Best Things to Do in Mankato with Family

Mankato, Minnesota City

Mankato, Minnesota is a charming city located along the Minnesota River about 90 minutes southwest of Minneapolis. With its small-town vibes, natural beauty, and abundance of family-friendly attractions, Mankato makes for a fun and relaxing weekend getaway or longer vacation for families.

As an avid traveler, I have discovered that Mankato has a little something for everyone in the family. From hiking and biking trails to children’s museums and hands-on science centers, there are plenty of ways to stay active and engaged with the kids. When it’s time to take a break, the downtown area has cute local shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore.

If you’re looking for ideas for your next family trip, here are some of the best things to do in Mankato, MN with kids:

Explore the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota

One of the top attractions in Mankato for families is the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota. This hands-on children’s museum has three floors of interactive exhibits that will spark creativity and curiosity in kids of all ages.

Some of the highlights include an arts and crafts studio, a make-believe grocery store, and a climbing structure with slides. Kids can also explore science through exhibits about the human body, physics, and nature. There is a special area just for toddlers with a water table and climbing area.

Outside, the museum has an exploration park where kids can play on climbing equipment. There are also imaginative playhouses and structures like a pirate ship and castle. During nicer weather, water features are turned on for splashing and water play.

The Children’s Museum is ideal for kids ages 1-10 and their parents and grandparents will have fun joining in too! Admission is reasonable, especially for the hours of enjoyment you’ll have.

Hike the River to River Trail

Bike trails in Mankato

One of the best ways to enjoy natural beauty with kids is on the hiking and biking trails in Mankato. The River to River Trail stretches 4.5 miles across Mankato from Sibley Park to Land of Memories Park.

This paved recreational trail follows the Minnesota River through woodlands, wetlands, and prairie. It’s an easily accessible hike or bike ride suitable for all ages. There are pretty views of the river valley along the way. Interpretive signs describe the native plants and wildlife you may spot.

With minimal elevation gain, the trail is a nice easy hike. Kids will enjoy stopping to watch for wildlife, pick wildflowers, and explore the natural scenery. Picnic tables along the trail are perfect for taking a snack break. If you’re up for more mileage, the trail connects to other area paths for a longer adventure.

Ride the Rails at the Iron Horse Central Railroad Museum

All aboard! Kids and adults alike will enjoy an excursion on a vintage railroad at the Iron Horse Central Railroad Museum. This railroad museum provides train rides along a 2-mile track on weekends from late May through mid-October.

The train cars date back as far as 1916 and have been lovingly restored. Passengers can ride in open-air or enclosed cars. The trains are powered by diesel or steam locomotives. The rides take you through the Minnesota River valley for scenic views.

The museum also has a collection of railroad equipment and artifacts to explore. Kids can check out the turntable and roundhouse, climb aboard locomotives and cabooses, and learn about the region’s railroad history. The museum makes a fun family outing for train lovers young and old.

Splash at the WOW! Zone

When Minnesota’s unpredictable weather brings rain or bitter cold, the WOW! Zone indoor waterpark provides hours of wet and wild fun for kids. This 75,000-square-foot indoor waterpark is kept at a comfortable 84 degrees all year round.

Kids love shooting down waterslides like the Giant Twister Slide and the Body Blasters Drop Slide. The park features areas for younger kids including tiny tot slides, a tumble bucket, and splash fountains. For all ages, there is an activity pool with basketball hoops and a log walk, a lazy river, and a hot tub.

Beyond the waterslides, the WOW! The zone has an arcade and concession area to take a break. Kids can burn off more energy on dry land playing mini golf, bumper cars, or in the jungle gym room. Families will stay busy all day at this awesome indoor waterpark in Mankato.

Play Mini Golf at Adventure PLUS!

For straightforward family fun, Adventure PLUS! is a mini golf course kids will love. This well-themed 18-hole miniature golf course features caves, waterfalls, and dinosaur-themed holes. It’s an affordable place to play a round of mini golf with the kids.

Parents will appreciate that Adventure PLUS! is conveniently located right next door to WOW! Zone indoor waterpark so you can pair the two together. They also have go-karts and arcade games when you need a break from the mini golf course. Grab an ice cream cone afterward at the snack bar.

