All in a Summer Season: Cornucopia of Outdoor Opportunities at Minneapolis Park System

So, the biggest Twin Cities event of the summer for many inside and outside the GLBT community, Pride, has come and gone. As well, two summer months already have faded into the past.
Despite the presence of noticeably cooler winds drifting in with greater and greater force, not all is lost. Just ask Dawn Sommers, Public Information and Marketing Manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB).

Sommers says, “Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s regional parks attract 18 million visits a year, and offer a host of outdoor opportunities year-round for a diverse population. Minneapolis has the country’s only urban scenic byway, the Grand Rounds, a 53-mile parkway complemented by bike and pedestrian trails, historical sites, and scenic landscapes. The Minneapolis park system is an urban nirvana, so people do not need to travel beyond Minneapolis to experience the outdoors. Depending on the park location and the activity, the parks are hip and trendy; peaceful and refreshing; and energizing and invigorating. The parks are a great place to visit for a few hours or all day.”

But the summer possibilities don’t stop at the parks—or paths, for that matter. From biking to hiking to movies and more, Minneapolis has a variety of outdoor venues everyone should take advantage of before fall comes a-knocking.
1 Concerts
Running through early September, free concerts take place at a multitude of locations, including Lake Harriet, Minnehaha Falls, Father Hennepin Bluffs, and Bryant Square Park. The concerts feature something for every musical taste: jazz, Latin, folk, rock, and bluegrass.
Sommers notes, “Performances range from full orchestral and jazz ensembles to community chorales and original solo artists. Bring a picnic, come early, or stay late to explore the parks.”

2 Movies in the Park
Many neighborhood parks host a variety of free movie nights loaded with films from every genre, including classics, comedy, drama, and newer releases. For example, Loring Park partners with Walker Art Center for Movies and Music, spotlighting Paul Newman flicks. For pet enthusiasts, Canines for Clean Water presents dog-oriented movies, with dog-focused activities and environmental education.

3 Canoeing, Kayaking, and Sailboating
Minnesota isn’t known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes for nothing, so get out there and enjoy the natural resources this state has to offer before they freeze over. Sailing lessons are available at Lake Harriet. Or, Sommers recommends canoeing the lakes with a naturalist to learn about a lake, its history, and its wildlife. Why not try your luck at catching the big one while you’re at it?

4 Trail Traveling
Explore the Mississippi River by trail, starting at St. Anthony Falls, and rolling or strolling down West River Parkway six miles to Minnehaha Park. Then, reward yourself with lunch and drinks at Sea Salt. View the historic falls and the Mississippi River from a variety of breathtaking overlooks.

Sommers suggests Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Wirth Park. This 15-acre garden is home to more than 500 plant species and 140 bird species. It has spectacular seasonal displays of native wildflowers in woodland, wetland, and prairie areas. The trail has 49 interpretive stations for guided and self-guided tours.

The most popular paved walking and biking trails are the ones that wind around the Chain of Lakes. Lake Calhoun never is at a lack for visitors. For those looking to walk, or take a look at walkers, the beaches are a great way to spend an afternoon.

5 Golf
Providing five 18-hole and two 9-hole courses, Minneapolis courses are an inexpensive yet challenging way to enjoy a round of golf.
Sommers says, “Several are award-winning, have hosted national tournaments, and have Audubon designation.”
Never golfed before? Get a feel for the sport at the new miniature golf course at Northeast Park.

6 Garden Gazing
Walk among elegant roses at Lyndale Park Rose Garden, or amid rocks, conifers, and sculptures at Peace Garden. Check out the blooms at Longfellow Garden, which went organic this year. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden displays works of art by leading American and international artists among plazas, walkways, and plantings.

7 Biking
For those who want a woodland experience, Wirth Park has the just-completed Luce Line Trail and an off-road cycling trail. Get off the bike for a nature walk through Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, or along the Quaking Bog boardwalk. If you want a trip with an urban feel, try out the newly repaved St. Anthony Parkway from Stinson Avenue to the Camden Bridge, with its challenging climb up Deming Heights, the highest point in the Twin Cities.

8 History Lessons
Take a step back in time to when lumber mills and flour mills dominated Minneapolis commerce at Mill Ruins Park, where mills, canals, and tailraces have been excavated. Historic homes include Ard Godfrey House, the oldest surviving frame home in the Twin Cities, in Chute Square, across the Mississippi from Downtown. In Minnehaha Park are Stevens House, the first wood frame dwelling west of the Mississippi, and Longfellow House, a replica of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

9 Minneapolis Bike Tour
Cap the summer with the Minneapolis Bike Tour on September 20. The 14-mile route around the Chain of Lakes is perfect for families, kids, and biking novices. The 37-mile route on the Grand Rounds may take some training, but it’s still a doable family outing. Closed to all motorized traffic, the routes offer refreshments and bike mechanics.

While Minnesota may be known better for its harsh winters and mountainous blizzards, Sommers knows better, and hopes thousands of others will, too.

Sommers shares, “A recent survey by the Minneapolis Parks Foundation found overwhelming public perception that the Minneapolis Park System is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the city’s quality of life. Ninety-nine percent see the parks and lakes as a unique and valuable asset for the city, and 96 percent favorably rate the quality, overall appearance, and maintenance of the Minneapolis Park System.”

For more information, or for even more ideas about how to spend the remainder of your summer, check out the MPRB Web site at

5100 Eden Ave, Suite 107 • Edina, MN 55436
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