Mankato a Hub for History and Biking Trips
The Blue Earth County Heritage Center, at the corner of Cherry and Fifth streets, offers peeks into Mankato's past. In fact, there's a miniature model of downtown as it looked in the late 1800s. Early settler life, the riverboat era, and hometown author Maud Hart Lovelace are all highlighted. The most poignant stories are those accounts of Dakota Indians and European-American settlers who lived through the conflict between these two groups in 1862.
You can pick up a brochure here for a self-guided tour of 33 sites related to the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862, stretching from St. Peter to Montevideo. After the conflict, 38 Dakota warriors were hung in downtown Mankato. Today, the site is marked at Main St. and Riverfront Drive, where a buffalo sculpted from local Kasota stone stands as a tribute to the spirit of the Dakota people.
The Mankato Mdewakanton Powwow is always open to the public, to experience the ceremonial dancing, traditional foods and crafts of the Dakota community. It's held in Land of Memories Park on the outskirts of town.
A couple of blocks from the Heritage Center is the Hubbard House, at Broad and Warren streets. Restored to its 1905 appearance, this 1871 three-story, white-brick home is open for tours of 10 or more that may be scheduled throughout the year. Next door is a carriage house with antique cars and buggies, and colorful Victorians gardens. Old house buffs can stay at the Butler House Bed and Breakfast, a 1905 English-style mansion.
Maud Hart Lovelace wrote the Besty-Tacy children's book series published in the 1940s and '50s. They were very popular, and another generation of little girls still reads these tales of growing up at the turn of the century in small town based on Mankato. Fans of the series can see the sites mentioned in these books by following a self-guided tour outlined in a brochure available at the Heritage Center. The tour is long, with 50 sites mentioned, but the homes of the characters Betsy, Tacy and Tib are all within a couple of blocks of each other.
For another chapter of history altogether, there's the Guns of the Pioneers Old West Gun Museum and shop at 300 Belgrade Avenue in North Mankato. Displayed are over 100 guns from the Civil War era to about 1910.
If you like biking, you'll like Mankato. The western end of the Sakatah Singing Hills trail begins just out of town; the paved trail meanders through the countryside for 39 miles to Faribault. Beginning at the Mankato West High School, the six-mile Red Jack Trail heads out of town and into the wooded hills, passing over two trestle bridges, one high above the LeSueur River. The maples, sumac and elm shading the trail are colorful in the fall. And the Mt. Kato Ski Area is a mountain bike park during the no-snow season.
Nice side trips from Mankato are visits to see the double waterfall and old mill at Minneopa State Park and a trip to Morgan Creek Vineyards, about 20 miles west of the city off Hwy. 68; tours and tastings are available Fridays through Sundays.
In the area: