Spring Valley

Pictorial Spring Valley, Minn., lies along the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway. On the western edge of Fillmore County, this stagecoach and railroad boom town was named one of Midwest Living’s “25 Ultimate Fall Drives.” The town has a history as rich as the views.

An abundant number of Spring Valley sites are landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places. Dotting the downtown, visitors will find the elaborate 1871 Parsons Block and Hall, 1874 Commercial House Hotel, 1877 Victorian gothic-style Ephraim Steffens House, 1879 William Strong House, and the 1904 Carnegie Library, a symbol of the town’s early progress.

Art and culture also abound in Spring Valley. Just five miles north of town, the 1871 Tunnel Mill has found new life. The former gristmill, which was powered by a tunnel shortcutting a bend in the creek, is the last surviving representative of Minnesota’s milling industry in the county. Today, it’s home to a blacksmith shop and traditional iron works that offers a variety of metal working classes, character-laden gypsy wagons, occasional special event tours of area iron ore mines, and camping, even in the wagons. Each fall, the mill hosts a gathering, featuring various art and metal displays and demonstrations, as well as a wine and cheese social.

The Brave Community Theatre and Braveheart Theatre, in production for more than 40 years, is proud to be one of the oldest self-supporting community theatres in Minnesota. The troupe highlights comedy, drama, musical, and original productions, as well as Theatre for Kids.

Likely the most recognized historical draw in Spring Valley are the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and museum, housed in the Spring Valley Historical Society Museum in the former Methodist church attended by the Wilder family in the 1890s. The collection encompasses a vast amount, including personal mementos of the family’s life. Displays of various inventors and business people who lived in Spring Valley are also on hand, including Richard Sears, of Sears & Roebuck fame; Bernard Pietenpol, the father of experimental aircraft, Dr. Henry Plummer, founder of Mayo Clinic; and more. Adjacent to the museum is the 1866 Washburn-Zittleman House Museum, featuring 12 exhibit areas, an ag complex, and History Hall.

This notoriety, coupled with the surrounding landscape and a love for outdoor recreation, has led to the formation of several world-class races and events. The Almanzo 100, a challenging 100-mile bicycle race, is held the first Saturday after Mother’s Day. The events have taken hold of the emerging phenomenon of endurance cycling on unpaved, backcountry roads. Two more races include the Royal 162, a grueling 162-mile race over gravel, dirt, and water crossings and the Alexander, a bicycle “bike packing” adventure over nearly 400 miles of roads and paths over three days. Bringing in over 1,000 participants and featuring 8,000 feet or more of vertical climbing, the races are increasingly popular among elite amateur athletes and recreational cyclists.

In partnership with the races, The Wilder Foot Races have also gained notoriety. The Perley Wilder 30K, James Wilder 50K, and Abel Wilder 100K are challenging gravel foot races that are typically held the Sunday after Mother’s Day. The Winter Wilder is another exhilarating event, held the second Saturday in January.

Looking for more speed? Just outside of town, you’ll find a fantastic speedway, covering more than 60 acres. A state-of-the-art racing complex, it showcases an average of 30 events a year, some of the biggest in the country, the speedway thrills with racing on its high banked, dirt/clay track. Other amenities include 24 VIP suites, 36 VIP decks, total seating capacity up to 8,000, slingshot track dubbed “Button Buck Speedway” for younger racers, and a full-service campground.

Other lodging accommodation choices include a motel, cabins and a 500-acre village retreat containing a collection of winterized cabins and themed areas ideal for gatherings. Dining and shopping options are as varied as the rest of the town’s conveniences, like scrumptious bakery treats, saloons, the town-favorite pizza place, and a popular drive-in, complete with car hops and service with a smile.

You can enjoy bowling or head south of town to the 9-hole golf course at the country club. South Park features a solar-heated swimming pool, picnic area with shelters, playground, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and ball fields. Willow Park, in the heart of downtown, boasts the Spring Valley Walking Trail and Spring Creek. Newly expanded, the trail offers 2.58 miles of walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowmobiling and the stream is prime trout water. It plays host to portions of the town’s big August celebration, Ag Days.

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