Spring Travel: Mankato and Other U.S. Destinations

For spring, get out in nature by hitting up these attractions in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Michigan
Minneopa State Park
Minneopa State Park

Weston Mackinnon/Unsplash

Close your eyes and envision expansive prairies, rich farmland, and budding foliage—a place that reminds you of a simpler time. Though far from simple, Mankato imparts an air of relaxation, where visitors become instant friends and entertainment is best served au naturel. Between a diverse cityscape and deep-woods panorama, you’ll soon see why this southern Minnesota town is a hub of endless activities.

Minneopa State Park
Minneopa State Park

MelissaMN/Adobe

Known for its great parks and trails, Mankato boasts a variety of adventures for outdoor enthusiasts. Looking for somewhere wooded to spend the day? Check out one of Mankato’s many parks, such as Minneopa State Park. Visitors young and old can take advantage of this 4,600-acre preserve and walk one of many trails or take a scenic drive through the park to catch a glimpse of bison roaming their native lands. Be sure to stop for a break and a picture next to the Instagram-worthy Minneopa Falls.

Red Jacket Trail
Red Jacket Trail

Courtesy of Explore Minnesota

Less than 10 minutes from Minneopa, the Red Jacket Trail is a bevy of beautiful wooden bridges and countryside scenes parallel to the Minnesota River. A 13-mile trail utilizing converted railroad trestles 80 feet high and 550 feet long make up an impressive system of asphalt and crushed-stone paths. Nearby Sibley Park is the confluence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers, where visitors can enjoy a regional zoo and playground on the sprawling grounds, along with a canopy of springtime hues on the many walking trails interspersed with gorgeous flowers and stone gardens.

Sibley Park
Sibley Park

Greta Alms

As the old adage goes, “When in Rome,” it’s fitting to take in the 350-plus miles of river that Blue Earth County has to offer. Pay a visit to Bent River Outfitter to rent kayaks, paddle boards, and gear. Located in old-town Mankato, Bent River offers guided tours on the river, along with unique events such as a monthly late-night Full Moon Float. Make sure to check out the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway, which follows the Minnesota River and offers views of the many lakes, ravines, bluffs, natural prairies, and forested areas that inhabit the region. One of only 22 scenic byways in Minnesota, the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway truly emphasizes the stunning river bluffs and guides guests through land steeped in historical significance.

Minneopa Falls
Minneopa Falls

Jim Henderson

After spending the day taking in nature, explore downtown Mankato and North Mankato. Throughout downtown Mankato and in the city center, breathtaking sculptures dot the sidewalks. The CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour showcases 31 new installations that change yearly. Sculptors throughout the country create the works currently on display, and since the program’s establishment, 27 sculptures have been added to the greater-Mankato permanent public art collection. Take a stroll, soak up the beauty, and cast your vote for your favorite.

Silo art in Mankato
Silo art in Mankato

Willis Stout/Unsplash

Mankato’s artistic intrigue doesn’t stop there. Silo Art, created by Guido van Helten (an Australian-born visual artist and photographer), towers over the area and is a source of pride for the community. The piece, a large mural on several grouped grain silos, illustrates the shared values of multiplicity, inclusion, and participation that Mankato embodies. Just a few minutes away, South Front Street is home to the 410 Project, a community art space that hosts frequently changing installations.

Mankato Brewery
Mankato Brewery

pbranstad

After an active day, a cool drink awaits at the Mankato Brewery in North Mankato. Opened in 2012, the Mankato Brewery’s beers embrace the very community in which the founders live. Catch a glimpse into what it takes to make a beer on a tour of the brewery, or simply gaze at the brewing system through the clear window in the taproom.

For a satisfying meal, Dino’s Pizzeria is a North Mankato staple. Dino’s makes fresh, mouthwatering pizza in its brick oven—and there’s no better place to get your fill of New York-style pizza and innovative antipasti than in this inviting setting. For a more relaxed dining experience, seek out Pub 500, located in the heart of downtown Mankato. There, you’ll be able to sample classic American fare and more than 75 beers from around the world. During the warmer seasons, Pub 500 hosts a large patio complete with fire pits and a wonderful view of Mankato’s bustling downtown.

Bent River Outfitter
Bent River Outfitter

Two Six Digital

The true beauty of Mankato is that it has the capability to be whatever type of excursion you want it to be. If nature calls to you, there is no shortage of trails and sights to see. If you want to experience the culture and history of the area, museums and art galleries are just around the corner. The wealth of wildlife, history, nature, and attractions make Mankato a place where experiences—and memories—abound.

Holland, Mich.
Holland, Mich.

Stevenkorn/Adobe

Other Spring Destinations

Wabasha, Minnesota

Home of the annual Grumpy Old Men Festival, Wabasha is filled with quaint boutiques, wonderful food, and plenty of outdoor activities. Take a guided tour via kayak down the Mississippi River, or visit the Castlerock Museum to see authentic arms, armor, and art. Wabasha also offers the once-in-a-lifetime experience to see bald eagles face to face at the National Eagle Center. wabashamn.org

Door County, Wisconsin

Art galleries, 300 miles of shoreline, sprawling orchards, local wines and beers, and 11 historic lighthouses make this northeastern Wisconsin region an ideal getaway. Door County is chock-full of unique towns and attractions to suit any vacation style, including amazing local eats, stunning state parks, and an expansive maritime history. Spring is the perfect time in the area, too, to pick your own cherries. doorcounty.com

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Nestled along the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is a breathtaking city brimming with culture. Take a cruise on the river, a guided tour, or relax with a wine and whiskey tasting. Premier outdoor destinations also await, with top venues for rock climbing, road and mountain biking trails, horseback riding, and a visit to Rock City on Lookout Mountain. Thirteen museums, ranging in topics from the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts to the Chattanooga Selfie Museum, offer up activities for visitors of any age. visitchattanooga.com 

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Legendary history and culture await around every corner of Santa Fe. The art scene accommodates traditional to contemporary, the eclectic food options offer something for everyone, and the nation’s oldest capital city provides a catalyst for an explosion of culture. The heart of downtown—the Santa Fe Plaza—has hosted annual events, markets, and concerts for the past 400 years. And last but not least, Bandelier National Monument houses 23,000 acres of designated wilderness and ancestral pueblo dwellings to explore. santafe.org

Holland, Michigan

Holland welcomes residents from across the globe who seek to be a part of a city rich in tradition. Nelis’ Dutch Village gives visitors a taste of the Netherlands from more than a century ago. Visitors are welcomed by traditional dancers, winding canals, and wonderful farmhouse-style cheeses. The Windmill Island Gardens offers 36 acres of blooming tulips in the spring, as well as the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the United States. For an international destination, Holland—the region in the Netherlands—also makes a sensational spring getaway. holland.org

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