We Minnesotans have a rich German heritage. While it may not be the same depth of heritage as Wisconsin boasts, many Minnesotans have a proud German ancestry. Perhaps nowhere in Minnesota is this heritage celebrated better than the town of New Ulm. At a distance of about two hours from the middle of the Twin Cities metro area, it makes for a lovely family day trip. For those wanting the traditional German experience, consider visiting during New Ulm’s Oktoberfest, observed the first two weekends of the month.
New Ulm at its finest! Here’s what you can expect if you visit during the city’s signature festival:
- Germanic-American Day Parade – Marches through downtown New Ulm the first weekend of Oktoberfest. The public is invited to take part!
- Oktoberfest Promenade Parade – Takes place the second weekend of the festival. Again, all are invited to dress up and participate.
- Historic Downtown Festival – Horse-drawn trolley rides, food and drink vendors, games and a chance to dance with the Gnomes of New Ulm are highlights of the festival.
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 $2.75/person, children 5 and under free.
Tour the childhood home of the “Millions of Cats” author and see her artwork and books displayed. Open weekends mid-May thru mid-October, $5/person.
Kids likely won’t be particularly interested in a brewery tour, but the grounds are landscaped with paths, a meandering stream – and 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. $5/adult, kids free. ID is required for tasting.
5) Harkin Store
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. Open Memorial Day-Labor Day, Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm. $4-$6/pp.
New Ulm boasts Minnesota’s own Music Hall of Fame. Come find out which local favorites have been recently inducted. Memorabilia is on display Thurs-Sun year-round and an audio tour is included with admission of $5/person.
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.
Hands-on displays and fun for all ages, plus a playground with space to picnic. Open Memorial Day-Labor Day: Wed-Fri 11am-3pm, Sun 12-3pm.
The museum is housed in the city’s original post office and is a striking of German Renaissance architecture. If you’re interested in 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. $7/pp, students and children are free.
10) John Lind House
Tour the former home of once-governor John Lind and his family. Open daily during the summer months, 1-4pm and fall weekends. $3/person.