17+ Best Things to Do in Lanesboro, MN (and Nearby Whalan)

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17+ Best Things To Do in Lanesboro, MN (and Nearby Whalan)

Due to its remote location and small population, a visitor may assume there aren’t many things to do in Lanesboro, MN, but don’t be fooled. This small town packs a powerful punch for outdoor activities and the arts.

Lanesboro, Minnesota, is approximately 120 miles southeast of Minneapolis, making it a perfect weekend getaway from the Twin Cities. With a scant population of 724, one would expect to find a sleepy, dusty town, yet when I visited, I found a community filled with warm, lovely people who interact more like family than townspeople.

One of the first things I noticed as I drove into the area was the unique landscape. Located in the heart of Bluff Country, Lanesboro sits surrounded by bluffs. I was unfamiliar with that term, so if you aren’t, let me tell you about the bluffs. They are steep banks that look as if someone came through and sliced straight down the side of a giant, mountainous hill. The roads weave in and around these cliff-like structures and will make you feel like you accidentally drove into a whole different land. I couldn’t get enough of the views in this gorgeous, bluffy area.

So, without further ado, let’s talk about 17 of the best things to do in Lanesboro, Minnesota!

Theater and the Arts

Having two theaters in a town the size of Lanesboro is almost unheard of. But believe it or not, that’s precisely what you’ll find there! And you won’t be disappointed with either.

Commonweal Theatre

208 Parkway Ave. N, Lanesboro MN 55949

You will surely want to enjoy a live theater performance at the Commonweal Theatre while you’re in town. This amazing professional theater is chock full of talent! This renowned live theatre has been thriving since 1989 and is located in the picturesque downtown. I enjoyed a performance of “The Outsider,” billed as “a truly non-partisan laugh-fest” and lived up to its name. The acting was excellent, and I was not alone in my laughter.

The theater seats 200 guests in the round, so there is no bad seat in the house! The building itself is historical, so the outside is eye-catching and historical. But what will charm you is the attention to detail inside the theater before you’re even seated. Art installations begin immediately in the box office when you enter. Be sure to look up, as many installations are on the ceiling!

Arrive early because you’ll want to explore the beauty before settling in for the performance!

the sign on the outside of a brick building says "Commonweal"
The pink-haired Hip Grandma points at a poster for "the Outsider" poster
a chair hanging upside down from a ceiling
a square stage with a round rug in the center
Theater seats in the Commonweal Theatre

St. Mane Theatre

206 Parkway Avenue North, Lanesboro, MN

Located right next to the Commonweal Theatre is the St. Mane Theatre. The Lanesboro Arts Council owns this theater and is home to a variety of acts, from traveling professionals to community-based performances.

The building began as a furniture store way back in 1897. After many years and many purposes, Lanesboro Arts took over the building in 2014, renovating it and creating a venue beloved by the community and visitors.

St. Mane Theater from the outside.
The interior of the St. Mane Theater from the back.
The window high on the wall in the rear of the St. Mane Theater
The window high on the back wall is where the organ was placed for musical background in the silent film era.

I couldn’t take in a performance during my brief trip through town, but I enjoyed a walk-through, and the seating was the first thing I noticed. I don’t mind telling you that this Hip Grandma sometimes has trouble with theater seating accommodating my size 18 hips, but these seats were generous and comfy! So have no worries if you’re curvy like me – you’ll be comfortable here!

Community & Culture

Lanesboro offers all the culture and community you would expect from a small town. Check out one of these stops or festivals to get a real feel for the community!

Lanesboro History Museum

105 Parkway Ave S, Lanesboro MN 55949

I loved poking through the Lanesboro Museum. This tiny building houses much local history and tells the town’s story, from its Norwegian roots to today. Admission is free (donations are appreciated) and contains three stories of historical displays.

Don’t miss the phone booth right outside the museum, where you can dial a number to hear a local story. The fun phone booth was one of my favorite quirky experiences in Lanesboro!

The pink haired Hip Grandma stands in a telephone booth listening to a handset phone
Historical pictures on a wall up the stairwell in the Lanesboro Museum
Exterior shot of the Lanesboro Museum - a red brick building with an American flag hanging from the balcony
Michigan Road Trips banner image with pink background and navy and white words, including an image of Michigan

Lanesboro Arts

103 Parkway Avenue North, Lanesboro, MN

Walk through the Lanesboro Arts Gallery, where you’ll find beautiful pieces displayed and for sale from various regional artists. Expect textiles, photography, painting, sculpture, woodworking, mixed media, jewelry, and several other types of work from local artists. Lanesboro has an evident appreciation for the arts, and this is one of my favorite art galleries.

