Make the Most of Minnesota’s Remaining Summer Days

By MNR News posted 8 days ago

Minnesota’s sunny season is short. Here’s your guide for making the most of it.

Officially, Minnesota’s warm season runs a scant 3.9 months, from May 22 to September 17. That’s why the moment our state thaws and greens, Minnesotans are biking, hiking, rollerblading, skateboarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and camping across every corner of the land. And when they’re not burning calories on the trails, they’re loading up on great grub and drink at patio and sidewalk restaurants across Minnesota.

From the pristine Boundary Waters (and about 10,000 other lakes) to the vibrant Twin Cities and rolling river bluff country in the south, Minnesota is a spectacular summer playground. To help you make the most of these precious months, we asked MNR association members and staff to share some of their favorite outdoor spots, activities, festivals, events, restaurants, brew pubs, and more.


Biking the Gooseberry Trail
My favorite Moorhead trails run along the river from Gooseberry Park to downtown. We really enjoy the Heartland Trail, which goes through the Park Rapids and Walker areas. Soon, Moorhead will be connected to this trail as part of a broader project by Fargo, West Fargo, and the Twin Cities to join the state’s regional trails.
—Marti Kaiser, RCE, CEO, Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors®
Catching the Sunrise on the Gateway State Trail

It’s hard to beat a sunrise ride out to Stillwater. And since I can see the Gateway State Trail from my backyard, I have very little excuse not to get out on my bike and enjoy it. The paved trail runs 18 miles from St. Paul to Pine Point Regional Park, just north of Stillwater, and passes through beautiful forests, wetlands, lake areas, and parks.

—Ben Hansen, MNR Communications Manager

Learn more at Gateway State Trail

Vadnais and Snail Lakes are for the Birds

I’ve seen many species of bird at these two spots tucked away in the North Metro. From my favorite bird, the Cedar Waxwing, to the iconic Bald Eagle, these two areas are a great getaway from the bustle of the city.

—Ben Hansen, MNR Communications Manager

Learn more at Vadnais Lake and Snail Lake.

Fishing, Camping, Boating, Swimming in West Central Minnesota

We love to camp and West Central Minnesota has some great camping, fishing and hiking spots. There’s Sibley State Park where you’ll find beautiful Lake Andrew, and plenty of camping options, including seven bunk houses that can accommodate large groups. While there, be sure to check out the forest views from the overlooks on Mount Tom and Little Mount Tom. Another favorite is Big Stone Lake State Park. With a great swimming beach, lakeside picnic area and a convenient boat launch, there are lots of water activities. If you need some shade, take a hike on one of the three forest trails. There are 37 campsites, including 13 prime shoreline spots. There are some great options in Kandiyohi County, too. Green Lake County Park has clear waters and excellent fishing. And over on the Norway chain of lakes, there’s another good fishing spot—Games Lake County Park. Plus, it has 52 paved camping sites, and two camper cabins. Big Kandiyohi Lake County Park East is a great spot for walleye, crappies, and catfish, and has plenty of camping spots. It’s all close to home but far enough away to just enjoy the outdoors.

—Sue Blumhoefer CEO, RCE, AHWD, West Central Association of Realtors®

Trout Fishing in the Driftless Area

While Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, most of the counties in southeast Minnesota don’t have any natural lakes. That’s one of my favorite things about this part of the state—our unique geology! Southeast Minnesota is part of the Driftless Area, a region sharing corners with Iowa and Wisconsin. Also known as the Minnesota Bluff Country, we have hundreds of miles of streams and rivers, and more than 800 miles of designated trout streams. In addition to this fantastic opportunity to trout fish in places you’ve never seen from the roadside, there are parks and trails to explore, highlighting those very streams. Do a quick search on the internet for southeast Minnesota trout fishing, state parks, and trails, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to plan a trip to our corner of the state.

—Randy Brock, WightmanBrock Real Estate Advisors

Learn more about fishing in the Driftless Area. Also check out Minnesota Monthly’s article on the Minnesota Bluff Country.

Hit the Trails in Southern Minnesota

Stretching over six miles from downtown Mankato to Rapidan, the Red Jacket Trail is a converted railway that takes hikers through deep forest, and over an 80-foot-high trestle bridge spanning the Le Sueur River. Be sure to bring your own bike or rent from one of the outfitters in town. For a longer rail-to-trail experience, gear up for the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail. Traversing 39 miles, the evenly graded path treks through “big woods” and open prairies. Make a bike-packing adventure of it by camping in Sakatah Lake State Park. Looking for something short but a little more challenging? Try the Rasmussen Woods Trail near Mankato. Its varied terrain through woods and marsh is great for trail running, hiking, and bird watching.

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota

Enjoy World Class Theater at the Guthrie and Ordway

For almost 60 years, the Guthrie has staged innovative, creative works by theatrical luminaries from Becket to Shakespeare. Attracting top directors and actors, the theater is a nationally renowned cultural institution. If you’re looking for a little Broadway razzmatazz, head over to the Ordway, home to touring companies from the Great White Way’s biggest hits.