With fun features like footbridges, loops, and water hazards, this mini golf course is exciting for the whole family. Let the kids run around and get out their wiggles while playing a round together.

Learn Through Play at the Children’s Discovery Museum

If your kids love hands-on learning, check out the Children’s Discovery Museum located right in downtown Mankato. This small children’s museum is specifically designed for kids ages 2-9 to boost learning through interactive play.

Kids can pretend to be veterinarians in the Vet Clinic, drive trucks in Transportation Station, and load cargo onto planes and helicopters. Mini Mankato allows kids to play with a model of the city while learning traffic patterns and community roles.

In My Backyard, kids can observe nature scenes, go caving, and explore science. New exhibits are rotated frequently so there is always something new to discover. Parents will love watching their little ones playfully learn through imaginative activities.

The Children’s Discovery Museum is a nice alternative to the larger Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota when you’re looking for a smaller-scale museum experience in Mankato.

See Rare Birds at the Minnesota Zoo’s Birds of Prey shows

Rare birds at Mankato Zoo

One exciting thing to do for animal-loving families visiting Mankato is check out the birds of prey shows at the Minnesota Zoo’s animal exhibits located in Mankato.

These educational and entertaining shows allow kids to see hawks, falcons, owls, and other raptors up close as they swoop overhead and perform trained behaviors. Zookeepers share cool facts about each species and explain how they care for the birds.

Kids will be rapt as the gorgeous birds like the bald eagle spread their wings and soar through the outdoor arena. This hands-on look at birds of prey is a memorable zoo experience kids won’t soon forget. Shows take place daily during summer.

Beyond the bird shows, the Minnesota Zoo’s exhibits in Mankato are home to a variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish native to Minnesota. Kids can visit the patients at the veterinary hospital for an up-close look at how animals are cared for. Don’t miss the toothy otters and massive sea turtles!

Spend a Day at Sibley Park

If you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors as a family, Sibley Park is a great place to spend the day. This 100-acre community park along the Minnesota River has plenty of amenities and activities to keep the kids busy for hours.

Active kids will love the playground equipment including extra-large slides that make parents nervous! The park also has several ball fields, sand volleyball pits, tennis courts, and archery ranges to burn off energy.

For more relaxation, pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the covered shelters and walking trails. Kids can hunt for frogs and crawdads along the marshy riverbanks with dip nets. See who can spot the most bird species and other wildlife.

A visit to Sibley Park Zoo is also free for Mankato locals or affordable for visitors. Kids will enjoy seeing the farm animals, and native wildlife, and walking through the flower gardens. With so much to do at Sibley Park, it’s easy to make a day out of the visit.

Pick Your Own Fruit at an Area Orchard

Apple Orchard in Mankato

Part of the fun of visiting Mankato in the summer and fall is taking advantage of the abundance of fresh local produce. The area’s orchards allow you to pick your own fruits straight from the source.

Little kids love playing hide and seek in the rows of apple trees and tasting fruit right off the trees. Family-owned and operated orchards like Afton Apple Orchard and MNHarvest offer to pick your own strawberries, raspberries, apples, pumpkins, and more depending on the season.

Many orchards also have play areas, mazes, and tractor rides to entertain the kiddos. And you can’t leave without ordering apple cider donuts, turnovers, or other baked treats from their farm stands. With reasonable prices, pick-your-own fruit makes for an affordable and memorable family outing.

Sunbathe on the Lake at Minneopa State Park

Minneopa State Park is located just 10 minutes outside Mankato but will make you feel a world away. This scenic state park centers around the impressive Minneopa Falls waterfall. Families also come to swim and sunbathe on one of Minnesota’s warmest lakes at Minneopa.

Seppman Mill, constructed in the late 1800s, offers picturesque views of Lake Minneopa. The swimming beach has a grassy area, picnic tables, and a food stand. The shallow, calm waters are perfect for swimming with young children.

Kids will enjoy spotting turtles sunning themselves on logs and hunting for frogs along the shore. Take a hike to see Minneopa Falls or spot bison and elk in the park’s wildlife enclosure. With camping, picnic areas, and concessions available, Minneopa makes an easy day trip or weekend getaway.