Lanesboro Arts provides diverse art and artistic experiences for their community and those who visit. Beyond just the gallery, they provide art throughout the community. Be sure to check their calendar of events to learn of the many exhibits, shows, and events they sponsor year-round. 

The exterior view of the Lanesboro Arts Gallery
The Lanesboro Arts Building - a red brick building covered in vines
a series of paintings on the wall in the Lanesboro Arts Gallery

Buffalo Bill Days

Join the locals in celebrating Buffalo Bill Days on the first full weekend of August annually. This lively event features live music, a parade, and family-friendly activities. But what is the connection between Buffalo Bill and Lanesboro? I’m glad you asked.

As the story goes, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a visitor to Lanesboro, where he struck up a friendship with local medical practitioner Doc Powell. Doc and Bill devised a scheme to develop a Wild West circus together. With the help of the local Winnebago Native American tribe, the two men held their first Wild West show right in Lanesboro. The two toured with the show briefly, then Doc Powell returned to his practice in Lanesboro, while Buffalo Bill carried on with the show and to eventual fame!

Rhubarb Festival

Sylvan Park, 202 Parkway Ave S Lanesboro, MN 55949

Did you know that Lanesboro is the Rhubarb Capital of Minnesota? Locals take great pride in this distinguished title and celebrate annually with their Rhubarb Festival during the height of the season. This unique festival is held on the first Saturday in June and includes live music, rhubarb games, contests, displays, and even a rhubarb fashion show! 

The Hip Grandma poses by a large Rhubarb Sign in Lanesboro Minnesota

The Great Outdoors

Lanesboro is the perfect place to get outside and enjoy nature. You will not lack for fun activities or outdoor recreation that get you out into the sunshine and fresh air while you visit!

Sylvan Park & Campground

202 Parkway Ave S Lanesboro MN 55949

The perfect place to begin your outdoor adventure is Sylvan Park. You will find this quaint park at the East end of the downtown area. Look for two fishing ponds stocked with trout, playground equipment, picnic areas, and public restrooms. Bring your own equipment and enjoy a game of basketball, volleyball, or tennis.

The park also includes fantastic camping facilities filled on a first-come, first-served basis, making it perfect for a quick stop as you pass through the area.

Just across the street is the beautiful Lanesboro Stone Dam, which leads me to one of the next outdoorsy things to do in Lanesboro, MN.

The sign in front of Sylvan Park for one of the things to do in Lanesboro MN
Modern playground equipment in Sylvan Park
multi-colored background with the words "let's be friends" printed on top with "click here to join the facebook group"

Fly Fishing with Root River Outfitters

Whether you’re a Fly Fishing pro or a complete novice like me, you are in for a treat with an experience from Root River Outfitters. This family-owned business has anything and everything you could need to have a successful fly-fishing experience. I loved watching the guide demonstrate trout fishing right in front of the Dam, where he pulled up several fish within just a few minutes!

Give them a call to book a personalized fishing experience. Come as you are; they will take care of all the details! Or, if you’re in the area and need something you forgot to bring, stop by and pick it up here.

Oh! They also offer Kayak and Canoe rentals and tubes for a leisurely day on the Root River.

The historical building that houses the Root River Rod Company
The interior of the Root River Rod Company
A guide wearing waders holds a fish up while standing in the river.

Root River State Bike Trail

The Root River State Trail is made for bicyclists! The 42-mile Root River State Trail passes directly through Lanesboro. The first trail in the country began the Rails-n-Trails program, using retired and abandoned railroad lines by turning them into paved bicycle trails. The views along this trail are spectacular. You’ll bike between picturesque bluffs, over bridges, and through wooded forest areas.

Stop at the Visitor Center to learn all about the trails and pick up a complimentary map!

The Trail map showing where the Root River Bike Trail leads
Two women on a tandem fully seated bike with trees in the background

Biking & Tubing with Little River General Store

105 Coffee St Lanesboro MN 55949

What’s that you say? You don’t have a bike to enjoy the Trail? No worries! Stop by the Little River General Store to rent a bike for your adventures. And this Hip Grandma was tickled to find they carry electric bikes, too! If you haven’t tried an e-bike, this is the perfect introduction to assisted biking! You can pedal as hard as you like or get a little electric boost for the hills or when your legs need a little rest.

