50 Reasons We Love Summer in Minnesota

Brian Peterson; Star Tribune

Brian Peterson; Star Tribune

After the bitter-cold, never-ending winter, we've finally made it to summer. To celebrate this amazing season when the days get longer and filled with sun, the City Pages staff collected a few of our favorite things to do around the state. Without further ado, here's our love letter to Minnesota summers. Did we miss anything? Leave your favorites in the comments!

50. Every couple of years or so, the Walker Art Center commissions artists, designers, students, and dreamers to create a one-of-a-kind mini golf course straight from imagination to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. With a view of the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry to the downtown skyline, this mini golf course is a hole in one.

49. Let's all agree that even if you like pedal pubs, there's been at least one time when those rowdy beer drinkers screaming at everything under the sun have annoyed you. Why not engage in a little playful heckling? They're all yelling at you anyways, so give 'em a piece of your mind. (Or indulge in your passive aggressive side on this Facebook group.) Also, exercise and copious amounts of beer on tap at the same time? We'll take our brews ice-cold and on solid ground, thanks.

48. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! See how the animal kingdom keeps cool during Minnesota's hottest months at the Minnesota Zoo and the Como Zoo.

47. Hanging outside all night is something that's way more pleasant during the summer... and it's even better when you can roam around checking out experimental art installations, nomming on food-truck goods, and exploring the city in a whole new light... or lack thereof at the all-night Northern Spark.

46. Surfing. Yeah, that's right. You can hang 10 in Lake Superior if you can handle the chilly, chilly water.

Photo by Aaron Lavinsky

Photo by Aaron Lavinsky Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune

45. Throw some heavy balls around. Bocce balls, that is! Minneapolis has a ton of parks with space for regular old lawn bowling, and a few are equipped with actual courts. If you fancy yourself a bocce pro, hit up the Nomad World Pub for their annual tournament. Ditto for Brit's Pub if you're into starting a lawn bowling league while sipping Pimm's Cups on their rooftop.

44. Openings at the mountain biking trails popping up all over Minnesota, like the internationally-recognized ones in the 800-acre Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, about two hours north of the Twin Cities.

43. Disc golf! With great courses like Kaposia, Acorn Park, and the one in Theodore Wirth, getting out and tossing some disc is a fun and cheap way to enjoy summertime.

42. The metro area has dozens of small wildlife reserves that welcome visitors. Take an afternoon stroll through the Lake Harriet Bird Sanctuary, the Wood Lake Nature Center, or the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and try to spot some obscure creatures.

41. Minneapolis and St. Paul shut down their streets to motorized vehicles during Open Streets events.

40. After an entire winter of slurping soup and chowing down on rich food, we can't wait to whip out the picnic blanket and chow down outside. From getting a meal to go, grilling food yourself, or just packing some bread and cheese, picnics are a uniquely summertime experience to savor. We recommend this spot for some of the best picnicking in the Twin Cities...

39. The little town of Grand Marais balloons up to 10 times its normal population for the annual Fisherman's Picnic during the first week of August. If you're in the area, it makes for a fun way to get out of the woods and enjoy some good old-fashioned carnival fun on the lake. (Don't forget to indulge in some of the World's Best Donuts while you're there, too.)

38. Unless you're prone to acrophobia, you've got to head up into the clouds at least once in your life on a hot air balloon. Drifting around the St. Croix River Valley is way different in the sky than it is on the water, and boy, is it breathtaking. If you don't want to drive to the border, there are a lot of other places in the area where you can venture into the atmosphere.

37. Folks bike out to Square Lake in Stillwater for the Square Lake Film Fest, and an afternoon filled with locally-made film shorts, live music, and a barn dance.

36. The Greenway Glow: Art installations, celebrations, and other illuminated events take over the Greenway and neighboring businesses for one night.

35. Unwinding with a rod, a reel, and a few worms is just what the doctor ordered. From avid fishers to amateur anglers, there's something peaceful, calming, and distinctly summery about heading out to the water and waiting for the fish to bite. (And we love that adrenaline rush when they do.)

34. If you're around Ely, don't skip a trip to the International Wolf Center. Get up close and personal with adorable wolf puppies and their majestic, older counterparts. While you're in town, swing by Dorothy Molter's museum and refresh yourself with some of the legendary root beer lady's fizzy goods. (Note: Young Julia Roberts visited during summer camp!)

