Introduction to Winona, Minnesota
The city of Winona, county seat of Winona County, is located in southeastern Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River. The city is situated 50 miles east of Rochester and about 135 miles southeast of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Home to Winona State University and Saint Mary's College, the city is a commercial, manufacturing, and shipping center nestled within an agricultural and limestone-quarrying region.
Founded in 1851 by a steamboat captain and incorporated in 1857, Winona's was originally named Montezuma but was later renamed for a Dakota Indian princess (Winona is the phonetic pronunciation of the Dakota term meaning "first-born daughter"). The year 1858 saw the establishment of Winona Normal School in the city, a school which later became Winona State University. In 1912, St. Mary's College was founded as a private Roman Catholic school which later went on to become St. Mary's University.
Things to See and Do in Winona
Winona maintains a lively arts scene. In addition to the arts introduced to the community by its local educational institutions, Winona has two professional theater companies. The Great River Shakespeare Festival runs six weeks each summer, showcasing two Shakespeare plays in repertory. The Theatre du Mississippi presents original live plays and locally produced films in a variety of venues including the turn-of-the- century Masonic Theatre as well as outdoor sites. Housed in a 1915 brick fortress reminiscent of its original purpose as an armory, the Winona County Historical Museum displays artifacts depicting Winona's city and county history. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum, encompassing works of international and local artists, currently features four major art collections and will soon present a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers river dredge as an exhibit. Other cultural and historic sites include:
- Merchants Bank: A Prairie School style building originally completed in 1912.
- Pickwick Mill: An 1850s six-story pioneer mill which was used for grounding flour for the Civil War.
- Church of Saint Stanislaus Kostka: An 1894 structure featuring unique architecture.
- Arches Museum
- Bunnell House
- Julius C. Wilkie Steamboat Center
- Polish Cultural Institute of Winona
- Watkins Heritage Museum
Winona is not lacking in outdoor attractions. Some of its more popular are as follows:
- Sugar Loaf Mountain: An historic site towering 500 feet over Lake Winona.
- Rockie Hill Bison Farm
- Julia Belle Swain Steamboat
- C. A. Rohrer Rose Garden
- Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge
Winona is rich in college sports, owing to the presence of Winona State University's athletic teams. Known as the Warriors, the University's teams compete in the NCAA's Division II and participate in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) with the exception of the men's tennis team (North Central Conference) and the women's gymnastics team (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). The Warriors football team has won the NSIC conference championship nine times since 1993 and its men's basketball team recently captured the 2006 NCAA Division II Basketball Championship, the first NCAA title for the University.
Sports fans willing to take the two-hour drive north to Minneapolis-St. Paul will be rewarded with a plethora of teams in a variety of professional sports. Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins reside there, as do the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. Pro basketball fans can see the National Basketball Association's Minnesota Timberwolves or the Women's National Basketball Association's Minnesota Lynx. Major league hockey resides there too, embodied by the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League. Also located in the Twin Cities are the United Soccer League's Minnesota Thunder and the National Lacrosse League's Minnesota Swarm.