The rustic and charming town of Mankato, Minnesota, is an ideal destination for those who love the outdoors and quality time with family.
Located in Blue Earth County, the city is often hailed as one of the best college towns in the US.
The famed Minnesota State University is headquartered here along with two other colleges.
But most visitors come for the natural attractions and historic destinations that the city has in store.
From gorgeous waterfalls to large art collections, Mankato has something for everyone.
So plan your next vacation with this town in mind.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Mankato, MN.
Trek the Scenic Trails of Minneopa State Park
If you want your vacation to focus more on nature and the outdoors, Mankato has several spots that will bring your closer to the natural world.
One of these is the majestic Minneopa State Park, a 4,643-acre wilderness with babbling creeks, thick forests, stunning geological formations, and the famous Minneopa Falls.
This scenic waterfall is a local favorite, and many come here to appreciate the marvelous views and take a photo or two.
Another must-see attraction is the park’s Bison Drive, a flat, grassy area that a herd of bison call their home.
You can drive your car into this area, and if you’re lucky, they might come close and interact with you.
It’s an experience comparable to Safari rides in Africa.
If you want to stay for a few more days, there are well-maintained campsites within the park that provide a serene and convenient experience.
Play a Few Rounds at Terrace View Golf Course
Terrace View Golf Course is a nine-hole public golf course that is ideal for players of any skill level.
The verdant grounds, challenging tree and sand hazards, well-maintained tee areas, and world-class design make for great gameplay that beginners and professionals will love.
Play a few rounds during your visit and have fun with friends or family!
If you don’t have the equipment, our pro shop is stocked with everything you need, whether it’s gloves, clubs, or balls.
Once done, you can stop by the newly renovated clubhouse for tasty sandwiches and a refreshing drink.
Interact With Friendly Animals at Sibley Park
Located where Blue Earth and Minessota River meet, this picturesque facility has some of the most dreamy views in the city.
The part is split into two parts by a hill, and within the grounds are the Sibley Farm, children’s play structures, landscaped grounds, and a stone bridge over a pond.
Kids will have a fantastic time at the Farm, as they can pet and feed different animals, such as fluffy lambs, peacocks, alpacas, chickens, and more.
The playground is also farm-themed, with miniature barns and haystacks for children to climb.
Things get magical during winter, especially during the Holidays.
At night, the whole park lights up with millions of tiny light bulbs wound around the trees and structures in the area.
There is also a skating rink for public recreation as well as a hockey rink for intense matches.
So whatever the season, this famous park is a must-add destination to your itinerary.
Relax and Mingle at Mankato Brewery
After a full day of touring, you might want to relax and sip delicious beers as you reminisce about your special moments in Mankato.
The perfect destination for this blissful experience is Mankato Brewery.
It is a full production brewery that creates fine, well-balanced beverages that reflect the heritage and beauty of Mankato.
They’ve been around since 1967, constantly innovating and tinkering with recipes to produce specialty beers for locals and visitors alike.
Head over to the taproom while you’re at the facility and try a refreshing mug.
There’s live music by talented local performers and delicious popcorn for those who want snacks.
It’s the perfect way to cap off your day in Mankato!
Brave the Cold at Mount Kato
Minnesota is known for its wide range of winter-related activities, and one of these is skiing.
At Mankato, the premier wintertime destination is Mount Kato.
This scenic winter sports facility offers many activities for the whole family, such as snowboarding, snow tubing, and skiing.
You’ll have an exhilarating experience conquering the gentle slopes and cruising over packed snow.
Or you could simply find a good spot to view the cold forests below and take stunning landscape photos.
During summer, you can try cycling the rugged biking trails or go hiking through the wooded areas.
There are outfitters in Mankato for both seasons, so there’s no need to worry about where you’ll get your equipment.
Stay Awhile at Land of Memories Park
Land of Memories Park is another riverside park, but the main difference it has with Riverfront Park is the camping opportunities.
It’s located adjacent to Sibley Park, with secluded spots, spacious grounds, and well-equipped facilities.
There are around 36 campsites scattered in the 100-acre area, and it has spaces for both tents and RVs.
While you’re here, you can roam around the greenery, explore the trails through the trees, or go fishing at Minnesota or Blue Earth river.
You might also want to try your hand at the disc golf course, which can accommodate a large number of players, or have a quick match at the soccer field.
Let the Kids Play at Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota
For those who are bringing kids, the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota is a must-add destination.
It’s a place where kids can learn, socialize, and try new things that will stimulate their imagination.
There are many interactive programs, engaging exhibits, and amazing collections that will ignite your kids' curiosity.
Exhibits vary throughout the year, but more enduring features are treehouses, a quarry with limestone, play structures, and fabric vegetable farms.
These are all designed with every child’s optimal development in mind, so some features really stimulate creativity and critical thinking in children.
With the number of things to do, your kid will never get bored.
They might not even want to leave the place altogether!
Spot Local Wildlife at Rasmussen Woods
In the middle of the city, next to Minnesota State University, is Rasmussen Woods.
But because of its size and its relative pristineness, you might think you’re in the middle of nowhere.
This nature sanctuary has more than 150 acres of explorable grounds dotted by hiking trails, meadows, thick woods, and wetlands.