Cheer on the Mankato Moondogs

Minor league baseball provides affordable family-friendly fun in Mankato during the summer months. The Mankato Moondogs are a collegiate wood bat league team who play ball at ISG Field.

Kids will love watching the action from field-level seats along the baselines or grass berm. An inflatable play area and speed pitch games provide entertainment between innings. Fireworks and themed game nights add to the excitement.

In addition to baseball, kids love the on-field antics of mascots like Maverick the Mustache Man and Millie Moondog. With players around college age, the Moondogs games give a taste of the minor-league baseball experience for a family night out. Home games run from late May through early August.

See a Show at the Children’s Theatre Company

No family trip to Mankato is complete without taking in a show at one of the top children’s theatres in the nation, the Children’s Theatre Company. This professional theatre company based in Mankato performs original musicals, plays, and dance productions aimed at families with elementary-aged children.

Past kid-pleasing shows have included titles like Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Disney’s The Jungle Book, and Leo Lionni stories. With imaginative costumes, creative sets, and catchy musical numbers, kids are enthralled by live theatre productions.

The Children’s Theatre Company performs daytime shows for school field trips during the school year. Public performances run on weekends during the fall and spring. Taking your kids to this one-of-a-kind theatre is a family treat when visiting Mankato.

Ride the Rides at Fun Days

To experience a thrill-packed day with the family, check out the rides and games at Mankato’s Fun Days carnival and festival. This beloved community event happens over 4 days each June at the Nicollet County Fairgrounds.

In addition to exhilarating carnival rides like tilt-a-whirls and scramblers, there are more tame kiddie rides for little ones. Kids go crazy for fun houses, games, prize booths, and fair treats like corn dogs and cotton candy.

At night, the neon lights and flashing rides become even more magical. Don’t miss the parade, live music, mutton busting, and other entertainment at Fun Days. With affordable ride wristbands and entry free, it’s a budget-friendly family tradition.

Watch Planes at the Granite Falls Airport

Granite Airport, Mankato

Kids who are fascinated by planes will enjoy an afternoon of plane spotting at the Granite Falls Airport just east of Mankato. The small Granite Falls Airport has an unstaffed observation area allowing you to watch small aircraft take off and land.

Sit with the kids by the fence and talk about the different types of private planes you see. Grab some food to eat for a picnic. There’s also a playground located on airport grounds when the kids need to run around.

On select days, the EAA chapter based at the airport hosts events like cookouts, flight demonstrations, and activities for kids. Or consider booking an introductory plane ride through Lightning Flight to let the kids experience piloting a plane. Any way you experience it, the Granite Falls Airport is a fun free activity for aviation enthusiasts.

Play (and Learn) at the WOW Children’s Museum

When you need an indoor activity with the kids on a rainy day, check out the WOW Children’s Museum in Mankato. Though small in size, this nonprofit children’s museum packs a lot of hands-on learning into its exhibits.

Some of the favorites include the vet clinic with pretend x-rays and animal toys, kid-sized Mankato downtown, and a building area with oversized blocks. Kids can exercise their dramatic play skills in the playhouse and dress-up area. Parents will love the reading nook with a rotating selection of children’s books.

WOW also offers interactive music and art studios where kids are encouraged to express their creativity. Special programs and traveling exhibits mean there is always something new to discover. With free admission for young children, WOW is a go-to indoor play place in Mankato.

Hunt for Treasure at the Mankato Geocaching Adventure

For school-aged kids, try a real-life treasure hunt using GPS at the Mankato Geocaching Adventure. Geocaching is like a technology-based scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates to find hidden containers called caches.

At this self-guided geocaching course in Mankato, families follow clues to navigate to 10 different geocache locations hidden around a 2.5-mile area. At each cache, kids will find a logbook to sign and small trinkets to trade.

Following the GPS coordinates, you’ll explore nature trails and parks to locate the hidden caches. Kids will love the thrill of the hunt searching for the geocaches. Along the way, they’ll learn about navigation, teamwork, and exploring the outdoors.

Jump for Joy at Pump It Up

When the kids need to burn off some excess energy, Pump It Up is an indoor playground and party venue with endless bouncing fun. This giant indoor inflatable playground features bouncy slides, obstacle courses, ball pits, and more.

