Escape the crowds in quaint, lakeside Excelsior. Just 18 miles west of downtown Minneapolis, this small town has retained much of its charming historic character, including the 19th-century brick storefronts that line Water Street. Street parking should be available.
Shop: Excelsior’s boutiques brim with gifts, many with a local flavor, from Minnesota-made gourmet foods at Fleurish (261 Water St., 952-476-2296) to Minnesota-themed caps and baby clothes at Martin’s (212 Water St., 952-767-0788). Feeling the chill? Clothing shops carry everything from cozy sweaters at Meridian (223 Water St., 952-474-4519) to upscale outdoor wear at Brightwater Clothing & Gear (256 Water St., 952-474-0256). There’s even a chic secondhand shop, Emma Rose Consignment Boutique (278 Water St., 952-474-7775). For kids, check out Something Safari (312 Water St., 952-474-4422).
Eat and drink: There’s a surprising array of eateries and watering holes, including Excelsior Brewing Co. (421 3rd St., 952-474-7837), a brewery with taproom and live music on weekends. For a cocktail and a bite in an intimate setting, try Coalition (227 Water St., 952-283-1952), where the 2 to 5 p.m. “Social Hour” offers the local brew for $3, house wine or a Minnetonka Mule for $5. Snack on the root vegetable hash or Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and grilled grapes. Or dine overlooking the lake at Maynard’s (685 Excelsior Blvd., 952-470-1800), a popular wharfside destination, where Frannie’s Chicken Salad (coconut-crusted, with egg, avocado and artichoke hearts) is a local favorite.