By the time Thanksgiving 2020 rolled around, we had been living in pandemic world for eight months. Most of us (those paying attention anyway) had cancelled — or never made — holiday plans. For us, Thanksgiving is never a great time to connect with family, as we both work right up until the day. We do, however, routinely, organize a quick two-person getaway for the long weekend, leaving on Thanksgiving morning. This year, we longed for a change of scenery but knew we had to stay within driving distance. And we had wanted to check out a new hotel — the Crosby — in Stillwater, a town on the banks of the St. Croix river just 30 minutes’ drive from St. Paul. In fact, we had booked a room at the Crosby in Summer 2020, but a reservation system error on the part of the hotel upended those plans. As an apology, the hotel sent us a free night’s stay. We thought we would accept that gesture but also give the hotel some business by staying a second night. We’re so glad we did.
Quiet but never lonely
The 55-room Crosby felt just right for the times. Although the hotel was relatively empty when we were there — at least we saw very few people other than staff — it never felt lonely. Someone was always available in the cozy lobby to help if needed, and even though the hotel bar and restaurant were closed for seating, a fabulous bartender, who may have also been a member of management, set us up both nights with cocktails and quite exceptional food from the hotel’s restaurant, MatchStick, to eat in our room. During our stay, we developed what felt like a kind of solidarity with the staff; it seemed they were genuinely happy to have us there, and we were so grateful the hotel was open to host us. (In one of our conversations, we learned that the two-year-old hotel had its best summer ever in 2020 catering to people like us who needed a little break from the pandemic in an environment that wouldn’t sacrifice health and safety.)
In non-COVID days, we could imagine the Crosby being quite the happening spot. Between the bar and restaurant — with its focus on craft spirits: 700 of them — and the rooftop pool and fireplace, the public spaces were inviting even when empty.
Celebrating Stillwater’s heritage
Unlike many buildings in Stillwater, the Crosby is new and purpose-built; it opened in October 2018. But references to the town’s history as an important sawmill center play prominently in the hotel. Our room featured wood beams, a sliding barn door, and furniture made from reclaimed wood, including a big platform bed perfect for toe-stubbing. Our room was bright and cheery with a roomy balcony (unfortunately not of much use in November in Minnesota but appreciated nonetheless) and playful touches like a bathroom mural featuring a cigar-smoking matron. Because all of our meals were taken in our room, we also made good use of the seating area in front of the TV where we stumbled upon and somehow got enchanted by old episodes of “The Partridge Family.”
Perfect for adventures on foot
Unlike the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Stillwater’s core is small enough and tourism-focused enough to still have some life during a pandemic. We happened to be out getting coffee when Santa rolled through on a Stillwater fire truck, and the lights on main street helped get us in the holiday spirit. We took two longs walks: one along the river where the lift bridge has become a foot bridge and one up through the neighborhoods above the bluffs to see all of the big Victorian homes. We had fun looking at real estate listings for an “inside” tour of some of the homes.
Together with The Lora, Stillwater is now establishing itself as a town with some terrific lodging options that go beyond the traditional bed-and-breakfast choices that dominated until recently. With a nice selection of restaurants (we hope they all outlast COVID-19), non-chain retail and beautiful surroundings, Stillwater is becoming a favorite destination for a quick break. We’ll certainly return to the Crosby.
- Hotel Crosby on Main Street in Stillwater
- Our stay: 2 nights — November 27 and 28, 2020
- Room: Premium King
Where we ate, what we did:
- Cocktails and dinner (X2) from MatchStick, eaten in our room
- Coffee from MADE Coffee
- Coffee from Green Bridge Coffee
- Walk through neighborhoods above the bluff and back down Brown’s Creek State Trail
- Walk along the St. Croix river from the lift bridge
- Window shopping on Main Street
- TV watching: The Partridge Family
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