Southern Minnesota is ripe with nature’s abundant beauty and there is truly a plethora of fun things to do! With summer in full swing, switch up your usual summertime fun time old standbys, and add in some new favorites.
A Visit to Bluff County
The bluffs and rolling hills of southeast Minnesota hold many treasures. Lanesboro is a jumping off point for most visitors—and it’s easy to see why—Lanesboro is securely nestled in the soaring bluffs and centrally located to several area attractions. Visitors from around the world visit Lanesboro to experience the area first-hand. Lanesboro offers funky restaurants, unique gift shops, and delightful accommodations. For hikers and bikers, the Root River Trail and the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail offer seemingly endless miles of beauty. Deep in the heart of Minnesota’s Amish country, visitors enjoy tours to Amish farms to learn about the Amish way of life. Other popular activities in the area include canoeing and trout fishing on the Root River which carves its way through the bluffs. Other area attractions worthy of a visit include Niagara Cave, Mystery Cave, and the National Trout Center.
If you decide to visit Lanesboro, you will practically have to drive through Rochester, home of the world-famous Mayo Clinic. A tour of Mayowood Mansion, home of Dr. Charles Mayo, co-founder of Mayo Clinic along with his father and brother, is not to be missed. If you pass through Rochester on a Saturday morning, you may want to check out the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, which was voted the best farmers market in Minnesota in 2014. Not surprisingly, the farmers market attracts locals and visitors alike who visit with the vendors, gather their weekly produce and meats, enjoy snacks and listen to musicians entertaining the crowd.
Follow the Mighty Mississippi River
Another great option: Take a drive along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway which begins at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca in northern Minnesota. The byway follows the river as it traverses south to the Gulf of Mexico. The Great River Road passes through several southern Minnesota cities and towns, such as Red Wing, Lake City, Wabasha, and Winona. There are numerous great places to stop along the route. Reads Landing Brewing Company is a delightful surprise along the river, featuring handcrafted brews and great food. The National Eagle Center in Wabasha is perched on the banks of the river and is very educational for all members of the family. Just down the road in Kellogg, is LARK Toys—which is a treat for all ages! The place is worthy of a day trip all by itself!
Other Fun: Ziplines and Museums
If getting out in nature and having a great adventure is more your thing, you may want to consider a zip line experience. Kerfoot Canopy Tour zip line in Henderson, which has a sister zip line company in the Brainerd Lakes area, will send you on a great adventure! Visitors zip through the trees, going higher and higher, taking in breath-taking views of the Minnesota River Valley during the experience.
Walnut Grove is home to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and the Dugout site. Fans of the Little House series of books, will enjoy this piece of American history.
Just for fun, during your travels this summer, be sure to fit in a trip to Austin to visit the Spam Museum—it’s a great place to take the kids.
Summer is fleeting so get out there, put your toe in the water and explore the many amazing activities southern Minnesota has to offer! There are endless places to visit and enjoy in addition to numerous state parks, festivals and county fairs throughout the summer. Who knows? You may discover some new favorite summertime things to do.