Get Cozy in Bluff Country
by Lisa McClintick
The 88-mile Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway heads west from the Mississippi River and Great River Road to follow the curves and scenic limestone bluffs of the Root River Valley. Along the way, you'll find a blend of hardwood forests, century farms, small towns, and historic districts.
While it has just over 700 residents, Lanesboro thrives as a cultural hub and a popular weekend getaway. Its dozen historic homes make it the Bed & Breakfast Capitol of Minnesota. Like other B&B destinations, Lanesboro's grand Victorian homes are graced with ornate detailing, stained glass windows, elegant turrets, and wrap-around porches that beg you to sit back and relax.
Most of the homes are within a pleasant stroll downtown. Its brick buildings sit nestled below the bluffs along the Root River. It's a good way to work off multi-course breakfasts or regain an appetite for dinner.
For dining, you'll find everything from elegantly served gourmet entrees drizzled with fresh herbs to casual burgers served along the riverfront. Many of the restaurants try to follow the seasons and highlight local ingredients, such as morel mushrooms, rhubarb, grass-fed beef and fall apples.
Point your car in either direction to explore the scenic curves of the byway. Enjoy the views, dig through antiques or savor a flaky slice of fruit pie in Whalan, Peterson and Rushford. Look for more places to stay along the way, including a historic former jail in Preston.
If you can't stand to be apart, get cozy taking a bicycle built for two down the gentle 42-mile Root River Trail. Feeling more adventurous? Bicycle 18 miles south on the hilly Preston-Harmony spur. Several van tours also explore Amish country. Guides tell about this simpler way of life and make stops at Amish farmsteads where you can buy home-baked goods, admire intricate quilts or find heirloom furniture.
The Root River Valley shines brightest in autumn, when crops look bronzed and bluffs glow with red, gold and orange foliage. Wait a few months, and a fresh snowfall will transform the valley into a scene from a snow globe. That's ideal weather for skiing the trail. If you prefer the warm indoors, check out the year-round galleries, plays and concerts.
Of course, that may not be necessary. Pick the place to stay -- someplace elegant, inviting and oh-so-cozy -- and you may never leave it.
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