The countryside in the middle of southern Minnesota
is dotted with lakes. Interstate highways 90 and 35 intersect
here, bringing many visitors through this rural landscape.
Shopping, fishing and other recreation lure travelers off the
roads to explore this area.
Austin calls itself “SPAM Town USA,” for the
internationally known lunch meat it produces. The SPAM
Museum focuses on this slice of Americana with fun,
interactive exhibits. The Historic Hormel Home (1871),
once the home of the founder of the Hormel Foods
Corporation, welcomes visitors for self-guided tours on
weekdays. At the Hormel Nature Center, 9 miles of trails
wind through woods and prairie. The old Paramount
Theatre has been renovated, with a variety of performances
scheduled for its stage. And at a bicycle shop on Main
Street, a display of 50 bikes traces the evolution of the
bicycle from 1868.
Albert Lea, at the intersection of Interstates 35 and
90, is home to a cluster of lakes. Excursions on the
Pelican Breeze II cruise the largest, Albert Lea Lake.
Along the lakeshore three miles from town is Myre-Big
Island State Park, with stands of oak and fields of prairie
grasses. The Blazing Star paved bike trail links the state
park with a lakeside park in the city. The Freeborn
County Historical Village is a collection of pioneer-era
buildings, including an 1853 log cabin. A collection of
dolls is featured at another museum. The Aquatic Center
outdoor waterpark is a favorite with the kids.
To the west along I- 90 is Blue Earth, where the Jolly
Green Giant stands 55-feet-tall, overlooking some of the
richest farmland in the country.
Fairmont is built around a chain of five lakes. These
and several other lakes in the area are popular fishing
waters, habitat for walleye, bass and catfish. Golfers can try
out one of the two courses in the area. Visitors can check
to see what’s on stage at the beautifully restored 1901
Fairmont Opera House. Waterslides and a splash pool are
part of the cool fun at the outdoor Fairmont Aquatic Park.
North from Albert Lea to the Twin Cities, the I- 35
artery links a handful of small cities with some interesting
places to visit.
Albert Lea Lake