CITY LIGHTS. SMALL TOWN CHARM. Downtown Stillwater offers it all.
CITY LIGHTS. SMALL TOWN CHARM. Downtown Stillwater offers it all.
Amanda Hsu

[AROUND TOWN] A winter day in Stillwater offers picturesque, small town Minnesota at its finest

If you’ve ever wanted to visit a place that perfectly captures the ambiance of Minnesota’s small-town life, downtown Stillwater is the place to go. During winter, lights glitter from traffic poles, and pedestrians flit around the streets, clambering around storefront windows in a scramble to escape the cold.

This quaint town home to around 20,000 people encapsulates a perfect picturesque winter wonderland.

The first thing that caught my eye while walking around was the annual Stillwater World Snow Sculpting contest stationed by the river. Worldwide and US artists submit beautifully crafted statues made purely out of ice and snow, illuminated with colorful spotlights at night. Dancing fish, mythical beasts, and clasping hands are just a few subjects the teams included in their compositions. Every year, the competition holds an opening ceremony, posts daily updates showing their progress, and a closing ceremony where winners are announced. Everything is hand-sculpted, and the finished products add a magical feel to the town.


To warm up after walking around in the cold, you can stop in any of the many bustling shops on Main Street. Stopping first in Candyland, we saw a variety of homemade sweets, candy, and popcorn for sale. The store is brightly lit and showcases its inventory of delectables in clear jars and containers, drawing in wandering eyes with various colors and flavors on display. Once the door opens, you are immediately met with the warmth and smell of butter popcorn, offering a comforting refuge from the freezing streets. Candyland offers brand-name candy, but most of the store’s most popular items, like their gourmet popcorn, are made in-store.

Black Letter Books was the next stop, just a little down the street. This used bookstore sells many antique and classic novels. Its small square footage is tightly packed with tall bookcases, and every surface is covered in displays of books or postcards. Ladders are strategically placed to allow any shelf to be within reach. The smell of old paper and the cozy shop will make you feel right at home when you walk in.

We ate dinner at Melt Pizza, located at 112 Main Street N. The restaurant has two stories, and the sheer number of people packed inside steamed up all the windows. After waiting 45 minutes for a table, we finally ordered three different kinds of pizzas and waited another 20 minutes for them to arrive. As their name implies, Melt Pizza specializes in Detroit-style pizza alongside appetizers of wings and salads. Detroit-style pizza uses a thick crust and is usually served in a rectangle or square. The outside of the crust is also coated in a layer of crispy cheese, and extra sauce is poured on top to offset the chewy crust. The menu offers many combinations of toppings ranging from more traditional toppings like pepperoni and cheese to a few more unconventional ones like spinach, hot honey, and grilled peppers. The pizzas come in either a small, which costs around $20, or a large, which costs around $30. Overall, the three kinds of pizza we ordered (Funkytown, The OG, Cheese) all tasted uniquely phenomenal and revived us after our four-hour adventuring in negative temperatures.

Downtown Stillwater is a must-visit for anyone wishing to support local businesses and connect with a close-knit community.

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