What to Do in the Twin Cities This Summer

by | Jun 2019

A graphic reads "Keep It Local"

Illustrations: Emily Handy

Our picks for things to do and see this summer—all without leaving the metro.

The “staycation” trend makes so much sense: Put together a day or weekend trip for your family, and save time (and money) on the travel itself. The Twin Cities metro has an abundance of sites to see and activities to do, so grab your calendar and plot a quick trip to one (or a handful) of these delightful destinations. The editors of our community lifestyle magazines are experts in their local communities, and they’ve chosen their favorite spots to share with us.

Blue Ox Log Rolling
Some travel experiences can be a leap of faith. Rather than leaping, how about taking small balanced steps and challenging yourself along the shores of Victoria’s Lake Auburn?

As owner and lead instructor of Blue Ox Log Rolling, Sarah Beron’s been teaching people of all ages how to log roll for fun, exercise and sport since May 2016. Summer sessions take place in the Berons’ backyard the lake. Visit the website to book a family lesson or party.

MN Landscape Arboretum
In our book, this is the MN OurEscape Arboretum. Visitors can find themselves deeply rooted along the bog walk or Green Heron Pond; cooled by the hidden waterfall; steeped in the Japanese Garden; challenged by the Maze Garden; and delighted by the too-many-to-count blooming gardens, a carefully curated gift shop and a stop-worthy restaurant. Need more? Visit the Learning Center, Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center and the Sculpture Garden.

Winery Tours
Head west and tour the wineries of the county—Carver, that is, not California’s Sonoma. Parley Lake WinerySchram Vineyards Winery and Brewery, and The Winery at Sovereign Estate welcome visitors to tour and sample the fruits of their efforts. Whether your tastes span Minnesota wine, locally brewed beer, beautifully prepared food, local art (including July’s ArtStock at Parley) or live music, you’ll be in your element at any of these sparkling venues.

Day of Museum Fun
The words “museum” and “fun” do go together—especially at the Walker. Try Skyline Mini-Golf on the Walker terraces, play the ten artist-designed holes, and enjoy spectacular views of Minneapolis. Then proceed to the sculpture garden, with its iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, and many new sculptures. Next, head to the Mill City Museum. Built inside what was once the world’s largest flour mill, it’s packed with fun for all ages, including water and baking labs, a Flour Tower elevator show and more. Nearby lunch choices include the casual Zen Box Izakaya for Japanese comfort food, French Meadow Bakery & Café, or, for a more upscale experience, Spoonriver.

Gold Medal Flour

Clifton E. French Regional Park
This park alone has enough for a complete staycation. Bring your boat or rent a paddleboat, rowboat, kayak or canoe. You can fish on Medicine Lake, bike on the 4.6 miles of trails or try geocaching (equipment is available for free at the visitor center). Pick up a picnic at the nearby Lunds & Byerlys, or get some entrees to-go at India Bazaar.

Elm Creek Park Reserve
Maple Grove
With 4,900 acres, the largest park in Three Rivers Park District, Elm Creek, offers a breadth of outdoor opportunities for all interests and abilities. Consider hopping on miles of hiking and biking trails, dipping into the swimming pond, attempting the mountain biking trails and more. Don’t forget to bring the binoculars—wildlife calls this park home, so don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of eagles, sandhill cranes, deer, bluebirds, beavers, loons, trumpeter swans and hawks.

White Bear Lake 
It’s not hard to plan a summer staycation in White Bear Lake—the town was well-known as a summer retreat well over 100 years ago. Mark Twain even included it in his book Life On the Mississippi. Take in the regattas on Saturday mornings, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Watch from the lakeside, or rent a boat and follow the fun from the water. Top off the day with an elegant dinner at Acqua Restaurant & Bar, or go casual with pizza from Donatelli’s and a stop at Cup and Cone—the classic White Bear spot for sundaes, malts and more.

Tamarack Nature Center
White Bear Township
Spend a day at this 320-acre preserve. Enjoy the beautiful hiking trails. Kids will love the Discovery Hollow nature play area, located right next to the nature center—they can get down and dirty helping to garden, build tree forts, playing in the mud table and more. See turtles, frogs, snakes and more in the indoor Nature Center. Pack a picnic or stop at one of the many nearby casual spots for lunch.

Madison’s Place Playground
Woodbury is home to one of the best and most beloved playgrounds in the metro. Located as part of the HealthEast Sports Center complex, Madison’s Place is a 16,000-square-foot playground whose hallmark is its inclusivity: It includes sun-shade-covered play decks, sensory play equipment and accessible activities—from swings to ramps—for children who use wheelchairs or have other special needs. (To beat the heat, check out the adjacent splash pad, too.)

Gale Woods Farm
To get a taste of rural life without having to drive too far from the metro, Gale Woods Farm (part of Three Rivers Park District) is a can’t-miss. The regional park includes hiking and biking trails—through woods, pastures and prairie—a lake for fishing or paddling, and a working farm. Visit the cows, pigs, chickens and sheep, take a stroll through the abundant teaching garden, or stop at the farm store to pick up some fresh produce, meat or cheese on your way home.

Water Street
For a nearly perfect small-town shopping day, wander down Excelsior’s Water Street, the eminently Instagram-able main drag. There are indie boutiques aplenty, from The Golden Rule (featuring art, jewelry and more from local makers) to Pip & Pal (children’s apparel) to Ace General Store (men’s gear) to Excelsior Bay Books. Grab a cup of coffee and listen to live music at 318 Café, and perhaps snuggle in for a nightcap at the Rebel Room, a speakeasy-esque lounge paired with its sibling, Italian eatery Red Sauce Rebellion. At the end of the street, stop for a perfect view on the shore of Lake Minnetonka.

Excelsior Shops

Centennial Lakes Park
At hidden gem Centennial Lakes Park, rent a paddle boat, snap pictures with the sculptures, and when the blazing summer sun turns to twinkling starry skies, catch an evening concert or movie. The 25-acre park features a 10-acre man-made lake spread out over three interconnected ponds, new ADA-compliant pedestrian bridges, and a 1.5-mile paved walking path around the lakes. Bag fresh veggies at the farmers market, Thursdays 3–9 p.m. June 6–September 26.

Right on edge of Centennial Lakes Park, Edina’s Pinstripes restaurant offers a sophisticated, adult-friendly version of the bowling-and-pizza joints of yore. The bistro’s food is fresh, from-scratch Italian-American (pizza, pasta, flatbreads and more) and there are plenty of activities to keep your whole family engaged between bites. Try one of the classic bowling lanes (including plush seating and lane-side food and beverage service) or indoor bocce, a European lawn-bowling game. Before you leave, spend a few minutes on the gorgeous patio overlooking the park, warming up by a cozy fire.


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