33. There are tons of unusual races around town to get you out and about: Swim and run with your dog (BART Dog Duathlon, Frankie's Fun Run for Pets and People, Pet Haven Doggy Dash), run through a sea of color (the Color Run), run to happy hour (the Suds Run, Lederhosenlauf 5K Run/Walk and Mile Fitness Walk), or flee from zombies (the Run for Your Lives Run).

32. Nature Valley Grand Prix: Watch pro bikers race at breakneck speeds in Uptown and downtown St. Paul, or take a road trip out to Cannon Valley, Menomonie, or Stillwater for one of the endurance legs.

31. The seasonally-open (April to October) restaurants at our favorite urban bodies of water: Sea Salt at Minnehaha Falls, Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun, and Bread & Pickle at Lake Harriet (soon, fingers crossed, with wine and beer).

Photo by Steve Rice

Photo by Steve Rice


30. You know it's officially summer when the old school cars start making appearances on the street as they're finally safe from nightmarish winter roads and salt damage. Rev back in time at the annual Minnesota Street Rod Association's '50s Car Show at the State Fair grounds.

29. There's something really fulfilling about seeing roadside attractions... and what better time to take a road trip to all the weird, amazing, over-sized things around the state than summer? This includes the larger-than-life Paul Bunyan statues and the Jolly Green Giant as well as that giant ball of twine and St. Urho the grasshopper chaser. (Yes, that's a thing.)

28. Take a nap outside! Since you can't do this in the winter — unless you're cold blooded — nodding off in the sun can be pretty awesome. (Just make sure you don't try it in Wisconsin...)

27. Don't miss your chance to watch our very own 2011 WNBA champions, the Lynx, in action at the Target Center.

26. Foraging! Summer is berry season in Minnesota, and many local farms sell pick-your-own blueberry, strawberry, cherry, and even squash produce. Some farms also offer jam and ice-cream making workshops for your harvested crop.

25. There's something insanely cathartic about letting out a good-old-fashioned scream at the top of your lungs. While it's frowned upon most places, the best time to let it all out and get a sick adrenaline rush is at Valleyfair. Seriously, whether you're a kid or you're just young at heart, there's nothing that gets your heart going like that pause before the plunge on Wild Thing.

Brian Peterson

Brian Peterson

24. Take a visit to the always awesome, sometimes spacey, and definitely abstract Franconia Sculpture Park.

23. Combat the sweltering days of summer with science! (At the Science Museum of Minnesota, that is.) After you're through cooling down and trying out experiments galore, you can head back into the heat at the Big Backyard.

22. Despite Minnesota's long winters, we've got some pretty fabulous flora sprouting up once spring hits. Don't miss the waves of blossoms blooming throughout spring and summer at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. They've got roses galore, a Japanese garden, hedgerows for miles, and a ton of other flowers to check out. The perfect photo op spot or just a great place to wander around (on foot or through their three-mile drive), this is a must for everyone with a green thumb.

21. Tuesday night trips across the Wisconsin border to snack on pizza made from homegrown ingredients at A to Z Produce and Bakery, better known as the Pizza Farm. When diehards willing to make the 90-mile trip from the Cities order 'za with lamb sausage, garlic chives, and spinach, everything on it, from the lamb to the grain for the flour, comes right out of the ground that they picnic on.

20. For a big-screen movie under the stars, drive-in theaters are a classic staple. Big drive-ins near the metro often offer a triple-feature of new releases for less than the cost of one film at your local cinema.

19. Remember how awesome ice cream trucks were as a kid? Now there's the grown-up, gourmet version, and you don't have to chase after the jingling cart as it speeds down the street. The food truck phenomenon is here to stay, and summer is all the better for it.

18. Minnesota is home to one of the best brew scenes in the United States, and there's no better time to crack open a few beers than in the scorching summer heat. Better yet, escape the sun for a little while during a brewery tour. There are dozens of locations around Minnesota, each with its own appeal and flavor.

17. They don't call it the Great American Pastime for nothing. Lucky for us, we've got two great baseball teams to watch in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Catch a Twins game at the still sparkling-new Target Field or watch the Saints hit homers in the classic Midway Stadium.