And if biking isn’t your thing, note that they rent tubes for the day so you can float down the Root River.

The exterior of the Little River General Store with a bike mounted above the door.

Whalan

Now is a good time to talk about wheeling on down to nearby Whalan, a short 5-mile trip by car or down the Root River State Trail. Don’t underestimate the charm of this small community, population 62.

Aroma Pie Shoppe

618 Main St Whalan MN 55949

The world-famous Aroma Pie Shoppe alone is worth a visit. This seasonal pie shop is easy to find and serves up heaping slices of scratch-made pies, different each day! I enjoyed Rhubarb on my visit, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course!

Whalan Depot

722 Alley Drive, Whalan, MN

Once you’ve finished your pie, wander across the street to the historic Whalan Depot, a unique little shop that speaks to the area’s compelling history. Load up on cold beverages and pick up a little something to bring home in remembrance of your trip. And say hi to one of the many beautiful birds that stop in for a bite to eat and a visit before you head back out!

Treasures on the Trail

431 Half St, Lanesboro, MN 55949

Finally, stop in for a visit at Treasures on the Trail, an Artisan Boutique that celebrates the talent of local artisans with one-of-a-kind gift items. The shop was built into the attached garage of a private home and focuses on bicycle art, with many items created from bike parts or featuring bicycles in the final product. 

The outside of the Treasures on the Trail shop in Lanesboro MN
A handmade sign that says "will bike for pie"
The interior of the Treasures on the Trail store

Family Fun

Let’s talk about some great things to do in Lanesboro, MN, if you’re into multi-generational travel or have kids and grandkids.

Lanesboro Medallion Walking Tour

If you’re a treasure hunter, you’ll love this! Stop at the Visitor’s Center and pick up self-guided Medallion Walking Tour information, then let the exploration begin. Walking around Lanesboro, you’ll find 20 iron medallions representing the community. Have fun checking them off your list as you cross bridges, traverse pathways, and take in the views of trees, bluffs, and running water. The path will take you through town and into the beautiful countryside.

Niagara Cave

29842 County Road 30, Harmony, MN 55939

Okay, this one isn’t precisely in Lanesboro, but it’s close enough to enjoy! And frankly, it’s so worth the short 20-minute drive to nearby Harmony.

Niagara Cave was discovered in 1924 and opened for tours in 1934, so people have enjoyed this natural spectacle for almost 100 years. The guided tour will take you 200 feet below the earth’s surface into an incredible underground adventure. You’ll find an underground waterfall, fossils dating back 450 million years, and amazing views that you won’t find elsewhere.

Be prepared to work; the cave tour is one mile long and involves 275 steps down and back up in a humid, dim, and sometimes slippery environment. Wear good shoes and have your camera ready. This attraction is not accessible for walkers, wheelchairs, or strollers.

If you cannot enjoy the cave tour, take heart; you can enjoy gem mining and mini golfing near the gift shop.

A sign in front of a red building that says "Niagara Cave"
The Hip Grandma in pink pants poses in a long, dark, cave passageway.
A group of Travel Writers pose together in the dark Niagara Cave

High Ropes Course at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

28097 Goodview Drive, Lanesboro, MN 55949

If the underground caving wasn’t enough of an adventure, consider an experience that will take you high above the ground instead of beneath it.

The Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center is just a few minutes from downtown Lanesboro and provides events, camps, and learning opportunities for all ages. I am proud to say I tried my hand at the high ropes course while in town.

When you arrive, instructors will help you suit up in safety gear and provide training for your experience. You will practice on a set of wires that sit just a couple of feet off the ground, and when you’re ready, you’ll head for the actual experience, a course that takes you 30 feet above the ground to a series of planks, ropes, and logs, rated from beginner level to expert.

I don’t mind saying I was terrified, but I did try it. The instructors were terrific and encouraging and didn’t pressure me to do anything that frightened me too much. Some of my travel companions stated that their favorite part was the zipline down from the ropes course tower!

Check the event schedule for open opportunities to reserve your spot! 

