One of the best-kept secrets in the Midwest turns on the charm this Valentine’s Day.

Upon entering the city limits of Lanesboro, Minnesota, you’ll quickly discover that the town seems to be frozen in time. You won’t hear buzzing neon, see a single traffic light, or pass a pair of golden arches. In fact, you’re most likely to find yourself sharing the road with a horse and buggy on your way to breakfast. Every inch of Lanesboro is photogenic from its position along the historic Root River to its quaint town square filled with local goods. Located in the heart of Bluff Country, this quiet artsy town of fewer than 800 people is ideal for couples looking to unplug and be in the moment without the fast and flashy distractions of modern day life. If small town solitude is what you and your sweetheart crave this Valentine’s Day, then read on for your Lanesboro Lovers Getaway Guide.

Habberstad House Bed and Breakfast and Lanesboro Arts downtown courtesy
Habberstad House Bed and Breakfast and Lanesboro Arts downtown. Photo courtesy of Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce

BEST PLACES TO STAY

When it comes to places to hang your hat, you’ve got plenty of options in Lanesboro. As the bed and breakfast capital of Minnesota, you have 10 options to choose from. If you and your partner have a fascination for things that go bump in the night, Mrs. B’s Historic Inn has a room for you! Built in 1872, this one time doctor’s office and funeral parlor transitioned into Lanesboro’s first bed and breakfast. Apparitions, disembodied voices, and a front row view of Main Street await you here.

Habberstad House is impossible to miss as it’s painted in three different shades of green. Here you can anticipate a daily two-course breakfast and plenty of gardens to walk off those extra sausages you said you weren’t going to order. See if their Carriage House is available if you’d like some extra privacy.

There is also a small hotel in town called The Stone Mill Hotel and Suites. Built in 1885, has 13 rooms that reflect its agricultural history with country style interior.

Exterior of Photo courtesy of Cristin Cooney
Exterior photo of The Stone Mill Hotel and Suites. Photo courtesy of Cristin Cooney

BEST PLACES TO EXPLORE

Fresh air does the body good and so does being beside moving water. Grab your lover and head to the Root River, where you can find a pair of bikes, and pedal the Root River Trail. Just stretch out first because it’s a 60-mile paved trail! Follow it along the water’s edge far enough and you’ll see 300-foot limestone bluffs, an abandoned railroad bed, and rolling fields. If the weather is agreeable, kick back and float or paddle down the river in a tube, canoe, or kayak. If it happens to snow, rent cross-country skis or snowshoes for some fun in the powder. No excuses to not enjoy the trail year ‘round.

Historic hydroelectric dam. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Historic hydroelectric dam. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce

One final thing, be sure you don’t miss the more than 149-year-old dam on the edge of town. Built in 1868, it’s one of six in the country that still provides hydroelectric power to the town.

If history is your weakness, you’ll be pleased to know Lanesboro is one of six places chosen in Minnesota for the traveling “Museum on Main Street” Smithsonian Exhibit. Best of all, it’s totally free.

BEST PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

You won’t find a single big name chain restaurant in town, so we hope you two enjoy homemade everything! You’ll feel no judgment over that second plate of fries at The High Court Pub. Originally built as the town courthouse back in 1876, the modest two-story building has since been converted into a small LIVE music venue. Rub elbows with locals and take your brews to the roof to catch one of the best views of Main Street. Split a few flatbread pizzas and then have a dance. What do you have to be embarrassed about? You don’t know anyone here anyway.

Right: Old Village Hall Photo courtesy of Jenni Konrad Left: Interior of High Court Pub courtesy of High Court Pub Facebook
Right: Old Village Hall Photo courtesy of Jenni Konrad Left: Interior of High Court Pub courtesy of High Court Pub Facebook

If you’re looking for something a bit more romantic than dancing to the house band over a few pints, then make a reservation at the Old Village Hall. Originally built in 1886, this stone building was many things before it was a romantic restaurant. It was a fire station, jail, and village hall. It’s also on the National Historic Registry. Enjoy a bottle of wine with your homemade bread, soups, and entrees either on the deck overlooking the Root River or upstairs beneath Amish quilts and local art. (Here’s what’s on the menu for Valentine’s Day for your convenience.) 

