I enjoy learning about the various regions and communities all over the state of Minnesota, and even though I'm a life-long resident of the state, there are still many communities I have to check off my bucket list.  This weekend I made my first visit to two river towns in Minnesota that are both great for a quick little weekend getaway.

When deciding on where to go there are a few criteria that has to be met, I look for communities that have a thriving downtown: stores for shopping, restaurants and pubs, and a hotel nearby so most things are within walking distance.  Also, as a history buff, I want to be able to learn about the community I'm visiting.

Northfield and Red Wing both fit the bill perfectly, and the fact that they both sit along a river didn't hurt their charm and character either.

The Cannon River in downtown Northfield, photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

Northfield - population about 20,000
The first stop was Northfield on Friday night.  It's just south of the Twin Cities, just off 35W, so it's very easy to get to.  The Cannon River runs right through the heart of the city, and they've built a river walk so you can stroll along the river.

The Archer House Hotel in downtown Northfield, photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

There are two good hotel options in the downtown, the Archer House and Froggy Bottoms River Suites.  They're both old buildings with lots of character.

You'll find four bar/pubs in the downtown.  I ate at the Froggy Bottoms Pub and had an excellent meal, and the service was great too.  Three of the four pubs are right along the river and offer outdoor seating overlooking the Cannon River. (Although it was a little too chilly to sit outside on this trip for me.)  All three pubs also had live music on Friday night.

Mainstreet Northfield, photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

Saturday morning included a walk around the downtown, and a stop at the Northfield Historical Society.  For $5 A nice gentleman gave me a great tour of the bank robbery attempt by the James and Younger brothers gang.  Very interesting, and well worth it.

And, when you're in Northfield, you have to drive through the two beautiful campuses of the St. Olaf College and Carlton College.

I would highly recommend a one night trip to Northfield for anyone who is looking for just a quick and easy weekend getaway.

Mississippi River in Red Wing, Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

Red Wing - Population about 16,000
After my touring of Northfield was done, I headed east on Highway 19 and drove to Red Wing.

St. James Hotel in Red Wing, Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

When you stay in Red Wing you have to check into the St. James Hotel downtown.  It was built in 1875.  If you're thinking it will be just an old run down hotel, think again, it is beautiful and completely renovated an updated.  The St. James has two restaurant/bar options, The Port which is in the basement and Jimmy's Pub which is up on the 5th floor.

Red Wing, Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

Another highlight when touring Red Wing is the Barn Bluff.  It's a bit of a steep hike up to the top, on some rough trails, but once you're up there the views are spectacular.

And of course I stopped in to the Red Wing Pottery Museum and the Red Wing Shoe Store Museum.  You know - when I Red Wing...

Red Wing is another town where there's enough to do that a one-night quick trip getaway is just perfect.