Spring break 2016, and unfortunately this year I was only able to take 2 days off during the week. I knew we wanted to do something fun that felt like going out of town but we didn’t have too much time. Owatonna was the perfect choice for a getaway that was close to home! Owatonna is roughly one hour south of the Twin Cities and there was plenty to do to keep us busy for 2 days.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn and Suites, home of The Great Serengeti Water Park. The hotel was nice. Our room was clean and the service was excellent in both the hotel and the restaurant attached to the hotel. My kids had a blast in the water park. For a water park in a chain hotel I thought it was a good one. There were two large slides, a pool with basket ball hoops and then a shallow pool for toddlers and smaller kids. There is also a hot tub for those over age 12. The pool area had a concession stand and life guards on duty. Admission to the water park is included with your room, but you can buy daily passes for $10/person. Check in is at 4pm but if your room is not available for an early check in you can get your waterpark passes at 1pm.
We made a couple stops on the way down. The first one was at the Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo, aka RAD Zoo. We really enjoyed our visit to the RAD Zoo. The whole family was impressed with the many, many different species of reptiles. While we were there we got to pet an alligator and feed a tortoise some lettuce. My kids are still talking about how cool it was! If you are planning to go to the RAD Zoo pick up one of the Owatonna tourism booklets for $1.50 off per person coupon.
The next stop was at the Russell Stover Candy Store. The candy store is gorgeous from the outside; it looks like a log cabin. Inside is just a lot of candy! There was really nothing special about the store, but if you love chocolate it’s a great stop! My older daughter picked out one of their huge, delicious looking caramel apples. I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the mess that comes with a caramel apple but when we were at the check out the employee offered to slice it for her – problem solved!
The last place we checked out on our trip was by far my favorite. We headed to Fairbault, about a 20 minute drive from Owatonna, to check out the River Bend Nature Center. The nature center building had a lot to look at and very friendly staff. The real highlight was the hiking trails. Close to the parking lot is an area that they call “Kids in the Wild”, it is an area designed specifically to allow children a space to play in the woods. After we explored that section we headed out on the trails. The trails were great for hiking with kids. Early spring is such a great time for hiking – there are no bugs, the weather is cool and it’s so fun to look for signs of spring!
There are lots of other things to check out in the area that we didn’t have time for. For the hunter or outdoors family there is Cabelas. If your family likes learning about history there is a very interesting museum in Owatonna called the Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum. If your family is into arts, check out the Owatonna Arts Center. For more outdoor options check out Lake Kohlmeier or Kaplan’s Woods Parkway.
We had a couple really good meals while we were in Owatonna. Before we checked into the hotel we stopped for lunch at The Sportman’s Grille across the street from the hotel. Their signs boast that they offer “awesome” food, and they aren’t lying! For a bar, we all agreed the food was awesome! For dinner we went to Torey’s. Again, everyone enjoyed their food and had a good overall experience at the restaurant.
If you are looking for a spot for a quick little getaway, Owatonna is an excellent choice!
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