Hudson, Wisconsin isn’t your average Twin Cities suburb. Sure, it has many of the same chain stores and restaurants as most other suburbs in the region. But it also has a historic downtown filled with locally owned restaurants, shops and a surprisingly rich arts scene.
From downtown St Paul it takes about 20 minutes to get to the banks of the St. Croix River. The first exit off of Interstate 94 is your best bet to keep things interesting in Hudson. Here’s a handful of things to do should you be up for a venture east on I-94.
1. Seasons on St. Croix
The gateway to Hudson’s downtown historic district is Seasons on St. Croix, a warm and welcoming art gallery that features American craft and fine art.
Gallery owner Ruth Misenko said that roughly 80 percent of the art comes from within 50 miles of the gallery. Outside of a few books, everything in the gallery is hand crafted. Work from more than 150 artists includes glass, clay, fiber, jewelry and two-dimensional pieces.
Misenko credits two institutions for the advancement of the local art scene. “The Phipps Center for the Arts has done a wonderful job educating the community, so they helped create a need. The University of (Wisconsin) River Falls arts department has played a significant role in embedding artists in the area. The area is rich in art from Hudson to Northfield, Excelsior and Hastings.” The gallery reflects a community of talented artists.
2. The Phipps Center for the Arts
The Phipps Center for the Arts has been the backbone for much of the St. Croix River Valley’s arts and cultural activities for the past 30 years.
“We are both a performing and visual arts center. We are home to a community theater, a children’s theater. We have different music series, an organ series, and then we have a number of special events ranging from jazz to classical,” said John Potter, executive director of the Phipps. “We also feature regional artists throughout the year. We also have classes and workshops for visual arts throughout the year.”
Current exhibits and upcoming shows can be found here.
After some time at the Phipps you can head across the street to Lakefront Park on the St. Croix for a swim at one of Hudson’s many beaches.
3. Historic commercial district
With a head full of art, find something for your belly. Plenty of locally owned restaurants bars and cafes line Hudson’s main street.
4. Third Street stroll
Hudson’s Third street is an easy 3 block stroll from downtown. There you will find a series of impressive historic homes that were built for town leaders and lumber barons in the late 1800s.
The Octagon House was built in 1855 in Greek Revival style and was later restyled as Italianate. “The Octagon House was built for Judge John Shaw Moffat and his wife, Nancy Bennet Moffat, New Yorkers who arrived in Hudson in 1854 with their young daughter, Mary. Four generations of the musically inclined Moffat-Hughes family lived in the home over a span of 102 years,” according to the St. Croix County Historical Society. The house, garden and carriage house are now open for public tours.
There are a number of other homes also on the National Register of Historic Places in this neighborhood including the Frederick Darling House, a Greek Revival, and the William Dwelley House, an Italianate home one block north.
If you really want to geek out on Hudson’s architecture check out this National Register of Historic Place nomination form (.pdf link).
5. Knoke’s Chocolates
After absorbing Hudson’s historic and cultural offerings you ought pay a visit to Knoke’s Chocolates. MPR News photographer Jeff Thompson described the chocolates at Knoke’s as “mighty.” There are more than 70 handmade truffles made on site to seduce your taste buds. The caramels are impressive. Try the sea salted dark caramels. If paradise has a taste, this could be it. Knoke’s also features old time nostalgic candies and ice cream.
Knoke’s is nestled on Locust Street, a quiet street just off the main drag with close proximity to Lakefront Park.
Bonus: Before you leave
Before you leave this quaint river town. Head up Coulee Road and up the hill at Birkmose Park. Step out to enjoy a fantastic view of the St. Croix River Valley.