The Ultimate Waconia Day Trip

Featuring llamas, cheese plates, and jazz serenades

What can you do in Minnesota on a single tank of gas? That’s what Minnevangelist co-founder Andrew Parks’ “Trip on a Tankful” series for Explore Minnesota seeks to find out. Here, a few must-dos from winery-rich Waconia:

🦙 Hang with the herd at Carlson’s Llovable Llamas, a family-run farm that invites you to brush, feed, and walk a floofy llama.

⛪ Snap a photo of Zoar Moravian Church, a Greek Revival landmark dating to 1863.

🍶 Buy ceramics from Jon Schmidt, a.k.a. Jon the Potter, who built his following through YouTube tutorials. Studio visits are by appointment only, but you can find his handmade pieces for sale at his coffeeshop, The Mocha Monkey, in Waconia and St. Boni.

🌽 Stock up on fresh, organic produce from At the Farm, where 90-year-old firecracker farmer Donna Frantz loves crowing, “I’m the best, forget the rest!” Her sweet corn is ridiculously flavorful; ditto the zucchini and eggplant.

🧀 Split a cheese plate from Christine Leonard’s The Grater Good, available for preorder from her home near Lake Waconia Regional Park. Our spread featured strawberry-rhubarb jam, fruit, nuts, and four kinds of cheese, including garlicky cheddar and creamy brie from Redhead Creamery. Spring for the smoked meat add-on from local fave Cathy Mackenthun’s Meats & Deli.

🥃 Sign up for a Saturdays-only guided tour and tasting at J. Carver Distillery, purveyor of Minnesota-sourced rye, wheat, and single malt whiskeys.

🍷 Order a wine fight at Schram Vineyards, the beautiful lakeside property from Aaron and Ashley Schram. Their vino is made with cold-hardy grapes and can be sampled via a seated tasting or a three-glass flight with one red, one white, and a rosé. Also fun: bocce courts!

🎺 Get serenaded by a jazz musician at Sovereign Estate. The Sundays at Sovereign program is free and leans hard into soft rock and smooth jazz. The winery’s new Italian restaurant, Gia at the Lake, just received a fine writeup in the Star Tribune by our friend Sharyn Jackson.

👩‍🎨 Tour the outdoor sculpture garden and gallery at Parley Lake Winery, featuring works by MN artists (including winery co-owner Deb Zeller).

To scope Andy’s full itinerary, head over to Explore Minnesota.