Perfectly Small Cities: Mankato, Minnesota

Author: Alecia Pirulis

From waterfalls to a winter wonderland and from lush green hills to stunning architecture, Mankato is a Minnesota treasure. Considered one of the most livable cities in the country, Mankato is the county seat of the aptly named Blue Earth County and is located about an hour southwest of Minneapolis. Between breathtaking natural beauty and one of the best economies in the country, Mankato is a terrific place to find your next apartment.

Bluffs with panoramic views and natural prairies set the scene for some of the best outdoor activities anywhere. In the warmer months, hiking, camping, boating, and swimming take place in city and nearby county and state parks. In winter, those same parks offer everything from skating and skiing to snowboarding and snowshoeing. Nearby Minneopa State Park is home to two majestic waterfalls. A walking trail encircles the falls and a limestone stairway leads down to the valley. The park also contains Seppmann Mill, a historic wind-driven grist mill, and a campground.

Just a short distance from Mankato, Seven Mile Creek County Park covers 628 acres and includes a boat landing, playgrounds, picnic areas, and eight miles of trails. And if the downhill slopes, deep ravines, 50 miles of paved cycling trails, and river rapids aren’t enough to keep you busy, then perhaps the shopping and restaurants will.

Mankato may have that small town, rural feel you’ve been searching for, but there’s more to this Minnesota gem. People from all over the region and beyond flock to Mankato, not just for the natural beauty, but also for the shopping, dining, nightlife, art, and entertainment. As an art hub, Mankato is home to several galleries and museums. The city also offers a public art tour and other walking tours.

Honored with awards ranging from ranking 10th on the Forbes 2013 list of “Best Small Places for Businesses and Careers” to an award for airport excellence to “bicycle friendly” awards and “green city” recognitions, Mankato is starting to gain national attention — but its history began in the mid-1800s. A small settlement along the Minnesota River struggled until a crude military road was built in 1868 that lead from Mankato to St. Paul. In 1868, railroads came to the small town and it quickly became a railroad hub.

History buffs will enjoy the historic architecture that dots the city. After choosing your Mankato apartment, visit the Blue Earth County Historical Society Heritage Center Museum, the historic R.D. Hubbard House, and the Betsy-Tacy house — childhood home of the popular children’s book author, Maud Hart Lovelace.

As home to Minnesota State University-Mankato, South Central College-North Mankato Campus, and Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato is also a college town. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy cheering on the Division I Minnesota State University-Mankato Mavericks during hockey games, or cheer on the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings during their summer training camp, located on the university campus.

After bicycling on the trails, visiting waterfalls, hiking, boating, shopping, touring museums and historic sites, and cheering on college and pro sports teams, take some time to tour one (or all) of Mankato’s three wineries. Offering everything from wine tasting to grape stomps to murder mystery parties, Mankato wineries offer even more fun in a city that really does have it all.