BEST PLACE TO GET A SOUVENIR 

A bit sore from biking and dancing?   Take it easy and explore the local art galleries and shops. The spirited community has many ways to feed your creative side.  Local artist Val Tindall’s store, The Black Crow, features an eclectic mix of pieces for purchase, as do many of the artisan shops downtown. Take in a performance at The Lanesboro Arts Center via the historic St. Mane Theatre or Commonweal Theatre if you have the time, too!

If inspiration hits you, get creative with your camera when you snap photos of the downtown area. The buildings of Lanesboro are beautifully maintained and have changed very little since they were first built by immigrants who settled here a century and a half ago, earning the town a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Downtown Lanesboro. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Downtown Lanesboro. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce

There is also an influential overlap between the town’s current lifestyle and the Amish culture. If you’re interested you can park your car at a swap meet and watch livestock being traded and taken home hitched to a horse and buggy. You also have the option to take an Amish backroads tour through the countryside. Along the way, you’ll find many Amish women have transformed their barns into shops filled with homemade candles, jams, and quilts. None of which will take up too much room in your suitcase next to the Copper Crane Pottery you couldn’t resist!

BEST PLACE TO SNAP A SELFIE

One last thing you two should do is to take a picture together at Inspiration Point. It’s located on Highway 16 on your way out of the town, so there’s no reason not to pull over for a last look at the beautiful bluffs and the town you and your partner explored. You can piece together the town from up above and recall your favorite spots before you jump back in the car. (Depending on the weather, you could end up with a more green or snowy selfie like this one. Beautiful either way!)

A snowy Lanesboro looking down from Inspiration Point. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce
A snowy Lanesboro looking down from Inspiration Point. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce

When you lovebirds fly home after your Lanesboro getaway, it will be on satisfied stomachs, with new memories, and a better appreciation for the simple things in life.

 

Do you know of another small town that offers a similarly simple lifestyle? Have you ever visited Lanesboro? Let us know in the comments below.

 
 

 

 

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Tennessee back road. Photo credit Meghan Aileen.

Why detours are the best part of taking a road trip.

Summer travel is a tradition that folks of all ages have enjoyed for decades. Nothing beats packing a duffle, filling up on gas station snacks, and pointing the wheel in a new direction. However, as we rely more on travel apps to get us to our destinations, we’re changing the way we go on road trips. (Do you even have a map in your glove compartment right now? )

These apps allow us to see what’s ahead of us, like construction and congestion. They even tell us how long our journey will be without pit stops. While these notifications are helpful, we still believe there’s magic in the unplanned and unexpected when it comes to Two Lane travel — enter THE DETOUR.

This season, let’s shift our thinking into believing that detours aren’t wasted time, but an opportunity for experiences to become the stories that we’ll talk about for years to come.

To help you warm up to this idea, we’ve put together an inspirational list of people, places, and experiences we’ve discovered along the way that are waiting on you when you take the long way around. 

Scroll down to see what adventures await when you take a detour.

 

DISCOVER AN ABANDONED PLACE WITH A STORY

Abandoned Kansas

Abandoned home in Kansas prairie. Photo credit Francesca Catalini
Abandoned home in Kansas prairie. Photo credit Francesca Catalini

Sure, this decaying home looks frightening, but look deeper. Look beyond the damaged roof and sunken porch and you can begin to imagine who this home served and what it looked like in its prime. This photo was captured by our fellow Two Lane traveler, Francesca Catalini. While out roaming the backroads, she pulls over to photograph the forgotten structures that dot the Kansas prairies. She shares the shot with the community, they tell her its story, and then she posts both on her Instagram. What began as a hobby has now evolved into a full-blown preservation project to save the history of of the small towns int he Heartland. 

When taking a detour, stay curious like Francesca about more than just where the road will lead. Always make time to break for buildings or views that capture your attention. 

Learn more about Abandoned Kansas.

 

VISIT A NO POWER MOUNTAIN TOWN

Polebridge, Montana

Polebrige Mercantile. Photo courtesy of b-duss via Flickr

We can handle no running water or electricity for a weekend camping trip, however, there are many primitive towns that exist happily without either one year round! While most of America generates power via natural gas, oil, and fossil fuels, small mountain towns like Polebridge, Montana run on only a few generators. Located about 20 miles from Canada, Polebridge is a town of fewer than 50 people who are tough, self-sufficient, and totally cool with mail arriving only twice a month. They happily offer huckleberry bear claws to welcome travelers passing through on their way to Glacier National Park just down the way. 

