Mankato Bison and other fun things to do in Mankato MN

30 Must Do Things to do in Mankato MN: Get Your Adventure On

Mankato is an adventure lover’s paradise. The Minnesota River makes its way through Mankato, Minnesota, making it one of the most photographic destinations I have visited. Minneopa State Park, Bike Trails, Waterways, and City Art, are an Instagrammers dream.

These hidden gems will have you wanting to spend an entire weekend there. There are fun things to do in Mankato for everyone.

I absolutely love explaining Mankato near New Ulm. It’s got the perfect balance between small-town charm, and city life. With so much to see and do, it’s hard to decide what to do first.

My list started out with just 6 fun activities and is starting to grow out of control as I explore new areas. I hope you have a great time!

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Mankato MN Attractions for Adventure Lovers

Red Jacket Bike Trail

Location: 19950 State Hwy 66, Mankato, MN 56001
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The Red Jacket trail is 13 miles through the open countryside along the Minnesota River. It 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 for 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 Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railway in 1901 built the bridge. It spans 475 feet and is 95 ft high. When the railway abandoned it, they covered it in wood for the bike path.

On a hot summer’s day, climb up and catch a wonderful breeze. There is a good vantage point for pictures at the base. Or grab a canoe and go on the water. This is a great trip to do during Autumn in Minnesota.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Don’t forget to attach a classic bike bell to the kid’s bike. It’s a great alternative to having them yell on the left while passing others.

Le Sueur River Bridge

Minneopa Falls

Location: South Bend Township, MN 56001
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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, this is one that the entire family gets to take part in.

Minneopa Falls comprises 2 cascading falls. Accessible at the top of the falls. They provide a paved path for you for people of all ages.

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 provides a lot of different terrains, so bring steady shoes.

There are magnificent spots to snap a pic in both locations. I recommend checking out the creek right before the falls freeze. It will look amazing.

The park has some picnic tables nearby, making it a perfect place for lunchtime! For more info, check out: Another One Bites The Dust | Minneopa State Park Hiking Club Trail. This is one of the amazing things to do in Mankato. Don’t skip it!
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

TIP: Minnesota State Parks have a $7 daily parking fee. There are some days that have free admission. Check out Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days

Minneopa Falls

Visit the Bison

Location: Bison Range, Mankato, MN 56001
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Looking for a unique experience? You gotta do the bison drive inside Minneopa State Park. 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 care that there is a line of cars waiting to get by them. They travel at their own pace. Your best chance of seeing them is early morning.

Even more spectacular about the trail was the natural prairie. The park has done an excellent job of 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

Visit the Historic Seppmann Mill

Location: Bison Range, Mankato, MN 56001
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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 all the way to the end. 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

Location: 530 N Riverfront Dr, Mankato, MN 56001
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Taking a guided trip with Bent River Outfitters. This is the best outfitter in Mankato. They take the stress out of loading up your canoe and dealing with pickup locations. All you have to do is enjoy the river!

Trips change all the time. There are trips to Red Jacket Valley Lake, the Minnesota River, and the Blue Earth River in the past.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend doing a Blue Earth River trip to see Devil’s Gulch and Triple Falls. It is a great way to see more of the city.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)


Location: 19950 Old Hwy 66, Mankato, MN 56001
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There are some great swimming areas 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 Red 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

Location: 19950 Old Hwy 66, Mankato, MN 56001
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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 caught here.

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)

Grab your Collapsable Fishing Rod for that angler in the family.


Location: 20461 State Hwy 66, Mankato, MN 56001
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In the southwest corner of Minnesota, we often overlook Mankato as an area with plenty to offer for outdoor enthusiasts. That might be true for hikers, but Mankato also has a throwback ski hill that is worth checking out.

Mount Kato isn’t the biggest ski resort around, but what they lack in trails they make up by having minimal waits and great terrain available for all skill levels. Both skiers, snowboarders, and tubers have fun on their 19 different groomed trails and four terrains.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

Drive a Tank

Location: 550 W Cherry St, Kasota, MN 56050
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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.

