Mankato Bison

28 Things to do in Mankato | The only guide you need

Last updated on August 16th, 2019

Mankato is an adventure lover’s parades. The Minnesota River makes its way through Mankato Minnesota making it one of the most photographic destinations I have visited. With Minneopa State Park, Bike Trails, Waterways, and City Art they are an Instagrammers dream. We found fun things to do in Mankato for everyone.

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Mankato for Adventure Lovers

Red Jacket Bike Trail

The Red Jacket Bike trail is 13 miles through the open countryside along the Minnesota River. The Red Jacket Bike Trail that starts in Mankato MN and ends in Rapidan. It passes over several wooden bridges. Start out at the YMCA, you’ll pass right through the heart of Mankato. This is a great place to take the whole family out of a bike ride because of its relatively flat paths.

While on the trail, stop at the Red Jacket Trestle Bridge, located off OLD HWY66. The bridge was built by the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railway in 1901. It spans 475 feet and is 95 ft high. When the railway abandoned it, they covered in wood for the bike path. On a hot summer’s day, climb up and catch a good breeze. There is a good vantage point for pictures at the base. Or grab a canoe and go on the water.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Le Sueur River Bridge

Minneopa Falls

Minneopa State Park is a favorite for many in Mankato because of its Waterfall and the Bison Drive. While both are a lot of fun.  Minneopa Falls comprises 2 cascading falls. Accessible at the top of the falls. They provide a paved path for you. If you are up for a little closer look, venture down the stone steps and see it at the base. The trail leading up to the falls provided a lot of different terrains, so bring steady shoes. There are great spots to snap a pic in both locations. I recommend checking out the creek right before the falls freeze. It will look amazing. For more info, check out: Another One Bites The Dust | Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trail.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

Minneopa Falls

Visit the Bison

With 331 acres to roam, the bison are hit or miss. On the plus side, they like to stay in their herd, so they are easier to spot. When I went, the bison were right up front and close to the road. I’ve even found them on the road wandering around. The bison don’t seem to caret hat there is a line of cars waiting to get by them. They travel at their own pace. 

Even more spectacular about the trial was the natural Prairie. The park has done an excellent job of finding restoring the natural prairies that once stood here. Pullover where ever you want to snap a picture, just don’t get out of the car. Bison can be unpredictable and could pop up anywhere. If you are looking for a closer picture of the prairie, check out Seppmann Mill.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

Bison Drive at Minneopa State Park

See History

They constructed the mill in 1864. At its height, people from 30 miles away would come in to have their grain milled for flour. Today it remains in Minneopa Park. Arrive early morning to take advantage of some of the best light. There is also a series of trails located around the mill to provide some amazing views of the prairie. To visit the Mill, take the Bison Trail in Minneopa Park. For more information about the Mill, check out: How to Come Face to Face with Buffalo at Minneopa State Park.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

Mill at Minneopa State Park

Canoe the River with Bent River Outfitters

Taking a guided trip on the Blue Earth County River Valley with Bent River Outfitters. They take the stress out of loading up your canoe and dealing with pickup locations. All you have to do is enjoy the river! It is a great way to see more of the city.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

Swimming

There are some great swimming area’s in Mankato but the best has to be at Red Jacket Valley Park. The county transformed this old Guaranteed Sand and Gravel Pit into a lake for swimming or fishing. It’s an old rock quarry that is filled with water and now is some of the best places to go for a dip on a warm day.

Filled with two smaller beaches and tucked away, the swimming hole is private. They have drive-up access for people looking to launch their canoes or kayaking into the water. Because of its size, it’s perfect for beginner kayaking. Most locals don’t even know about it exists. The Reg Jacket Valley Park is at 19950 Old HWY 66 in Mankato, MN.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

The Best in Road Trip Accessories

Catch a Fish

The Minnesota River is home to over 54 different fish including Walleye, sauger, northern pike and large and smallmouth bass. There have even been record-breaking Catfish. Besides the MN River, there are other great bodies of water in the area to catch fish, like Minneopa State Park, Wheeler Park, and Red Jacket Valley Park.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Skiing

Mankato may be in a flatter part of the state, but that doesn’t mean it they don’t have some great ski hills. Mount Kato is where everyone goes for short lines and great hills. They have 19 different groomed trails and four terrains. Both Skiers and Snowboarders fill the trails.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

Drive a Tank

Mankato is the only place in Minnesota where civilians can drive a real tank. Drive a Tank offers people the chance to do anything from driving the tank around, to firing it or even driving over cars. They have 8 different tanks to drive that have all been in combat. This is an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
(Outdoors)

The Mankato Air Spectacular Air Show

The Mankato Air Spectacular puts on an amazing airshow. The event happens every few years on Father’s Day Weekend. And when it does, aviation enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies alike flock from all over southern Minnesota to see performers like the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds perform.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

Thunderbirds in Formation

Hiking in Mankato

There are so many opportunities to hike in Mankato, it’s hard to decide which one to do first. Head over to Seven Mile Creek County Park and use multi-purpose trails inside the 628-acre park. You can also hike around Minneopa State Park. In addition to all the attractions, there is also a nice flat Hiking Club Trail that goes the length of the Bison enclosure.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Kid HIking the Trail Minneopa State Parks

