31 Ways to Enjoy the Great Outdoors in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Area
The weather is warm and the great outdoors is beckoning. Here are 31 things to try that will keep you entertained outside!
When Minnesota shakes the icy grip of winter and the weather is just too beautiful to stay inside — you’ll be itching to soak up some sun. Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Here are our top activities that will help you get the most of summer in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region.
Take a Hike … Or Two
What better time to explore the area’s many (many!) trails and marvel at the beautiful nature the region has to offer? Head to Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington — part of the Three Rivers Park District — to kick off your hiking adventures. Between the lake and the Richardson Nature Center, there’s plenty to explore. There’s also an 18-hole disc golf course if you have energy after hitting the trails.
Thirty minutes north, in Maple Grove, sits Elm Creek Park Reserve, which is also part of the Three Rivers Park District. Elm Creek boasts more than 50 miles of nature trails, as well as turf trails and paved trails. And no need to leave the pooch at home — there are 20 miles of dog-friendly trails to trek through.
For a hike that takes you through marshes, woods and restored prairies, head to Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot some wildlife — everything from birds and deer to turtles and foxes call the area home. So don’t forget your binoculars! Still up for more adventuring after roaming the 160-acre Nature Center? Rent a canoe and paddle out onto Westwood Lake to soak up the scenic views.
Want a dose of art with your nature? Eagan’s Caponi Art Park delivers. The outdoor sculpture garden sits on 60 acres of rolling wooded trails and presents can’t-miss photo opportunities.
Another spot to grab the perfect Instagram pic is the Swing Bridge Trailhead along the Mississippi River Greenway in Inver Grove Heights. Originally built in 1894, the bridge is no longer used for vehicles — only for hikers who want to admire the incredible views all around it.
Explore the Area on Two Wheels
If you prefer a quicker pace, there are hundreds of miles of biking trails to choose from. For mountain biking enthusiasts, Lakeville’s West Lake Marion Mountain Bike Trail is a must-ride. The 5-mile trail runs alongside Lake Marion and features berms, rollers and plenty of switchbacks. There’s also the West Trailhead at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan. It features a rolling, wooded trail, as well as free parking for riders. And finally, the Salem Hills Mountain Bike Trail in Inver Grove Heights is a 4.4-mile loop with a 237-foot ascent. You can rip around the track while enjoying the wetlands that are featured throughout the larger Salem Hills Park.
Both road bikers and mountain bikers are welcome at the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail within Three Rivers Park District. The paved trail travels past its namesake creek and connects the cities of Edina and Richfield, allowing you to explore multiple destinations in one outing.
Grab your pole and tackle box! The St. Croix River in Stillwater offers several opportunities for both boat and shore fishing, and you can expect to find walleye, bass, crappies and more.
Brooklyn Park’s Mississippi Gateway Regional Park, part of the Three Rivers Park District, features a quaint fishing deck on the west side of the dam, from which you can try to catch catfish, carp, suckerfish and walleye, to name a few.
At Burnsville’s Crystal Lake, you can fish from both the north and west shores, or from the actual fishing pier located on the north shore. The lake teems with about seven different species of fish, including largemouth bass, yellow perch and bluegill.
For a family-friendly fishing adventure, head to Roseville’s Bennett Lake in Central Park. The fishing pier features low railings that kids can easily see over. Plus, there’s a paved trail around the whole lake, providing several access points to the fishing pier so you can keep your distance from others. Expect to find bluegill, crappie, bass, catfish, northern pike and more.
If you’re looking for a fishing-only spot, Richfield’s Taft Lake is the place. The lake has been maintained as a fishing pond for 45 years and is stocked with northern pike, crappie, bowfin, largemouth bass, walleye and more.
Get Out on the Water
If you’d rather be on the water than the shore, you’ve come to the right place. Minnesota has more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii — combined!
In Minneapolis, you’ll find the Chain of Lakes, which is made up of Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet — all of which have beach access. Rent boats, canoes and kayaks, or take a boat tour.
The St. Croix River in Stillwater also offers boat rentals, including pontoons and kayaks as well as lunch and dinner cruises aboard river boats. For a romantic outing on the river, Gondola Romantica offers an unforgettable experience.
Lake Josephine in Roseville is another picturesque boating spot. The boat launch access point is at the north end of the beach within Lake Josephine County Park. Rentals are available for boats, jet skis, wave runners and more.
If you’re interested in a self-serve, technology-based experience, Mississippi River Paddle Share was made for you. The process is quick and simple — you rent a kayak online, head to one of the equipment lockers by the river and type in your access code, grab your kayak and hit the water. Your rental comes with a kayak, paddle and life jacket, as well as a map to help you navigate the river. Once you’ve reached your end location, simply return your gear to the equipment locker. There are several starting locations and routes available as well.
Hit the Links
Ready for a round of golf? Lakeville’s Crystal Lake Golf Club features a backdrop of pines, wetlands and ponds. The beautiful views can help ease the pain if the round doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped.
If you’re in the mood to play just nine holes, head to Eagan’s Lost Spur Golf Course and prepare to be wowed by the surrounding views of the city and valley on every hole.
If you’re looking to enjoy your round with a side of incredible skyline views of downtown Minneapolis, Columbia Golf Club in Northeast Minneapolis is the place to be. The 97-year-old course features gentle rolling hills, tree-lined fairways and water hazards, offering a fun yet challenging experience for all.
For a course that caters to all skill levels, look no further than Edina’s Braemar Golf Course. The 18-hole course features six tee box options on every hole to accommodate players of all abilities. With open fairways and stunning views, there’s no way you won’t enjoy your round.
Can’t decide between nine or 18 holes? With both a nine-hole course and an 18-hole course, Inver Wood Golf Course in Inver Grove Heights has you covered. The course highlights the area’s natural geography, featuring rolling, wooded terrain.
Or you can head to Golden Valley’s Brookview Golf Course, which features a nine-hole, par-3 course, an 18-hole course and a driving range. Bassett Creek flows through the regulation course, appearing on six holes.
Not in the mood to cook after a long day of exploring? No problem — tons of local restaurants in the metro region offer takeout dining.
If you’re in the Burnsville area and craving a burger, order to-go from JL Beers, where the names of the burgers (Totally Slawesome Burger, Smokey the Beer Cheese Burger, the Bacon Cheddarpeño) are just as good as the burgers themselves.
In the mood for authentic carne asada, empanadas or tostadas? La Tapatia in Roseville is a must-try. If the thought of Mexican food is making your mouth water but you’re closer to the Richfield area, check out El Tejeban Mexican Grill. Don’t forget the dessert – think churros and fried ice cream – yum!
Cowboy Jack’s in Bloomington is known for its “saloon specialties,” which include baby back ribs, tater tot hot dish, walleye and more.
Grab a Seat Outside
You’ll be sitting on top of the world when you dine on the rooftop patio at Charlie’s Restaurant and Irish Pub. Part of the Water Street Inn, the pub features beautiful views of the St. Croix River.
If you’re looking to take a trip down memory lane and enjoy a delicious burger, head to Wagner’s Drive-In in Brooklyn Park. Order from your car and your meal will be delivered and hung on your car window!
How about some outdoor dining with a side of axe throwing, paintball, archery tag or airsoft? Lakeville’s Champion Valley Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, and you’re welcome to bring your own lunch and eat it at the park’s picnic tables.