Summer is abound and that means great weather and more time to explore the beautiful state of Minnesota! I had the opportunity to head down to Mankato for the MN Govenor’s Fishing Opener in May to explore around the city and discover all the fun things to do! While my trip was in partnership with Explore Minnesota and Visit Mankato, these statements and opinions are all my own!
Clocking in around 1 hour from the twin cities metro, Mankato is a great option to add to your list for a fun day trip or even a nice weekend trip without having to go too far! And bonus, there is things for everyone to do! There are several biking and hiking trails, one of the coolest State Parks in MN (hello, Minneopa!), amazing eats, shops, and places to grab a drink too! Read on below to see what we got up to for our weekend in Mankato!
Minneopa State Park
One of Mankato’s shining gems is for sure Minneopa State Park. Make sure to start your day off with the Bison Drive. Drive through the 325 acres where the bison roam free. The bison here are a part of the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd which is managed to protect and preserve their genetic diversity. Some days you can see them from afar, but we lucked out with them being right along the road when we visited! Please be respectful of their space and remember to stay inside your vehicle at all times! After the Bison drive make sure to check out the rest of the park and don’t miss the epic waterfall too!
Art Around Town
Mankato boasts a ton of local art from murals to a walking sculpture tour and more. Another unique thing Mankato has is its Silo Art. You really can’t miss it as you drive throughout the greater Mankato area and downtown. It spans over 8 silos, standing 135 feel tall. It was commissioned in 2018 to represent the shared ideals of community and diversity in consultation with various Native and non-Native community representatives.
While the Silo Art was my personal favorite, I did love how colorful Mankato was with all the locally painted murals around town – especially in Old Town! You truly just need to drive around and see if for yourself to discover your next favorite photo op!
During your Mankato adventures, you’ll definitely need a moment to refuel with a little jolt of caffeine! While I visited Mankato, I was able to try out 3 different coffee spots and they were all so good! If you’re heading to Old Town, make sure to check out Coffee Hag – you can’t miss the colorfully painted windows and the historic building! It’s nice and inviting inside with ample space to hang out. I highly suggest the Bee’s Knees! River Rock Coffee you can find downtown Mankato right on Front Street. This modern yet cozy space has a full coffee menu with a fun rotating seasonal drink menu! I had to try their current spring special at the time and it was delightful. They also have a full cafe menu for a bite to eat for breakfast or lunch! If you’re looking for your neighborhood coffee shop, plan to head to the Fillin’ Station Coffeehouse. It’s been serving up coffee for over 20 years! Pop in to grab a pastry or coffee and check out local artists too as they debut a new one each month.
Mankato’s food scene definitely has some gems and you definitely will not go hungry if you come to visit! We loved starting our day at Tandem Bagel. It’s a casual, no-fuss bagelry with numerous bagel and schmear options but also has a great selection of breakfast and lunch bagel sandwiches as well! You can find an array of breakfast pastries as well. If you’re looking for a casual eatery and that classic pizza pie, look no further than Pagliai’s Pizza. It’s the oldest pizzeria in Mankato, opening its doors back in 1969. Definitely try their Works pizza or really anything with their sausage on it. It’s SO good! Finally, if you’re looking for something a little more upscale and modern, try Nolabelle Kitchen. I highly suggest making reservations as it does fill up quickly for dinner and weekend brunch! You can’t miss their crafted cocktails or mimosa flights! They have unique dishes packed full of flavor that really showcase our Midwest roots. For dessert or to cool off on a hot day – make sure to stop into Mom and Pop’s ice cream too! It’s a quaint little ice cream shop on the corner in Old Town and they offer ice cream, shakes, frozen lemonades, and more!
One of my favorite things we did in Mankato was shop around Old Town and pop into all the local boutiques. I obviously love supporting local businesses and the strip on Riverfront Driver has a ton of shops to pop into and make a day of it! Start at Bonita, which is an adorable jewelry and gift shop, owned by my friend Ginger, who also owns Baubles and Bobbies. You can see her handmade jewelry on display for purchase there along with an amazing curated selection of gifts and good for both young and old. Head down the street and you’ll find HazelKin and Co, another modern gift and lifestyle boutique. They have a nicely merchandised shop with the cutest selections of housewares, kitchen items, and giftables! Around the corner from Bonita, you can find 108 Alchemy which is part art gallery part shop. You’ll see several artists’ works on display, with everything inside available for purchase. Finally, check out Vivian Rose Boutique downtown (across from the Fillin’ Station Coffeehouse). I love the whimsical entry and it’s a beautiful women’s boutique offering fun accessories, home goods, and apparel. Make sure to chat with all these lovely shop owners too – they truly put all their pride and joy into these spaces and you can really tell how much it brings them joy to share it with you.
Sibley Farm + Park
If you’re looking to spend some quality time outdoors in the city, make sure to visit Sibley Park and Sibley Farm! Sibley Park is a gorgeous city park tucked away and you can explore the little paths throughout the gardens, see the fountain and the Gazebo Right next to it when you arrive you can’t miss the bright red barn – a telltale sign of Sibley Farm! Pop in to see the farm animals – we caught glimpses of the cutest baby goats! There are feed machines on site and it’s free to enjoy but you can consider a free will donation as well. There’s a great playground for kiddos to burn off some energy as well. Even though we don’t have kids, we enjoyed seeing the animals and feeding them too! They have mini donkeys, alpacas, turkeys, goats, and more!
What’s a trip without some locally brewed beer or tastings of local wine?! We also love to check out the brewery scene here and Mankato didn’t disappoint! We opted for LocAle Brewing on this trip as it was right in the Downtown area and close to every place we were boppin’ around! It was spacious inside and had a nice outside area as well. It’s been open since 2018 and they have a rotating menu of fun and classic brews that are approachable and friendly! The make sure to use local Midwest ingredients in their beers as much as possible to really embody their name. If you are wanting to try another spot, definitely head out of downtown to try out Mankato Brewing. We unfortunately didn’t try them this time, but I’ve great great things, and is another option while in town! They were the first production brewery in town since 1967! If beer isn’t quite up your alley, head out of town a bit north to Chankaska Creek Winery and Distillery. I have to say first off, the grounds are absolutely stunning. Situated on 25 acres, it is Minnesota’s second-largest winery. Start in the Tasting room upon your arrival to get the lay of the land them explore the winery and ranch. We love their patio in the summer – it is truly breathtaking. Make sure to sip a glass of their La Crescent wine – it’s our favorite MN wine!
Phew! Thanks for making it all the way down here 🙂 Now, did I hit up your favorites? Anything I missed? I am always open to suggestions and recommendations to keep sharing the gems of our great state of Minnesota! You can always drop me a note at email@example.com or find me on Instagram at @lizannelately. See you next time!