Kids get their wiggles out as they jump to their heart’s content for open jump sessions. Parents can relax in the café area while watching the kids play. With toddler areas and big kid zones, kids of all ages find endless fun.

Pump It Up also hosts birthday parties perfect for tiring out all those little guests. Add in private jump time, food, and their party rooms for the ultimate kids’ party venue. With reasonable rates, it’s an easy option for both parents and energetic kids in Mankato.

Race Go Karts at MR Karts

MR Karts

Fast-paced fun awaits kids in go-karting at MR Karts indoor track in Mankato. Kids over 52 inches tall can drive their own gas-powered go-kart independently, while smaller kids can ride along with an adult.

Zooming around the track and passing friends will thrill kids who like speed. The facility also has a large arcade area to enjoy after racing. With specials like unlimited rides for an affordable flat fee, MR Karts is a high-speed good time.

Parents love that the indoor track means go-karting is possible year-round, rain or shine. The facility also hosts birthday parties complete with private racing and arcade access. For an exciting family outing, MR Karts can’t be beaten.

Shop ’til You Drop on Downtown Shopping Spree

No family trip is complete without a little shopping, and downtown Mankato has lots of kid-friendly boutiques and shops. Many stores participate in the Downtown Shopping Spree held multiple times per year, offering deals, giveaways, and family entertainment.

Kids will love stopping in the toy stores like Learning Express Toys, while parents can pick up gifts at places like Porch and Patio. Grab an art kit for kids at the Art Center of St. Peter. Trendy clothing and souvenir shops also line the walkable downtown shopping district.

Plan your shopping spree to coincide with a Downtown Mankato event when free horse-drawn carriage rides, music, and other entertainment create a festive family atmosphere. From penny candies to toys and boutique clothing, downtown Mankato shopping is always a win.

Splash at Fun, Sun & Run Water Park

When summertime temps climb, cooling off at Fun, Sun, and Run Water Park is a must with kids. This outdoor water park next to Sibley Park offers a zero-depth entry pool, waterslides, diving boards, and lap lanes.

Little ones adore the interactive playground area with mini slides and fountains. There is also a shallow wading pool, flowing lazy river, and sand volleyball for all ages to enjoy. Parents can relax at the poolside while watching the kids splash safely.

With affordable day passes, Fun, Sun, and Run make for an easy summer outing after you’ve been tired of the neighborhood pool. Pack a picnic or hit their snack bar for an afternoon of wet and wild family fun in Mankato.

Marvel at the Science Museum of Minnesota traveling exhibits

For kids that love science and discovery, visiting the traveling exhibits from the Science Museum of Minnesota at the Blue Earth County Library is a must. These hands-on interactive exhibits rotate through the library’s Bayley Plaza.

Past kid-pleasing exhibits have included topics like weather, robotics, space travel, math puzzles, flight technology, and Grossology’s exploration of the icky insides of the human body. Kids could design spacecraft, experiment with water rockets, and touch real brain matter and giant germs.

The Blue Earth County Library does an amazing job coordinating these STEM-based exhibits to spark curiosity and learning through interaction. Kids love that they can touch, build, and thoroughly explore scientific concepts. Favorite exhibits like “Mummy Dearest” on Egyptology will make return appearances.

Best of all, these top-notch learning experiences are entirely free for families through the public library system. Keep an eye out for the next mind-blowing science exhibit coming to town.

Bounce Trampoline Park

An indoor trampoline park like Bounce Trampoline Park is the perfect place to let kids literally bounce off the walls. Wall-to-wall interconnected trampolines make up their huge jump arena. Kids get their energy out as they jump for joy, play trampoline basketball or dodgeball, and run the ninja course.

Younger kids have their own dedicated toddler court for safe bouncing. Parents can even join in the fun in the jump areas. Bounce also offers fitness classes, sensory jumping times, teen nights, and parties. With socks provided, it’s an easy indoor activity to fill up an afternoon bouncing ’til kids drop.

Create Family Memories at a Bed and Breakfast

Part of the charm of a getaway to Mankato is staying at a cozy, family-run bed and breakfast like The Sweet Pea. Kids will love the homemade cookies at check-in and the full breakfast served daily. Some kid-friendly rooms feature bunk beds and games.

