Rice Lake State Park, MN

Nomad in the North ended up south this weekend! We've got lots of Northern Parks under our bumper, but not many Southern, so we thought we'd start to explore the unknown! We also really wanted to be able to visit the Mystery Caves and this allowed us to do that. Rice Lake State Park is a Minnesota State Park about an hour South of the cities. A nice farmland/prairie drive that was especially stunning during sunset.

The park offers drive in, walk in, cart in and even canoe in sites. It offered a standard sized site with a comfortable amount of space and privacy between each camper. Lots of fun wildlife to be seen too. We spotted some colorful birds, deer, ducks and even heard the owls and wolves as we slept! A few things we wished were different was that the playground was a good 10 minute bike ride away from us and so was the lake. We also were not too impressed with the trails offered for hiking. And I hate to say it because a state park bathroom can only be so clean, but these facilities could have definitely taken some attention. I normally don't shower when we camp, but I needed to this time because---sweat city! And during my shower I counted around 12 spiders hanging out there with me. And Curt has another story about spiders in his restroom, but we won't give you those nightmare images. We didn't stay around the park too much though, so it was just fine for hanging around the campfire and sleeping overnight.

One of our days we drove just over an hour South to the Forestville Mystery Caves State Park to explore the Mystery Caves. But before we got there we stopped in a little town along the way for lunch. It was a sweet little hole in the wall cafe run by grandma's that made a mean burger. It was amazing, entertaining and cheap! Gotta love small towns. We got to the caves and got to explore a mini hands on museum beforehand while we waited for our guide. We took an hour long scenic tour in the brisk dark caves and learned all sorts about limestone, cave formations, early explorers and how the DNR has preserved such a landmark. We even got to experience the complete blackness that the caves offer. The kids got a kick out of that. We would certainly recommend this attraction to anyone in the area or willing to take a small road trip!

We were also even able to fit in some more fishing on this trip. We took our poles over to Owatonna and found a sweet little park to drop our lines in at Lake Kohlmeir. We weren't sure how lucky we'd be still being newbies and not knowing if we had the right bait, but sure enough both the kids caught fish! Don't ask what kind they were--we are not there yet. There were small, so that should narrow it down, right? I think their heads are starting to get a bit bigger now that they have mom and dad beat in their records!

Beyond these big to-do's, we spent good quality time in the camper as it rained and rained....and rained. I even got to do an organizational project in the camper--it's amazing how much you can still minimize when you travel minimally! And then finally when it cleared up, we were able to have our campfire, make s'mores, cook dinner and all the usual happy camper stuff.

We packed up Monday afternoon, but not before a family bike ride around the grounds. It was the best weather we had the whole weekend!

It's definitely not Banning State Park (gosh, we love that place!), but Rice Lake State Park was a great little getaway for the family and gives us one more state park to check off our list!

Some other things that were recommended to us to check out in Southern MN that we just couldn't get to were:

  • Lark Toys in Kellogg

  • Nelson Creamery--technically WI, but sharing is the neighborly thing to do.

  • Sand Bottom Pool @ Flandrau State Park in New Ulm

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove

  • Hiking at Camden and Blue Mounds State Parks!

Do you live or visit Southern Minnesota? What do you love about it?

Here's a video recap of our trip!

We're going to be on a little break now from traveling for a few weeks because our boy is playing for his little league all stars team! We're bummed to halt the adventures for a bit, but we are so so excited to watch and cheer on our little all star!

Curtis and Laura.

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