8 Reasons This Historic Midwest Town Is The Perfect Small-Town Vacation Getaway

We were standing at the top of downtown High Street, looking down on one of the Midwest’s best vacation towns to explore. Decorated shops and galleries invite residents and guests to celebrate the season. From this vantage point, downtown and the rolling hills of the farmland of the Driftless region merge, rising above the rooftops, creating a majestic view of historic Mineral Point.

In the early 1800s, immigrant miners from the Cornish region of England settled here to mine huge deposits of zinc and lead. The miners built tiny stone houses, much like their homes in Cornwall, on what is now called Shakerag Street. The street got its name from the way the women waved rags in the air, signaling mealtimes to their spouses who mined on the hill.

Restoration began in 1935 with a few small stone and log houses on Sheakerag Street. The newly restored grounds have been named Pendarvis. Artists and artisans began renovating more historic buildings in the 1960s and 1970s, creating a vibrant artistic community. As a result, Mineral Point, Wisconsin has become one of the best small artsy towns to visit in the Midwest.

Just an hour from Madison and just over 3 hours from Chicago, in no particular order, here are some of the best reasons why Mineral Point is the perfect small-town vacation getaway.

The candle-lit shops and streets of Mineral Point

The candle-lit shops and streets of Mineral Point

Photo credit: Mineral Point Chamber of Commerce / Facebook

Stroll the sidewalks of historic downtown Mineral Point with hundreds of luminaries guiding your way to shops and galleries. Shops create Christmas window displays, and a cool garland with a large red bow hangs from buildings and streetlights in the city.

Many stores host special events, such as the Mineral Point Gallery. Sixty-two artists exhibit their pieces year-round, but you can meet local artists and woodcarvers at Candlelight Shopping. Woodcarver Greg Trollop, known for his famous Santa Claus statues, will be one of the artists who will meet the buyers.

During Candlelight Shopping, carolers stroll through the town center and shoppers can enjoy chestnuts roasted over an open fire at the corner of Chestnut and High Streets. Plus, head to the High Street for fireworks lighting up the city center sky starting at 7 p.m.

Santa in costume at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts

Santa in costume at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts

Photo credit: Shake Rag Alley Arts Center

2. Santa’s Party at Shake Rag Alley Center For The Arts

Taking pictures with Santa, building gingerbread houses and doing holiday crafts at Shake Rag Alley Center For The Arts is a perfect way to create multi-generational memories. First, Santa Claus will be making a special appearance on the Cabinet Shop porch for photos. Next, gingerbread cottage building and holiday craft workshops are featured inside the Lind Pavilion.

3. Christmas at Orchard Lawn

The Mineral Point Historical Society holds Christmas at Orchard Lawn as a fabulous way to celebrate the holidays. Afternoon festivities take place on the beautiful historic 9-acre Italian estate. Enjoy a Christmas open house in the warmth of blazing fires and the spirit of Christmas. Live the experience of yesteryear with finger foods, drinks and live Victorian Christmas music with local musicians.

Sirius Sunlight Glass Studio Stained Glass Holiday Ornaments

Sirius Sunlight Glass Studio Stained Glass Holiday Ornaments

Photo credit: Tom and Kristi Flick Manus

4. Sirius Sunlight Glass Studio

On our day trips to Mineral Point, we always visit Sirius Sunlight Glass Studio. We love browsing their handmade glass creations for unique and special gifts. Some of our favorites are blown glass hummingbirds for window ornaments and handmade clear glass icicles for Christmas tree ornaments. Owners Jill Engels and Chuck Pound craft each piece by hand. Jill creates charming stained glass windows and Chuck is the hot glass sculptor.

Chuck makes clear glass ice cubes one at a time. Each is approximately 7 inches long, comes with a hoop for hanging, and looks incredibly real. Several years ago, Chuck made ice cubes, one by one, for Land’s End, headquartered near Dodgeville. They were so popular he could barely keep up. This particular holiday season, he made 32,000. The ice cubes can be purchased individually or in packs of 12, which come in a sturdy custom box with foam cutouts for storage. Our favorite style has a twist design.

5. Christmas Madrigal Dinner Theater

Step back in time with the Christmas Madrigal Dinner Theater at Mineral Point. Lighted luminaries line a path leading to an English-looking castle from the Renaissance period. The town crier introduces the royal castle to guests before a five-course meal is served during a theatrical performance. Dressed in period costume, an eight-voice a capella group also sings Christmas carols from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Mineral Point Opera

See Holiday Movies at Mineral Point Opera House

Photo credit: Tom and Kristi Flick Manus

6. Mineral Point Opera House

Watch classic Christmas movies at the Mineral Point Opera House to elevate your holiday spirit. The schedule includes It’s a wonderful life, The Polar Expressand National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

7. High Street Candy

Seriously, the holidays and a fancy candy store should go together. The perfect solution for a holiday sweet tooth can be found downtown on the High Street. Inside and out, this feisty candy store is exploding with all the colors of the rainbow. Filled with fun nostalgic snow candies in festive winter colors, you won’t regret your visit.

8. Hook’s Cheese

Stop by Hook’s Cheese Company on Commerce Street for a one-of-a-kind gift. Tony and Julie Hook own this internationally award-winning cheese company and regularly win awards at global cheese competitions. In 1982, Julie’s Colby won the title of “World Champion Cheese” where it competed against all other cheese categories. Julie continues to be the only woman to win this prestigious award. Buy holiday gift boxes with delicious cheese styles to choose from, or have them picked for you.

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