Many area B&Bs can recommend kid-friendly activities and provide amenities like Pack ‘n Plays for little ones. Let the kids pick out a themed room, like the safari or superhero-themed rooms at The Sweet Pea. Family bonding happens effortlessly over porch swings, complimentary snacks, and comfortable communal spaces.

A bed and breakfast stay allows your family to unwind together with personalized hospitality. Making memories over breakfasts, borrowing bikes, or playing yard games are all part of the B&B experience in charming Mankato.

Catch a Show at the Independent Film Festival

Expose your kids to independent cinema and celebrate filmmaking at Mankato’s Independent Film Festival held each August. This family-friendly film festival includes short and feature-length films across many genres like comedy, drama, and documentaries.

Kids will enjoy the venue at the Carmike 10 movie theater allowing comfortable seating and a familiar moviegoing experience. Red carpet photos and Q&A sessions with filmmakers make the event interactive. And shorter run times keep kids engaged.

Supporting indie film artists while enjoying a night out together makes the festival a unique family activity. Films rated PG and under are always family-friendly. Expand your kids’ world and creativity through the magic of movies at Mankato’s film festival.

Play Pooh Sticks on the Footbridge at Sibley Park

A classic family pastime in Sibley Park is playing Pooh Sticks on the pedestrian footbridge over the river. Inspired by the Winnie the Pooh books, Pooh Sticks involves gathering sticks, dropping them on one side of the bridge, then seeing whose stick first floats out on the other side downstream.

Kids will be entertained for hours hunting for the perfect stick “boats”, racing sticks against siblings and parents, and fishing out sticks for another go. It’s a simple free activity that provides outdoor family fun in the park.

Of course, while you’re there, explore the trails, watch for wildlife along the riverbanks, or grab a sweet treat from the Dairy Queen to make a whole day of it! With A.A. Milne’s beloved children’s books as inspiration, Pooh Sticks is a playful adventure for families.

Spend a Day at the Lake Washington County Park Beach

Just a 10-minute drive from Mankato, Lake Washington County Park offers lakeside fun with a beautiful sandy beach area. Families come to swim, wade through the shallow swimming area, build sandcastles, and enjoy summer picnics.

Kids will love looking for shells and stones along the lakeshore and spotting birds soaring over the water. There are playgrounds, picnic shelters, and hiking trails through prairie lands to enjoy as well.

The park rents out paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards to use on Lake Washington. Lake Washington Park Beach provides easy access to water activities for a family staycation.

Pet Baby Animals at the Nicollet County Fair

For small-town old-fashioned family fun, attend the annual Nicollet County Fair held each August in St. Peter. Families flock to the fair to ride carnival rides, watch entertainers, and enjoy livestock shows and exhibits.

Kids’ favorite attraction is the Miracle of the birth center where they can see farm animals like piglets, calves, goats, chicks, and bunnies up close. Fair food like corn dogs, cotton candy, and fresh lemonade make the experience complete.

Catch a performance at the 4H Talent Review, stroll through agricultural and hobby displays, or try your hand at carnival games. Kids and parents alike will love experiencing this traditional county fair together.

Tube Down the River

On a hot summer day, cooling off while tubing down the river is a quintessential family memory maker. Rent tubes, rafts, or kayaks from Mankato River Rental to float from Sibley Park down the Minnesota River.

The gentle current will carry you along about three miles downstream as your family laughs, plays, and goofs around on the water. Stop halfway at the North River Front Park to swim, use facilities, or have a picnic lunch before getting back in the water.

What kid wouldn’t love a leisurely day playing in the river and floating along? Don’t forget sunscreen and water shoes for an unforgettable summer river adventure with the whole family.

DIY Candle Making Class

For indoor family fun, book a group candle-making class at The Granary in Mankato to explore your creative side. This DIY activity lets your family personalize soy candles by selecting scents and designing the perfect vessel.

Fun add-ins like flowers, wax shapes, and glitter make your candles one-of-a-kind. Kids will be amazed that they created candle art themselves. The hands-on experience ignites creativity, problem-solving, and memory-making.

