Owatonna’s Flying Jets
South of the Twin Cities on Interstate 35, you will find the charming city of Owatonna. Our family goes to Owatonna quite a bit, as it is just “down the road” from where we live in Faribault. Since my husband’s a fisherman, we visit Cabela’s on a regular basis. My kids, on the other hand, have developed an obsession with eating at the Panda Express, which is located just off the Interstate. Over the years, we’ve made an effort to explore beyond these favorite spots and have enjoyed getting to know our neighbors to the south.
Honoring America’s Air Force
In 1996, the city of Owatonna and citizen R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan began to create a tribute to the United States Air Force. Completed in 1998, the T-38 Talon Thunderbird jets originally stood at the Heritage Halls Museum near Cabela’s. After the museum closed in 2006, the planes were moved to their current location at the Owatonna Airport, just off Interstate 35.Flying in an aerobatic formation, each plane measures more than 46 feet long and reaches, with its supporting structure, 70 feet into the air. A 308-ton concrete base helps to hold each of the 12,500-pound planes in place.
Owatonna has twenty-six parks! We love to visit Morehouse Park, which features a skate park, playground, and bike trails. Its trails run along the Straight River and geese, ducks, and other bird species are plentiful to watch. A beautiful walking bridge also goes over the river and highlights views of the rushing water over the dam.
Also visit the River Springs Water Park, which features water slides, a lazy river, a climbing wall and a zero-depth entry pool. In addition to the pool, there are also a couple of swimming beaches in Owatonna, at Kaplan Woods Parkway and Lake Kohlmier Park.
Museums and Historic Places
From 1886 to 1945, Owatonna was home to Minnesota’s only state-run orphanage. Visit the Orphanage Museum and learn about the lives of the children who lived there. Learn about local history at the Village of Yesteryear, which features log cabins, a railroad station, a general store, and much more.
The Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo features alligators, lizards, snakes, and frogs from all over the United States and the world. Visit on a Saturday or Sunday and watch the animal feedings. Spend the afternoon at the Waters Edge Mini Golf Course and play 18 holes of mini golf. Our family also makes an annual pilgrimage to the Steele County Fair, the largest free fair in Minnesota.
- Smokin’ in Steele – BBQ and Blues Festival– Backyard Amateur BBQ Competition, 5K Run, Car Show, Blues Music and much more. Held in early June.
- Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival– High school marching bands from across the state compete against each other. Includes a parade of marching bands. Held in June.
- Steele County Historical Society’s Extravaganza– A free family event with history re-enactments, old time hand crafts, musical entertainment, tractor-drawn rides, an antique tractor show, wool spinning, printing, basket weaving, wood working demonstrations, and much more. Held in July at the Village of Yesteryear.
- Steel County Free Fair– Minnesota’s largest free county fair! Held in August.
- Culturefest– celebrates the many different cultures of the area. Events include Brewfest, which features food, beer, and coffee from around the world. Also view art and craft demonstrations, dancing, and sports from around the world. Held in September at Wilson Elementary School.
As you can see, Owatonna will keep your family busy with its many parks and attractions. Check this fun city out sometime soon!
- City of Owatonna
- State School Orphanage Museum
- Village of Yesteryear/Steele County History Center
- Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo
- Waters Edge Mini Golf
- Steel County Free Fair
Thanks for reading!