Mankato Minnesota is one of the prettiest vacation spots in Minnesota, and is particularly famous for its gorgeous natural scenery. Located about 80 miles southwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, Mankato MN has miles of hiking trails snaking through the forests and mountains of the surrounding Minnesota River Valley, and the local area has an abundance of rivers for canoeing, kayaking and rafting. There are a number of public parks and you can even go skiing and snowboarding on Mt. Kato, a local ski resort. The city also has some great paved biking trails for you to explore the town on two wheels.
Mankato's most famous attractions are its many nature parks. In the center of the city, Riverfront Park is a central hub connecting more than 60 miles of hiking and biking trails in the Sakatah State Trail and Minnesota River Trail systems. It provides access to the Minnesota River, where you can go kayaking and canoeing, while enjoying the wildflowers and greenery along its banks. Riverfront Park is also a central location for festivals and events, especially during the summer, with its amphitheater and large lawn. There is a playground here for kids to enjoy.
The Minnesota River Trail along the waterfront is a great place for cycling enthusiasts. It follows the banks of the river and allows you to bike among a beautiful canopy of trees, wildflowers, and some impressive limestone cliffs. There are some very peaceful and beautiful views of the river along the trail, allowing you to escape the city and get out into nature's bounty.
Rasmussen Woods Nature Area is one of the larger parks in Mankato Minnesota. It covers 150 acres of woods, meadows, and wetlands, and has several miles of walking trails. Its diverse ecosystem hosts a large variety of wildlife, and it is a prime location for bird and animal watching.
If you're willing to travel a little farther out of town, you'll come to Minneopa State Park, east of Mankato MN. Minneopa State Park boasts a pair of twin waterfalls that are the largest falls in Southern Minnesota. The waterfalls have carved a gorge through the sandstone, and it is a majestic sight, popular with people taking wedding or graduation pictures. Around the waterfalls there are several trails through the gorge, and you can also go fishing in the streams of the park (though don’t forget to check that you have the right permits first). If you want to stay the night, you can also camp at Minneopa State Park at one of the well-equipped campgrounds. A historic old grist mill is a popular sightseeing attraction in the park as well.
Williams Minneopa Learning Center is a great alternative to trekking in Minneopa State Park if you prefer an easier walk. It is a handicap-accessible site with over 2 miles of paved trails and an interpretation center. It traverses some beautiful spots, including lakes, prairie vegetation, as well as several Indian mounds and an Indian village site.
For families, Sibley Park and Spring Lake Park in Mankato Minnesota offer some fun activities for kids. Sibley Park has several picnic shelters and easy walking trails, and a petting zoo that is sure to be popular with children. At Spring Lake Park, children can hand-feed the ducks and geese at the duck pond and play on the playground equipment.
Meanwhile, the ski resort at Mt Kato is small but has all of the requisite amenities such as ski lifts and snow machines. The area gets plenty of snow in the winter, so this would be a fun activity when the snow gets too deep to hike the park trails easily.
As a popular location for conferences and retreats, Mankato MN has plenty of hotels, from mid-range chain hotels such as a Holiday Inn and a Hilton Garden Hotel, to motels and some charming inns and B&B's. The downtown area has been undergoing a renaissance in the past few years, and there are great places to stay and many new restaurants right in the center of town.
Image: Aaron Landry, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (flickr)