—Stephanie Teig, MNR Vice President Marketing & Communications 

Learn more at Guthrie Theater and The Ordway.

Gilded Age Splendor at the Glensheen Mansion and the James J. Hill House

I’m a history buff, and tours of these historic homes do not disappoint. The beauty and craftsmanship on display is awe inspiring. Built in 1908, the 39-room Glensheen Mansion was owned by Duluth iron-mine baron, Chester Congdon. Filled with original furniture, paintings, décor, and possessions, visiting is like stepping into a time machine. In St. Paul, the James J. Hill House offers a taste of Downton Abbey right here in Minnesota. Sprawling over 36,000 square feet, the 131-year-old residence is filled with hand-carved woodwork, stained-glass windows, glimmering chandeliers, and other wonders of a bygone era.

—Stephanie Teig, MNR Vice President Marketing & Communications


Exploring Our World at the Science Museum of Minnesota

There are always changing exhibits about natural history, the environment, anthropology, biology, paleontology and more that kids and adults can enjoy. The Omnitheater shows are also really cool.

—Stephanie Teig, MNR Vice President Marketing & Communications

Learn more at Science Museum of Minnesota.

Set Sail with the Vikings at Heritage Hjemkomst Center

This Scandinavian culture and heritage center is home to the Hjemkomst Viking Ship. The vessel is a scale replica that sailed to Norway from Duluth. Fun fact: Robert Asp, the builder, was my Middle School Guidance Counselor and we took many class trips to watch the building progress. The Hjemkomst Center also hosts cultural events and festivals throughout the year and is home to the Hopperstad Stave Church, a replica of the Stavkirke in Vik, Norway, which dates from the late 1100s.

—Marti Kaiser, RCE, CEO, Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors®

Giant Grain Silo Mural Celebrates Mankato’s Diversity

Spanning eight silos and towering 135 feet tall in downtown Mankato, artist Guido Van Helten’s massive mural celebrates the community’s native and non-native cultures, and honors its rich history and diversity. Inspired by photographs taken at Education Day during the annual Mahkato Pow Wow, the work is the largest in a series of monumental murals the Australian-born artist has painted across the Midwest. It’s such an impressive piece, and a must-see during any visit to Mankato.

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota

Learn more by visiting CityArt Mankato Silo Art

Purple Reigns at Paisley Park

Prince’s home and studio was the late musician’s creative playground, performance and party venue, and private sanctuary. A visit to Paisley Park provides a window into the life and work of one of the most celebrated, prolific and innovative figures in Rock music. It’s a must-stop for music fans.

—Stephanie Teig, MNR Vice President Marketing & Communications

Learn more at Paisley Park.

Excelsior: Where Smalltown Charm Meets Urban Chic

Set on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior offers quaint, 19th-century ambiance and upscale metro sophistication. Water Street—the main drag—is packed with foodie-pleasing restaurants and pubs, and enough chi-chi boutiques to wardrobe a passel of Valley Girls. Be sure to try the wood-fired pies from Olive’s Fresh Pizza Bar and stop in for a growler of Bridge Jumper IPA at Excelsior Brewing. See that line of people snaking down the sidewalk? That’s for the waffle cones at Licks Unlimited. Yes, they’re worth waiting for! Feeling literary? Peruse the tomes at Excelsior Bay Books. Wrap up the evening with a film at the recently re-opened Excelsior Dock Theater. Or just take a sunset stroll by the lake in Excelsior Commons Park. So much to do. Whatever you choose, come early—parking can be a bear.

—Will Annett, MNR Editorial Director

Learn more at The City of Excelsior

Take a Walking Sculpture Tour in Mankato

The Walking Sculpture Tour is a fun way to explore more of Downtown Mankato. The art works rotate each year, so there’s always something new to see. This year there are 31 new pieces around the city, representing a range of styles from abstract and whimsical, to classical forms. Beyond the sculptures, the city has beautiful murals sculptures in every direction. The City of Mankato has transformed itself into an artist’s paradise with sculptures created by local artists.

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota

Honoring Native Heritage at the Mankato Pow-Wow

On September 16–18, Native Americans from communities all over Minnesota will gather at Mankato’s Land of Memories Park for the 50th Annual Mahkato Wacipi (pow-wow). The park is the site where 38 Dakota warriors were hanged in December 1862 during the U.S.-Dakota Conflict. Everyone is welcome to attend as Native Americans honor the fallen warriors, and share their Dakota history, heritage, and culture. Members of the Mahkato Mdewakanton people dress in regalia, perform traditional music, and offer delicious foods.

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota

Rib Fest: Smokey BBQ and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ribs. Whether you like them spicy and hot, or sweet and smokey, the Mankato Annual Rib Fest has a finger-lickin’ variety that will keep you coming back for more. Some of the nation’s best “Ribbers” come from across the nation to fire up their barbecues and compete for honors in three judged categories: Best Ribs, Best Pulled Pork, and People’s Choice. Hosted at the Vetter Stone Amphitheater, the event includes a full-on music festival with local acts and nationally renowned bands like the Gin Blossoms. Rib Fest runs August 4–7.