Relaxing Activities in Mankato

Drive the Scenic Byway

Driving along the Minnesota River Valley you’ll pass by beautiful views, six different state parks, museums, and historical sights. The prairie land is stunning.
(Family Friendly) (Free)

Walking Sculpture Tour

The Walking Sculpture Tour is a fun way to explore more of Downtown Mankato. The sculptures rotate out each year to keep new and fresh stuff all the time. Beyond the sculptures, the city has some beautiful murals and permeate sculptures in every direction. The City of Mankato has transformed a beautiful city into an artist’s paradise.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Mankato MN Sculpture Walk Shadow

Mankato Annual Pow-Wow

Every September native American’s from communities all over Minnesota gather at Mankato’s Land of Memories Park. The park is the sight of the US Dakota War of 1862 that resulted in the hanging of 38 Dakota Warriors. Everyone is welcome to attend as Native American’s put on a Pow-Wow dressed in regalia, traditional music, and delicious foods.
(Outdoors) (Family Friendly)

Chankaska Creek Winery

The Chankaska Creek winery is a few minutes north of Mankato, but it’s well worth the trip. The winery sells both wine and spirits, freshly made wood-fired pizzas and so much more. It fills the grounds with fresh flowers, streams and amazing patio seating making it so you never want to leave.
(Outdoors) (Indoors)

Morgan Creek Vineyards

Known for their three-person grape stomp, this winery never stop having fun. They are eco-friendly developing an underground winery. It provides the perfect tempters to store their wine. They specialize in German, French and American Style wines. When visiting Morgan Creek Vineyards, leave some room for their wood fire pizzas.
(Outdoors) (Indoors)

August Schell Brewing Company

It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to visit the second oldest family-owned brewery. The August Schell Brewing Company is now operated by its fifth generation. The visitors center and museums offer a peek at the family history of the brewery, but everyone’s favorite part is visiting going on one of their tours. The tour starts off in the Museum of Brewing, covered the grounds, brewhouse and ends in the Tap Room with a complimentary sampling.
(Indoors)

Mankato Brewery

The Mankato Brewery is the first brewery inside the city limits since 1967. Get a tour of the brewery and sample their brews. They specialize in brews that reflect the local German heritage. Their taproom features 12 different brews and Craft Sodas.
(Indoors)

Mankato Just for Kids

Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Southern MN believes in the power of play. Inside you’ll understand why. The best part about releasing your kids at the Children’s Museum is that they will be constantly learning. There are so many hands-on activities, your kid will not know what to do first. 
(Family Friendly) (Indoors)

Ice Skating

The Mankato Community and Rec Center is a great place to ice-skate year-round. I love visiting on hotter days to cool off. Otherwise, take advantage of the room rink for some open skate time.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Sledding

There are so many great sledding hills in Mankato it could rival the Twin Cities list I have. Sledding is a great way to let the kids burn some energy and have a thrill as the hurdle down the hill in their favorite sled, inner tube or other variation. Most locations are free like Sibley Park and Spring Lake Park. If you don’t have your own tube, Mount Kato rents them too.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Where to Eat in Mankato

Coffee Hag

The best Coffee in Mankato is the Coffee Hag. This local coffee shop is Mankato’s favorite hangout. They decorate the walls with local artwork and musician albums. On Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll hear live performances from local musicians and open mic nights.

Photo by Emre Gencer on Unsplash

Friesen’s Family Bakery & Bistro

Friesen’s Family Bakery and Bistro have the best fresh pastries and cookies every morning. The smell of fresh-baked bread pours out of its doors every morning. During the day, they switch gears and serve out sandwiches. But they are best known for the vegetarian and meat-free options. They only use locally sourced ingredients.

Olives

Olives is a family-owned restaurant featuring Lebanese flavors. They have a good mix of American and Mediterranean food combinations. You’ll find things like Caramelized Olive Pizza, Portobello mushroom sandwiches and New York Strip. Olives is great when you are looking for something a little different from the normal.

Number 4 American Bar & Kitchen

Offering traditional dishes, with a twist. The Number 4 American Bar and Kitchen is in the heart of downtown Mankato. Their brunch was amazing, with choices like Fresh Crepes, Juevos Benedict and Camailed French toast. They serve all day, so make sure you stop in to see what other fun stuff they have like, table-side guacamole.

Pagliai Pazza

On Weekends Pagliai’s get’s busy. That’s probably because it boasts the best Pizza in Mankato. Walking in will remind you of being in college again, but after biting into the pizza, you won’t care anymore.

Where to Stay in Mankato

Courtyard Mankato 

The Courtyard Marriot in Mankato is impeccably designed from the ground up. They have amazing suites and rooms.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

I am always talking up Holiday Inns because of the level of service they provide is always consistent. The Holiday Inn in Mankato is right on par and centrally located. They offer complimentary breakfast in the morning and a Pool so the kids will be in heaven.  

What things do to in Mankato will you do first?

Mankato Minnesota is such a colorful town with so many fun things to do. Grab your camera and head on down to explore. When you do, make sure to tag #DayTripMankato and show me what you found. I’d love to see the pictures.

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