Open your mind to a new way of living when the detour takes you to a place that challenges your idea of living.

Learn more about Polebridge, Montana

 

SPEND THE NIGHT IN AN UNLIKELY PLACE

Forest Gully Farms in Santa Fe, Tennessee
Gully huts at Forest Gully Farm in Santa Fe, Tennessee. Photo credit Meghan Aileen

When it comes to sleeping arrangements on the road, it’s either in our seats between driving shifts or crammed into one hotel room to save on gas money. No more squeaky pull-out sofas or stale bagels from the continental breakfast for you! Road trips are about being open to new experiences — so give unique places like Forest Gully Farms a try. This tasty hideaway in Tennessee is a 29-acre organic, self-reliant permaculture farm and homestead where you sleep in underground hobbit houses. Your reservation also includes private access to 15-acres of u-pick produce like eggs fresh out of the coop, beans, berries, and greens.

Detours have a way of reconnecting us to the simple pleasures of life in unexpected ways. Never turn down the chance to try a new way of doing something – like sleeping in a hobbit house,  fire tower, or even a repurposed train car parked in the hills when the opportunity comes.

Learn more about Forest Gully Farms

 

GO TREASURE HUNTING ON MAIN STREET

Lanesboro, Minnesota

Downtown Lanesboro. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce

Main Streets are a physical representation of a community’s past. Allow yourself to appreciate every detail — the architecture, the way neighbors talk to one another, how quiet or loud it is when you roll into the small towns of America. Lanesboro, Minnesota, is an example of a town of fewer than 800, that seems to be frozen in time. You won’t hear buzzing neon, see a single traffic light, or pass a pair of golden arches. In fact, you’re most likely to find yourself sharing the road with a horse and buggy on your way to breakfast. Every inch of Lanesboro is photogenic from its position along the historic Root River to its quaint town square filled with local goods.

Small towns are connected to each other by miles of back roads and detours. You’ll never discover them for yourself if you don’t hop off the highway and let your curiosity safely guide you to them.

Learn more about Lanesboro, Minnesota

 

TEST YOUR NERVES ON A HAUNTED BACK ROAD

America’s most haunted back roads

Haunted back road. Meghan Alieen

You drew the short straw and now have to drive the night shift — a bad time to recount that story about the phantom hitchhiker who appears in driver’s rearview mirrors and sometimes, the backseat! There are many miles of road littered with local lore. Next time you’re in a new town, ask your waitress, the cashier at the gas station, or the bartender if there’s anything mysterious to check out before you hit the road. (We’ve found five frightening haunted roads in our Two Lane travels so far).

Going somewhere new takes courage, but driving down a haunted road takes even more. Detours are meant to be a healthy adventure. Be curious but be smart out there. 

Learn more about haunted back roads

 

PARTICIPATE IN A LOCAL TRADITION

The Floyd Country Store: Floyd, Virginia

Floyd General Store. Photos Photo credit Floyd General Store

A great habit to get into when traveling is to ask, “Where do the locals go?”  Floyd Country Store in Floyd, Virginia is a great example. This small town haunt has folks arriving from all over to see what the buzz is about. For the past 35 years, the community members of Floyd have been hosting “pickin’ parties” inside the century-old country store among the peanut brittle and penny candy. Generations of all ages make the pilgrimage to hear and play traditional Appalachian music that’s rooted in this town of fewer than 500. Park your car on S. Locust Street and start walking towards the green and white striped awning until you hear the sounds of banjos and fiddles.

Floyd is an incredible example of how a community has embraced its history and invited Two Lane travelers to join in. A detour is never a loss when it means making an old tradition a new one for you and your roadies. 

Learn more about Floyd Country Store

 

TAKE A BIG BITE OUT OF COMMUNITY HISTORY

Mike Wolfe’s General Store Tour: Tennessee

Fox’s General Store. Photo credit Meghan Aileen

One of the best parts of a road trip is the food. We’re talking greasy gas station hot dogs, chips, and sour candy by the fist full. When you’ve reached the bottom of the cashew bag, it’s time to find that next gas station to replenish your stash. For many folks, like Mike Wolfe, who live miles away from convenience stores, the closest source for snacks, toiletries, or a thick-cut bologna sandwich is the local general store. Back before cars, people had to walk or ride a horse to the town’s general store for supplies. These businesses were responsible for providing food and goods to their neighbors during WWII and the Great Depression and many still do today!