The Granary’s cozy cottage environment has an inspirational, creative vibe your family will love. Enjoy complimentary beverages before browsing their home decor shop filled with Midwest makers. With group discounts available, a candle workshop makes a wonderful family bonding activity.

See Decorated Barns Along the Barn Quilt Trail

A fun way to soak in the rural beauty of the Mankato countryside is following the self-guided Barn Quilt Trail. Giant painted wooden squares decorate the sides of barns in intricate patterns along area country roads.

The Barn Quilt Trail combines public art, countryside scenery, and treasure hunting for a family adventure. Over 150 vibrantly colored barn quilts are there to spot along the 80-mile trail. Be on the lookout for patriotic stars, animal designs, geometric shapes and more brightening up barns in the Minnesota farmlands.

Pick up a brochure or download the app to find barn quilt locations as you drive through picturesque farmland. Kids will get caught up in the spirit of discovery searching for the creatively decorated barns on backroads around Mankato.

Attend a Mankato Moondogs Baseball Game

What better way to spend a summer evening than cheering on the Mankato Moondogs baseball team with the kiddos? The Mankato Moondogs are a wood-bat league college team who play at ISG Field during June and July.

Kids will have a blast at the ballgame watching players around college-age competing while munching on hot dogs and peanuts. Affordable bleacher seats put your family right in the middle of the action to catch foul balls and home runs.

Little ones can run the bases after Sunday games and visit with mascot Millie Moondog. Don’t miss the outfielder from throwing candy into the stands! With a fun local atmosphere, Moondogs games make for a winning night out.

Ride the Rails on the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway

Train-loving kids will get their fill riding the historic Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway. This heritage railroad offers train excursions between Osceola and Dresser, Wisconsin on summer weekends.

Kids can explore 110-year-old train cars, sit in the open-air cupola, and even ride in the engine car with views of the tracks ahead. Along the peaceful 12-mile journey along the St. Croix River, you’ll pass by limestone bluffs, waterfalls, and wildlife over the river.

The railway also holds fun seasonal events like Easter trains, fall color rides, and North Pole Express rides where kids can sip hot cocoa. All aboard for a family adventure into the scenic St. Croix Valley by vintage train.

Hit the Trails on Horseback

If your kids are crazy for horses, book a guided trail ride for the family at Windy Ridge Ranch. Nestled into the Minnesota River valley just south of Mankato, Windy Ridge offers riding lessons plus scenic trail rides suitable for all ages.

Friendly staff match beginner riders with gentle horses and provide helmets. Your family will ride through the ranch’s acres of forests and meadows, crossing bridges over ravines and streams. Kids get an awesome up-close experience riding horses together in nature.

The ranch also has catch-and-release fishing, hiking trails, tent camping, and fire pits when you’re ready to dismount. With kid pricing and even pony rides for little ones, a trail ride at Windy Ridge will bring joy to your family’s horse lovers.

Tour the Mankato Brewery

Mankato brewery

Tour one of Mankato’s local businesses, the Mankato Brewery, to learn the beer-making process as a family. Their facility offers tours on most Saturdays that are all-ages friendly. Parents will appreciate the samples at the tour’s end!

Kids will be fascinated peering into brew tanks, learning about brewing ingredients like hops, and checking out bottling machinery up close. The sense of adventure in exploring an operational production brewery will appeal to school-aged kids and teens.

Mankato Brewery’s taproom with games, outdoor beer garden with yard games, and root beer on tap are perfect for families to extend the visit after your brewery tour. This hands-on experience will engage future microbrew enthusiasts.

See a Show at Highland Summer Theatre

Introduce kids to the magic of live theater at Highland Summer Theatre in Mankato. This professional summer stock theater produces family-friendly Broadway musicals in the air-conditioned Highland Arena Theater.

Shrek The Musical, Mary Poppins, and Annie are just some recent kid-pleasing shows. With familiar songs, colorful costumes and sets, and short run times of under two hours, kids have a blast seeing a show. Reasonable ticket prices make family outings possible.

There’s no bad view in the intimate theater setting. Kids can meet cast members after shows for pictures and autographs. Catching a lively musical production together is the perfect option for hot summer days.

