Red Wing, Minnesota has a population of 16,481 and is the county seat of Goodhue County. The earliest settlers of the Red Wing region were members of the Mdewakanton Dakota tribe. The city’s name was derived from a succession of chiefs whose name “Red Wing” came from their use of a dyed swan’s wing as their symbol.
The advantageous river location led to development of a port for shipping and the city grew to be the largest primary wheat market in the world by 1873. The scenic beauty of the area was an added attraction, then as now. Henry David Thoreau himself hiked up Barn Bluff, took in the vista and was favorably impressed. The wheat market gradually diminished as railroads crossed the prairie. Industrial development quickly took the place of wheat commerce in Red Wing because of the favorable combination of natural resources and river trade.
The beauty of the bluffs and the river continue to draw people from across the world to downtown Red Wing. The walls of limestone, which once provided the foundations to homes and buildings, now provide challenge to climbing enthusiasts and hikers. Our sharp bend on the Mississippi River still supports industrial needs, however, its role as a tourist attraction and home for seasonal boaters continues to grow. Red Wing is ranked 34th on the list of America’s 100 best small towns to live work and visit, by AAA’s Home & Away magazine. Red Wing is recognized internationally as the home of Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing Pottery. It is also the location of the nation’s first municipally owned performing arts theater, the T. B. Sheldon Theatre.
Today Red Wing Shoes are still manufactured in Red Wing and visitors can tour the Red Wing Shoe Company Museum. Pottery also has a unique connection with Red Wing. The first pottery factory opened in 1878 and since then pottery production has taken many different forms in Red Wing. Currently two types of pottery are made in Red Wing, salt glazed and stoneware. Factory tours and pottery demonstrations are available year-round. With 22 buildings listed on the National Register of historic places, step into the past with Red Wing’s walking tour.
Starting with the St. James, you’ll get a glimpse of outstanding examples of 19th century architecture everywhere you look. Request a walking tour pamphlet from the concierge when you arrive, then enjoy a fascinating walk through the historic areas of Red Wing. Many buildings feature informative plaques describing the significance of the structure.
From the Red Wing Arts Association gallery in the historic depot to the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies to Hobgoblin Music & Stoney End Harps to the Sheldon Theatre to Pottery Museum of Red Wing, Red Wing is an art lover’s dream. Spend a few days and prepare to be inspired.
Red Wing sits on the sharpest navigable bend on the Mississippi River at the head of Lake Pepin. The river splits into two channels, creating numerous backwater lakes and sloughs and the perfect habitat for a huge variety of wildlife and fish. Red Wing is known for its eagles. What’s not quite as well known is that more than 260 species of birds have been documented at Frontenac State Park (located a few miles to the southeast of the city), and it’s been called one of the best places in the country to view birds migrating in the spring and fall.
Few places anywhere offer so many recreational opportunities. There are literally thousands of acres of public lands within and near the city, waiting to be explored. If you enjoy the outdoors, you’ll love Red Wing.
• Red Wing boasts 72 holes of picturesque golfing on three different courses. Within 25 miles you’ll find more than 15 additional courses to challenge your game.
• Welch Village Ski & Snowboard Area is just west of town and several groomed cross-country trails begin in the city.
• Hikers have no shortage of options, including a scenic trek to the top of Barn Bluff.
• And, of course, the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin provide myriad recreational opportunities, from fishing to boating to swimming. Check out Bay Point, Levee and Colvill parks in Red Wing, all of which sit on the banks of the river.
• The west edge of town features Red Wing Stoneware, the Red Wing mall and numerous chain stores.
• Downtown Red Wing sits on the river, just below Barn Bluff. Numerous specialty shops are here, as well as more than a dozen restaurants. The Red Wing Shoes Factory Store and Museum has become a destination for thousands. It features the World’s Largest Boot, original Norman Rockwell drawings, a huge outlet center, and the most comprehensive selection of Red Wing Shoes products anywhere.