Detours have a way of revealing truths to us. It’s generation owned establishments, like these general stores, that give us a greater appreciation for a simpler life before technology spoiled us.

Learn more about Mike’s General Store Tour

 

Abandoned church in Kansas prairie. Photo credit Francesca Catalini

Feeling inspired to embrace the unexpected? FOLLOW Mike Wolfe’s All American Adventure brand @ontwolanes for even MORE places a detour can take you as you make your own journey down the Two Lanes.

 

This new tee is the latest addition to my American Made Two Lanes collection here.

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In our Two Lane travels, we have discovered a handful of small towns each with their own unique history and charm. (Some with fewer than 1,000 people!) We’ve gone through our travel log and compiled a list of our favorites to share with you for your next back road drive.

Don’t forget to tag #ontwolanes so we can follow and share your adventure!

Main Street Galena, Illinois. Photo courtesy of www.platomadison.org

GALENA, ILLNOIS

Ask any local why they live in Galena, Illinois and chances are they’ll respond much like store owner Joe (a.k.a. Buzz the Drifter) Sprengelmeyer did on a recent trip we took to this picturesque town. We’re not lying when we say picturesque….this place really does look like a POSTCARD.  A postcard that hasn’t changed much since its lead ore boomtown days over 150 years ago.  

Galena is one of the few places left in America that’s literally been untouched, with over 85 percent of its buildings landing on the National Historic Register. You’ll find a 118-year-old blacksmith shop, authentic Italian pizza, and the longest running antique store in town,  La Belle Epoque (the “beautiful days” in French, or put simply “the good ol’ days”).  Mike Wolfe has been picking in this store for almost 20 years!

EXPLORE MORE GALENA

 

LEFT: Downtown Oatman, Arizona via @patx1 RIGHT: Oatman Hotel Resturant via @maria_runesson

OATMAN, ARIZONA

Fun Fact: Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon here in 1939. The 135 citizens of the town make their living selling handmade goods to travelers on Route 66. A must-see is the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, it’s the only two-story adobe structure in Mohave County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Write your name on a dollar bill and tape it to the hotel’s restaurant wall while you wait for your homemade chili and fried bread to be served. Take in the magnificent sights of the Black Mountains and feel the freedom of the open range.

Watch out for the wild burros! They run free ’round this Old West town. These friendly little donkeys, once used for mining labor, were set free back in the 1920s after a fire shut down the mines for good.  But they weren’t unemployed for long – they’re now the official Oatman Welcome Committee.

EXPLORE MORE SMALL TOWNS UNDER 1K LIKE OATMAN

 

Downtown Lanesboro. Photo via Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce

LANESBORO, MINNESOTA

Located in the heart of Bluff Country, this quiet, artsy town of fewer than 800 people is one of the best-kept secrets in the Midwest. Lanesboro is ideal for couples looking to unplug and be in the moment without the fast and flashy distractions of modern day life. We say that upfront because upon arrival you’ll most likely find yourself sharing the road with a horse and buggy on your way to breakfast.

The charm of this place comes from the fact that the entire town seems to be frozen in time. No buzzing neon signs, traffic lights, or fast food chain here! Every inch of Lanesboro is photogenic from its position along the historic Root River to its quaint town square filled with local goods.

If small town solitude is what you and your shotgun rider crave, consider Lanesboro your lovers getaway!

EXPLORE MORE LANESBORO

 

LEFT TO RIGHT: Former “The Wheel” owner AC Howell, building owner Mike Wolfe, current “Trek Bicycle Shop” owner Timothy Wakefield

COLUMBIA, TENNESSEE

This town, just about an hour south of Nashville has become one of Mike’s favorites.

You can often find him here wrenching on an old car in Columbia Motor Alley, grabbing a drink at Muletown Coffee on the historic square or a new pair of tires at Trek Bicycle Shop. The Columbia community is proud to be known as the “Mule Capital of the World” since 1817. The locals have been hosting the Mule Day parade and events annually since the 1840s and is one of the largest livestock events in the world.

Other attractions include the former home of President Polk, the century-old courthouse and the Chickasaw Trace County Park. It is a great small town destination if you are headed toward Tennessee to visit Antique Archaeology.

