Tucked along the banks of the Root River in Southeast Minnesota, you’ll find a hidden gem – Historic Lanesboro, the Heart of Bluff Country. Take a relaxing drive on Highway 16, a National Scenic Byway, turn north on Highway 250, and you’ve arrived at the main street of Lanesboro, population 754. Park your car in the Poetry Parking Lot, next to the Art Car, and walk into town over a restored railroad bridge, the Coffee Street Walking Bridge. The parking lot is by the bass pond, which is fully-stocked by the DNR fish hatcheries nearby.
Strolling down Lanesboro’s main street, Parkway Avenue is like a walk-through time. Well-preserved, it’s a snapshot of rural America a century ago. Architecture gracefully combines the old and new. Buildings built just a few years ago are neighbors with buildings over a hundred years old. Downtown is a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
This town is alive with the arts, good food, easy access to the outdoors whose beauty rivals anywhere else, and history. In fact, you may even see a History Alive! Pop-up play – reenactments of Lanesboro history. You just never know what you’ll see in town.
At the north end of town, the Commonweal Theatre, home to a professional theatre which, from March through December, entertains thousands of people every year with a rotating repertory of comedies, dramas, musicals, classics and contemporary plays. Next door to the state-of-the-art Commonweal Theatre, is the St. Mane Theatre, run by Lanesboro Arts. This theater, one of the oldest buildings in town, provides a venue for the Lanesboro Community Theater, concerts, classes and Over the Back Fence, a variety show which has been in operation since 1994. On the second Friday, from March through November, Over the Back Fence showcases talented local cast, musicians and other guests. Each month features a new theme with music, skits, jokes, comedy, poems, and more. In addition to live theater, the recently renovated St. Mane Theatre presents the movies of local and regional independent filmmakers.
Both theaters are part of the Lanesboro Arts Campus, a layered and memorable arts experience integrated into the fabric of Lanesboro that builds on, and is designed to enhance and connect, existing assets—the river, scenery, recreation, history, and downtown — while extending art into the community. By utilizing art, design, and history to maintain, strengthen, and link what’s unique and authentic about Lanesboro, stimulating economic growth and improving quality of life.
Imagine shopping in the places where people have been shopping for generations. While the locally-owned shops don’t house a cobbler, they do still offer unique products and services, housed in the warm, welcoming Lanesboro downtown shops.
Lanesboro is conveniently located in the middle of the nationally acclaimed Root River State Bike Trail, so it doesn’t matter which direction you choose to go. Ride on 60 miles of paved trails, following the river winding its way through woods, bluffs, farms and tiny towns.
The trail runs right through the middle of town. After an enjoyable day of biking through Bluff Country, ride over to the shops and grab some gourmet cheese and a bottle of wine to enjoy at a splendidly restored bed and breakfast while you get ready to go out for dinner and the theater.
Lanesboro is well known for its many lodging choices. You can choose to stay at a bed and breakfast, a cabin or an inn – practical, charming, historic, secluded, on the river. No matter where you stay, though, you will enjoy generous hospitality, and relaxing comfort.
Some visitors would rather take a more leisurely trip down the river. Canoes, kayaks and tubes are available to rent in town. Top off your afternoon with some ice cream.
At the center of town is the jewel of Lanesboro, green, tree-laden Sylvan Park. With a brand-new, kid-approved playground, seven picnic shelters, tennis and basketball courts, two spring-fed ponds, a gazebo; this 12-acre park is the place to spend an hour or a whole day. The park is within sight of a waterfall flowing over the 1868 dam, providing the power for the electric power plant which has been generating power for almost 150 years.
Countless activities are held here. On the first Saturday in June, the park hosts the famous Rhubarb Festival commemorating our status as the Rhubarb Capital of Minnesota as designated by the Minnesota state legislature. Later in the month, Art in the Park, southeast Minnesota’s longest running art festival, features 80+ art exhibitors, pie (including rhubarb, of course), music all day, all taking place in the dappled shade of the park’s stately trees.
Once a year, the first weekend in August, the town celebrates Buffalo Bill Days, in recognition of the times when Buffalo Bill brought his famous Wild West show to town. The festival is so big, with so many activities, it takes three days to do it all. From volleyball tournaments to dancing, picnics to beer and brats, fireworks to the Grand Parade, this event has something for the whole family.
Come visit! Discover a slower pace of life with no chain stores or fast food franchises, and the closest stoplight is 20 miles away. This quaint town site offers invigorating outdoor adventures, breathtaking views, rich artistic and cultural experiences, unique shopping, locally grown foods and find dining. Come see why visitors love Lanesboro and return year after year!