The Drive: Winona Co. 1 from La Crescent to Winona Co. 12 to Dakota.
The Overview: This route was designated the Apple Blossom Scenic Byway by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in 1995. Although the apple orchards are not as numerous as they once were, the remaining orchards put on a spectacular display on both sides of the road every spring when the trees are in bloom, and in late summer/early autumn when they yield crispy, tasty Minnesota apples. The ride along the blufftops is exhilarating, the views of the Mississippi River below are gorgeous and there are curves galore.
Get There: From Rochester, take I-90 east to the U.S. 14/U.S. 61 exit. Head south on 61 to La Crescent. Follow the byway signs through La Crescent to Winona Co. 1. When you come to a T, go right on Co. 12 to another T. Take another right to Dakota.
Lunch Stop: It takes a good hour to get to La Crescent from Rochester, so stop and have a bite at Corky’s Pizza & Ice Cream. The restaurant at 25 S. Walnut is newly renovated and a local favorite. Or try the Sports Hub on the opposite side of Main St., 25 N. Walnut St., which serves team-themed burgers (the Goldy burger, the Twins burger) and boasts about its broasted chicken. Save room for dessert, which you can acquire en route.
Pick Some Apples: Southwind Apple Orchard is right on the byway. You’ll come to it just before you reach the town of Dakota. Roll in to the spacious parking lot and visit the well-appointed store, where you can buy McIntoshes, Honeycrisps, Golden Delicious, Haralsons and all those other tasty Minnesota apples, depending on what’s just been harvested. You can also pick up an apple pie, caramel apples, kettle corn, honey, apple salsa and numerous other snacks. If you’d rather not fill your saddlebags with food, take a stroll through the orchard. There are two ponds on the property. Open daily September through November.
Visit India: You never know what you’re going to find in a small town, and Dakota is no exception. Kim Hammer travels to India and Bali during the winter to purchase ethnic home decor, jewelry, folk art, textiles, garden statues and other fair trade items at her shop, Sutra Imports (sutraimports.com).
Story submitted by Cynthia Lueck Sowden