Old-World Charm Greets Visitors to New Ulm

By Erica Wacker

Domeiers store in New Ulm in winter_Kyle Krenz
Domeier's Christmas Store has been a New Ulm icon since 1934 / Photo by Kyle Krenz

Driving into New Ulm, the sign reading “Willkommen” is the first of many tributes this southern Minnesota town pays to its German heritage. Old traditions hold true here, especially in the winter months, with holiday celebrations and festivals modeled after those in the motherland.

Mixed in with the old are plenty of new things to see, too, from downtown restaurants to museum exhibits. Even if you’ve visited before, now’s the time to discover how New Ulm’s rich past continues to shape its ever-changing present.

Schell's Brewery

August Schell Brewing Company, established in 1860, is the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the country. The New Ulm landmark offers tours (daily in summer, Friday-Sunday in winter and spring) that include stories about company history and samples of six varieties in the brewery's Rathskellar. Most of the recipes remain unchanged, with seasonal varieties like the Snowstorm, Oktoberfest and Bock only brewed once a year.

Schell's is also the site of two of New Ulm's biggest annual festivals. In February, Bock Fest attracts thousands of revelers with live music, brats and sauerkraut, a scavenger hunt and, of course, beer. The same weekend, the historic Turner Hall on State Street plays host to Fasching, a German Mardi Gras celebration with a costume contest, dancing, food and drinks. Come back in the fall for Oktoberfest, which takes over the entire town for two weekends of polka, parades and prost!

Museums, Shopping & Outdoor Fun

Brown County Historical Society New Ulm
The Brown County Historical Society is impressive inside and out

Two downtown museums honor the area’s past with modern exhibits. At the Brown County Historical Society, the story of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 is told through interactive touchscreen displays and videos. The exhibit won an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

Around the corner, the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame celebrates artists from all genres, from country to polka to opera, who have made a significant contribution to the state’s music scene. New artists are inducted every November at a special ceremony.

You can't leave New Ulm without picking up a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Peruse the antique and gift shops on Minnesota Street, including GutenTag Haus, Lambrecht’s and Hope & Faith Floral & Gifts.

For outdoor recreation, Flandrau State Park has year-round trails, a sand-bottom swimming pool and beach, picnic areas, and campsites available for rent, including a former Civilian Conservation Corps stone cabin. For biking, check out the 13-mile Circle Trail for a tour of the city on two wheels.

Where to Eat & Drink

Starkellar Brewery New Ulm couple
Starkellar Brewery specializes in sour beers

Once you've worked up an appetite, make a beeline for the iconic Veigel’s Kaiserhoff, which opened in 1938 with three dishes on the menu and now offers a full range of American and German fare, including schnitzels, bratwurst and German potato salad. At Turner Hall, murals painted in 1873 provide a scenic backdrop for dinner or drinks in the Rathskeller.

Owned by the Schell's family, Starkellar Brewing specializes in sour beers, which are aged in massive wood tanks that serve as the focal point of the taproom. South of town, Morgan Creek Vineyards is worth the drive for a vineyard tour, wine tastings, wood-fired pizzas, and fun events including the annual Maifest in the spring and Grape Stomp in October.

Places to Stay

Lodging options include two bed-and-breakfasts and a handful of hotels along Broadway Street. For more information and help planning your trip, visit newulm.com.