities on the Great River Road, is surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, wrapped in history, and steeped in cultural legacy.
Within two years of its founding in 1851 by steamboat captain Orrin Smith, Winona was a full-fledge river town with a population of 300. Settlers from the east and immigrants from Europe journeyed up the Mississippi to Winona. Wheat became the money crop, and by the 1860 the nation’s wheat belt was in the Upper Midwest.
Railroads were built to improve access to the river for grain shipments. In 1862, the Winona and St. Peter Railroad was constructed west from Winona. River traffic increased as towboats transported lumber from northern Wisconsin forests to Winona. Between 1870 and 1900, Winona became one of the major timber processing and marketing centers in the nation. Wealth was created by entrepreneurs who were in the wheat, western agriculture, and transportation business. Many of the mansions built by these financial barons remain.
Two National Register Historic Districts in downtown Winona make it one of the largest collections of Victorian commercial architecture in the region. James E. Hauser started one stained glass studio in 1946 to restore and repair stained glass church windows. More studios opened, and one author has called Winona the “Stained Glass Capital” of the nation.
Winona is partially surrounded by the Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. It includes 200,000 acres of wooded islands, forest, prairie, marsh and water extending 261 miles from Wabasha to near Rock Island, Ill. with more than three million visitors a year.
Visit popular attractions such as Garvin Heights Lookout, the Lake Park area with the Veterans Memorial Park, Rose Gardens, and band shell, Watkins Museum and Store, the Polish Museum, the Winona County History Center, and Levee Park.
The Frozen River Film Festival in January sponsors films, workshops, special events and speakers. In June, the Dakota Homecoming and Gathering brings back Dakota friends for a weekend of dancing, drumming, crafts and other cultural demonstrations. The Great River Shakespeare Festival delights visitors with plays in the summer, along with concerts, and Front Porch Speakers. The Minnesota Beethoven Festival wows us with world-class concerts in a variety of settings. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum, overlooking Winona’s working harbor showcases paintings, sculptures, photographs, and provides educational programming for adults and children. Garvin Heights Vineyards, overlooking the river valley, opens seasonally for wine tastings on weekends.
Winona offers cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing in the winter; horse-riding, and birding in the spring; outdoor concerts, fishing, bicycling, canoeing, geo-caching, and golfing in the summer, and hiking, apple-picking, and brilliant fall colors. There are artistic and cultural events, shopping, and museum visits. For updated information about events/ festivals, lodging, dining and things to do, go to www.visitwinona.com or call 800-657-4972.
We invite you to make your own memories in Winona.
- Attend our events/ festivals. Frozen River Film Festival, Bluff Country Studio Art Tour, Dakota Homecoming & Gathering, Steamboat Days, Great River Shakespeare Festival, MN Beethoven Festival, Cemetery Discovery Walk, Candlelight House Tour.
- Visit our attractions: Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Winona County History Center, Watkins Museum/Store, Polish Museum, Garvin Heights Vineyards, historic downtown.
- Enjoy our natural scenic beauty: Garvin Heights Overlook, Levee Park, Prairie Island, Lake Park, Latsch Island, Aghaming Preserve.