One of my favorite places to stop on 169 between Mankato and the Twin Cities features an enormous selection of candy, gourmet soda, and fun. Run by Jim’s Apple Farm, Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store offers more than candy; it offers an experience.
My husband and I have been stopping at Jim’s Apple Farm, known locally as the big yellow barn, for at least a decade, and it’s changed a lot. Originally, it offered fresh apples and other produce in season, fresh baked apple pies and strudel, fudge, and a selection of locally sourced food products. The owners also offered what appeared to be a good variety of vintage and other candy.
Today, the elderly strudel maker has passed away, but the family still offers fresh baked pies, strudels, and apple cookies using the old recipes. They still offer the apples and pumpkins in season, and the locally sourced goods. But they’ve expanded significantly, and what was once a fun and modest selection of vintage candy is now a barn full of candy and snacks from around the world.
Additionally, with the expansion, the owners have incorporated life-sized friends from the Marvel, DC Comic, and Pixar universes in the main candy room, and the round observatory recently added includes suspended models of the U.S. Enterprise, Millenium Falcon, X-Wings and Tie-Fighters, and the Borg cube. At center stage in the observatory is a model of the TARDIS.
Highway 169 has been under construction all summer, so Wednesday was the first time all summer that we visited. We brought our little girls with us (offer a candy store visit to a preschooler and see how fast they buckle up in the car), and I honestly had more fun watching them than I did picking out candy.
First, the new atmosphere expands a point of view so that it always pays to look up. The little girls spotted a life-sized Wonder Woman statue first, and their squeals of “Wonder Woman!” followed by “Superman!” made me giggle. We spotted Iron Man, Thor, Cat Girl, Batman, The Joker, The Hulk, Harley Quinn, Flash, Captain America, the Silver Surfer, and the Iron Man Hulk Smasher all in that first room, looking as if they were ready to do battle over our heads.
As we passed through to the other side of the room, we found Sully and Mike from Monsters, Inc., a minion in a gas mask, and entire animatronic band made up of candy and raisin characters, all life-sized. We watched the band’s show twice–they perform every five minutes–and the girls and I danced along to Motown favorites. My husband was busy taking pictures.
We passed by a Zoltar Speaks machine on our way into the big round observatory room, to find the Borg Cube and the Enterprise suspended on opposite sides of the room, with the Star Wars space ships during it out in the middle, high above our heads in the round dome. The TARDIS took center stage in the room, and we had to pop in and out of it. Unfortunately, it was not bigger on the inside.
But in the observatory room we found a wide and varied selection of candies and snacks from around the world. While the British selection was still back in the main barn, near its red British telephone box, the observatory selection featured candy from Japan, Spain, Korea, and other places in its original packaging.
The girls were allowed to pick out candy for themselves, and that took some time. I picked out a Lion Bar from Britain, something I’ve missed after my stay there many years ago. A picked out a lollipop pop-up toy featuring her favorite character from the movie Frozen and a selection of suckers, while C picked out a box of Smarties. We also got a Chocolate Frog, apple cookies, gourmet soda, and handmade, locally sourced egg noodles (destined for from-scratch chicken and noodle soup).
The bathrooms had an upgrade a few years ago, and now, instead of two, single stalls, we found port-a-potty doors that opened up into spacious restrooms with several stalls and room for a nursing mother to take care of her baby.
We had a fantastic time, and it was well worth the trip.
One note: Jim’s Apple Farm and the Minnesota Largest Candy Store do not accept credit or debit cards, so be sure to bring your checkbook and/or plenty of cash. There are at least three ATMS on-site if you forget, but I’ll warn you: we rarely leave without spending at least $40.
The big yellow barn is located on the west side of Hwy 169 between Belle Plaine and Jordan, Minn. It’s hard to miss, open March through November, and closes for the season this year Nov. 25. I’ll be going back up to get my Thanksgiving pies.