The delights of small town Minnesota

If you ever find yourself passing through Southeastern Minnesota, take a few hours to stop in the small towns of Wabasha and Kellogg. They sit roughly six miles apart along the Mississippi River, so you’ll be able to get in a quick visit to both towns without too much effort.

Should you have a little more time, or if you possess the inclination to plan, we recommend coming in September or October. There are two wonderful festivals taking place in both towns during that time, but there’s plenty to do anytime of year.

If you’re just passing through

For a short trip there are two places you shouldn’t miss:

Stop #1: Lark Toys in Kellogg. This is a museum, a bookstore, a candy shop, and a play land all wrapped into one. It will transport adults back to their youth and kids to a world where toys without an internet connection are fun.

The main attraction at Lark Toys is a hand-carved wooden carousel. This is truly a work of art. You can ride the carousel for $2 every 30 minutes.

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The crown jewel of the carousel. A wizard riding a dragon. Meticulous and gorgeous. Photo by T.
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Brown bear with honey bees. Photo by T.
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Moose! The attention to detail is amazing. Photo by T.

But they also house a number of old toys that are on display in their Memory Lane. There is also a toy shop, including hand-carved wooden toys.

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Do any of these toys look familiar? Photo by T.
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Robot toys from then and now! Photo by T.

And for good measure, there’s an 18-hole mini golf course outside. R beat me by one swing.

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If you’ve ever wanted to play mini golf next to a corn field, this is your chance. Photo by T.

In the toy store, look up and see this magnificent guy looking down on all the fun.

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I don’t know this guy’s name, but he is a marvel. Hand-carved from basswood. Photo by T.

Stop #2: The National Eagle Center in Wabasha.

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The National Eagle Center as seen from the Mississippi River. Photo by T.

Positioned right along the Mississippi River, the National Eagle Center is a treasure of a place where you can see bald and golden eagles up close, as well as view them in the wild. The center takes in injured birds that are no longer able to fly, cares for them, and gives wonderful talks about eagle physiology and behavior.

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A bald eagle in the wild. Photo by T.
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One of the eagle handlers giving a talk. This bird’s name is Angel. She either fell out of her nest very young or was injured in some other way. But because of the injuries she sustained at a young age she cannot fly. She has around 7,000 feathers and weighs 10.5 pounds. Photo by T.

We happened to be there when they were feeding the eagles.

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Feeding time. Raw catfish. Nom. Photo by T.

There’s also a fun little playground outside where you and your kids can run around and play.

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The playground outside the National Eagle Center. That building there is a condominium complex. The bridge takes you across the river to Wisconsin.

If you have a few days in September or October

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This is Charlie. He’d like to sell you some lemonade at the Kellogg Watermelon Festival. Photo by T.

The Kellogg Watermelon Festival is held annually the weekend after Labor Day, and overlaps with Wabasha’s SeptOber Fest, which runs from early September to late October every year. It’s a worthy way to spend a few days.

Both of these festivals are good community fun. They are big enough that there is plenty to see and do, but small enough that you don’t feel swallowed up by a crowd.

Kellogg has held a Watermelon Festival every year for the last 70 years. It only lasts for that one weekend after Labor Day, so you’ll either need to get lucky with the timing or plan ahead. Complete with a bean bag tournament, softball, a tractor parade, and carnival rides, this town really turns out for a fun time.

Over in Wabasha, the SeptOber Fest runs a little longer and boasts a lot of fun entertainment, decorations, food, and train rides. There’s even a pumpkin derby, which we missed, sadly, but will try to get to next year.

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A highlight of the Kellogg Watermelon Festival is this firehose competition. Teams of two try to get that empty keg across the wire to the other team’s side. Photo by R.
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Non-competitors get into the fun. Photo by T.
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You’ve never seen so many old tractors. They get their very own parade! Photo by T.
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Load up a giant pile of wood chips with quarters and let the kids loose finding them. The kids use the quarters they find in the carnival across the way. Photo by T.

Both of these towns offer a lot for adults and families. We highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

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