Things to Do in Winona, Minnesota

Discover the Charm of Winona.

In southeastern Minnesota on the Wisconsin border, Winona is a quaint town loaded with fun things to do. Whether you’re looking for cultural places, the outdoors, fun indoor activities, or great food, Winona has something for everyone.

One of the best attractions in Winona is Lake Park, which surrounds the beautiful Lake Winona. A five-mile blacktop trail encircles the lake, providing extraordinary views of the city and surrounding bluffs.

What to do in Winona, Minnesota

Winona is a city in and the county seat of Winona County, in Minnesota, United States. It is located on the banks of the Mississippi River, near its confluence with the Buffalo River. Winona has approximately 27,000 people and is known for its historic architecture, outdoor recreational opportunities, and cultural events. In addition, it is home to several higher education institutions, including Saint Mary’s University and Winona State University, which contribute to the city’s diverse and vibrant community.

Why is Winona, Minnesota, a great place to visit?

Winona, Minnesota, is a great place to visit for several reasons, including:

  1. Scenic beauty: Winona is located along the Mississippi River and is surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful parks, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
  2. Rich history: The city is home to several historic sites, including the Polish National Catholic Church and the Winona County Courthouse. It is a great place to explore the region’s cultural heritage.
  3. Cultural events: Winona hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the year, including the Winona Steamboat Days Festival, the Great River Shakespeare Festival, and the Winona Art Crawl, which showcase the city’s vibrant arts scene.
  4. Higher education: The city is home to several colleges and universities, including Saint Mary’s University and Winona State University, which provide a range of cultural, athletic, and educational opportunities.
  5. Outdoor recreation: With parks, lakes, and trails in the surrounding area, Winona offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating.
Winona County Courthouse
Winona County Courthouse

Overall, Winona offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and vibrant arts and educational scenes, making it an attractive destination for visitors of all ages.

Minnesota Marine Art Museum

Located on the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum explores the human relationship with water. MMAM is a non-profit visual arts center that engages visitors in meaningful visual experiences through education and exhibitions.

MMAM features works from American and European masters, including Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others. MMAM also hosts traveling collections of paintings and photography focusing on water-themed art.

Minnesota Marine Art Museum
Minnesota Marine Art Museum

One of the most notable attractions in Winona, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, is a must-see for anyone visiting the city. This regal and beautiful building is home to an extensive collection of artwork that explores the history and current state of the human relationship with water.

When MMAM opened its doors, it hoped to attract as many as 100,000 visitors a year. But instead, it has seen attendance hover at around 30,000 visitors per year.

Garvin Heights City Park

If you’re looking for a scenic hike, the Garvin Heights Trail in Winona is the perfect place to do it. This trail is a short loop that travels a half-mile up 540 feet to the summit of the bluff and provides some spectacular views of the Mississippi River.

If the weather is good, you can also walk or bike along the paved trail that circles both sides of Lake Winona. The path offers some extraordinary views of the park and surrounding neighborhoods.

Garvin Heights Park - Winona, MN
Garvin Heights Park – Winona, MN

There are also many attractions in the park, including Veteran’s Memorial Park, a tranquil beach with a boat dock, playgrounds, sports fields, a winter skating rink, a Frisbee golf course, picnic areas, and a rose garden.

There are also several other activities in Winona, Minnesota, that are free or inexpensive, such as biking and skateboarding. In addition, the Bud King Ice Arena is a popular destination for ice skating, and people often have open skate times to try it out for free.

Winona County Historical Society

The Winona County Historical Society is a private non-profit educational institution with a mission to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret materials that document the history of Winona County. In addition, the Society operates three museums, a research archive, staff offices, and programming space.

The main museum features a timeline of Winona County history, an award-winning children’s exhibit, and an extensive library and archives. WCHS also hosts a variety of events and programs throughout the year.

Winona County History Center-1915 Winona Armory
Winona County History Center-1915 Winona Armory

This renowned Minnesota landmark is perfect for exploring the city’s rich cultural heritage. Its sweeping views of the river valley and magnificent city skyline make it a popular destination for visitors.

In addition, the bluff is also home to several historic sites and outdoor attractions. Guests can hike the trails, cruise on Lake Winona, or visit Sugar Bluff, an impressive edifice listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Winona County History Center
Winona County History Center

This bed and breakfast is located on the Mississippi River in a turn-of-the-century Victorian mansion that combines historic luxury with modern comforts. It offers a decadent four-course breakfast each morning and free wi-fi and business center amenities.

Polish Cultural Institute

The Polish Cultural Institute celebrates Winona’s Kashubian heritage and the prominent role Kashubian Poles and their descendants have played in Winona’s history and culture since the mid-1800s. It is located in the original headquarters of the Laird-Norton Lumber Company, a large lumber mill that operated during Winona’s heyday as a lumber milling town.

The earliest settlers of Winona were Catholic immigrants from an area on the Baltic Sea known as Kashubia. They migrated to Winona in the 1850s and settled on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, becoming the state’s first Polish community.

Best places to visit in Winona, Minnesota

But despite this, they did not identify as Poles, and many clung to their Kashubian dialect and customs. Eventually, they joined with other Polish groups to form two Catholic churches in the city.

Today, St Stanislaus Catholic Church is the center of the Polish-American community in Winona. It is where people gather to celebrate Polish culture with dinner, someone is named to the Polish Hall of Fame, and the local Polish choir celebrates Mass.

St. Stanislaus Catholic Church

The St. Stanislaus Catholic Church is a historic church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona in the United States and a prominent fixture on the city’s skyline. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and designated as a Minor Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church on November 10, 2011, by Pope Benedict XVI.

The parish was first organized in 1871 by a group of Polish families who had been attending Mass at the German or Irish Catholic churches on the east side of town. They wished to have a parish where they could worship in the language they understood.

Church of St. Stanislaus
Church of St. Stanislaus

In the beginning, the church was a wooden sanctuary located on Fourth Street in a neighborhood known as the East End. However, the Kashubian Polish community continued to grow, and in 1873 Bishop John Ireland appointed a priest to serve them.

During this time, a church building project began and eventually culminated in a beautiful Romanesque-style church designed by Augustus Maybury, a noted American architect who was also responsible for creating several other churches in the area serving Winona’s Bohemian population.

Maybury’s design synthesizes Romanesque and baroque styles, reflecting the “Polish Cathedral” tradition prevalent among the Kashubian Poles at the time. The building has an eight-sided center, a red brick facade, and a thirty-foot diameter drum and segmented dome.

Beautiful Downtown Winona, Minnesota
Beautiful Downtown Winona, Minnesota


In conclusion, Winona, Minnesota, has a rich history and a thriving cultural scene. From outdoor recreation to historical sites and cultural events, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful city along the Mississippi River.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or an action-packed adventure, Winona offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and vibrant arts and educational scenes, making it an attractive destination for visitors of all ages. So, if you’re planning a trip, add Winona to your list of must-visit places and experience all this charming city has to offer.

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