Challenge Mini Golf at Puttin’ Around Mankato

A surefire way to entertain kids of all ages is time spent playing mini golf together. With two fun 18-hole courses, Puttin’ Around Mankato has double the mini golf thrills.

Kids will love the creative hole designs including waterfalls, bridges, caves, and loop-de-loops. Newer additions like bumper boats and batting cages provide more entertainment. With family rates available, their mini golf is an affordable summer activity.

The snack bar and arcade area allow the whole family to take a break and refuel with pizza, ice cream, and refreshments. A round or two of mini golf is a hole-in-one for family bonding!

Cool Down with Ice Cream at Culver’s

Ice cream at Culver's

On warm weather outings, a mandatory stop for families visiting Mankato is Culver’s for tasty frozen custard and ice cream. This Wisconsin-based chain is known for its signature frozen custard and concrete mixers with candy baked right into the custard.

Kids can choose fun mix-ins like M&Ms or gummy bears to create their own concrete concoction masterpiece in a cup or cone. Chocolate or vanilla custard both hit the spot on a hot day. Culver’s also serves up hot food, cheesy curds, and fresh lemonade to fuel up the family.

The affordable prices and cheerful service keep everyone smiling. Stop at Culver’s to make family memories over sweet frozen treats on your Mankato adventures.

Family Reconnect at a YMCA Camp

Make meaningful connections as a family escaping together at YMCA Camp Patterson on Lake Washington. Cabins, meals, and programming allow families to fully unplug and enjoy nature.

Kids will love camp activities like canoeing, archery, campfires, ziplining, disc golf, arts and crafts, and free swim time in the lake. Families can try the high ropes course together or book time at the horse barn. The low ropes elements course promotes teamwork for bonding fun.

With pools, basketball courts, gaga pits, trails, and green spaces, the YMCA camp is an ideal place for family play. Meals, programming, and evening activities are all included in rates that aim to be accessible for area families of all income levels to enjoy time together.

Paint Your Own Pottery

For crafty indoor family fun, visit a paint-your-own-pottery studio like Mankato Clay Works or Creative Touch Pottery. These BYOB (bring your own beverages) studios provide guidance and all the supplies needed to create custom ceramic pieces.

Kids can paint mugs, plates, figurines, banks, and more while parents relax. The staff helps inspire and assist young painters. Various pricing options allow you to pick projects at each family member’s skill level. Then pieces are glazed and fired so you can bring home professional quality keepsakes.

The relaxing, creative atmosphere full of colorful paints and textures boosts family bonding. Displaying your custom-painted pottery at home will remind your family of the artistic fun you had creating together.

Family Stay at the Hubert H. Humphrey State Memorial

Enjoy fun camping adventures as a family at Lake Shaokatan within the Hubert H. Humphrey State Memorial Park. Large wooded sites provide privacy right on the lakefront for swimming, fishing, and relaxing.

Kids will love making s’mores over the fire, hiking area trails to spot wildlife, and staying up late conversing under the stars. Wake up to amazing sunrises over the calm lake.

Group camper cabins offer another lodging option to experience the outdoors together in comfort. The park offers canoe and paddleboat rentals plus a nature center full of exhibits on native plants and animals. Relish time together camping at this peaceful state park.

Play Disc Golf at Sunset Park

For free outdoor family fun, take your kids to play a round of disc golf at Sunset Park in Mankato. The 18-hole disc golf course takes players through the wooded hills with river valley views.

Disc golf (played like ball golf but throwing discs into above-ground baskets) is perfect for families, requiring only simple discs to play. Kids will enjoy practicing their throws and tracking down where discs land in the brush. Make it more exciting by keeping score and challenging each other.

The park also has playgrounds, hiking, and biking trails, and fields for another athletic option when you need a break from disc golf. With affordable disc rentals available onsite, it’s an easy outdoor activity to do together.

Pajama Story Time at the Library

Make reading extra fun for kids by attending the Blue Earth County Library System’s pajama story time events. Kids don matching PJs for a cozy evening of listening to tales read aloud, singing songs, and doing related activities and crafts.

Snuggling up together to enjoy storytime in pajamas makes reading seem extra fun. The library selects wonderful picture books, early readers, and chapter books depending on the age groups attending that fit each season’s theme. Kids delight in being able to participate in their comfy night clothes.

