Many of us Minnesotans have a rich German heritage. Perhaps nowhere in our great state is this heritage better celebrated than the town of New Ulm. At a distance of about two hours from the middle of the Twin Cities metro area, New Ulm makes for a lovely family day trip. For those wanting the traditional German experience, consider visiting during New Ulm’s Oktoberfest, respectfully observed the first two weekends of the month.
The best things to do in New Ulm, Minnesota with kids
This is New Ulm repping heritage at its finest! Here’s what you can expect if you visit during the city’s signature festival:
- GERMANIC-AMERICAN DAY PARADE: The parade marches through downtown New Ulm the first weekend of Oktoberfest. The public is warmly invited to take part!
- OKTOBERFEST PROMENADE PARADE: One parade isn’t enough for New Ulm; the second parade takes place the second weekend of Oktoberfest. Again, all are invited to dress up and participate.
- HISTORIC DOWNTOWN FESTIVAL: Complete with horse-drawn trolley rides, food and drink vendors, games and a chance to dance with the Gnomes of New Ulm.
Sprinkled throughout the city are tributes to its German roots including a 45-foot Glockenspiel chiming a tune at 12, 3 & 5pm; the Hermann Monument with its panoramic view of the city, and an interpretive center to visit. Admission to the Hermann Monument is $3/pp, children 5 & under are free.
Tour the childhood home of the “Millions of Cats” author and see her original artwork and books displayed. The house is open weekends mid-May through mid-October. $5/pp.
Kids likely won’t be particularly interested in a brewery tour, but the grounds are landscaped with paths, a meandering stream – and (surprise) peacocks! Plus, kids are served delicious 1919 root beer if adults choose to stay for beverage tastings. Tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. $10/ages 13+, kids free. ID is required for tasting.
Step back in time at a turn-of-the-century general store on the outskirts of New Ulm. View much of the original merchandise stocking the shelves, relax on the porch, chat with costumed interpreters and catch special events during the summer months. Harkin Store is temporarily closed. Traditionally, the store is open Memorial Day-Labor Day.
New Ulm boasts Minnesota’s own Music Hall of Fame. Come find out which local favorites have been recently inducted. Memorabilia is on display Thur-Sun year-round and an audio tour is included with admission of $6/pp.
Swimming and splashing in the park’s sand-bottomed swimming pond is a highlight of summertime in New Ulm. Flandrau State Park hugs the southern part of the city, making it very convenient to spend an hour or two during a day trip. A visit need not be limited to the warmest months; come admire the fall colors or cross-country ski during the winter.
The museum proudly exhibits hands-on displays for all ages and there’s a pirate ship-themed playground outside if you’d like to stop for a picnic. Memorial Day to Labor Day: Tuesday & Thursday 12pm-3pm; Saturday 1pm-4pm; Sunday 12pm-4pm. Fall & Winter Hours: Saturday 1pm-4pm.
The museum is housed in the city’s original post office and is a striking example of German Renaissance architecture. If you’re interested in New Ulm area history, there is an exhibit on the Dakota War of 1862. Make sure to check out the historic Popcorn Wagon parked outside select Saturdays and during special events. $4-$7/pp.
Tour the former home of once-governor John Lind and his family. Open daily during the summer months, 1-4pm, and fall weekends. $3/pp.