The visitors’ bureau in Winona was started around 1940 as the “Tourist and Publicity” Committee of the Winona Association of Commerce. The committee was formed and was responsible for some major developments: construction of a tourist hostess house, organization of the Winona Tourist Hostesses to serve as information girls, construction of signboards between La Crosse and Chicago and development of a Winona Scenic Drive.
In 1983, when the Minnesota Legislature passed a law enabling cities to impose a hotel room tax, the Winona Convention and Visitors’ Bureau was founded and the Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors continued to oversee it, living by its mission to “increase the economic impact of the tourism and convention industry to the entire city.” In 2004, the CVB became a separate entity and conducts business as Visit Winona.
The current Visit Winona offices operate out of the Winona County History Center. The organization oversees the Winona Visitors’ Center, which is located on the corner of Highway 61 and Huff Street. Visit Winona markets and promotes Winona as a year-round destination to visitors. It provides information on lodging, dining, attractions, events, history, arts and culture, recreation and services through a variety of media.
Because of its location along the Great River Road (Highway 61), a national scenic byway, Winona has become a travel destination for thousands of visitors every year to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Mississippi River and towering bluffs, remarkable arts and culture, historic architecture, outdoor recreation and notable stained glass. Home to Winona State University, Saint Mary’s University and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical, Winona has a college-town vibe.
Popular attractions include the Garvin Heights Overlook and a bluff-top winery as well as Levee Park at the riverfront. There are artistic and cultural events, shopping and museum visits. Winona boasts nine museums, including the Winona County History Center with its new Laird Norton addition, Watkins Museum and Store, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, the Polish Cultural Institute and the Pickwick Mill. The Trester Trolley offers “points of interest” tours.
Two National Register Historic Districts in downtown Winona make it one of the largest collections of Victorian commercial architecture in the region. Downtown Winona has more than 100 buildings on the historic register, with several dating back to the 1800s. A walk through downtown will give a view of “soaring spires, landmark banks and handsome hotels.”
Businesses and organizations may contact Visit Winona for help with planning meetings and conferences or to organize special events or group functions. For information about events/festivals, lodging, dining or things to do, go to www.visitwinona.com or call 800-657-4972.