The Mankato Air Spectacular Air Show

Location: 3030 N Airport Rd, Mankato, MN 56001
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The Mankato Air Spectacular puts on an amazing air show. The event happens every few years on Father’s Day Weekend.

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.

This is one of my favorite things to do in Mankato but doesn’t happen every year. Make sure to check the schedule for more information.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors)

For a full list of Air Shows in Minnesota check out: The Best Minnesota Air Shows: Tips and Tricks for an Unforgettable Experience

Thunderbirds in Formation

Hiking in Mankato

Location: Bison Range, Mankato, MN 56001
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There are so many opportunities to hike in Mankato, that it’s hard to decide which one to do first. Head over to Seven Mile Creek Park and use multi-purpose trails inside the 628-acre park.

You can also take advantage of the hiking trails in Minneopa State Park. Besides all the attractions, there is also a nice flat Hiking Club Trail that goes the length of the Bison enclosure.

My favorite time to hike in Mankato is in the fall. That’s because of the deciduous forests changing colors. The thick trees create a wonderland any season, but everyone has a favorite.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Kid HIking the Trail Minneopa State Parks

Minnemishinona Falls

Location: 40923 Judson Bottom Rd, Mankato, MN 56003

A bonus waterfall in Mankato is Minnemishinona Falls. Officially, it’s in northern Mankato. The falls drop 42-foot. From US Hwy. 169, proceed west on US 14 through North Mankato to Nicollet Co. 41, south on Co. 41 (Rockford Rd.) 1.5 miles to the falls (left side). (Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Bike the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail

Location: North on County Road 57 (Riverfront Drive) to Lime Valley Road; 1/4 mile north
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The Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail in Mankato MN is a 138 mile long hiking and biking trail that winds its way through the scenic Minnesota River Valley.

The trail offers stunning views of the river and the surrounding hills, as well as plenty of opportunities for wildlife observation.

The trail has a variety of terrain, from gently rolling hills to steep climbs, making it perfect for all kinds of adventurers. (Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Relaxing Activities in Mankato

Drive the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway

Location: Mankato MN
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Driving along the Minnesota River Valley, you’ll pass by countless beautiful views, six different state parks, museums that encompass a variety of subjects from the early settlers to Native American tribes, and historical sights. This part of the scenic Minnesota River Valley land is stunning.
(Family Friendly) (Free)

Cityart Walking Sculpture Tour

Location: Downtown Mankato
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The Walking Sculpture Tour is a fun way to explore more of Downtown Mankato. The sculptures rotate out each year to keep new all the time. Beyond the sculptures, the city has some beautiful murals sculptures in every direction.

The City of Mankato has transformed a beautiful city into an artist’s paradise. Getting to see what’s new each year is one of the best things about going back to Mankato.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

Mankato MN Sculpture Walk Shadow

Mankato Annual Pow-Wow

Location: 100 Amos Owen Ln, Mankato, MN, 56001
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Every September, Native Americans 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 which resulted in the hanging of 38 Dakota Warriors.

Everyone is welcome to attend as Native Americans put on a Pow-Wow dressed in regalia, traditional music, and delicious foods.
(Outdoors) (Family Friendly)

The US Dakota War of 1862 history can be seen all through Southwest Minnesota. You can even track bits of it in the book This Tender Land. Check out all the locations mentioned in the book: This Tender Land: The Events Behind The Book

Chankaska Creek Winery

Location: 1179 E Pearl St, Kasota, MN 56050
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The Chankaska Creek winery is a few minutes north of Mankato, but it’s well worth the trip. They sell both wine and spirits, freshly made wood-fired pizzas and so much more.

They covered the grounds with fresh flowers, streams, and amazing patio seating with live music, making it so you never want to leave.
(Outdoors) (Indoors)

Mankato Winery

Morgan Creek Vineyards

Location: 23707 478th Ave, New Ulm, MN 56073
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Known for its three-person grape stomp, this winery never stops having fun. They are eco-friendly developing an underground winery. It provides the perfect temperatures 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

Location: 1860 Schell’s Rd, New Ulm, MN 56073
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It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to visit the second-oldest family-owned brewery in Minnesota. The August Schell Brewing Company is now operated by its fifth generation. Inside the visitors center and museums offer a peek at the family history of the brewery, but everyone’s favorite part is going on one of their tours.