One of the most remarkable features is the scenic floating trail, which allows you to cross the small areas of swampy terrain.
For wildlife lovers, the area offers plenty of opportunities for animal encounters.
You’ll see birds in flight, grazing herds of deer, and butterflies fluttering about as you go deeper and deeper into the trails.
To learn more about the fauna and flora here, visit Elk’s Nature Center located within the park.
Take Stunning Photos at Minnemishinona Falls
Although smaller, the Minnemishinona Falls is as majestic as Minneopa falls.
It has a 42-foot drop, much taller than Minneopa, but is relatively narrow.
Surrounding it are stone cliffs arranged like a half-circle around the pool where the water falls into, making for Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.
Find the perfect spot for your photos on the bridge overlooking the falls or by the shores of the pool.
The best time to visit is during spring after heavy rains, as the melt-off increases the volume of water, turning the natural feature into a raging waterfall.
Winter is also a magical time because the water freezes and makes a column of solid ice from the pool all the way to the top.
You can visit anytime you want as the admission is free, and it is located right next to the road.
Even lazy hikers can easily reach it!
Tour the Galleries of Carnegie Art Center
If you want to pause from nature-related activities and celebrate human talent, visit the Carnegie Art Center.
It was established to promote visual and performance art in the area, and this mission is evident in the beautiful collections and engaging events held at the facility.
While you’re here, you’ll find paintings, photographs, sculptures, murals, and other pieces made by talented local artists.
It also holds live events inside the facility or on the scenic lawns outside, such as concerts and art exhibitions.
For a fee, you can also join one of the art classes that are part of their educational programs.
You’ll learn how to make beautiful watercolor paintings, understand the basics of composition and colors, and take part in many other workshops.
Make a Stopover at Riverfront Park
For a relaxing day in front of the Minnesota River, head over to Riverfront Park.
The spacious and modern outdoor destination offers panoramic and uninterrupted views of the river.
Within this beautiful facility, the Vetter Stone Amphitheater stands with its large metallic sculptures installed by internationally renowned artist Dale Eldred.
This site serves as the venue for concerts, musical acts, and other performances.
During August, you can catch Mankato’s famed RibFest held right in the park.
You’ll get a taste of premium, savory ribs while listening to live music by local and national bands.
A little farther to the riverbank is a convenient canoe and kayak launch that gives you access right into the Minnesota River.
For those with kids, there are play structures where they can hang around all day and play with other children.
Sample Delicious Drinks at Javens Family Vineyard & Winery
It may come as a surprise to outsiders, who only know Minessota for snow and hockey, that there is a thriving wine industry in the state.
Within Mankato, Javens Family Vineyard & Winery is one of the top destinations for premium drinks.
The business takes advantage of the area's humid continental climate to grow lush grapes, which are then processed into aromatic and great-tasting wines.
You’ll have an amazing time sampling some of their finest reds and whites while seated at the facility’s open patio.
There is also live music by local performers—the cherry on top of this magnificent experience.
Charter a Fishing Trip to Minnesota River
A significant segment of the Minnesota River passes in Mankato, giving locals and visitors lots of fishing opportunities.
Canoeing and kayaking are recommended modes of transport to reach the deeper parts of the river, but if you really want to go to the best fishing spots, then a boating charter would be the best choice.
These local fishermen know where the game is, and they’ll bring you to those locations with their trusty boats.
Once you’re there, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch game fish swimming underneath.
Minnesota River is rich with smallmouth bass, catfish, walleyes, and carp.
You might even catch the enormous and elusive paddlefish and take it home as a trophy.
Explore the Scenic Red Jacket Trail
With a maximum length of 13.1 miles, the Red Jacket Trail is a great, scenic route for biking enthusiasts who want to see more of Mankato and its surrounding areas.
Starting from Mankato, the trail will bring you all the way south to the town of Rapidan.
Along the way, you’ll encounter some of the most panoramic sites on this side of Minnesota.
You’ll see the scenic Blue Earth River winding its way along the landscape, pass by Mount Kato, and go over a wooden bridge that crosses the Le Seuer River.
The well-maintained road adds to this splendid experience, with forested segments and paved paths that guarantee a smooth and picturesque ride.
For those who don’t have equipment, there are many outfitters in Mankato that rent bikes, helmets, shin guards, and other gear.
Make sure to visit them before you start your journey.
Cruise Blue Earth River on a Kayak
Minnesota river is wide and can be crowded with the many fishermen and tourists exploring the waterways.
So if you want a more isolated river experience, then a trip to the Blue Earth River is a great alternative.
It’s a tributary of the Minnesota River, so it’s much smaller and has more varied sceneries.
The best way to explore is through kayaking or river rafting, with many businesses in Mankato offering equipment and touring services.
From turbulent rapids and smooth bends to gorgeous riverside sceneries, Blue Earth has something for everyone.
You can even camp on one of the banks and enjoy a true outdoor experience away from the city noise.
Mankato’s strategic location at the confluence of Minnesota and Blue Earth River makes it a prime location for many water-related attractions.
It’s also a haven for nature lovers because of the many parks and trails scattered within its borders.
So for your next nature trip, make Mankato your top choice!