Star Communities: Lindström, Minnesota

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Star Communities are those communities that have shined above the rest. They may have overcome immense tragedy, or they have simply excelled beyond expectations for a town of their size. These are example communities that are role models for those who strive to be better. The community of Lindström, Minnesota, is the latest to receive this designation.

Scandinavians are all over Minnesota. You can’t throw lutefisk into a crowd of Minnesotans without hitting one. So the number of towns that can lay claim to that heritage is numerous. For one town to stick its neck out and lay claim to being “America’s Little Sweden”, that’s bold. But that’s Lindström, Minnesota. This boldness is clearly evident in their push for the umlauts to be added back onto their name on state roadway signs. The push by city representatives to fix this error wasn’t just noticed locally, or on a statewide basis, it drew international attention. When you get international attention to your desire to highlight your Swedish heritage on state signage, you’ve gone a long way to being able to stake your claim as “America’s Little Sweden”.

However, their Swedish heritage goes well beyond two dots above the “o” in their name. There’s Gustaf’s Galleries, which houses fine Swedish arts and crafts, souvenirs, and home decor. But Sven’s Clogs obviously can’t be overlooked as well. These wooden shoes scream Scandinavia. Don’t forget the Lindström Bakery that has declared itself as the “Home of the Scandinavian Donut”.

This town is so Swedish, that I’m surprised that they haven’t seceded from the U.S. and petitioned to become part of Sweden.

History and Location of Lindström

Founder Daniel Lindström left Sweden in 1853 to settle in the United States. Upon finding a suitable location in Minnesota, the town of Lindström was platted in 1880 and incorporated in 1894. The community grew gradually over the next few decades, but since 1980 it has grown from 1,972 to 4,720.

This small tourist town sits roughly 40 miles outside of the outer edges of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area. It is also just 10 miles from the Wisconsin state line. The community itself almost appears to be an island as a series of lakes surround the town. North Lindstrom Lake, South Center Lake, North Center Lake, and Chisago Lake wrap around the community. This limits the town’s size, but the lakes are also a significant amenity.

Everybody on the Train

And their residents have bought into the theme. They know that their heritage-based tourism butters their bread. Even citizens of Sweden have toured the community and the nearby towns of the Chicago Lakes area. Tourism dollars are an important part of city budgets and overall local economies alike.

This is clearly evident throughout the town. Some business signs have the business name listed in English and Swedish. Other businesses have Dala horses or barn blankets on their facades.

Fire Station Sign

Fire Station Sign, by Lorie Shaull,, CC BY-SA 2.0

Businesses throughout town also play off the Scandinavian theme from head to toe, quite literally. Sven’s Clogs offers custom-made, wooden-soled clogs and clog boots to patrons. Gustaf’s Galleries has fine art and crafts from regional and Scandinavian artists. There’s also Swedish furniture and home décor available.

Eateries like the Swedish Inn provide more than the typical diner fare. Swedish meatballs, lefse (a personal favorite), and lingonberry preserves are all available to appease your desire for Scandinavian food. There’s even an omelet called the “Uff Da“, based on a common Scandinavian saying that basically means, “I’m overwhelmed”. The Sweet Swede candy shop ties back to a Swedish heritage, not only by name but through their sweet lingonberry chocolate fudge.

Karl Oskar Days

Each year Lindström celebrates Karl Oskar Days in July. The event celebrates Karl and Kristina Oskar the fictional main characters of Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg’s “The Emigrants” book series about Swedish immigrants to the United States. It is a typical small-town celebration with a parade, street dance, arts and craft fair, classic car show, fireworks, and more.

However, the event has a decidedly Swedish skew in some aspects. There’s a coronation of a “Karl Oskar Princess”. There’s also Kristina’s Shopping Week and Karl’s Krazy Days Sidewalk Sales in downtown Lindström. The Karl Oskar House is open for tours. And many of the arts, crafts, and food vendors all often have Swedish-related items for sale.

A Sportsman’s Paradise

As many know, Minnesota is the “land of 10,000 lakes”. It actually has 11,842 to be exact. Just in the Chisago Lakes region alone, there are nine public lakes covering over 5900 acres. Each of these lakes is a significant draw each year for fishing, boating, and other recreational activities.

The lakes are host to several fishing tournaments each year. Anglers from across the country come to Minnesota and the Chisago Lakes for the great fishing available. Lindstrom has been keen on this tourist income stream. With a variety of bed and breakfasts, motels, eateries, and supplies stores, fishing enthusiasts are easily appeased during their time in town.


One of the best parts about Lindström and the Chisago Lakes area is their dedication to selling the area on a regional basis. The Chisago Lakes area has its own chamber and visitors bureau. In all, this regional effort covers Chisago City, Lindström, Center City, Shafer, Taylors Falls, and the unincorporated areas within the region.

There’s also Swedish Circle Tours run by Sally Barott in the nearby community of Shafer. When not running her bed and breakfast, Sally gives tours of Shafer, Lindström, and six other towns in the vicinity with a significant Swedish heritage.

A Cohesive Model for a Tourism Community

Lindström isn’t as well known as a tourism community as Deadwood, South Dakota, Williamsburg, Virginia, or Napa Valley, California. But they’re “all in” as a tourist community and the town is certainly a tourist draw. Not only regionally, nationally, but internationally as well. They understand the financial impact of tourist dollars and how it can lessen the local tax burden while stimulating the local economy.

Becoming a viable tourist community isn’t easy. Lindström is lucky enough to have the historic and natural resources that make it much easier. But it still takes commitment from city staff and elected officials. But it also takes buy-in from the residents as well.

Star Communities

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