Charles and I really like to travel within our own backyard, as much as we can. Recently we were invited to explore the town of New Ulm, Minnesota, only two hours away. I had never been to southwest Minnesota and was excited to see what’s going on down there.
Full disclosure – it poured down rain the entire time we were there, so I feel like we didn’t get the full experience that New Ulm could have offered.
We were there as part of an Instagram group, sponsored by the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce, so we got some extras, including a meet and greet with the Narren of New Ulm, a group of traditional German jesters or fools who dress up in wooden masks and perform at parades and parties. New Ulm is the self-proclaimed “Most German Town” in America, and they live up to that. I honestly think that the Narren were my favorite part. We also got to sing German drinking songs with them, before continuing the rest of our tour.
Our favorite place to eat was Lola’s. They do dinner, breakfast, brunch, lunch, catering…it’s a busy spot. We had brunch there, with delicious muffins, each with a different theme. We went with “mancave” and were not disappointed. Another option is Turner Hall, which I’ll talk a little more about in the drinking section. If you’re into German food, no problem, because there are many authentic German restaurants in town.
For drinking, our first stop was Turner Hall. It has a cellar that you can go into with a restaurant. The whole cellar is covered in elaborate murals and wood carvings, dating back to WWI. I’ll tell you though, the beer pours are stupidly generous. Ask how big a beer you just ordered.
After that, we took a trip to the August Schell Brewery for a tour. It is the second oldest family-owned brewery still in operation. I’ve been on some good brewery tours, and some bad ones, and this was one of the good ones. If you want a wildlife encounter, the brewery has a herd of deer that you can look at too.
If wine is more your speed, the Morgan Creek Winery is only 10 minutes away, and has live music in the afternoons and evenings on weekends.
For such a small town, New Ulm has a ton of cute little stores. We bought some little gifts for people at Imagine and loved our chocolate mice from Domeier’s German Store. There are also three quilt shops, one of which was named a Top 10 Quilt Shop by Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler Magazine. I also loved the boutique clothing stores – but everything was very reasonably priced.
Things to Do
As I said, it was cold and rainy when we were there, but we still made the best of it. Herman the German, a giant statue on a hill, is closed in the rain, but we still got to walk around it and take pictures. If you’re there in clear weather, you can take the 99 stairs all the way to the top. It’s cool, and worth the stop.
There’s also Flandrau State Park, with beautiful views of the Cottonwood River. Again, totally muddy and rained out, but worth looking at if the weather is nice. Another sightseeing place that you can go to is the Wanda Gag Museum. She was an illustrator and artist who lived in the early 20th century. She was originally from New Ulm. We didn’t make it out there, but heard that it was interesting and worth the trip.
I was surprised how much fun that we had in New Ulm. It’s a little out of the way for us, but I would stop in if I was driving east from South Dakota.
What is your small-town hidden gem?