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Top Things to do in New Ulm Minnesota

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Known as the Most German Town in America, New Ulm Minnesota is the perfect destination for a day or even weekend getaway!  At just 1.5 hours SW of the Twin Cities, it’s very easy to get to yet you’ll feel like you’ve truly gotten away.  The town has preserved its German pioneer history from the 1800’s while adapting with modern touches, all set along the Minnesota and Cottonwood Rivers – so history buffs, those craving modern experiences and nature lovers will all be delighted.  I spent a day exploring the city and below are the top 11 things to do!

Note: while Visit New Ulm sponsored our activities, the opinions below are my own.

1. Visit Schell’s Brewery

The oldest brewery in Minnesota and the second oldest family-owned brewery in America, Schell’s is a gem in Minnesota and we loved walking the historic grounds.  

The Biergarten is currently open with excellent social distancing measures in place. I loved the Sangria beer and my husband enjoyed his Oktoberfest. We also ordered 1919 Root Beer – at just $1 and freshly brewed on site, you have to try it. A soft pretzel completed the experience!

While tours are currently closed, the museum is open for self guided tours as is the beautiful gift shop. I got a really soft t-shirt I’ll enjoy wearing for a long time.

This is the perfect place to celebrate Oktoberfest (or really any time!) – just make sure to make a reservation!

2. Enjoy delicious food on Minnesota Street

Minnesota Street, the historic main street in New Ulm, has many great restaurants, shops and historical information. We were delighted to try two of the top local restaurants.

For breakfast, we loved Sozial, which means Social in German! The restaurant is a gathering place for friends and family to enjoy time together over delicious food. With COVID, the restaurant has blocked off certain tables/seating areas so groups maintain even more than 6 feet distance.  Masks are required until at your table so we felt very safe.  The owners, Michele and Jeff, are incredibly kind and hard working and have curated a wonderful menu.  We enjoyed the California Toast and the Caprese Benedict.  Both were great but I have to say the Caprese Benedict is one of the most unique offerings I’ve had for breakfast – you have to try it!  If you go for lunch or dinner and are vegetarian, try the Impossible burger!

For lunch, we sat on the outdoor patio at Lola, an American bistro, where you can grab breakfast and lunch daily. There are tables inside but mostly patrons sit outside on the gorgeous patio. The espresso menu looked amazing but since I don’t drink coffee I enjoyed a delicious iced tea. However, if you are a coffee drinker, you have to try something from the curated coffee menu. I ordered the Roasted Veggie Dagwood sandwich and the whipped goat cheese made the sandwich! Highly recommend. My husband loved the chicken torta and smoothie. Make sure to check out the side entrance – it’s a gorgeous mosaic coffee mug!

3. Try Spaghettieis at newly opened ice cream shop MN EIS

MN EIS serves super premium, delicious ice cream in New Ulm and just opened in June 2020.  With unique and traditional ice cream flavors, homemade waffle cones, edible cookie dough and a candy shop, it’s one of the most fun stops in town! We had to try the spaghettieis – a traditional German ice cream treat that looks like spaghetti! Made with vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, white chocolate shavings and cookie dough “meatballs” it was a really fun treat and something you have to try!

4. Shop at Domeier’s German Store

Domeier’s is a classic shop in New Ulm that sells goods from Germany – food, hats, clothes, ornaments, etc.! It’s a must stop when you’re in town.  Sanitizer and masks sit at the entrance and social distancing spots are marked on the floor to keep everyone safe.

5. Visit the local state parks

Flandrau State Park is right in the New Ulm area and Minneopa State Park is within a 30-minute drive – both doable as part of the day trip!

Flandrau State Park has hiking trails along the Cottonwood River plus spots to camp and enjoy bonfires.  We only spent a half hour in the park but were able to enjoy the scenery along the river.

Minneopa State Park is known for its herd of bison and having gorgeous waterfalls! We drove through the bison range area but unfortunately didn’t see any. I know others who have so I think we caught them at a bad time. It was fun nonetheless to pretend we were on safari! After the range drive, we drove ~2 min to the waterfall area and hiked ~30 mins round trip. The waterfalls were absolutely beautiful and would be worth the visit to the park even if you don’t see bison!

Tip – if you’re going to visit state parks more than 5x in a year, purchase the $35 annual pass rather than pay the $7 daily fee!

6. Ride on the new 13-mile bike path around the city

While we packed our bikes for the day, we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to ride on the new 13 mile trail around New Ulm but we will next time we visit the city!  The paved trail looks like an awesome way to get around the city and includes many of the highlights on this list.

7. Watch the Glockenspiel performance

Everyday at 12pm, 3pm and 5pm, you can watch the famous Glockenspiel in town perform with 12 animated characters from the town’s history popping out from the clock to spin around to the music.  Benches face the glockenspiel for viewers to enjoy the performance.

8. Enjoy a meal at Turner Hall

Turner Hall is a really special place in New Ulm – especially for history buffs – as it was opened in 1856! Turner was a German exercise movement that came to the US in the 1800’s so it was firstly used as a gymnasium and that is still one of its uses today.  Additionally, it has the oldest bar in Minnesota, murals from the 1800’s of German, Italian and Swiss castles and tons of nooks and crannies that have been used for a variety of events including weddings.  It had to be rebuilt a few times over the years including after the US-Dakota War of 1862 and a fire in 1952.

We were really lucky to have a tour of Turner Hall to learn more about its history. A few highlights included enjoying Chef George’s amazing culinary skills over a meal in the oldest bar in Minnesota, seeing the old gymnasium spots and learning more about the founders who included August Schell.  While currently closed, Turner Hall has take out so you too can enjoy Chef George’s specialities! His passion for elevating the German and American culinary fare on the menu will delight you, as it did us!

9. Sample wines at Morgan Creek Winery

Morgan Creek Winery sits on a beautiful farm and is the perfect place to enjoy a wine tasting or a wood fired pizza! It’s the only underground sustainable winery in Minnesota and the taste of the wine is super unique.  Make sure to make a reservation for Saturday – the only day the winery is currently opened to the public.

10. Take your photo with a mural

The alleyways around New Ulm’s Minnesota Street are becoming full of art and you can spend an afternoon finding your favorite!

11. Stroll around German Park

German Park is a really beautiful green space just uphill from the Minnesota River.  Stroll the grounds, enjoy the fountain and perhaps catch a show at the newly built amphitheater once events resume. 

Are you ready to start planing your day trip?! Check out the perfect one-day itinerary to learn how you can structure your visit.

Check out more Minnesota day trip ideas here!

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