Front of Brightwater


Water St. & 2nd St., Excelsior
Front of Brightwater Bre McGee

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.