Water Street 01 rs 2000

Excelsior, Minnesota – Water Street

Main Streets 2017: Minnesota

Water Street 01 rs 2000
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Water Street 10 rs 2000
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It’s only 20 minutes by car from busy downtown Minneapolis to Excelsior, where people enjoy life in the slower lane. This miniscule Minnesota city has a population of less than 2,400, with Lake Minnetonka as its picturesque backdrop.

The aptly named Water Street runs through downtown past Lake Street, where you can catch a ride on the The Minnehaha, a restored steamboat that ferries passengers across the lake from Excelsior to Mayzata (and back) in the summer months.

And though there’s plenty of fun to be had on the lake, Excelsior’s downtown, just one square mile, also entices with its mix of historic ambience and contemporary shopping and dining options.

The Minnesota Streetcar Museum, with its fleet of six historic restored streetcars, opens an interesting portal into the city’s past. The Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail, an attraction for bicyclists and walkers, traverses the downtown area, crossing Water Street as its runs between the Excelsior Library and the museum of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society.

Water Street is a great launching pad for enjoying the annual events presented by the Excelsior Chamber of Commerce and other local groups. July brings Crazy Days, a fun festival with street car rides, a carnival for kids, a sidewalk tent sale and live music by fiddlers and pickers known as the String Beans. Enjoy funnel cake and other delicacies while strolling the downtown and joining in the “crazy” goings on.

Take a left off Water Street onto Lake Street and you find The Commons park and recreation area, with a swimming beach, playground, tennis courts, places to play baseball, and spots to enjoy a family picnic while taking in a concert. The annual 10,000 Lakes Concours d’Elegance, also in July, is a car, boat and motorcycle show on the banks of Lake Minnetonka. There’s a prize for best period dress, and visitors can enjoy food vendors, live music, a kids’ zone and other entertainment.

It does get cold in January, but the Arctic Fever celebration is the perfect antidote for cabin fever. Its fun things to do include a bicycle race, ice sculpting and a wine and paint party, where participants can sip while creating snowy hill scenes. For kids, there are wagon rides, a magic show and ice fishing off of Water Street.

Minnesota may be “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” — but for community spirit and year-round family fun, there is only one Lake Minnetonka. And one Excelsior.

Excelsior Farmer’s Market and Parade photos courtesy of Al Whitaker
All other photos courtesy of Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce

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Faribault, Minnesota – Central Avenue

Main Streets 2016: Minnesota

One of Minnesota’s most historic communities, Faribault is committed to preserving its past. Through the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, this small city of 24,000 has become a “Designated Main Street Community,” with staff and community members collaborating to preserve and restore downtown while boosting the local economy.

The mission of the Main Street Program is to “unify the Central Business District, with emphasis on Central Avenue, to create an attractive destination in which businesses prosper, the community benefits and residents and visitors enjoy a quality downtown experience.” Faribault has been devoted to this work for decades. In 1982, the city created its Heritage Preservation Commission, which developed the annual Heritage Days Celebration and has been instrumental in securing grants to help building owners revitalize the downtown.

The resurgence of Central Avenue is easy to see. This main street is home to a number of historic sites and buildings, including the old-time home of Ochs Department Store, the Classical Revival style Theopold Block, the striking Wolf Building, and the Italianate-style Batchelder’s Block.

Local businesses are strong on Central Avenue, where residents can enjoy breakfast any time at Bernie’s Grill, or a home-style meal at Anna Dee’s Café. For those with a yearning for sweets, Bluebird Cakery and The Coffee Shop and Chocolate Haven will do the trick.

Paradise Center for the Arts, built in 1929 on the Central Avenue site of the former Faribault Opera House, brings live theatre and music, an art gallery and education programs to Faribault. At the southern end of Central Avenue at Division Street is historic Buckham Memorial Library. Heading north, bikers, walkers and inline skaters can access the Straight River Trail at several spots along Central Ave. Also marked on local calendars are the summertime Car Cruise Nights, the annual Taste of Faribault event put on by the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce, and June’s Faribault Heritage Celebration Parade, with its craft show, annual Soap Box Derby and Grand Parade.

Faribault is even a major contributor to America’s carnival and amusement-park culture — it’s the birthplace of the Tilt-A-Whirl. That iconic ride was invented here in 1926 by Herbert W. Sellner, a local woodworker and waterslide maker. Sellner Manufacturing built thousands of Tilt-a-Whirls in Faribault until the company was purchased in 2011. The Sellner name is still on the Tilt-a-Whirls being manufactured in Texas today.

Street photo courtesy of Audrey Kletscher Helbling – Minnesota Prairie Roots
All other photos courtesy of Faribault Daily News

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