To the east of Willmar is Litchfield, on the shore of
Lake Ripley. In 1885, Union veterans of the Civil War
built the Grand Army of the Republic Hall, a fortress like
structure that is now a museum of Civil War relics. In
nearby Darwin, the world’s largest ball of twine made by
one man is on display in a city park.
Hutchinson has a picturesque Main Street and
several antique and specialty shops. Just north of town,
the Clay Coyote Gallery has a great array of hand-crafted
items. The McLeod County Heritage Center displays
include a collection of Indian arrowheads and spears and
numerous works of well known wildlife artist Les Kouba.
St. Cloud (pop. 65,600) is the largest city in the state
northwest of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and the
commercial hub of central Minnesota. St. Cloud offers
quite a variety of shopping and other activities in and
around the city. Downtown streets are lined with shops,
coffeehouses and restaurants. Pioneer Place on Fifth and
the Paramount Theatre, both in renovated historic
buildings downtown, offer plays, concerts and other types
of performances by local and regional arts groups. The
Mississippi River flows through the heart of the city. Just
across the river from downtown are the lovely Munsinger
and Clemens Gardens. With a wide variety of flower beds,
a pine grove and a large fountain, these expansive gardens
along the riverbank are colorful from spring through fall.
The St. Cloud area is known as “Granite Country.”
Quarries and stone cutting figured prominently in this
area’s history; granite from the area has been used in
buildings across the country. The Cold Spring Granite
Company has operated quarries near St. Cloud for over
100 years. The Stearns History Museum has a replica of
a 1930s granite quarry and tells the story of this industry.
For a brief period, cars were also manufactured in St.
Cloud, and the museum features a 1919 Pan automobile.
A few miles west of town is Quarry Park, fashioned from
30 old quarries. Most have filled with water and are now
rock-trimmed ponds used for swimming, scuba diving,
and trout fishing.
Nearby Collegeville is home to St. John’s University.
Renowned architect Marcel Breuer designed the striking,
contemporary St. John’s Abbey Church, and the university
has the world’s largest collection of microfilmed, medieval
manuscripts. The university partners with the College of
St. Benedict in nearby St. Joseph. The Benedicta Arts
Center on this campus offers plays, concerts and dance
The Lake Wobegon
Bike Trail travels the
St. Joseph and Osakis,
with an additional spur
from Albany north to
quaint towns along the
trail are part of the
rural community that inspired humorist Garrison Keillor’s
tales about the fictional town of Lake Wobegon. At its
west end, the trail link to the Central Lakes Bike Trail.
The largest city along the Lake Wobegon Trail is
Sauk Centre. It was the hometown of author Sinclair
Lewis, who won the first Nobel Prize for literature in
1930. His boyhood home is open for tours and the
Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center provides an in-depth
look at his life and his works. Main Street (which was the
name of Lewis’ famous novel) is home to several shops
and cafes, as well as the historic inn where Lewis once
worked as a night clerk. There are also three attractive
golf courses near town.
Sinclair Lewis Home, Sauk Centre
Art gallery near Hutchinson