(credit: City of Mankato, MN/Facebook)

Located at the intersection of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers, Mankato is the fourth largest city in Minnesota outside of the Twin Cities metro area. Home to Minnesota State University at Mankato, as well as the site of Minnesota Vikings training camp every summer, sports viewing opportunities abound in the midst of a city quietly nestled amongst small Midwestern farming communities. If big-time sports aren’t your thing, plenty of shopping, dining and recreational activities also exist, making this geographically centered southern Minnesota city a great day trip for anyone.

Getting There 

From the Twin Cities metro area, a 90-minute drive down 169 will drop you right in the heart of Mankato. If you prefer a more scenic route, an hour-long drive down Interstate 35 will drop you in Faribault, and a 45-minute cruise westward on Minnesota state highway 60 will drop you at the eastern edge of Mankato. River Hills Mall will be your first Mankato exit, otherwise MN-60 merges with US-14 west and will take you right through Mankato. While not quiet as direct, MN-60 will take you through a few towns along the way, offering the chance for detours to small town shops and picnic locations.

(credit: Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota/Facebook)

What To Do

Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota
121 E. Cherry St.
Mankato, MN 56001
(507) 386-0279

Price: $5/free children younger than 1/$50 annual family membership, with unlimited visits for up to five family members for one year

It’s not often that you get a chance to both find an enjoyable afternoon activity and help shape the future of something as ambitious as a museum – but this is just such a chance. Building on the success of the Children’s Play Lab, the new temporary location of the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota offers visitors yet another chance to explore future exhibits while providing valuable feedback to help shape the featured exhibits to be housed within the museum as it settles into its permanent location. If you have been to the Children’s Play Lab in the past, some of your favorite exhibits are back, along with great new additions.

(credit: City Center Public Art Tour Brochure)

City Center Public Art Tour
523 S. Second St.
Mankato, MN 56001
(507) 387-1008

Rivaling the most accommodating schedule of any art display, this self-guided public art tour is a trip through Mankato’s City Center, allowing participants to explore works of art dating as far back as 1894. Offering everything from religious sculpture to historical architecture (see the available map online), this walk will take you past 17 distinct pieces, with ample opportunities to stop and grab a cup of coffee along the way. Also included on the same map are the eight WordWalk contest-winning poems, each of which has now been preserved for the future by being carved into a portion of the sidewalk.

(credit: Wow!Zone/Facebook)

2030 Adams St.
Mankato, MN 56001
(507) 625-2695

If you’re bringing the whole family along for the trip, or simply looking to reclaim a bit of your youth, this family entertainment center might be just the ticket. While not likely to win any awards for its menu, the food is not intended to be the centerpiece of this experience.  WowZone offers a full arcade, bowling, laser tag, mini golf and party rooms to accommodate party groups. If your young ones are a little older, feel free to turn them loose with some game tokens and retire to the sports bar for a bit of a respite from the flashing lights and loud noises of the arcade.

(credit: Number 4/Facebook)


Number 4 American Bar and Kitchen
124 East Walnut St
Mankato, MN 56001
(507) 244-1444

In the owner’s mind, Number 4’s menu includes air, fire, earth and water, all four elements of culinary perfection. Four was also chosen as an indicator of raw energy, stability and creativity, all of which comes out in this delicious dining experience. Taking from that interpretation, the Number 4 American Bar and Kitchen specializes in high-quality cuisine from all corners of the world. Continuing with the numeric theme, its menu also proudly boasts entrees featuring ingredients from all four seasons. Expect to find both traditional pub food items as well as a bevy of original dishes sure to make a meal here unforgettable.

(credit: mankatomnhotel.com)

Where To Stay

Mankato City Center Hotel
101 E. Main St.
Mankato, MN 56001
(507) 345-1234

Price: from $119.99 per night

Mankato’s City Center Hotel is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Mankato, featuring 151 rooms, along with ample meeting/banquet space. Enjoy the indoor swimming pool, as well as a game room perfect for the whole family. Its skyway connects to the Verizon Wireless (formerly Alltel, Midwest Wireless) Civic Center. Recent room updates, along with free WiFi, covered parking and unlimited use of the gym round out the typical amenities offered. As a bonus, pets are also welcome for a $35 non-refundable charge applies.

Rich Rein has been featured in Midwest Outdoors and Outdoors Weekly magazines and has been a contributor to MyBuckStory.com and Examiner.com. He is a Minnesota transplant staying busy holding down a career as a software developer by day and a firefighter/EMT by night. His work can be found at Examiner.com.