A glassed-in building nestled among trees
The Hip Grandma looks terrified while standing 30 feet above the ground on a pole.
Two women in climbing gear hugging a large pole for safety.

Church Hill Scenic Overlook

Kenilworth Ave N, Lanesboro, MN

I have a recommendation for those who want to get some outdoor activity but aren’t ready to venture deep underground or high aboveground! But wear your walking shoes for this one, because you’ll need them!

You’ll find Kenilworth Ave. just east of Parkway Ave. Head South on Kenilworth (uphill), and you will end at the top of a bluff area that overlooks the entire Lanesboro area, including the Dam and Sylvan Park. There’s a lovely seating area with a bench at the top of Church Hill Scenic Overlook, so you can rest before heading back down. Watch closely. If you’re lucky, you may see a bald eagle soar majestically, as I did!

And if you’re not into walking up that steep hill, know that you can take the short drive up just as well!

Shopping & Dining

Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to shop and dine in Lanesboro, so give yourself plenty of time to explore these options while in town! If boutique shopping is your scene, cruise through the E2 Boutique, located on Parkway Ave. It features women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes, and unique household items!

For more specific information on the local eats, including breakfast, snacks, and fine dining, check out 7 of the Best Places to Eat in Lanesboro, MN.

a Sampling of clothing, sunglasses, and other goods inside the E2 Women's Boutique in Lanesboro, MN
The exterior building of E2 Women's Boutique in Lanesboro MN

Bluffscape Amish Tours

Discover the unique culture of the local Amish community with Bluffscape Amish Tours. This guided tour takes you through the picturesque Amish backroads, providing insights into their traditional way of life and opportunities to stop at several locations along the trail to explore some of the handcrafted items the Amish offer.

A group of travel writers gather around the Bluffscape Amish Tour bus.
The entrance to a store in Amish country, Lanesboro MN
An Amish-style hat sits lonely on a front porch
Amish jarred jellies and jams in an Amish store in Lanesboro MN

Sylvan Brewing

100 Beacon St W, Lanesboro, MN 55949

When you’ve explored, shopped, and worn yourself out for the day, pop into Sylvan Brewing for a local craft beer or cider and a downhome welcome. I am not a great beer connoisseur, but I love a good craft Cider, and Sylvan did not disappoint!

Owners Karen and Andy Heimdahl created this taproom and craft brewery in 2020 (during COVID-19) in a gorgeously reimagined wood-stack granary. The attention to detail is unmatched in both the facility and the brews. Seating is available outside, inside, and on a covered patio.

A lone cider sits on a bar with the bar in the background
The old grain stack that now houses Sylvan Brewing in Lanesboro MN
Super clean brewing equipment at Sylvan Brewing in Lanesboro MN
A beautifully crafted sign in front of Sylvan Brewing in Lanesboro MN

Lodging

Trust me when I tell you that a quick day trip is not enough to enjoy everything this fantastic town offers. With so many things to do in Lanesboro, MN, you’ll want to consider spending a night or two.

Known as the “B&B Capital of Minnesota,” Lanesboro offers several charming bed and breakfasts. During the visit, I was on a press trip, so several friends stayed in B&Bs around town. We had a friendly competition over who got the best accommodations throughout the week. Of course, I am utterly confident that my stay was the best!

Stay in Style at The James A. Thompson House Bed & Breakfast

401 Parkway Ave S, Lanesboro, MN, 55949

I was privileged to stay at the James A. Thompson House, which sits directly beside the incredible Lanesboro Dam. The Thompson House is leisurely walking distance to the downtown area without being in the center of the hustle and bustle of town. I chose to zip into town with the car, which took 90 seconds but saved my legs for all the exciting activities we enjoyed while there.

Before I arrived, Proprietors Marti and David Gray made me feel at home by checking in on my travel and rolling out the welcome mat when I pulled in. When you stay at the Thompson House, you’re staying with family.

The sign for the James A Thompson House B&B with the home in the background
The pink-haired Hip Grandma poses with the Proprietors of the James A Thompson House B&B
A Victorian style room decked out in shades of pink

Wrapping it all up

With its blend of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and small-town charm, Lanesboro is a perfect destination if you’re looking to explore the heart of southeastern Minnesota. Whether biking along the Root River Trail, enjoying a live performance, or savoring some of the local cuisine, this homey town offers something for everyone. A visit here truly does feel like the perfect setting for a Hallmark movie!

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