When you think of summer fun in Minnesota, you most likely think of the Twin Cities. The Minnesota Zoo, Valleyfair and Mall of America are hot tourist destinations, and for good reason. They're awesome! However, there are unique things to do in Southern Minnesota too, specifically the Mankato area. There's enough fun to last the whole summer if you're willing and able. The best part? You get more bang for your buck. Most of these things cost little, if anything at all.
Related Post: Vacation Ideas for Minnesota Lake Country
Unique Mankato Minnesota staycation ideas
Feed the Animals
Sibley Park has been a Mankato landmark for over 100 years. Recently, the play area and petting zoo have been completely revamped. Sibley Farm animals include alpacas, calves, goats, peacocks, horses, pigs, lambs, chicks and ducklings. Koi fish are in the pond. A quarter will buy enough food to feed the animals. If you're a shutterbug, the flower gardens are the perfect place to get some unique shots.
Cost: Free admission
Cheer them On
It seems like every baseball fan in Minnesota cheers for the Twins, but don't forget that there are some great hometown teams as well. The Mankato MoonDogs play several times a week in the summer. There is entertainment, special occasion nights, and cheap food and admission. It's a great family outing.
If you're in Mankato in late July/early August, watch the Minnesota Vikings as they gear up for their upcoming football season. Vikings Training Camp has been held in Mankato for 47 years. When you visit, stick around for refreshments and an autograph. The players stay on the MNSUM campus and can often be spotted around town. Look for them at Jake's Pizza.
Cost: MoonDogs $6 general admission, Training Camp FREE ($7 parking)
Catch a Concert
Mankato has hosted up-and-coming acts like recent American Idol winner Phillip Phillips as well as legends like Bob Dylan and Elton John. Smaller venues make Mankato a great place to watch live music. For a unique Mankato music experience, visit the Vetter Stone Amphitheater and the Verizon Wireless Center websites to see their schedule of events.
Unique Mankato Wineries
In the past few years, vineyards have been popping up in the most unlikely of places — including Southern Minnesota. While it will never be Napa Valley, the Minnesota River Valley is a fun place to sample some wine, have a bite to eat and enjoy the outdoors. Indian Island Winery and Chankasa Wines are both feature patio seating and live entertainment. Their wines are relatively frugal.
Cost: Under $20 per person
Practice Art Appreciation
Take Mankato's CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour you'll find thirty-four sculptures by artists from around the world. Take a self-guided sculpture walk by downloading the CityArt audio tour from the CityArt website, www.cityartmankato.com, or by scanning the QR code located on each sculpture nameplate with your smartphone. Tour maps/brochures and Kids scavenger hunt maps are located in the voting boxes along the tour or also on the website.
Grab a Bite to Eat
Mankato's restaurant scene is sure to please even the most discriminating foodie. For upscale Bistro fare, visit Number 4. Casual breakfast with local “flavor”? Try the Wagon Wheel. If the weather is nice, venture up Highway 22 and sit on the deck at Westwood Marina for a beer and a burger. If you want more of a culinary escape, try one of Mankato's ethnic eateries such as Taj Mahal (Indian), Pho Saigon (Vietnamese), Tokyo Sushi and Hibachi (Japanese), Olives (Mediterranean) or The Neighbors (Italian).
Get Active Outdoors
Mankato has some great spots for outdoor sports enthusiasts, whether you like to bike, jog, swim, or kayak. Visit Minneopa Falls and hike down to the scenic overlook by the waterfall. Bring your camera – it's a great photo op. Bray Park near Madison Lake is great for the kids. It has nice beach, playground, and picnic area. Bike the Red Jacket Trail from the YMCA to the Rapidan “Dam Store” and treat yourself to a slice of their amazing pie.
Thanks to the Minnesota Moms of the Mommysavers Forums for their great Minnesota Staycation and Daytrip tips and suggestions! Add your own ideas in the comment section below.