Sugar Loaf Bluff

Discovering family-friendly activities in Winona Minnesota

If you ever find yourself passing through Winona Minnesota with kids there are a few hidden gems. There are some awesome family-friendly activities we found during our short trip. This post will share what we discovered along our journey there for 3 days.

Driving through Minnesota is a scenic road trip. From the Mississippi river, lakes and bluffs the drive is breathtaking. You will see rock formations and trees that tower over you are truly gorgeous.

Our travel to Winona was me & the kids tagging along with my husband as he had to travel for business there. We decided to turn it into a mini road trip with the kids. He rented a car and we enjoyed the ride.

The scenery is a must-see. All the bodies of water surrounding us and the foothills & bluffs were breathtaking. The major highway/road ran parallel to all this beauty.

We stayed near the famous bluff called Sugar Loaf. Which is on the Mississippi River topped by a rock pinnacle, overlooking the city of Winona

Sugar Loaf Bluff
By McGhiever – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59053003

Our Accommodations

During the duration of our stay in Winona, we stayed in The Plaza Hotel & Suites. I was pleasantly surprised at how family-friendly this hotel was.

When you first walk into the hotel off to the right of the front desk there is a table and chairs with printed coloring pages and crayons. Next to that table was another table with a cloth checkers game. They offered a few board games and books that you could take back to your room for enjoyment too.

There were a couple of gumball machines and magazines as well. I picked up the Coulee Parent Magazine so that I could find some kid friendly activities to do.

Pool

The pool offered a zero-depth mini pool for families with kids it had two slides and a large regular pool. Inside the pool area, there is a hot tub and exercise room as well.

It was all clean and fresh towels were available.

In the corner of the pool room were a few arcade games, pool table and lots of seating areas with tables.

Rooms

Every room is like a suit no matter what room you are in. The beds are an area that can be separated with glass french doors to create two rooms.

The second room becomes a sitting area with a pull-out couch.

There is a fridge, tons of cabinet space for dry goods and a sink.

I loved this since I brought food along to do breakfast and lunch. I was able to wash dishes and store dry and cold food.

Fun places for families

Lake Winona

On our first day there I took the kids to a place called Lake Winona. It is referred too as the Lake Park Path. This is a perfect family outing and picnic kinda place.

This huge walking path surrounds the entire lake. There are public benches and swings to sit on to enjoy the views of the bluffs overlooking the lake.

The path measures 5.3 miles around both lakes. There is a second smaller lake that you can go to.

We went early around 8 am and it was quiet and serene.

As we continued our journey on the path we ran into monuments and gazebos. There are also two sets of playgrounds to play in.

But, the playground areas are made with pebbles as their turf which didn’t make for much fun with sandals. So be sure to take gym shoes.

Veteran’s Memorial Park

After walking on the path for a while we ran into Veteran’s Memorial Park.

It’s a sight to see with all the monuments and history. There were ones for the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and an All Wars Monument.

  • Revelotuionary War Monument
  • War Monument
  • American Wars Monument

This was a perfect spot to do some learning time with the kids. We talked about war and what it meant. We looked at the pictures and the famous people on the monuments.

For me, that’s what travel is all about. Learning and exploring.

We walked through the Rose Garden Gazebo and took a gander at the bushes.

There is also a rental facility on the lake. You could rent small canoe’s and they had other water rental stuff.

Indoor Playplace

The next day it rained so I had to find something to do with the kids on short notice. So we spent the morning at an indoor play place.

This place is located inside the Winona mall which for me was not really what I would call a mall. It was just a couple of shops. But the play place was perfect for the little ones.

The name of the place is called The Playground. It was affordable, clean and just the right size with lots for the kids to do in our short time there.

Considering the kids weren’t able to play at the outdoor parks the day before on the lake. It was what they were craving.

This place had a huge swing set with slides and climbing things. There is a tire swing onset and a small house area.

They have a toddler area for smaller ones.

The favorite part for my kids was the large jumping pillow that I could go on as well.

One section had huge imagination blocks to build and play.

There were toys around so kids could just grab and use.

I found it cute that they offered a few walkers for the really little ones to still be mobile in the play place.

There is plenty of seating and tables. The washrooms were clean as was the whole place.

The kids really enjoyed it.

Children’s Museum of La Crosse

The following day after dropping off Daddy at his place of work. The kids and I took a short drive.

About 30 mins from our hotel was the Children’s Museum of La Crosse. It is just across the border into Wisconsin. But it was so close and the price was affordable.

Packed with 3 floors of fun. You will find a huge climbing structure made of leaves. A dinosaur maze, fire engine, play store, news station, and tons of activities for the kids to explore.

I would highly recommend this place.

Lark Toys

The last day there hubby was able to get out of work early and we got to enjoy some family time together. We ventured out to the famous place called Lark Toys.

Known to be one of the best toys stores in the world. I would have to agree. It is a MUST SEE.

Now I have never seen or been to another toy store like this. But this place is phenomenal.

We spent quite a bit of time here because there is so much to do.

When you first walk in you get to sign a cool guest book. From there you can choose to go right or left.

Toy rooms

Off to the right we choose to go to first. This leads you straight into the multiple toy rooms. I mean there are like 8 rooms filled with toys from top to bottom.

They even have an entire book store.

Each room offers toys for kids to play with. With dedicated rooms for the special toys that are handmade. Toys made right there in their wood workshop.

Lark toys make their own brand of toys on site as well as sells tons of other toys.

Hidden behind the rooms are glass viewing windows. They allow you to see their woodworking shop. You can gaze at the people making the toys.

After heading back to the front door you can go off to the left. This part is where the real fun begins.

Toy Museum

You are first greeted by encasements of old toys. For parents, it’s like walking down memory lane. Seeing forgotten toys from the past and things you loved as a child.

After this museum type path, you walk into their shops/cafe area.

Carousel & Candy Shops

Here you find a fudge shop, candy shop and ice cream parlor. These shops surround though the main event inside this side of the building.

There is a handmade wooden carousel that you can buy tickets to ride on. The carousel is all and-carved from Minnesota basswood. The detailing is exquisite.

The fun continues outside where you can play a round of mini-golf. Surrounded by the beautiful scenery of bluffs and trees. Lark toys even have a few animals located between the buildings the kids can enjoying looking at.

It really does hold up to being one of the best toy stores in the world. It would be a place I would be willing to go back to visit again. Plus the activities are very affordable, making it great for families.

Michael LaCanne Memorial Park

After leaving Lark Toys heading back to our hotel we ran into a park just a few miles away but it wasn’t just any park. It is called Michael LaCanne Memorial Park

This place had a huge pavilion, multiple play structures and a lake you could swim in. There is a swimming beach, fishing pier, boat launch, soccer fields, a paved walking/bike path, and restrooms.

It was a perfect shortstop play area and activity for a family.

It wasn’t busy at all. People were enjoying the water in tubes, paddle-boards, and floats. Kids enjoyed splashing around the shallow water and beach area.

We weren’t prepared for the water but we figured what the heck it was right before dinner time and our last night. We let the kids jump on in, into the water.

It was a hidden gem for sure. Something I wished we had found earlier so we could have spent the day there.

So there you have it. Winona may be a small town and not a popular travel destination. It sure does have a few gems worth seeing even if you are passing through.

What destinations have you traveled to and found hidden gems? Let me know in the comments section.

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