16. Between the Minneapolis Park Board's 60-movie lineup, the Stevens Square Community Organization's Cinema and Civics series, and the Walker Art Center's Music & Movies, among others, Minneapolis has free movies in parks nearly every night of the week from June to August.

15. Never-buy-anything-full-price-again events — otherwise known as garage sales — which kick off with Bryn Mawr's Festival of Garage Sales and Seward Garage Sale Daze in early May, and keep going until it gets too cold to stand outside and weigh whether you really need that $2 pair of roller blades.

14. Weddings, but only if they're someone else's... and we've got a feeling there'll be a lot more this summer.

13. Sure, going to the beach after what seems like a year-long winter can feel like a challenge. But once you're out in the warm sand with the smell of the water and nearby grilling, everything else tends to just melt away. Grab a book and read the day away, spike your way to volleyball victory, and party into the evening with a bonfire. Any day (or night) at the beach is always time well-spent.

12. So you don't live in the Game of Thrones world, but you can get close. (And we're not talking about how "winter is coming.") Leap back in time and meet royalty, jesters, wenches, and wizards at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. From jousting knights and hecklers caught in the stocks to fortune tellers and bazaar-hawkers aplenty, there's something for everyone. And who could forget those whopping turkey legs? Huzzah!

11. Cancel your gym membership, put on your running shoes, and get outside for a jog. As the fittest metro in the United States, we've got a reputation to uphold, eh?


10. We have a feeling now that Minnesota became the 12th state to support marriage equality, our yearly Pride Festival is going to be even more fun than before. It's the perfect time to go out and support our LGBTQ community, ooh-and-ahh at the parade, and get decked out in rainbows galore.

9. The Minnesota State Fair, duh. Fried food on a stick? Li'l piglets in the Miracle of Birth barn? Rockin' Grandstand shows? All the people-watching you can handle? There's a reason it's called the Great Minnesota Get Together, and we're already counting down the days.

8. Minneapolis has got the best parks in the country, and we love to take advantage of what the environment has to offer. With Minneapolis's Loring Park and Minnehaha Falls, Rice Park in St. Paul, and everything in between, there's always a space on the grass for you to while the day away or stay fit. And you can sit well knowing that little slice of greenery is better than any parks that New York's got to offer.

7. Finally, T-shirts and shorts weather. As Minnesotans, we've got everything in our wardrobes, from down jackets to swimwear. When the sun's shining, the beach is calling, and it's 100 degrees, we definitely prefer the latter. Until it's time to pile on those layers again, summer fashion is a wonderful thing to embrace in Minnesota.

6. The patio season is short and the views are spectacular. What better way to enjoy them than over apps and drinks?

5. There's a limited time to get farm-fresh food straight from the source, and that's why we're out at the metro's many farmers markets every weekend. Take the tour of our 10 favorites this summer.

4. Camping. It's like a mandatory thing in Minnesota. (And we love it.) From the majesty of Gooseberry Falls to the seclusion of Split Rock, there are countless places to pitch a tent, build a fire, and start toasting marshmallows under the stars.

3. We Minnesotans bike throughout the year, waging a two-wheeled war with those Portland-folks over who's the most bike savvy, but we'll admit that it's way better to roll around during the summer. (TTFN, frostbitten fingers!) Super-convenient Nice Ride bikes start lining the streets again during the summer, too. And, lest we forget, late-night bike adventures are the best.

2. Festivals! From our inaugural 10 Thousands Sounds Festival in downtown Minneapolis to all the other music, art, and film festivals going on around the state, there isn't a weekend without a fest. Which means you've always got some sun and fun to look forward to throughout the work week, all summer long. Even better: pies, parades, and road-trip excuses await you at festivals in small towns across the state, like the Midwest Viking Festival in Moorhead, Wild Rice Days in McGregor, or the Rhubarb Festival in Lanesboro.

1. We're not called the Land of 10,000 Lakes for nothing. Whether it's the dead of winter (ice fishing and ice shanties, baby!) or the dog days of summer (cannonballs, anyone?), the lakes keep us going outside no matter what the weather forecast looks like. From traversing shoreline, soaking up rays on the beach, wading into the waves, or admiring the reflective waters from afar, there's nothing like paying a visit to one of Minnesota's many lakes during those sweltering days.