Families appreciate the free literacy-boosting evening programs coordinated by the library’s caring staff. Capture your child’s joy of reading at these magical pajama-clad story times.

Places to Stay

Mankato offers lots of family-friendly accommodation options for every budget. Here are some top picks:

  • SpringHill Suites Mankato – An indoor pool, free breakfast, and spacious suites in a central location make this a top choice.
  • Hilton Garden Inn – Great for families with bunk bed suites and an indoor pool with a waterslide.
  • Best Western Plus – Affordable rates and complimentary breakfast ideal for families. The indoor pool area coming soon.
  • RVs/Camping at Sibley Park Campground – Drive your camper right to your wooded site along the river.
  • Sterling Motel – One of the most affordable options with basic clean rooms and family suites.
  • GrandStay Hotel – All-suite hotel with mini kitchens perfect for short or long family stays.
  • Bed & Breakfasts – Charming inns like The Sweet Pea offer family suites with extra touches like cookies, games, and borrow-a-bike.

Family Friendly Restaurants

Fuel up the family between adventures at these great eateries in Mankato:

  • Culver’s – Burgers, frozen custard, and concrete mixers are must-try items.
  • Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant – Kids love the chili con queso, taco bar, and churros.
  • WOWzone Pizzeria – Play in the arcade or watch sports on big screens while you enjoy pizza and wings.
  • New Bohemia – Upscale craft pizzas and special kids’ menu plus bocce ball court.
  • The Loose Moose – Casual local spot with juicy Lucy burgers and giant cinnamon rolls.
  • Pagliai’s Pizza – Mankato tradition since 1952 with family-friendly dining rooms and arcade games.
  • DQ Grill & Chill – Satisfy the whole family’s sweet tooth with sundaes, blizzards, and cakes.
  • New Safari Restaurant – Ethiopian dining where kids eat free on Saturdays. Try flavorful stews and fresh injera bread.
  • Bello Cucina – Upscale Italian with outdoor patio seating and creative kids’ menu.
  • CherryBerry – Create your own yogurt parfaits and shakes with endless topping choices.

Final Tips for Visiting Mankato with Kids

  • Grab the Mankato Fun Guide for coupons on area attractions.
  • Remember sunscreen if playing outdoors – the strong sun reflects off the river.
  • Stay hydrated – drink lots of water since humidity can be high.
  • Themed holiday events happen year-round – check calendars for special festivities.
  • Pack walking shoes or water shoes to fully explore parks and trails.
  • Carry swimsuits and towels in the car for impromptu water play.
  • Shop tax-free on clothing and shoes during Minnesota’s tax-free weekend in August.

With scenic nature spots, interactive museums, locally-owned shops and eateries, and an abundance of family-friendly activities, Mankato makes the perfect Midwestern hometown for your next family getaway!

Plan Your Family-Friendly Getaway to Mankato

Mankato offers the ideal blend of outdoor adventures, interactive museums, and family entertainment to delight kids of all ages. With its vibrant local culture and abundance of parks along the scenic Minnesota River, it’s a quintessential Midwest family vacation destination.

From canoeing down the river to hands-on children’s museums, farm visits to minor league baseball games, the variety of family-friendly activities will keep your crew happily busy. Take in a musical at the celebrated Children’s Theatre Company or ride vintage railroad cars for interactive fun. Many activities like disc golf, hiking trails, and park concerts are completely free for families on a budget.

At the end of busy days, retreat to comfortable and affordable hotels with convenient amenities like pools, free breakfasts, and great locations. Refuel at family restaurants with kids’ menus, arcades, and sweet treats to please all palates.

Create lasting memories enjoying the natural playgrounds, small-town charm, and hidden gems waiting to be discovered in Mankato. With this guide to the top things to do, you’re ready to plan an amazing family getaway in this special river town. Let the kid-approved adventures begin!

Well, last but not least, If you are an explorer by heart and love to travel, you can check out our budget traveling hacks post. Or if you love to travel solo, you must check out our post on how to stay safe while traveling solo

If you happen to travel to Minneapolis as well, check out our blog Best Things to Do in Minneapolis.

Feel free to share your comments and feedback if you find this post helpful or let us know if you are looking for any additional details.


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