After a day on the trails, unwind with an assortment of entertainment options in Mankato. Our vibrant, historic downtown offers live music and our civic center draws international headliner acts. You will find a packed year-round event calendar in Mankato including quality theater, music, dance and visual arts. Or, plan a weekend around one of the many wellness events Mankato can offer you.
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Top Annual Events and Festivals in Mankato
The city of Mankato keeps its visitors and residents entertained year-round with plenty of exciting events and festivals. Almost all events are focused on celebrating the unique character of the Mankato area—including its history, climate, location and friendly atmosphere. Here are 12 of the top annual events and festivals in Mankato, Minnesota, throughout the year.
Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Classic, February
Every February, Spring Lake Park is a hot spot for both young and adult hockey players for the Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Classic event. Several local hockey teams compete on the frozen Anthony Ford Pond during a two-day event that also has additional options for family fun including a sledding hill and 12 separate professional rinks. There’s also a warming house to take a break from the cold. Games are categorized by youth and adult teams, and all entrance fees go toward the Pediatric Cancer Research and United Way’s Connecting Kids charities.
Greater Mankato Bike & Walk Week, May
May is officially bicycle month in the Mankato area, and locals celebrate by hosting Greater Mankato Bike & Walk Week. Each day during this weeklong event has its own exciting theme and programs like Bike and Walk to School Day, Bicycle Safety Rally and the Mayor’s Ride. Other scheduled events throughout Bike Week include Cyclofemme (a celebration of women), Valley Crawl Bike Polo (a pub crawl on bikes) and Ride of Silence (paying respect to cyclists who lost their lives on the road). The event’s goal is to promote a healthier lifestyle and raise awareness about bike safety.
On Father’s Day weekend, Solstice at Riverfront Park is a popular annual outdoor festival loaded with live country music from dozens of bands, artisans and local food vendors. For three days, participants can see and take part in a variety of events, including a kids talent contest, try craft beer tastings and fundraising activities for charities. Families are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and/or blankets for a more comfortable concert experience.
Deep Valley Homecoming, June
Once home to the famous children’s book author, Maud Hart Lovelace, Mankato celebrates the Betsy-Tacy book series annually at the Deep Valley Homecoming festival. Deep Valley is the fictional town from the book series, and the event includes guided tours of the Betsy-Tacy houses, book festivals, children’s games, and arts and crafts. Families can join a horse-drawn trolley, have a Victorian tea experience, browse through a vintage car show, watch a live reenactment of Victorian times and much more. Come hungry; families can register to join a feast at the historic Kato Ballroom and watch guest speaker authors like Melissa Wiley and Nancy McCabe.
North Mankato Fun Days, June
North Mankato Fun Days in Wheeler Park is a five-day event catered to both children and adults with fun activities like the Kids Pedal Tractor Pull, Fire Department Water Fights, Special Needs Carnival and a live petting zoo. Other attractions at Fun Days are the vintage cars and motorcycle shows, horseshoe tournament, bingo games and more. Fun Days is a longstanding event, surpassing 50 years and becoming an important tradition to the city of Mankato.
Minnesota Vikings Training Camp, July/August
Not much different than Norwegian warriors, the Minnesota Vikings football team hosts its training camp every year at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato. During special times during the Vikings Training Camp, families can join in on the fun. They can take to the field to play football and meet the Vikings cheerleaders, and meet many of the players for autographs. Kids also can join a junior training camp (early registration required) for some one-on-one learning time with Vikings coaches and players. This is one of the most popular annual traditions in Mankato, and easily one of the coolest. It’s a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with professional NFL players—a chance that doesn’t come along often.
Indulge in one of America’s favorite meaty dishes at Ribfest, held annually every August at Riverfront Park in Mankato. Attendees can sample multiple rib recipes along with other barbecue meat while enjoying live bands during the event. Several designated kids’ activities are on-hand each year with games, crafts and more.
Mahkato Annual Traditional Pow-Wow, September
Once predominately occupied by the Mahkato natives, the city of Mankato goes back to its roots at the Mahkato Annual Traditional Pow-Wow. Both natives and non-natives are invited to camp overnight at the Land of Memories Park for a full Pow Wow experience. Visitors receive history lessons on the Mahkato tribe, watch performances and dances and join drum circles. The event is hosted by the Mahkato Mdewakanton Association with goals to connect people to its rich history.
History Fest, October
Travel back in time at History Fest, held annually at Darby Village on McGowans Farm, where adults and kids can see firsthand what living the farm lifestyle in the 17th century was like. Guests get to see performances by bellydancers, fire-eaters, storytellers, cannon shooters and cider makers. The farm focuses on Irish and Scottish traditions and activities. Families also have a chance to sample centuries-old recipes to get a taste of early farm life.
Mankato River Ramble, October
Check out the glorious fall colors of Minnesota by joining a scenic bike ride at Mankato River Ramble. Hosted by both Mankato Bike Alliance and Minnesota Bicycle Alliance, River Ramble is a celebration of its award-winning bike trails and community. Cyclists can choose several routes from 12 miles to 50 miles to bike through fall foliage and past local rivers and lakes. All of the bike trails have rest stops for food and drinks, live music and more.
Mankato Marathon, October
Mankato Marathon is the area’s biggest race of the year and features a 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon and KidsK races. Sponsored by the Mayo Clinic Health Systems, the event is held to raise funds for local charities. Visitors can participate in one of the races (early registration required) or cheering on runners. Mankato Marathon is USATF certified, ranking as professional as Boston Marathon.
Kiwanis Holiday Lights, November/December
The biggest Christmas event in Mankato is the Kiwanis Holiday Lights celebration in Sibley Park that attracts thousands of visitors annually. Families are invited to drive through the route of holiday lights. Other on-site activities include ice skating (rentals available), reindeer encounters, an illusion show with LED lights, Santa visits and more.