5 things to do in Hudson, Wisconsin

The St. Croix River front and pedestrian walkway are popular attractions in Hudson, Wis. Beyond the arch is a public boat dock and the boarding zone for public tours on the Afton/Hudson Cruise Line. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

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.

Jude Reiling forms a sculpture figure in her studio at Seasons on St. Croix Gallery in Hudson, Wis. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

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.

Robbin Firth operates her fiber art studio out of Seasons on the St. Croix Gallery in Hudson, Wis.
(MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

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

Don Marchand explores the art displayed at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wis.
(MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

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

Historic buildings downtown Hudson, Wis., feature ornate decoration. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

With a head full of art, find something for your belly. Plenty of locally owned restaurants bars and cafes line Hudson’s main street.

Second Street is lined with historic buildings in Hudson, Wis. Among the buildings included in this photo is the opera house built in 1960. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

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 Museum in Hudson, Wis., was built in 1855. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

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

A selection of truffles and other goodies are displayed at Knoke’s Chocolates in Hudson, Wis.
(MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

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.

Angie Burke and her children, from left, Samantha, 11, Lillian, 8, and Charlie, 5, enjoy ice cream outside Knoke’s Chocolates in Hudson, Wis. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

Knoke’s is nestled on Locust Street, a quiet street just off the main drag with close proximity to Lakefront Park.

An eclectic mix of shops line Locust St. in Hudson, Wis. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)
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.

  • nater

    The local restaurants downtown are great — Barker’s, San Pedro’s, Winzer Stube, Pier 500, Postmark Grille, Agave Kitchen…

    • Heather

      Brick’s is also great — good brick oven pizza and beautiful salads. And don’t miss Chapter Two Books.

      • Sue Roegge

        Thanks Heather, that earns you a special Heather discount. :)

  • Sue Roegge

    One of the great things about Hudson’s downtown, besides the excellent restaurants, is the shopping hits a note for everyone. Artisan chocolates mentioned (Knoke’s) Accessible, quality art (Seasons), smoke shops, antiques, gifts, home goods, a music store, computers, clothing, kitchen goods, gourmet foods, stationary, a drug store, bike shop, art supplies, framing, coffee, frozen yogurt. Something for absolutely everyone.

    Did I mention the independent bookstore? I should have because I own it! Chapter2Books, right in there in that comprehensive mix of stores on a very do-able 3+ blocks.

  • Teri Larsen

    Hudson is a great place to spend a weekend! Fabulous food and great shops…be sure to check out Hello the House and Locust Street Market, both located on Locust Street near Knoke’s for handmade, refinished, vintage and upcycled home decor and gifts. Fun stuff at amazing prices!

  • Andi0518

    Thank you for the props. I love my little town!

  • Jennifer Crim

    So glad you mentioned Knoke’s… our absolute favorite store in Hudson! I simply love the fact that my kids are growing up 3 blocks away from an old-fashioned candy store. If you haven’t tried cotton candy ice cream from Knoke’s, you really haven’t lived. Across the street is our newest favorite, the Postmark Grille, which is Hudson’s historic post office renovated into a beautiful restaurant with fantastic food and awesome patio seating. We love Hudson! :)

  • dorothy

    Agree with all the above. Could have added a walk through the very fine art displays at Hudson Hospital as well. This is a truly wonderful healing arts program that displays committment to a holistic approach to healthcare.

  • Kipp Woxland

    don’t forget North Hudson!

    • http://mntoday.mprnews.org/ Michael Olson – MPR News

      Isn’t it time for the Pepper Festival soon, Kipp?

      • Kipp Woxland

        Aug 16 -18!