Stillwater is one the oldest towns in Minnesota, being settled not long after the US government signed treaties with the local Ojibwa and Dakota nations in 1837. The town was the site of a territorial convention in 1848 that led to the establishment of Minnesota Territory as an organized territory in 1849, paving the way to statehood a decade later. Stillwater incorporated as a city on March 4, 1854, the same day Saint Paul incorporated. Today Stillwater is a popular day trip and weekend getaway destination for Twin Cities residents, who come to stroll the historic downtown with its shops and restaurants, and stay at one of the local bed and breakfasts.
The city is mentioned in the Swedish novel Nybyggarna ("The Settlers") by Vilhelm Moberg.
From Minneapolis or Saint Paul, go east on Minnesota Highway 36, which passes Stillwater on the south side. Exit at Highway 95 and go north to reach Downtown Stillwater. If approaching Stillwater from the north or south, you can take Minnesota Highway 95 into town, which follows a scenic route along the St. Croix River. From Wisconsin, take Highway 64, which runs right into the St. Croix Crossing and becomes Highway 36.
Public transit access to Stillwater is unfortunately pretty lacking. The sole option is Metro Transit's Route 294, an express bus service linking Stillwater to Downtown Saint Paul, which only runs during weekday rush hours.
- 1 Stillwater Lift Bridge, at the foot of Chestnut St. Built in 1931, this is one of only two vertical lift bridges in Minnesota (the other one is the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth). The bridge connects Stillwater and Houlton, Wisconsin, but has been closed to traffic since the St. Croix Crossing opened in Summer 2017. The bridge will reopen to pedestrian and bicycle traffic in 2019.
- 2 Stillwater Public Library, 224 N 3rd St, ☏ . M-Th 10AM-8PM, F-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM (seasonal, check website). One of the Carnegie public libraries, the building was expanded in 2007. There is free wifi available throughout the library and a patio providing picturesque vistas of the St. Croix River. Free.
- 3 Washington County Courthouse, 101 Pine St W (at 3rd St), ☏ . Self-guided tours M-Th 8AM-3:30PM, F 8AM-10:45AM; guided tours (mid-Apr to mid-Oct) M-Th 11AM, 1PM, 3PM, F 10:45AM, plus Sa 10:45AM year-round. The oldest standing courthouse in Minnesota, dating from 1867. The building ceased to function as a courthouse in 1975 after the opening of the Washington County Government Center on the south side of town. The courthouse now contains exhibits on Washington County history and also operates as a venue for cultural events. Free.
- St. Croix River. Lounge on the beach where there is always tons to see.
- Stillwater River Boats, 525 Main St S. Paddle steamer tours with dinner.
- 1 Marx Wine Bar & Grill, 241 S Main St, ☏ .
- 2 Domacin Wine Bar, 102 S 2nd St.
- 3 Freight House, 305 S Water St.
- 4 Nelson's Ice Cream, 920 W Olive St (at Greeley St), ☏ . M-F 2:30PM-9PM, Sa 11AM-10PM, Su noon-9PM. An ice cream shop that has been in business since 1964, although it can trace its history to a grocery store that opened at the same site in 1923. Over 40 ice cream flavors available.
- 1 The Elephant Walk Bed and Breakfast, 801 W Pine St, ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11:30AM. Each room has a different country's theme. Guests are offered a bottle of wine with a picnic basket of homemade crackers served with a variety of cheese and fruit. Fireplaces, whirlpools, in-room refrigerators filled with complementary waters and soft drinks. Sound systems with iPod audio in, blue tooth input and wifi access. $139+.
- 2 Aurora Staples Inn, 303 N 4th St, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. All rooms have double whirlpool tubs, complementary robes, fireplaces, and private baths. Rooms $119-$199, Suites $119-$229, Carriage House $159-$245.
- 3 Water Street Inn, 101 S Water St, ☏ . Spacious 41-room inn overlooking the St. Croix River with views of the Stillwater Lift Bridge. Rooms feature queen sized beds, double whirlpool baths, gas fireplaces, and balconies. Breakfast, wine dinners, and American cuisine offered at the on-site restaurant and Irish pub.