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7 Reasons to Visit Greater Mankato

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Reeling in the catch of the day  / Visit Mankato

7 Reasons to Visit Greater Mankato

By Explore Minnesota

As Minnesota gets set to celebrate its 75th annual Governor's Fishing Opener in Mankato — a first, believe it or not — we thought we'd share seven of the city's major selling points, starting with a strong arts & culture scene and one of the state's biggest public art pieces.... 

Arden Mills Grain Silos art by Guido Van Helton

Arden Mills Grain Silos art by Guido Van Helton / Sara Huges

1. Vibrant Arts Community 

Just a short drive from Minneapolis — about 75 minutes! — Mankato is a thriving hub of regional theater, music, dance and visual arts programs. Applaud a rousing theater production, peruse a gallery full of work by popular local artists, or reconnect under the stars at an outdoor concert. 

In 2020, the internationally recognized, Australian-based artist Guido Van Helton also traveled to the heart of southern Minnesota to help tell the story of Greater Mankato through a massive mural at the Ardent Mills Grain Silos. The largest structure in the City Center portrays a community with a rich heritage, a thriving present, and a future that's full of limitless potential.

Find out more about Mankato's CityArt programming here

A father and daughter hike alongside Minneopa Falls

A father and daughter hike alongside Minneopa Falls / Jim Henderson

2. Minneopa State Park

The word Minneopa comes from the Dakota language and is interpreted to mean “water falling twice,” referring to the beautiful waterfalls of the Minneopa Creek. Walk the trail which encircles the falls, leading down a limestone stairway to the valley below. Then ascend the opposite side and enjoy a panoramic view of the valley which reveals the underlying geology of this area.

Other key attractions at Minneopa State Park include Seppmann Mill, a wind-driven grist mill fashioned in German-style from native stone and lumber; oak savanna and native prairie grasslands that overlook the scenic Minnesota River Valley; and a herd of bison that was reintroduced into the park using the very same genetics as the animals Lewis and Clark first gazed upon in the 1830s.

R.D. Hubbard House in Mankato

R.D. Hubbard House  / Visit Mankato

3. Areas of Historical Significance

Mankato is located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers. It was originally named “Mahkato” (meaning greenish-blue earth) by its early inhabitants, the Dakota. Today, many memorials and buildings exist to commemorate the diverse and important history that has shaped the Greater Mankato area, including such must-sees as the R.D. Hubbard House, Blue Earth County Historical Society, Betsy-Tacy Houses and Land of Memories Park

Men biking Red Jacket Trail Mankato

Men biking Red Jacket Trail, Mankato / SPX Sports

4. Trails and Hiking

Whether you’re looking for a serious hike or a scenic stroll, Greater Mankato is home to more than 500 miles of paved trails. Designated a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, Greater Mankato features some of Minnesota’s best bike trails, mountain bike trails and scenic roadways. They include the 13-mile asphalt and crushed stone Red Jacket Trail, which winds through open countryside; the 39-mile Sakatah Singing Hills Trail, which sits along an abandoned railroad; and the Minnesota River Trail that highlights Mankato's prime valley location along the water. 

Children playing at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota

Children playing at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota, Mankato / Visit Mankato

5. Fun Family Adventures

Looking to enjoy the warm sunshine? Splash around local pools and splash pads. Run, climb, and explore the truly accessible Fallenstein playground. Visit the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota to expand the minds of kids of all ages. And experience some family bonding with beginner-friendly fishing at numerous parks.

Fishing on Madison Lake in Mankato

Fishing on Madison Lake  / Visit Mankato

6. Get Hooked on Fishing! 

Whether you are a seasoned angler looking to win a tournament or simply want a weekend fishing getaway with your kids, Greater Mankato has what you are looking for. From shore, boat, kayak or canoe, you can cast your line into the area's many rivers, lakes and ponds and find some of the best fishing available in the upper Midwest.

A paddling event at the Solstice Outdoor Music Festival

A paddling event at the Solstice Outdoor Music Festival  / Visit Mankato

7. Outdoor Recreation on the Water 

Greater Mankato has several fantastic options for you to get outside and make some waves, whether it's walking along a waterfall or participating in a lake, river or pool activity. There's even an annual Solstice Outdoor Music Festival that features a 90-minute float down the Blue Earth River and back (a.k.a. the Paddle Jam).