Just an hour and a half drive south of Minneapolis lies the great town of Albert Lea, Minnesota. Settled in 1855, it started with farmlands and manufacturing facilities thanks to its convenient rail center. Today, it is home to around 18,000 residents and is the ideal spot for young families to grow roots in southern Minnesota. From camping, fishing, and exploring wildlife to shopping, wine tasting, the theatre, and more, you will discover a great variety of fun things to do in Albert Lea. Take a look at this list of our favorite destinations in town.
1. Freeborn County Historical Museum
First on our list of fun things to do in Albert Lea is to visit the Freeborn County Historical Museum. The best way to learn about a new city is to visit its historical museum. In Albert Lea, the Freeborn County Historical Museum serves as a museum, research library, and a village of historic buildings.
Established in 1948, the museum features 40 exhibits where you can learn about local businesses, destinations, and artifacts, including a turquoise truck that was owned by actress Marion Ross who lived in Albert Lea as a child.
Take a walk through the village to see 18 different buildings from the 1850s to 1900s including a one-room schoolhouse, general store, and antique farming equipment. If genealogical research is what leads you to Albert Lea, you’ll find a plethora of information at the research library including records, microfilms, and photographs of historical events.
2. Midwest Antiques
Bring a little history home with you so you can remember all the fun things to do in Albert Lea. Midwest Antiques of Albert Lea has anything you can think of from board games and movies to kitchenware, and furniture pieces. New items are added daily so you’ll always be able to find something new for your home or to give as a gift.
Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on sales and new items being brought in that might be perfect for you. They’re open seven days a week so no matter when you visit, make sure you stop by!
When you look good, you feel good. The right outfit can turn you into the most confident person in the room. If you’re looking for a fresh suit or tuxedo, Leutholds is the place to go. They offer a range of sizes and fits for men’s blazers, suits, sport coats, and tuxedos. If you’re looking for something a little less formal, check out the dress pants, shirts, and ties for men or pants, sweaters, blouses, and dresses for women.
For casual wear, they offer shirts, outerwear, and accessories for men, as well as sweaters, jackets, tunics, jeans, and leggings for women. Items are brought from fashion markets in New York City, and they only stock a few of each piece so you’re sure to have something unique that nobody else is wearing.
4. Myre-Big Island State Park
State parks are a great way to connect with nature and wildlife while disconnecting from the hectic world. For a peaceful escape near Albert Lea, visit the Myre-Big Island State Park. At the center of the park is the 117 acre Big Island that connects to the mainland and Little Island with causeways. Bring your canoe and hiking boots along with your camping and fishing gear, to enjoy all of the wonderful outdoor activities here.
The park protects 8 miles of Albert Lea Lake’s shoreline and is home to wildlife such as white-tailed deer, red and gray foxes, and several species of birds including the American white pelican. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars.
The park was originally named Helmer Myre State Park, after the former Senator Helmer Myre. He played a large role in advocating for protecting the land of Big Island during the mid-1940s, and passed away in 1951, prompting the name of the park.
5. Marion Ross Performing Arts Center
Next on our list of fun things to do in Albert Lea, is to see a show at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. Marion Ross is a retired actress who is best known for her role on “Happy Days”, though her credits contain dozens of other appearances in both television and film. Although she was born in Watertown, Minnesota, she spent the majority of her childhood growing up in Albert Lea.
Her legacy is honored through the performing arts center that bears her name. In this historic downtown building, the 255-seat theater is where the Albert Lea Community Theatre performs musicals and plays. You can also find various musical acts on stage, as well as showings from The Metropolitan Opera, live in HD.
If you’d like to host your own event or screening, you can rent the theater or a private meeting room on the lower level.
6. Three Oak Winery
In 2011, two locals stumbled upon a nursery property on the edge of Albert Lea and had the vision to turn it into a winery. That summer, they planted their first grapevines to be harvested in 2013 and expanded to add a West Vineyard just a few years later. In 2017, they added a tasting room for visitors to come sample the wines and purchase a bottle to take home.
Today, Three Oak Winery crafts several varieties of wine including popular white and red styles along with rosé and Sweet Mary wines. Three Oak also serves as a gorgeous wedding venue option in southern Minnesota, as well as rooms for private events. They are continually updating their menu with new wines, so be sure to stop by again and again!
7. Albert Lea Civic Music
In the 1930s, a group formed in Albert Lea called “The Committee of 100”. Their goal was to bring more musical performances and live speakers to the area. In 1945, they turned over their assets to the Civic Music Association to continue the mission. Over the decades they have brought nearly 350 artists to the area for music, theater, and ballet.
Today, they offer summer music camps, college and music lesson scholarships, a concert series, and showings of The Met: Live in HD throughout the year. Season tickets are available for adults, students, and family packages at a highly affordable price, making music available to all. Check out their website here for concert and show information.
8. Green Lea Golf Course
On the north side of Albert Lea is the beautiful Green Lea Golf Course. This par 72 golf course features 18 holes lined with mature trees, well-kept greens, and several sand and water hazards to keep golfers of all skill levels entertained and challenged. Originally established with 9 holes in 1949, the course was expanded to 18 holes in 1965.
The property also features a top-notch restaurant and pro shop for all your golfing needs. The clubhouse is available to the public for banquets, parties, wedding receptions, and any other private event you can think of. Junior golf leagues and the annual Shortstop Tournament get everyone involved in this community hub.
9. Albert Lea Audubon Wildlife Nature Preserve
The Albert Lea Audubon Society was formed in 1948 to protect the natural habitat of Albert Lea and educate people about the importance of clean air and water for birds and humans alike. The Society’s most notable project has been the Wildlife Nature Preserve. The Preserve started as a 10-acre plot of land that was donated to the Albert Lea Audubon Society in 1987. The following year, the Society purchased an additional 6 lots adjacent to this land.
In 2005, the area underwent a major overhaul to remove dead trees and bushes, kill weeds, install benches, add new trails, and plant new flowers and greenery. Today, there are 2 miles of mowed trails where visitors can get some sun and exercise while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding plants and wildlife.
10. Broadway Bike Co.
If your version of fun things to do in Albert Lea happens on two wheels, you need to stop by Broadway Bike Co. This local bike shop features a variety of bikes for sale along with any accessories you’ll need. You can also have your bike serviced and repaired in the store. If you’re just visiting or not ready to make the investment in your own set of wheels, you can rent bikes to ride around the trails of Albert Lea’s parks.
If you plan on taking your bike to a nearby fishing spot, you can also purchase live bait and tackle at Broadway Bike Co. for a convenient shopping experience. Just because it’s Minnesota doesn’t mean a little (or a lot!) of snow on the ground will slow you down. Fat tire bikes are perfect for hitting the trails with a little more safety and protection during the winter months.
What Are Your Favorite Fun Things to Do in Albert Lea?
If you’ve been to Albert Lea before, or if you happen to live there now, leave a note in the comments below about what your favorite things to do in Albert Lea are! If you’ve never been but can’t wait to visit, let us know if you stop by any of the above places or if you find another Albert Lea gem we should add to the list! To stay updated on the latest and greatest things to do in cities all across the state, please subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll be the first to know when we publish a new list of fun things to do!
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.