The tour starts off in the Museum of Brewing, covers the grounds, and brewhouse, and ends in the Tap Room with a complimentary sampling.

Brewery Tour Tickets are $10, Kids 12 and under are free. Tour tickets are sold at the brewery on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the tour.

Mankato Brewery

Location: 1119 Center St, North Mankato, MN 56003
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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 fresh brews and Craft Sodas.

Relax at Javens Family Vineyard

Location: 20011 589th Ave, Mankato, MN 56001
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Javens Family Vineyard is a family owned and operated vineyard in Mankato, Minnesota. The vineyard has been in the Javens family for four generations and offers visitors a unique experience of vineyard life.

The vineyard has a small winery that produces a limited amount of wine each year. (Outdoors) (Indoors)

Visit the Hubbard House

Location: 606 S Broad St, Mankato, MN 56001
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The Hubbard House in Mankato MN is one of the oldest houses in the city and has been home to numerous notable Mankato citizens.

The house was built in 1874 by George W. Hubbard, a local businessman, and politician. Hubbard was an early advocate for education in Mankato and helped to found the Mankato State Normal School.

The house later became the home of Dr. John C. Osterhaus, one of the city’s leading physicians.

Today, the house is owned by the Mankato Historical Society and is used as a museum dedicated to historical artifacts from Mankato and surrounding areas. (Family Friendly) (Indoors)

Mankato Activities Just for Kids

Children’s Museum

Location: 224 Lamm St, Mankato, MN 56001
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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

Location: 1251 Monks Ave, Mankato, MN 56001
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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 rink for some open skate time. It is a great thing to do in Mankato MN.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)


Location: 20461 State Hwy 66, Mankato, MN 56001
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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 they hurdle down the hill in their favorite sled, inner tube, or other variation.

Most locations are free like Sibley Park with the nearby Sibley Farm and Spring Lake Park. If you don’t have your own tube, Mount Kato rents them too.
(Family Friendly) (Outdoors) (Free)

If you love small towns, I highly recommend checking out either Grand Marais, Taylors Falls, or Red Wing Minnesota. They are so much fun for the whole family!

Where to Eat in Mankato

Coffee Hag

Location: 329 N Riverfront Dr, Mankato, MN 56001
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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. I always stop in town to the Coffee Hag when I’m in town for things to do in Mankato.

Cup of Coffee
Photo by Emre Gencer on Unsplash

The Wooden Spoon

Location: 515 N Riverfront Dr, Mankato, MN 56001
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The Wooden Spoon has 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 their vegetarian and meat-free options. They only use locally sourced ingredients.


Location: 30 Civic Center Plaza, Mankato, MN 56001
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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 normal.

Number 4 Steakhouse

Location: 124 E Walnut St, Mankato, MN 56001
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Offering traditional dishes, with a twist. The Number 4 Steakhouse is in the heart of downtown Mankato. Their brunch was amazing, with choices like Fresh Crepes, Juevos Benedict, and Carmel 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 Pizza

Location: 524 S Front St, Mankato, MN 56001
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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 

Location: 901 Raintree Rd, Mankato, MN 56001
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The Courtyard Marriot in Mankato is impeccably designed from the ground up. They have amazing suites and rooms.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

Location: 2051 Adams St, Mankato, MN 56001
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I am always talking up Holiday Inns because 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.  

Book your stay at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel by clicking here!

What things to do in Mankato MN will you do first?

Mankato Minnesota is such a colorful town with so many fun things to do. Grab your camera and head for the short drive for a good time. When you do, tag #DayTripMankato and show me what you found. I’d love to see the pictures of all the fun things to do in Mankato MN.

This ultimate guide to Mankato is jam-packed with so many activities that you’ll never run out of things to do in Mankato. Whether you’re looking for fun for the whole family or want to get out for an adventure, you’ll be sure to find it all in Mankato.

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