A girls’ weekend in Stillwater, MN brings friends together – Reconnect & Rejuvenate
By Janice Deal
Alicia, Liz and I have been friends since college, and though the years have separated us geographically, over the decades we’ve stayed connected by enjoying a once-a-year girls’ weekend. This year marked our 20th annual getaway, and it was my turn to plan our adventure. I immediately thought of Stillwater, Minnesota. I live in the Twin Cities, and Stillwater, situated on the St. Croix River, boasts a picturesque Main Street and is just a short jaunt from downtown Minneapolis (approximately a 30-minute drive). I thought it would be the perfect destination for our merry band of three, and invited the girls to join me for a weekend of shopping and relaxation.
A cozy retreat
Our first decision was lodging. In Stillwater, accommodations abound, and over a series of phone calls, we debated the merits of everything from a B&B to a hotel or historic inn. It was Alicia who came up with the idea of staying at one of the properties rented out by the Just for Me Spa. “It’ll be like sharing a place again!” she enthused; for two years at school, the three of us had lived in an apartment not far from campus. For this weekend adventure, we booked The Cottage, a cozy, two-bedroom house located behind the spa. Upon our arrival Friday, we were delighted by the charming décor; Liz, easily the best cook among us, was especially pleased by the brightly painted kitchen. “I’ll make us breakfast tomorrow!” she declared.
When you look good, you feel good!
We had decided early on that shopping would be our first order of business. As Alicia always says, “When you look good, you feel good!” and we agreed that our spring wardrobes could probably use a lift. Each of us has a particular “look,” so it was our good fortune that Stillwater is home to a wildly diverse shopping scene. A stop at 45 Degrees met Liz’s needs: she’s an outdoor enthusiast and delighted in the shop’s selection of active footwear, clothing and gear. She enjoyed a lively conversation about local kayaking with one of the staffers before purchasing what she called “the perfect sleeveless shirt.”
Alicia and I hit our stride at Enchanté, where their mission statement was “clothes tell a story; say something interesting.” We happily wandered among the dresses and accessories; native Stillwater resident and owner of Enchanté, Sarah Stratte Quickel shops New York and Los Angeles to bring a unique sensibility to her shop.
Our next stop was Scandinavian North, a specialty shop featuring “modern Swedish gifts and home decor.” Liz, who had recently purchased a new condo and was itching to decorate, was drawn to the store’s selection of colorful mugs and gem-colored tea light candle holders. Alicia was delighted by the selection of textiles, and came away happy with her purchase of a cotton tea towel colorfully printed with the traditional Swedish Dala horse.
Next, we stopped by Reclaiming Beautiful, a delightful boutique dedicated to upcycling (creatively repurposing and refurbishing older pieces), plus handcrafted items from a large group of talented artisans. Wandering through the shop, full of painted furniture and decor, I couldn’t resist taking home a couple of charming vintage lamps and candle lanterns. They would be just the thing to freshen up my house.
If Friday was about shopping, Saturday was devoted to replenishing the soul. After coffee and Liz’s signature scrambled eggs, we walked over to the spa, where we had booked a morning session at the Himalayan Salt Cave Sanctuary. (Drop-ins are permitted, but appointments are recommended.) I’d never experienced a salt cave before, and was intrigued by the environment: salt walls and a starry “sky” arched over us, to be enjoyed from the comfort of zero-gravity chairs. We were also provided with warm Sherpa blankets. The 45-minute session left us feeling relaxed and rejuvenated; conventional wisdom has it that breathing in the tiny salt particles lends balance to the skin and respiratory system.
To test out our improved respiration, we challenged ourselves to climb the 150 historic steps from Main Street. The stunning view of the St. Croix River valley and Stillwater below us made our expedition well worth the effort.
We continued to fill our souls that day with a visit to Stillwater Art Guild Gallery. Located in historic downtown, on north Main Street, the gallery features work from artists and artisans based in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with new art almost every day. We took our time enjoying the glazed ceramics, photography, glass pieces and sculptures before heading back to our cute rental to change: we’d made reservations to exercise creative muscle in a DIY class at Smith & Trade Merchantile, and opted for old clothes in case things got messy. (Make your reservations for this adventure in advance, because the workshops fill up.)
Wearing old t-shirts, we dove right into our project at Smith & Trade Merchantile. The folks there were organized: they had pre-cut the wood, and allowed us to choose from seven wood stain colors, and any paint color combination to make our statements. Liz opted to show school spirit with a sign celebrating our alma mater, while Alicia and I created welcome signs for our front doors. When we left, we explored Cooks of Crocus Hill, a shop bursting with everything a home chef could dream of. I treated myself to some new cookie cutters, while Liz picked out a new apron in a cheerful yellow to help brighten up her new kitchen.
That evening, we crowned a perfect day with drinks and dinner at Nacho Mama’s, on Main Street. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable, and we happily dug into plates of enchiladas, tacos and even jalapeño bacon-wrapped shrimp. As tasty as our dinners were, we all saved room for tangy Key lime cheesecake, the tangy citrus a perfect ending to a scrumptious meal.
As our weekend came to a close, we were reluctant to bid goodbye to Stillwater, where we’d shared so many good times and drawn, if possible, even closer together. “I feel like we just scratched the surface of things to do here,” Liz observed as we finished off our pie. “Maybe we should make Stillwater a regular destination?” Alicia and I both started laughing; we’d all been thinking the same thing!
Stillwater, we look forward to a return adventure!
Try these possibilities for your next Stillwater girlfriend getaway.