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota

Great Grub and Drink

Savoring Fine Dining at W.A. Frost

W.A. Frost Restaurant on St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill is a true treasure. Tucked in a historic building with a beautiful patio that reminds one of the South of France, it serves award-winning cuisine in an atmospheric setting.

—John Fridlington, St. Paul Area Association of Realtors®

Learn more at W.A. Frost

Raise a Glass to Summer at the Mankato Brewery

After a day of enjoying the local attractions, get a taste of local flavors by stopping at the Mankato Brewery Tap Room. From Mad Butcher IPA to Organ Grinder Amber Ale, they’ve got a wide variety of stouts, sours, pilsners, and more. Co-founder Tim Tupy is the great-great-great grandson of the man who founded New Prague’s first brewery back in 1884. So, beer literally runs in his blood. Stop by this summer and put a little craft brew in yours!

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota 

Celebrate the Taste of Summer at the Historic Moorhead Dairy Queen

You can’t visit Moorhead without a stop at one of Minnesota’s oldest Dairy Queens, established in 1949. Their website says you know you’ve officially survived a Minnesota winter when you find yourself standing in line at the historic Moorhead Dairy Queen’s traditional walkup window as they open on March 1st. If you drive by in the winter, you’ll see an electronic sign counting down the days until the spring opening.

—Marti Kaiser, RCE, CEO, Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors®

Learn more at: Moorhead Dairy Queen

Toast the Good Life at Chankaska Creek

Set in the fertile rolling hills of the Southern Minnesota River Valley, Chankaska Creek Ranch, Winery, and Distillery cultivates award-winning wines from its 13 acres. Named Best Winery by the Star Tribune, the 12,000 square-foot facility offers a range of reds, whites, and rosés, and even whiskeys, brandies, gins, rum, and vodka.

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota

Tap into the East Metro’s Best Beer at Lift Bridge Brewery

Whether you’ve been biking all day or putting in tourist miles in downtown Stillwater, the Lift Bridge Tap Room is a great way to round out your summer day. They’ve got a wide selection of beers that are brewed on the spot, including crisp lagers, pilsners, fruit-flavored brews, and a range of IPAs. They also offer hard seltzers, and home-brewed, non-alcoholic sodas. Quite simply, they’ve got some of the best beer the East Metro has to offer.

—Ben Hansen, MNR Communications Manager

Learn more at: Lift Bridge Brewery

Best of the 10,000 Lakes and Other Watery Places

Hike, Bike, Roll, and Stroll the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes

I’ve been walking and biking these paths for as long as I can remember. Such a beautiful metro treasure. Every turn in the trails reveals breathtaking new vistas, from the city skyline to majestic lakeshore manors. Plus, there’s tons to see and do. Take in a summer concert at the Lake Harriet Bandshell; try your hand at archery; play soccer, tennis, or Frisbee. Go kayaking or canoeing. Grill some brats. Go for a run. Take a nap. Or just watch the endless stream of walkers, bikers, bladers, and strollers.

—Stephanie Teig, MNR Vice President Marketing & Communications

Learn more about the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park.

Embracing Superior Family Time in Silver Bay

Going up to Silver Bay on the shores of Lake Superior is the best family weekend getaway. The North Shore Adventure Park is a great place to wear out the kids. It’s got high-ropes courses, and ziplines with something for all abilities. After you’ve had enough thrills for one day, relax on Silver Bay’s Black Beach. Its beautiful charcoal-colored sands come from mined taconite. There’s a nice little cove there that makes it safe for swimming—if you can bear Superior’s cold waters!

—Avie Dee Xiong, MNR Office Administrator

Learn more about things to do in Silver Bay. Check out the North Shore Adventure Park. Read up on Black Beach.

Visit Waterfalls and Bison at Minneopa State Park

Minneopa State Park offers 58 acres of wooded hiking trails, panoramic vistas, and beautiful waterfalls, including the splendid Minneopa Falls. There is even a resident bison herd! It also features bike paths, picnic areas, and campsites.

—Deb Hansen, RCE, CEO, Realtor® Association of Southern Minnesota

Soaking Up Waterfalls, Streams, and Scenic Vistas in Ramsey Park

At 256 acres, Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls is the largest municipal park in Minnesota. It has the most breathtaking waterfalls, one of the very few sway-back bridges, walking paths, and is complete with a small zoo. There are lots of scenic trails and overlooks, playgrounds, and a campground. The Redwood-Falls area also has an abundance of hunting and farmland, picturesque bridges and rivers, and a gorgeous golf course.

—Geri Theis, Realtor®, Broker and Owner, Scenic City Realty, and MNR Treasurer

Learn more about Ramsey Park

Touring the Lake Country—Moorhead Style

Many people from the Fargo-Moorhead community gravitate to “the lakes” on the weekend. Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids, and Fergus Falls area lakes are an easy hour-or-so drive away. Each of these communities has plenty to offer beyond the water, from hiking and biking to unique restaurants and shops.

—Marti Kaiser, RCE, CEO, Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors®

Learn more at: Visit Detroit Lakes; Park Rapids Lake Area; Visit Fergus Falls