A Kid-Friendly Guide to Mankato
Best Cities for Families: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Mankato
Your kids might be begging for another family trip, but what do you do if you have kids of various ages? Kiddie pools are good for toddlers, but older kids want adventures and Instagram moments to make their friends jealous. If this is an issue with your family, plan your next family vacation in Mankato, Minnesota.
With gorgeous nature parks, cool museums and fun local attractions, Mankato has a lot of options for vacation activities, no matter how old (or young) your kids are. Plus, a lot of these activities are fun for adults, too. Make your next family vacation a trip to Mankato.
Top Things to Do With Kids in Mankato: A Guide for Kids Under Age 5
Easily one of the best things to do when traveling with little kids is a museum—preferable a children’s one. The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota (360° virtual tour) caters to children of all ages but features a few special spots for your tiny travelers. At the Infant/Toddler Play Porch, they can climb, crawl and explore a replica indoor backyard with fun props. You can also curl up with your child under the artificial willow tree and read a storybook provided by the museum. On warmer days, take the kids outside to the museum’s farmyard, where they can role-play as farmers and meet livestock like cows and chickens. If possible, try to visit the museum on Wednesdays for the “Toddler Wednesdays” event for storytelling and acting out creative drama skills. If you do it right, they should be ready for a nap in the stroller—giving parents a nice break.
Bounce Town is another fantastic spot to wear out rambunctious toddlers. It has 8,000 square feet of indoor space loaded with inflatable bounce houses and playgrounds of many themes (think from films like “Frozen” and “Cars”). Bounce Town is intended for children 12 and under with features like Wee Town, a designated play area for kids up to 40 inches tall.
Finally, when the weather is too nice to stay indoors, take your fun outside to Sibley Park (360° virtual tour) , with its own farm-themed playground (loaded with oversized tractors and a barnyard slide). Also at the park from late spring to early fall is a petting zoo, and parents can explore the beautiful gardens nearby. Pack a lunch and picnic at one of its outdoor tables.
Top Things to Do With Kids in Mankato: A Guide for School-Age Kids (5-12)
For kids this age, Mankato doesn’t disappoint. First, there the Wow! Zone, a mega-fun indoor complex with black-light bowling lanes, laser tag, an arcade room and mini golf. Weekly specials include free bowling days for kids under 12 (Sundays) and a 99-cent fee per bowling game (Thursdays).
Or stay active with your kids at the Mankato Family YMCA, which has an indoor pool, a skate park (for teenagers) and a supervised Pepsi Cube room, where school-age children have their own space to try rock climbing and play games like air hockey, ping pong and Guitar Hero.
You can also take your school-age children on a literary journey in Mankato. Mankato was where Maud Hart Lovelace, a famed children’s book author who wrote the iconic Betsy-Tacy series, grew up. Today, you can visit Deep Valley to see the Betsy-Tacy homes where the two imaginary, lovable characters grew up. During summer, you can catch the annual Deep Valley Homecoming event (great for kids of all ages), where the entire town gathers to celebrate the book series and dresses up in period attire.
Another fantastic way to spend time with your kids is to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Start with the Seven Mile Creek, where 10 miles of multi-use trails awaits you and your kids. Snap photos of the surrounding wilderness and wildlife, and see some of the oldest exposed rock formations in the area (500 million years old). The park includes an additional playground, two volleyball courts, picnic areas and a seven-mile long creek where fishing is permitted.
A must-do for school age kids is to visit Minneopa State Park to see its 39-foot-tall waterfall tumbling into a breathtaking gorge. Encircling the falls are hiking trails, and kids can check out the nearby Seppman Mill, an abandoned windmill. At the park, you also can make reservations to go on a bison tour (open every day except Wednesday)— a group ride to see roaming bison in the park.
Top Things to Do With Kids in Mankato: A Guide for Teens (13-18)
Traveling with older kids sometimes can be difficult, but in Mankato, it can mean lots of fun for mom and dad, too. For example, head to the Indoor Climbing Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato (360° virtual tour) and challenge your kids to see who can get to the top of the massive indoor rock-climbing wall fastest (first timers and seasoned climbers are both welcome). This is the largest indoor rock wall in Southern Minnesota, so a race to the top comes with bragging rights if you win.
When the weather permits, go mountain biking with your kids. Mankato is a bike-friendly town, and area mountain biking trails include Kiwanis Mountain Bike Trail & Skills Park that stretches for five miles in the city. Other area trails range from amateur to rugged terrains for skilled bikers. Worried about the snow slowing down the fun? Rent fat bikes to trek through the snow-covered trails instead.
When not exploring by land, do it by water. Thanks to Mankato’s location, families can head over to Bent River Outfitter to rent a canoe or kayak and explore the Minnesota River or Blue Earth River. The rivers can be accessed from several parks including Sibley Park, Land of Memories Park, Kiwanis Recreation Area and Riverfront Park. While visiting the outfitter, inquire about what stretch of the river is a good fit for your family, since parts of the water makes for a leisurely paddling experience, while other areas provide a rapid, thrill-seeking journey. During a paddling trip, make a stop at Triple Falls for a rest break and a picnic.
Challenge your kids in a game of wit by taking them to Kato Escape or Old Town Escape: new escape rooms that are all the rage right now. They are designed to keep you trapped unless you sleuth your way out through a series of clues and puzzles. Families are given an hour to figure their way out of the room using critical thinking skills. Those with claustrophobia need not apply.
You can also take in the summer weather on the lawn at Riverfront Park’s Vetter Stone Amphitheater (360° virtual tour) that features tons of talented acts lined up (Alice Cooper, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Primus and more), or shop at Old Town Antique & Mercantile, where they can spend hours scavenging for vintage goods like typewriters, jewelry and postcards.
Top Things to Do With Kids in Mankato: A Guide for All Ages
Traveling with multiple kids and trying to figure out how to make everyone in the family happy (including you)? A simple idea is to attend one of Mankato’s exciting events. North Mankato Fun Days is a multi-day event with a parade, carnival games, rides, softball tournaments and more.
You can’t go wrong with RibFest, where your kids can help themselves to barbecue recipes concocted by award-winning chefs from across the nation. Live music will play and kids can hang out in the designated kids area to play a variety of games and activities. Show off your trekking skills with your kids at North Star Bicycle Festival in the summer, where hundreds of cyclists ride together to raise awareness on bike safety and celebrate the bike-friendly trails of Southern Minnesota. Kids can participate in their own “Tour de Kids,” where every child is a winner and receives a medal at the end of the race.
Another fun thing to do with kids of any age is an afternoon or evening at the ballpark. Mankato MoonDogs, a collegiate summer team, plays in the Northwoods League at Franklin Rogers Park (360° virtual tour) with a summer season that runs June through August. Games are both affordable and fun, with lots of promotions, giveaways and occasional guest appearances by famous athletes and area celebrities.
Finally, summer means swimming, so check out Spring Lake Park, Tourtellotte Pool or Hiniker Pond. They all have great spots where you can lounge in the sun and splash with the family. Or go on an artistic journey by joining a self-guided CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour to see art installations scattered around Mankato (there are about 27 to see). By the end of the tour, your kids can cast their vote for their favorite sculpture by using the ballot attached to the brochure.
Make your next family vacation one that you all can enjoy. Visit Mankato.
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