Family Winter Getaway in Mankato, Minnesota


I’m not fond of winter, though I am resigned to it. Growing up in Iowa, moving to Minnesota, then returning to Iowa, it’s obvious I’ve made my choice to deal with the harshest season.

But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

My kids love it, though. And, being a mom, I don’t want to hold them back from experiences, regardless of my preferences.

Embracing Winter in Mankato, Minnesota

Just 3 ½ hours northwest of Ankeny, Mankato makes for a fun weekend getaway for the family. The college town is lively in winter, offering amusements from skiing and tubing to laser tag and theater.

Where to Stay:

When choosing hotels we opt for the best value for our money. That doesn’t always mean the least expensive hotel. Holiday Inn Express with its complimentary hot breakfast and free Wi-Fi is one of our favorite hotel brands. The extra space in the suites at Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Mankato made the room more comfortable in the mornings and evenings.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Mankato, MN
Our suite at Holiday Inn Express had a separate sitting room and kitchenette.

What to Do:

Just across the street from Holiday Inn Express is WOW! Zone, an all-in-one family entertainment center. We opted for dinner in the bar where live, local music provided an enjoyable background to the Minnesota Wild game on the TVs. The food was excellent – and fueled us up for an evening of gaming! We did a little Cosmic Bowling before swinging putters in the glow-in-the-dark mini golf course. But what my family really enjoyed was the Laser Tag. Who knew my sweet girls were such good shots?

WOW Zone, Mankato, MN
Hours of fun at WOW! Zone

You can’t visit Mankato in the winter and skip Mount Kato. This was a highlight for us as it was our very first time skiing! Our morning was spent with ski coach Thomas Regan, a PSIA certified Level 2 ski instructor who is also child certified. He was brilliant with the girls – especially with my youngest who has a tendency to “shut down” when things aren’t going her way. After just a couple hours, Thomas had the girls zooming down the slopes and riding the ski lifts like pros!

Learning to Ski at Mount Kato
Learning to Ski at Mount Kato

There is no question that city parks are a family travel go-to, and Sibley Park is a perfect spot to get outdoors! This pretty park is perfect for running off excess energy outside. If you happen to own ice skates be sure to bring them along and enjoy the free Mary Dotson Skating Rink.

The Lincoln Community Center is home to the Merely Players Community Theater, which has been performing family-friendly live theater productions for 32 years. Be sure to check their schedule and book tickets if a show is playing. We saw their performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and my kids loved it!

Where to Eat:

As a college town, Mankato isn’t lacking in dining options. These are my family-friendly picks:

WOW! Zone: For “bar food,” this is really good! And you have the added benefit of the gaming facility. Be sure to try the walleye (you’re in Minnesota, eh?). You can also save money on your game card with their “Stay & Play Gaming” deal.

Mom & Pops Ice Cream: This is the place to stop after skiing. You’ll be warm from your exercise and nothing is better than ice cream to cool you down! Serving award-winning Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream from Madison, Wisconsin, there are over 100 flavors on rotation. Taste a few of the unique flavors before deciding on your favorite. Located in an historic downtown building, the ice cream shop holds on to much of the old-time atmosphere – with some modern updates. A display case in the rear holds items found in the walls during renovation – including a sword!

Mom & Pops Ice Cream, Mankato, Minnesota
Ice cream at Mom & Pops is served with a freshly made waffle wedge.

Dino’s Pizzeria: The pizzas here are indescribably good, which is why you’ll find the restaurant packed on weekend evenings. But don’t be discouraged – it really is worth the wait! The Foghorn Leghorn with house-made Alfredo sauce, chicken, mozzarella, and herbs is simply amazing. Their signature pizza, the Dino, features red sauce, pepperoni, Italian sausage and mozzarella, and was devoured by my kids. Tips to avoid the wait at Dino’s: come early (like 5 p.m.) or after 7:30 p.m. If you arrive and find a wait, add your name to the list. You can leave and return for your table.

Foghorn Leghorn pizza at Dino's Pizzaria, Mankato, Minnesota
This pizza – the Foghorn Leghorn – was worth the hour-long wait!

Pub 500: This family owned, family oriented pub is known as “the place for gathering” in Mankato – and for good reason. The roomy restaurant area invites groups to relax and enjoy their meal – and the after-dining discussion that follows. Their #1 selling item, the pulled pork, is slow roasted to perfection. The kids menu offered mac & cheese wedges, a fun twist on my youngest child’s go-to meal. Just remember to save room for dessert! There is no need to make a tough decision – the dessert sampler includes sweet bread pudding, deep fried cheesecake, and chocolate mousse.

If you’re looking to embrace winter – and break out of your stuck-at-home doldrums – Mankato provides everything you need for a fun family getaway.

Pulled Pork and Dessert Sampler at Pub 500, Mankato, Minnesota
Pub 500’s mouthwatering pulled pork sandwich with house-made kettle chips and the dessert sampler .

Have you visited Mankato in the winter? Do you think you might take your family for a winter getaway?

I have to thank Visit Greater Mankato for helping me embrace winter and discover the fun in Mankato! My family can’t wait to see the fun Mankato offers in the summer! You’ll find links to all the places I mentioned in this post, as well as family-friendly itineraries, at the Visit Greater Mankato website.



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