It's right in the middle of everything, but most folks don't know it exists. Here's a flawless first-date option for summer: Rent a canoe from the Lake Calhoun beach house. (Rates are roughly five dollars an hour; plan on a couple.) Then saddle up and hightail it straight under the bridges to Lake of the Isles. A lot of boaters like to admire the lake's two namesake islands at this point, but your real target is going to be the channel exiting under the big bridge yonder, at ten o'clock. This is the half-mile canal linking Isles with Cedar Lake. It starts wide, with an array of ducklings and weeping willows gracing the shallows, and narrows into a dark, mysterious passageway with railroad bridges above and tree-cloaked Benton Road properties on either side. (Hey, it's the closest you're ever going to get to the Gold Coast.) Once you've hit Cedar, rejoice: summer has officially become worthwhile. Feel free to land at one of Cedar's three beaches to swim or eat. And if you're really feeling lucky, paddle up to the northwest corner of the lake and steal through the creepy tunnel behind the reeds, which leads to a swampy, musk-scented pond that kisses the edge of Wirth Park.


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