Who says playing in the park or frolicking in the water is just for kids? Lake Minnetonka and surrounding parkland areas provide the perfect venues for grown-ups to tap into their inner, summer child. From sunrise to sunset, visitors to the Lake Minnetonka area can spend an entire day exploring trails, paddling around hidden alcoves and diving into local history before pausing for a picnic under an arbor of hardwoods. While Mother Nature sets the scene, local businesses and organizations provide the rest.
Surf and Turf
With a motto of “Learn. Explore. Escape,” Wai Nani Surf & Paddle offers options for both paddleboard novices and experienced boarders who want to ramp up the sweat factor in their experience. Boards, which can accommodate paddlers up to 225 pounds, are available to rent, as are private and semi-private lessons. Private and custom events are offered for 90 minutes with up to 12 adults, for $25–$50 per participant. Interested in taking it to another level? Private or group yoga and core fitness programs are offered. And after you’ve gone for a long paddle around the lake, rest and cool off on an Aqua Lily pad: This lightweight foam pad is puncture-resistant and easily accommodates adults (think of it as a super-comfortable raft). Lie down. Sit down. Jump around. Multi-day rental is available; check online for rental schedules and more details.
What to Wear
Whether hitting the water, hiking the trails or having a date night, clothes matter. The right outfit should be versatile, to go from day to night, and functional enough to handle the outdoors. But it doesn’t have to skimp on style. For men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, check out Wayzata’s Sun & Slope, which features active outdoor wear, including footwear and sunglasses. The shop features clothing from popular lines like Carve, Lakegirl, Patagonia, Southern Tide, Sperry, Trina Turk and Vineyard Vines (to name-drop just a few). You and your date can find swimsuits, board shorts, skirts, sundresses, cover-ups, shoes and sandals, and a comprehensive line of performance outdoor wear. Don’t forget to include beach towels, sunscreen and waterproof cases for phones and cameras, for those unplanned dips in the lake.
Up, Up and Away
Planning a first date? Jump in (or, more aptly, lift off) with both feet. Test your partner’s mettle with a ride (up to 30 feet high) over the lake, courtesy of Minnesota Fly Board Rental. A fly board looks a little like a snowboard, with large, powerful water jets on the bottom to propel riders into the air. Control your movement by tilting your feet and using the nozzles in your hands. (We recommend visiting the website for video footage before committing to the rental.) Fees range from $200 for half an hour up to $1,399 for larger group rental, but there are plenty of options in between. Add this to your bucket list.
While the lake area is brimming with charm and adventure, it’s also steeped in history. Create a perfect outdoor adventure by combining a little history with the natural vistas that have drawn people to the area for years.
Dakota Rail Regional Trail
Even from a distance, Lake Minnetonka makes for a stunning view. Interested in biking, running or walking? Follow the 13-mile paved route of the former Dakota Rail Corridor through St. Bonifacius, Minnetrista, Mound, Spring Park, Minnetonka Beach, Orono and Wayzata. Public parking is available at 5515 Lynwood Blvd., Mound and 175 Grove Lane, Wayzata. (As of this writing, the trail is scheduled to be closed for part of this spring for updates; be sure to check online for updates before venturing out.)
Pack a Picnic
While there are plenty of dining options around the lake, those spots might be best reserved for when chilly temps drive diners indoors. During Minnesota’s fleeting weeks of glorious warmer weather, why not pack a picnic? Include seasonal fruits, energy snacks and plenty of beverages to beat the heat and stay hydrated. If you’re feeling gourmet, try an updated version of the epitome of all things picnic—fried chicken—with a homemade chicken sandwich (find the recipe on lakeminnetonkamag.com). Short on time? Visit Kowalski’s scrumptiously abundant fresh produce area, deli and meat counter for countless picnic options.
Photo by joel schnell, styled by emily bretzel
In Excelsior, riders can imagine they’re back in the 1920s, trundling along in restored streetcars Nos. 78 and 1239, which used to transport visitors in Minneapolis and Duluth. The current line travels between Bayside Grille and the Excelsior Library, and boards next to the library on Water Street. The trolleys run on Tuesdays, May–October, during the farmers market, and various times on Saturdays and Sundays through September (check online for a more detailed schedule). The fare is $2 (kids under age 4 ride for free).
Riders on the Lake Minnetonka Trolley can imagine themselves as one of the summer “swells” from decades past, who dotted the lakeside town when they arrived from Minneapolis to cool off by the water. Stopping at 16 spots around town, the trolley runs on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; it also runs on Wednesday evenings for concerts at the Wayzata Depot (the line is open from June 14 to September 1). It’s a fun way to motor around to various retail and dining spots. Rides are free.
(Photo by Emily J. Davis)
Even steamboats deserve second chances. The Steamboat Minnehaha hit Lake Minnetonka’s water in 1906, was scuttled in 1926 and was rediscovered in 1980 as it bided its time at the bottom of the lake. Restored to its former glory, the steamboat began passenger service again in 1996. From May 28 to September 5, excursions run at various times on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (except during special events). Trips depart from Excelsior and Wayzata city docks. Standard cruises feature the Grand Wayzata Excursion, Minnetonka’s Gold Coast, Legends of Big Island, Victorian Gems, Cottage Treasures and Minnetonka Memories.
Let outdoor concerts provide the coda to a day along the lake. Excelsior’s summer concert series is held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month during the spring and summer at the band shell in the Commons. The event features food and refreshments, including beer and wine, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The city and the park and recreation commission host the series, which features a wide range of musical styles.
Wayzata’s Music by the Lake concerts are held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in July in Depot Park (402 E. Lake St.). The free, family-friendly events feature a wide variety of musical genres.
What About Fido?
Don’t leave the canine crew at home. PlayPawz, a local pet service, offers Explorers Club for dogs. The off-leash program includes field trips that help stimulate dogs’ seeking systems by encouraging them to run, sniff and explore new venues away from their regular walk routes. Owner Sara Conlin says the animals can explore, go home tired and dream about their open-air adventures. One of the four-hour field trips features a 47-acre farm chock-full of corn and hay fields. The $40-$50 fee includes pick-up and drop-off service. PlayPawz also offers in-home pet sitting, which includes tending to potty checks, feeding, walking and providing general care. Services vary depending on the duration and type of pet. (Note that dogs who sign up for Explorers Club must meet requirements including up-to-date vaccinations, compatibility with other dogs, completion of a screening process and more.)