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BEST SUBURBAN LAKE AREA Minneapolis 2006 - Square Lake Park

For years, there have been signs posted at the entrance to Square Lake Park warning of potential swimmer's itch. After years of patronizing one of the real outdoor treasures in the entire metro, we think somebody is just trying to keep the place a secret—the only itches we've encountered are from the occasional mosquito bite. On the contrary, the water is refreshingly cold and clear as a bell, drawing scuba divers from throughout the region. There's also a boat launch and a fishing pier on the grounds. The park strikes a perfect balance between commerce and DIY, with a beach for sunbathing and a copious, grassy picnic area with grills and benches. If you haven't brought your own, snacks are available at reasonable prices, along with a changing area and a push-button, spray-circle public shower to clean yourself off. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season and a roped-off swimming area makes the place kid-friendly, but there are plenty of young singles, and a diverse array of Hmong, Mexican, African American, and Scandinavian folks around too. It's one of those charmed places where people feel comfortable and happy simply hanging out beside each other. But please don't tell too many of your friends—unless you complain about the swimmer's itch. Vehicle permits required, and no dogs allowed.

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