It’s been a bit of a rough week over here in my neck of the woods. If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that my husband has been down for the count over the past few days with a busted ankle. This meant that my original plans to explore some trails in northern Minnesota were put on hold so I could help him out. I was happy to do it, of course, but by the end of the week I really was in need of a little Jeepventure.
With my husband still not at 100%, it didn’t seem right for me to take my previously mentioned 2 [or more] day trip. That’s why I decided to go in a completely different direction. Rather than making my way up north, I’d head south.
I call this route the Jolly Green Bison. It is a relatively simple one. It starts in Le Sueur, about 1 hour from the Twin Cities, and continues down to New Ulm. The main attraction is Minneopa State Park, but there are also a lot of fun roadside attractions along the way.
Location #1: Jolly Green Giant Signs [Historic Site/Roadside Attraction/Museum] – These huge signs of the Jolly Green Giant are just off the main road tucked away behind a commercial building. They sit on what was once the original site of the Green Giant canning plant. The plant was moved to a different location in 1979, but the signs remain. You will also find a museum on this site, but it is open by appointment only.
Location #2: Pearly Gates [Roadside Attraction] – According to RoadsideAmerica.com, Saint Peter’s Pearly Gates is located in the town of Saint Peter. These iron gates are in Levee Park, which is a great little park in a great little town. Unfortunately, during my visit there was major construction happening in the area where the gates were supposed to be. I drove around for a bit trying to get as close as I could, but it seems like they may have been temporarily moved and/or taken down as a result of the construction.
Location #3: The Happy Chef [Restaurant/Roadside Attraction] – The “Happy Chef” is an easy to find roadside attraction located in Mankato. It’s still standing there, holding his spoon, like so many others have been for years. Unfortunately, he seems to be the only remaining chef out there. That said, make your way over and snap a picture with the Happy Chef before he too becomes part of the past.
Location #4: Mineoppa State Park [Park/Camping] – Minneopa State Park was the main focus of my trip today, mainly because of the bison. I had read that you can drive through a part of the park where the bison roam freely and couldn’t pass up that opportunity. The park itself is not that big of a park, or at least it doesn’t feel very big. From the road it’s just a minute or two before you’re at the entrance to the bison drive area which loops around and will bring you back to the entrance. There is camping available at this park, but that seems to be about it. Unfortunately, no bison were in sight today. Better luck next time! If you’re thinking about visiting Minneopa State Park it’s important to first check out the Department of Natural Resources website. There you’ll be able to find specifics regarding parking permits, rules and everything else in the “need to know” column.
Location #5: Harkin Store [Historic Site/Museum] – Harkin Store is a great little historic site that is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society. The drive that gets you to the store is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn’t get inside the actual museum. This is because despite offering credit as a means of payment their credit card machine doesn’t work. I inquired about this while trying to pay and was told “it never works because we’re in a dead zone, but you can try”. Unfortunately, I was out of luck. You can find information about the Harkin Store on the Minnesota Historical Society website. You can also find information over on their Facebook page. Unfortunately, not all the information matches up so if you’re planning on visiting I’d call, email or Facebook Message them first.
Although there were some letdowns during this little Jeepventure, I still had quite a bit of fun. Most of all, I enjoyed the beautiful scenic drive through a part of Minnesota that I’ve never seen before.
Have you been to any of these places? Let me know all about your own Jeepventure in the comments below!