EXPLORE MORE COLUMBIA

 

Photo courtesy of Visit Natchez

 

NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI

In 1716, the French named this place after the American Indian tribe in the area called the “Natchez”. Being the oldest city along the Mississippi River, it was recognized as the hub of the steamboat era. (As you explore the city you’ll notice the steamboat anthem throughout.) 

With more than 100 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, wine tastings, browsing Antique Row, and catching mighty Mississippi River sunset at Bluff Park it’s not difficult to find something interesting while in town. Don’t leave without a bottle of muscadine hot sauce and Charboneau Rum — the first legally distilled rum produced in Mississippi.

EXPLORE MORE NATCHEZ

 

Follow Two Lanes on Instagram for more small town travel inspiration

 

 

 Antique Archaeology shirt is for the ultimate picker and motor oil fan. Includes zip codes for both Nashville and LeClaire stores.

 

 

 

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A child holds on tightly as they weave their way between the cones towards the donkey jump on Lincoln Avenue. Photo Credit: Rory Clow
It’s fun and games in the street when the citizens of Steamboat Springs come out of hibernation.

Have you ever seen a marching band ski down the Main Street of your town? We’re gonna venture to say NEVER…

For the citizens of Steamboat Springs, a northern Colorado town bordering Medince Bow-Routt National Forest, it’s a sign that it’s time to come out and play. What first began as a way to help the locals combat cabin fever during the long mountain winters, has since developed into a series of snow-themed events to both entertain and energize the community. 

For four days in February, (6th-10th 2019) neighbors bundle up and head to Lincoln Avenue for what is considered the oldest continuous winter celebration west of the Mississippi, the Steamboat Winter Carnival. 

It’s a celebration on the Main Street of America’s winter playground and we won’t let you miss it! Here’s what you’ll experience.

Locals ride their horses down Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

WHAT TO EXPECT

Snow. Lot’s of it.

The snow that falls in Steamboat Springs is referred to as “champagne snow” — a phrase that was coined in the early 1950s by a local rancher who said the snow tickled his nose like champagne. (The powder is so good that Olympians from across the country come here to train!) For the citizens here, snow is no burden, but the best way to play!

“Skijoring”, a local sport of a skier being pulled up and down Lincoln Avenue by a horse. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Witness unusual events like skijoring, the donkey jump, and adult show-shovel races.

You’ll quickly realize that many of the events are fueled by actual horsepower — because even they deserve to stretch their legs in the winter! These mighty steeds get in on events like “skijoring”, a local sport of a skier being pulled up and down Lincoln Avenue by a horse. There are also adults seated on snow shovels which are tied to the back of, you guessed it, horses, for snow-shovel races. Trust us — the sight of this will make you forget about your numb face and fingers!

If you’ve got some little snow bunnies that you travel with there are a few events for kiddos too! The donkey jump (a crowd favorite) is a small ramp that can reach a distance of 40 feet! Local kids are eligible for the dog sled race where they’re pulled by their family dog down Lincoln Avenue.

Dogs and dads pull the little ones during the winter carnival celebration. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Illuminated mountains and watch for the famous Lighted Man.

When the sun sets, everyone heads to the slopes for the Night Extravaganza on Howelsen Hill where you can expect to see daredevils jump through flaming hoops, skiers with flares parade down the mountain. Finally, the last one down the slope is the Lighted Man, a person of local lore. This skier descends the mountain wearing a 70-pound battery powered LED light suit, sizzling sparklers and a backpack with Roman candles shooting off his back just as the closing ceremony (a bright fireworks show) begins. 

LEFT: LED skiers make their way down the hill RIGHT: The famous Lighted Man descends wearing a 70-pound LED suit with Roman candles. Photo Credit: Rory Clow

Community camaraderie

We can all benefit from local events whether we live there or not. Joining others in celebrating their traditions and history helps us learn how we can be better in our own community. Because being neighborly is more than just a wave between shoveling snow or washing the car — it’s actively participating and celebrating everything that makes our towns unique.

Pack a bag of our cold weather gear and we’ll see you on you in Steamboat Springs, Colorado February 6-10, 2019!

Click HERE for more Winter Carnival details

 
Winter Carnival closing ceremonies always include fireworks signaled by the Lighted Man. Photo Credit: Rory Clow
 

Steamboat Springs isn’t the only place with cool traditions and unique Main Streets! Here are a few more of our other favorite towns we’ve explored on Two Lanes:

 
 
 
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