They are definately touristy. Taylor's Falls is the one I end up at the most. It is a nice place to spend a day hiking. On weekdays it is not very busy, so it is very enjoyable to go to. Red Wing is very scenic but it is very crowded. It gets people from both the TC and Rochester on weekends.
Taylor's Falls is in a very scenic area; it's probably most popular in the fall when the forest is colorful. It's also popular for the "Dalles of the Saint Croix", where the river flows through steep cliffs. There are state parks both on the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the river; I prefer the Wisconsin side myself. You can take a cruise on a riverboat in Taylor's Falls. Probably my favorite area along the Saint Croix. Here are some photos I took last fall:
As for Marine on Saint Croix, I'm not too familiar with the place. From what I know, it's just a quiet, shady historic little town with a main street with little antique shops, sort of like Nisswa near Brainerd.
Stillwater's probably the most well-known place. It's actually the first settlement in Minnesota. The town is very historic; lots of beautiful historic homes and mansions on the bluffs on very (very) streep streets. There's a quay along the river, and your typical downtown antique shops, resutarants, and there's also a cave in the cliff downtown that they've turned into a winery.
Anyone know if it is still legal for cliff jumping at Taylors Falls? I went about 8 years ago and it was fun as hell, i recently heard you could get arrested because its considered attempted suicide. Is this true?
I have fond memories of going to see the potholes and the river bluffs at (I think) Interstate State Park near Taylors Falls. It has been a very long times since I have been there. Are the potholes on the Minnesota or Wisconsin side? We would also go to Wild Mountain near Taylors falls to go skiing because my aunt used to be a ski instructor there. So we went to Taylors Falls most often, and sometimes Stillwater. I don't think I have ever been to Marine on St. Croix or St. Mary's Point.
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