Where the Buffalo swim

Last weekend we headed west to Buffalo, Minn., for a quick escape and to follow a tip about a treasure in one of the town’s many antique shops. The drive only takes about an hour on Highway 55 and the town’s full of fun, independent stores, plus, it’s located on a picturesque lake.

As we pulled off the highway a colorful four-legged Buffalo statue greeted us. Then we saw another one further down the street, then another. The town actually has 23 life-size buffalo statues that have been painted by various artists. We parked in front of a vividly painted creature with bewildering scales and gils like a fish. It was then we learned the town was actually named for carp-like fish once prevalent in area lakes. But because the public art project was spearheaded by a rodeo association they chose to go with the animal species for the statues. Other buffalos are painted with regional scenes, maps, and even ancient petroglyphs. If you want to find them all, pick up a Buffalo Roam brochure available in most stores.

Tourists flocked to Buffalo’s lakeshore resorts from the mid 1800s until the 1920s. They arrived by stagecoach and train from the Twin Cities and enjoyed summer’s clean country air and fishing excursions in two large lakes. With so many visitors the population doubled to more than 800 in summers. While those resort destinations have disappeared, Buffalo has grown to 15,000 full time residents who enjoy their lakes year round.  

Thanks to Buffalo’s Rotary Club, a Musical Instrument Trail stretches along the lakeshore from a park right in town. Eleven large bells, chimes, xylophones, and drums are placed along the lake walk. These oversize instruments are fun for both kids and adults to play.

The Buffalo Rodeo has been bucking riders since 1955 and is and Minnesota’s longest running professional rodeo association. It’s part of the Great Lakes Pro Rodeo Circuit and gets 250–300 participants a year. Mark your calendars, the next rodeo takes place June 24–25; tickets are already available! (www.buffalorodeo.com)

Known for their boutique shops and first weekend occasional sales, Buffalo is a shopping delight. There are many places to while away the day looking and dreaming up ideas and possibilities for remodeling and revamping.

The antique shops here are long lived. Some of their vintage wares were new when the stores first opened. These three are outside Buffalo’s downtown district but worth the drive. In business for 26 years, Annie’s Attic has numerous antique dealers selling everything from scrimshaw animal horns to linens to a second building full of furniture-in-the-rough (open daily, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., 1004 3rd St. S.). Known for their architectural antiques (carved back bars, railings, and fireplace mantels), Walden Woods also deals in nautical antiques, and has a general line of treasures. Some of you might remember when they had a second store on Washington Avenue Downtown Minneapolis years ago (open daily, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., 2612 Hwy. 55 SE).

We never found our treasure from the hot tip. But like they say, the time to buy an antique is when you see it. I did go home though with a new vintage camera case and an Anoka-made Thermo Serv set of tumblers.

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LUNCH TIP: Some of the best chocolates I’ve ever tasted are for sale at Annie’s Attic. Made in Monticello, and only available in Buffalo, take home a hand-picked box of turtles, almond bark, truffles, malt cups, and chocolate-dipped pretzels. Coffee’s available across the road at Dunn Brothers.